I am not even sure if there is any such thing as WordPress Sidebar Etiquette but I know that the WordPress sidebar on your website is very important. The thing is, I see people abusing their sidebars and cramming them with irrelevant junk.
WordPress makes it really easy to drag and drop widgets into your sidebar and this can be both a blessing or a curse. It is a blessing when you stick to WordPress sidebar etiquette, but it is a curse when you break all the rules that I am about to show you. Hopefully if you are a sinner then you will be able to brush up on your WordPress sidebar etiquette and reform yourself.
I was reading this article about blog design that gave me the idea to write this post about WordPress sidebar etiquette. As you know I like to ramble on and cover the absolute details so you better get comfortable!
How Important is Your WordPress Website Sidebar?
I would say that your WordPress sidebar is one of the most important aspects on your blog or website. We all know that the sidebar usually shows up on every page and post of your WordPress theme. Of course this depends on which WordPress theme you use. Some premium WordPress themes let you choose which pages and posts your sidebar shows up on, but nevertheless it is an important part of your website. Or you might want to add a WordPress plugin to control sidebars and widgets.
Here are a few WordPress sidebar etiquette tips that I have made up myself. There is no obligation to follow these tips as every website is different. All I want to do is make you aware that WordPress sidebar etiquette does exist. Hopefully you can develop your own rules for your own website.
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Advertising in Your Sidebar in WordPress
Both new and experienced WordPress website builders often fill up their WordPress sidebar with far too much advertising. We know we all hate this and yet we all still do it. I have to be truthful here and let you know that I do not have much success with banners in the sidebars all headers of my website. ( This is different for AdSense websites though)
Most of my affiliate sales come from in text links and sometimes a highly targeted 300 x 250 banner in amongst the content. The WordPress sidebar is not a major moneymaker and you shouldn’t be plastering your blog with too much advertising there.
Links to Everything
People often try to help their website visitors navigate through their website. This should not be done by placing 1 million links in the sidebar. You should have a navigation menu at the top of your website, where a website visitor can easily access different categories all sections of your website. Everything you have should come under these categories.
Webmasters who place too many links in their sidebar are really confusing their website visitor and not helping them navigate through the website at all. Not only that, you are leaking good PR juice to pages and posts that may not need or deserve it. Take a good look at the pages that link from your homepage. They usually have a page rank of one below the home page because that page is passing on authority. For example this website has PR 4 and links from this page get a PR 3.
I often visit peoples websites and notice that they have irrelevant advertising or information in their sidebars. For example, I went to a local news website which showcased local news and community events for a particular town. In the sidebar I saw links to affiliate programs for making money online. These people have come to read the community News and have no idea about making money online. If these links were on a website that was in the niche for making money online, then this would be passable for WordPress sidebar etiquette.
WordPress widgets are the easiest things to use as most of them are drag and drop. This is great but not when you are WordPress widget happy. All you have to do is basically choose a widget and drag it into your chosen sidebar. You can see the screenshot below showing how easy it is.
Because this process is so easy, you will need to control yourself in this area. Take a good look at your WordPress website and see if you are using WordPress sidebar etiquette.
Too Much Social Networking
Social networking is huge but do we really need all of those social networking buttons. Should they really be taking up all of our valuable website real estate? I think not.
This will stir up some conversation as it seems to be the normal procedure to put social networking buttons at the top of your WordPress websites sidebar. Of course I am guilty of this on some of my websites, however I have been testing this and I do not believe it is necessary to have all of these buttons in such a prime position.
I used to have links to my Facebook page, my Twitter, my Google plus account, the RSS feed, and maybe a few more. Did anyone click on these? Not really…
How do I know this? I went to Google Analytics and used the In-page Analytics feature. You can find this option under the content menu in Google Analytics. This is one of many basic Google Analytics tracking tips that I use often.
The screenshot below shows my in page Analytics which shows a percentage of clicks that a link will get. As you can see in the sidebar, some of the links do not get clicks at all. This is how I know that my social networking links were not worth putting in the sidebar.
If you look around my blog now you will see a simple Facebook like button in the sidebar and an RSS subscription box in the footer. When you actually go into each individual article, I have various social media buttons to enable people to share my content. This method is working for me. I still get followed on twitter and re-tweeted, but this is through my content.
Too Many Sidebars
If you have read through all of these points mentioned above, then you might realize that you do not need too many WordPress website sidebars on your website. I am a great believer in the K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) method and having too many sidebars, or too much in your sidebars is just overkill.
I do have websites that have two sidebars but I always make sure they do not have too many items in them. These have been made for design purposes only. I still stick to my WordPress sidebar etiquette rules when feeling my sidebars with information.
WordPress Sidebar Etiquette – What you Should Have?
I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t have in your WordPress sidebar. Of course the final decision will rest with you and you will need to see what suits your website. I like to keep it simple though, and let my content shine through. :)
When people visit a website or blog, they want to know the person behind the scenes or in charge. Even massive websites made by big companies have showcased their employees who run the blog to make sure they have a personal touch.
You need to connect with your website visitor and having an about me section in the top half of your website is a great way for them to get to know you. I will be doing this but I haven’t got around to taking a nice photo as yet. A great example of an About me in the top of the sidebar is at Ileane’s blog called Basic Blog Tips. This is a perfect example as people immediately feel a connection with Ileane.
Every time I see Ileane’s smiling face it makes me smile too! :)
We can look at the screenshot above again. You can see that Ileane has an optin box as the next most important item in her sidebar. I agree with this, even though I did post this article titled “Do you really want to be on my list?”.
I agree that an optin box is important but I also think that you need to engage your subscribers quickly and work out what they want. There are a number of factors that cause a website visitor to sign up or subscribe to your list. If you have fantastic content they will probably search around your blog just so they can subscribe. That’s actually the kind of person I want on my list, however having a sign up box in the top of your sidebar has definitely proven to gain more subscribers.
I have noticed, when investigating my in page Google Analytics, that my popular posts do actually get clicked on. Of course they are popular for a reason and obviously the titles can attract more clicks.
If I compare the clicks I get on a recent posts widget, the popular posts wins hands down. I think this is because the recent posts are available on the homepage anyway. As you can see I only have my popular posts showing on this website, whereas on others, I might have the recent posts showing as well. You need to test what is best for your website.
I like to have one banner and possibly a few links in the sidebar. As I have stated before, when making money online, most of my sales come from in content advertising. Therefore I am only adding a banner to the sidebar for design purposes.
Different Sidebars For Different Pages
Having the same sidebar widgets for your homepage, your pages and then your posts can be down right silly. These different pages sometimes call for different content in the sidebar.
For example, showing the recent posts in the sidebar on the homepage is overkill when you have them showing as an excerpt anyway. But showing recent posts in the sidebar of other posts is not such a bad idea.
If your theme does not allow you to manipulate your sidebars you can buy a Sidebar and Widget manager plugin to help you customize these areas. This is a smart way to show the right content for the right page which reduces bounce rate and gives the reader what they want.
I would really love to hear everyone’s opinion about my WordPress sidebar etiquette article. Do you agree with me when I say that we should “keep it simple” and not clog up our WordPress website sidebars with junk?