What to include in your blog’s sidebar.
Do you need a blog sidebar?
No, not all blogs need a sidebar. People come to your blog page to read your content, and can interact through the contents. They can share you content using social media sharing tools available through your blog software, or through apps like Sumo.
You don’t even need a sidebar to gather subscribers on your blog. You can use a pop up to gather the emails of blog visitors.
But if the purpose of your blog is to bring traffic to your website to view your products / services or to stay longer, then a blog sidebar might help.
What should you include in your blog sidebar to maximize the benefits?
1. Your bio.
Rather than including a bio before your blog (which can be annoying to readers) or after (no one scrolls to the bottom, anyhow), a bio on the sidebar can help build a rapport with new visitors. Personalization is crucial in a social media-driven world. If you’re a business, this is also a great place to give visitors your elevator pitch in a few short sentences.
2. Newsletter sign up.
Even if you have a pop up, readers may click off the pop up to read your content, but still wish to subscribe. Having an easy-to-find sign up box will encourage more visitors to become subscribers.
3. Special offer.
Blogging is one form of content marketing to gain new visitors to your website. Another valuable form of content marketing is offering content your visitors will value, but requiring their email before they can access this content. This is a great way to gain new subscribers. Putting this content offer in your blog sidebar will ensure that visitors already interested in your type of content will see the offer and be more likely to part with their personal information.
4. Highlight other content.
You can continue to build a rapport with visitors by showing them links to content on your site similar to what they are reading. This will keep them on your website longer and make it more likely for them to subscribe to your mailing list, or value your site and its services.
5. Highlight a special product / service.
A section that highlights a product or service you offer a special deal on, or your biggest seller, is a great way to teach visitors about what your business has to offer. Don’t forget to include a testimonial or review, which is one of the best ways to use an ad to convert visitors into customers.
How should you organize your sidebar for best results?
1. Less is more.
I know I have a list of things to include, but remember that too much clutter is distasteful to readers and will cause them to leave your site more quickly. Pick the things that fit your business and your audience best. Get rid of everything else.
2. Know your audience.
I preach this all the time. Really understanding your audience is going to help understand how best to reach them. For example, if your audience spends most of its time on Facebook, you might just want to include a link to your Facebook page and leave off the rest of your social media accounts. It will also help you to understand what content to show visitors so they will be more likely to click or subscribe on the items in your sidebar.
3. Rearrange your sidebar for SEO
If your sidebar remains static, Google or other search engine bots will stop scanning. Try using a plugin that will automatically generate fresh sidebar content, such as random or top articles, or a Top Commenters plugin.
Reworking your sidebar will also help with “ad blindness”. People see so many ads online that they become experts at ignoring them. By rearranging your sidebar, it might help repeat visitors notice your content better. You could try cycling through different kinds of content to see what converts the best, which allows you to minimize the clutter on your sidebar while displaying different content types list above.
4. Always be testing.
It is important to always be trying new layouts, colors, and ads to see what works. Track the results, and then tweak your sidebar accordingly. What might work as a general rule might not work for every niche, so it is important to be open to trying new ways and new ideas to find the sweet spot for your business.
5. Mobile sidebar?
Remember that many of your visitors will be on mobile devices, and most of them will never see the sidebar. Most blog software moves the sidebar to the bottom of the blog, and it is rare for readers to scroll through an entire blog.
Does this mean a sidebar is useless? No, because the rest of your readers will see it. Also, I have a feeling that blog software will catch up with the mobile revolution, and more blogs will include a pop in or swipe-able sidebar eventually.
Does your blog use a sidebar? What kinds of things have you found to work or not work? Any questions?