The sidebar is one of the more important parts of any blog, yet few bloggers make efficient use of this valuable real estate. Some leave it blank, while others crowd too many irrelevant elements together.
If you want to maximize your sidebar, you must learn what works.
What to Include in Your Sidebar
The key to an effective blog sidebar is to incorporate the right elements without overcrowding anything. This a fine line to walk, so make sure you’re continually evaluating and adjusting. For starters, consider the following five elements:
- Subscription Box
Every blog needs a subscription box of some sort. This could be an option to subscribe to an RSS feed, email list, or anything else. This should go near the top of your sidebar and needs to be simple and accessible.
As marketer Derek Halpern says, “If you’re not placing your email signup form at the top of your sidebar, you’re losing out on valuable email subscribers. And yes, even if you place it slightly down your sidebar, under some ads, you’re losing email subscribers.” Put it up top and stick to just one or two information fields to avoid overwhelming users.
(You can actually see a perfect example of how to use a subscription box by checking out Halpern’s blog.)
You also need some sort of social proof in your sidebar to affirm your visitors and show them that your value offering is worth their money. One of the best choices is to use some quotes from customer testimonials.
Testimonials are particularly effective because customers resonate with the voice. They connect with their peers and feel like a testimonial – even if it’s filtered through the company – is original and helpful. You can see an example of testimonials being used in the sidebar by taking a look at this example from The Grooves.
- Popular Posts
Does your blog have a few entries that repeatedly bring in valuable traffic? You may want to feature these posts to keep visitors on site and increase your return. Other bloggers like to list recent posts to engage frequent visitors and show what’s new. It’s best to keep this section to just three to five posts to avoid overwhelming the sidebar with too much text. Here’s a good example from the DIYdiva blog.
- Strategic Advertisements
You have to monetize your blog somehow, so why not incorporate a couple strategic advertisements in your sidebar? The key here is to avoid distracting visitors. You’ll see a lot of blogs with advertisements that blink, flash, or are otherwise irrelevant and overpowering. Stay away from these. Instead, stick with advertisements that fit your niche and naturally fit into your sidebar without standing out.
- Personal Biography
The key to blogging success is to connect with your audience. Readers want to feel like they know who you are and where you’re coming from. While an “About Me” page is fine, you’ll get a lot more exposure if you include a short biography in your sidebar.
You don’t need to write about your entire life and professional career – a short blurb will do just fine. Stick to two or three sentences and a headshot (ideally your same social media profile picture). This is just enough to engage visitors without distracting them from the blog content and calls-to-action.
Continually Optimize and Refine
Your sidebar shouldn’t be just another static portion of your blog. This aspect of your page design should be fluid. Continually optimize and refine your strategies based on the changing face of your blog and the positive or negative results you experience.
If you do these things, your sidebar will eventually become one of your blog’s greatest assets.