Although it’s one of the less talked about aspects of a blog, after your content, your sidebar is the most important focal point. The main goal behind your sidebar is to create an informed and tailored experience that converts random blog visitors into actual loyal subscribers.
Developing a well converting sidebar consists of highly visible information about yourself to build trust and credibility to attract subscribers with a strong call-to-action. Featuring valuable information and social icons, you’ll extend the reach of your blog’s performance with the right elements. However, the majority of the sidebars you’ll find are cluttered and ineffective. To produce conversions, your sidebar must be easy to navigate with a crisp, clean look. Take ours as an example.
Although many say the placement of your sidebar doesn’t really matter, a study by the Nielson Norman Group found that blogs with horizontal designs produce higher conversions when the sidebar is on the left side of the screen. According to the study, 69 percent of viewers focus on the left side due to the fact we read from left to right. As a result, vertical layouts tend to have a higher focus on the left side as well. If your goal is to produce as many conversions as possible, place your sidebar on the left.
Create a Compelling Email Capture
To encourage email subscribers to build your lists, place your email subscription box at the very top of the sidebar. Use a compelling message with a strong call-to-action to entice readers to leave their email address. Make your call-to-action short and clear, yet urgent and descriptive. And, it needs to stand out.
To encourage more subscribers, feature an exclusive offer as a report by DMA found 60 percent of subscribers enter their email address just to receive a special offer or promotion. In addition, the subscription box needs to be easy to use and eye catching to properly convey the value of signing up.
Add Social Icons
Although RSS is still important for keeping readers connected to your site, it’s not the only means. Social media is a huge driving force behind blog engagement and readership; therefore, include links and icons to your social media profiles.
Don’t add every single social media account, just the larger platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. This allows readers to connect with you on social media without having to leave your blog. Not to mention, you’ll gain more followers to extend your reach and engagement
When designing your sidebar, consider the placement of your social icons as prime real estate. The wrong location will lead to missed opportunities, so make sure their placement will instantly attract blog visitors, such as directly after your email subscription box.
Tell Them Who You Are
Your About page is undeniably important, but you also want to give readers the opportunity to learn more about you with a simple glance. Your identity is everything, so feature a brief paragraph about yourself on your sidebar by informing readers about your credibility.
Along with your paragraph, add a professional photo of yourself to personalize the blog to promote trust. Readers will instantly know who you are and that there’s a real person with expertise, not just some auto-created site.
Finally, link to your About page because it will be one of the most consistently viewed pages on your site. This section of your sidebar should be placed after your subscription box and social icons.
Link to Top Posts of All Time
Link to your blog’s top posts within the sidebar as readers consider this area as a recommendation. Readers will see the best you have to offer, producing a great first impression. Your top posts act as a social proof means to drive influence to not only promote your popular posts, but entice visitors to keep reading.
When featuring your top posts, add thumbnail images as ViralTag reports 94 percent of views are due to a compelling image. This is an attention-grabbing means to generate more onsite traffic and build engagement. However, make sure you don’t list too many or you will clutter your sidebar. Keep it limited to 5 or less.
Link to Important Site Resources
When a reader heads to your blog, chances are he will view a single post first, but you want to encourage him to keep reading. With the support of a strong call-to-action and links to important site resources, you’ll entice your readers to take further action to read more great content. As a result, you’ll decrease your bounce rate and promote page views as you provide readers with a diversity of valuable information to keep them on your site.
Add categories or topics lists to aid user navigation and increase page views. It allows readers to easily search content that interests them. Although you want to give your readers numerous options to search your site, don’t overdo it. As a general rule of thumb, your sidebar shouldn’t be longer than your main content so limit the number of categories you feature.
To simplify the process, set your blogging platform to automatically create a category list when you publish a post. When configuring each post, keep the categories limited to 1-3 per post or you’ll defeat the entire purpose.
Add Recent Posts
When readers enter your site from a single blog post, you want to make it as simple as possible for them to find more remarkable content. Feature your recent posts in your sidebar to encourage readers to remain on your site, giving you additional page views.
Feature thumbnails with each post to make them more appealing and to capture your readers’ attention as humans are naturally drawn to images. But remember, don’t feature too many or your conversions will plummet due to the clutter.
With 80 percent of internet users owning a Smartphone and 47 percent owning tablets, it’s only natural for blogs to be read via mobile device. However, when blogs are viewed on mobile devices the sidebar is often hidden.
Ensure your sidebar is properly formatted for user navigation from mobile devices as nearly 140 million people in the U.S. own a Smartphone. By default, most sidebars will automatically appear under the content when the blog is viewed from a mobile device. You’re able to use a custom CSS to change the placement of the sidebar for increased mobile function.
Cut the Clutter
Blogs that feature cluttered sidebars are known to drive as much as 26 percent less conversions and hold high bounce rates. Therefore, when developing your sidebar, remember that less is more. When considering the placement of each element, place your highest conversion priority on top and then work your way down.
You don’t want to include unnecessary widgets and plugins because it gives readers too many options, which will drive down conversions. To produce more conversions, narrow down the available options for easier decisions. Focus on creating a simple and clean, yet effective sidebar to drive real results.
“7 Things Your Sidebar Can’t Live Without” HubSpot
“5 Sidebar Design Elements that Increase Website Conversions” CrazyEgg
“7 Reasons Why Your Blog Must Have Visuals to Produce Engagement” ViralTag