This is the first part of the Better Blog series! Read the rest here.
What part of your website stays the same from page to page, is seen by almost every single visitor to your site, but is often put together quickly or neglected all together?
If you guessed the blog sidebar, you would be right! When I do blog audits, sidebars are nearly always a mess – and it is such a mistake.
How can you ignore something almost every visitor to your website will see?
Think about it – most of your visitors are finding you through blog posts. Whether they click a link on Facebook or find you through Google, their landing page is most often a blog post. Even if it’s not, they most often view at least one before clicking away. So a sidebar would be seen by nearly every single visitor you have, regardless of what post they view. The chances of being seen go up even more if you have a sidebar on some of your pages – it could be 99% of your traffic.
And what place is better to grab their attention?
You don’t want to leave crucial information in your footer – what if someone doesn’t scroll all the way to the bottom of your page. But you don’t want to clog up the top, leaving your audience impatient to get to your content and feeling like you’re shoving your email list down their throat.
The blog sidebar is the perfect location and you need to be using it intentionally. Here’s how:
Above the fold.
Just in case you’re not sure what I mean, when something is above the fold, it means that it is visible on the page without needing to scroll down. This is important real estate because someone doesn’t need to scroll to see whatever you put there. Something really important should go here!
I love having a sidebar that sticks to the page when people scroll. It helps me keep my best offer right in front of their eyes. It’s so important to make opting-in easy for your visitor – or they might not do it. I never want someone on my site to have to hunt for an opt-in form, especially when they’re reading my blog posts and are getting a ton of value – my sticky sidebar is there to remind them to sign up and to offer them even more valuable content.
Left or Right?
Most blog themes have the sidebar on the right but there actually is some benefits to moving it to the left side. Quicksprout did testing on this and found some pretty cool results: when the sidebar is on the lefthand side, conversions are higher by about 13% BUT post reading decreases. When the sidebar is on the right, conversions are slightly lower but visitors are more likely to consume the content.
Quicksprout ultimately decided to leave their sidebar to the right and I do the same. It’s much more important to me to have my visitors get value from what I’m writing for them – or else why did I spend hours writing it?! Once they see what they can learn here, I hope they’ll choose to opt-in!
Pro tip: Know when to not use a sidebar. I like to think of the sidebar like the first date – you’re introducing yourself, explaining why they might want to keep hanging out with you, and talking about the great things you have to offer them. But you don’t need to do these things when you’re proposing marriage. On a page where you’re really trying to get conversions or make sales, it’s better to skip the sidebar. It’s distracting from your main message and what you’re asking them to do.
A MEMORABLE BIO
One of the most important things for people to know is who they’re talking to and why they should listen. This is what creates trust and community – 2 of the most essential parts of generating sales. This is the reason a lot of people KEEP a sidebar – having their bio show up by every blog post helps readers connect with the writer and the material – and increases conversions and a feelings of relationship with your brand.
There are two elements that you need in a good sidebar bio:
- make it memorable
- explain why YOU are different than other places they could get this same information
Let’s look at my sidebar bio.
I kick it off with out any formal or cheesy self promotion – I bring up a personal pillar from my brand (I am the queen of ripped jeans and I talk about it a lot with my community) and then dive in to a memorable, concise description of my business. You hear everything you need to know to decide if this community is going to be the fit for you. Everything from the language to the description helps people identify if this is what they want and need. I also talk about what makes me different from other blogs catering to girl bosses – without tearing anyone down. I talk about what makes me proud about my brand, what I strive to achieve – REAL strategies and actionable advice in every post that I write. If I do say so myself, this is a pretty good bio!
YOUR BEST OFFER
You could just ask someone for their email but it’s not nearly as effective as offering to give them something in exchange for it. It’s no secret that content upgrades – like workbooks, cheatsheets, guides – help turn visitors into subscribers. But for your sidebar, you can’t just show any offer. You want to show your BEST offer. I use Convert Kit to go into my opt-in forms and see which ones have been the most popular (bless Convert Kit for doing this for me or I would be clueless). Your highest converting opt-in should be the one you choose.
I’m not sure what analytics other email providers offer but the analytics ConvertKit it provides helped me to skyrocket my list growth because I could finally see what opt-ins people were liking (and which ones were sucking). Being able to see my conversion rates (what % of people who see the offer who sign up to get it) was a HUGE help and is one of the reasons my sidebar is able to convert so high – because I can put my best offers there and track if they’re doing well. No sense wasting such valuable blog real estate on offers that don’t draw people onto your list!
I also recommend making a new opt-in form for this particular placement so you can make sure that you’re converting at a high level. Just because your opt-in does well in a blog post doesn’t mean it will do well in your sidebar. Check back on it periodically – if it’s not converting at at least 10%+, it’s time to try a new offer.
If you have only ONE thing in your sidebar, please have it be this.
A REASON TO STAY
The more content people consume (and get value from) the more likely they are to hop onto your email list. Use popular blog posts or posts in the same category to encourage them to stay on your site, even when they’re done on their landing page.
HOW TO FIND YOU WHERE THEY HANG OUT
Adding your social media profiles is a no-brainer. It’s beneficial in a few different ways:
- It helps boost your social media followings.
- It gives you another source to reach them if they don’t want to be on your email list.
- It gives them a way to follow up with you – a lot of people don’t remember or simply don’t want to check back to blogs to see if there’s anything new. They’re much more likely to find you on social media to see what’s going on.
Social media widgets just make sense.
Pro tip: Don’t overload your sidebar with 10 widgets and multiple opt-ins. Remember the old line: if you give someone TOO many options, they’re likely to choose nothing. It’s better to focus on the things you really want a new visitor to see and do.
Now you know what your sidebar needs to have, but how can you get them there without coding? By using the right widgets! I’ve put together a guide on the perfect sidebar, and in it I talk about ALL of the ESSENTIAL widgets for creating a great sidebar. There are ones for adding beautiful social media galleries, for beautiful bios, and even for a sticky sidebar if your theme doesn’t come with that option! These are the essentials for a high-converting sidebar. Grab the list here:
That, my friends, is how you build a better blog sidebar. Now let’s tackle other areas of your blog with the Better Blog Series!
The Better Blog series is all about creating better blogs – ones that convert high, inspire your visitors, and help you make money! Stay tuned: Next up is the ABOUT page! You don’t want to miss it ❤️ Make sure you get on the email list to hear when it comes out.