Education Technology

April 23, 2015 at 10:34 am

Does Your Blog Need a Sidebar?

sidebar

Have you ever wondered if your blog really needs a sidebar? And if you need a sidebar, should it be on the left or right side?

Sadly, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. But with some testing, I’ve figured out the optimal layout for a sidebar on a blog.

So, should you be using a sidebar? Well, it all depends…

Does your blog need a sidebar?

People come to a blog to read content. Their main purpose is to devour your information and ask you questions through commenting.

If they really like your content, they may share it on the social web, but you don’t need a sidebar for that. You can add social sharing buttons throughout your post or use plugins like Flare.

So, what’s the purpose of a sidebar? Well, it’s an area you can use to promote products or services as well as to get users to do anything else you want.

I’ve found that including your bio on every page of your blog, within the sidebar, is a great way to connect with your readers. This helps build a loyal community, which is the main reason I have a sidebar.

Sure, you can add a bio at the bottom of each of your blog posts, but you have to keep in mind that most people don’t read your blog posts in their entirety. And adding it to the top of each blog post is distracting as people are mainly coming to your blog to read the content—they don’t want to continually have to read about you before they are able to get to the content.

In addition to that, if you are trying to get repeat visitors, a sidebar is almost a necessity. Why? you may ask. Because within it, you can put links to all your social profiles and add an email opt-in box.

If you don’t think it is effective, just consider the fact that Quick Sprout received 145,971 visitors from email over the last 30 days.

email traffic

That’s not too shabby. Plus, you have to keep in mind that a lot of the emails have been collected within the sidebar. For that reason alone, I have a sidebar.

And the best part about having a sidebar isn’t even the email traffic. It’s the ranking lifts it provides in search engines.

Look at the Quick Sprout sidebar…what do you see?

I link to all the popular guides and posts on Quick Sprout. Why do you think that is? It helps pass search engine juice to all those pages, and it causes them to rank highly in Google. For example, if you search for “online marketing,” you’ll notice that this guide ranks on page one.

Should you always use a sidebar?

Although I recommend using a sidebar, you don’t need one on each of your pages. For example, the homepage of Quick Sprout doesn’t have a sidebar, nor does this page.

Consider not having a sidebar on the pages you are trying to improve conversions on or make money from. Why? Because it makes people focus their attention on the area you want—the area where you make money.

So, for my “money” pages, I tend to have no sidebars.

Also, for any page that has a defined goal, you should consider removing unnecessary distractions such as a sidebar. For example, with my guides, my whole goal is to get you to read each of them from cover to cover. That’s why you won’t find a sidebar on my guides.

The majority of your blog pages should contain a sidebar. For the pages that are focused on a specific goal, consider removing it as it will help boost your conversion rate.

Should you place your sidebar on the left or right side?

I’ve actually tested this one a lot. I prefer the look of a blog where a sidebar is on the right side, but it tends to convert better when it is on the left.

Here’s what I learned…

When you place your sidebar on the left-hand side, you will get more email opt-ins, and more people will read your bio and do whatever else you promote through your sidebar. But you will also get fewer people to read your content.

I’ve found that having a sidebar on the left side of Quick Sprout causes a 9% drop in people reading the blog posts. On the other hand, it increases the number of sidebar opt-ins by 13%.

Overall, I decided to place my sidebar on the right-hand side even though it generates 13% fewer opt-ins.

Why did I do it anyway? Because it increased the number of blog post reads by 9%. In the end, the purpose of a blog is to educate you through content… so why would I take that away?

In general, you should consider keeping your sidebar on the right-hand side even though it will cause fewer conversions. People are coming to your blog to read, so your primary goal should be to make your content as easy to read as possible.

Conclusion

If you don’t have a sidebar on your blog, you should consider adding one right away. And if you already have one, make sure it is on the right side and contains important elements such as email opt-ins and your bio.

If you are running a corporate blog, instead of your bio, you can always put a quick blurb about your company in the sidebar.

Lastly, you don’t want to have a sidebar on every page of your blog. Consider removing the sidebar from the pages you want to boost your conversion rate on.

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