Sidebars are great because they are standardized areas of your website that site visitors can browse even if they move from one page to another—provided that you activated them.
The question that begs an answer is, should your sidebar be on the left or right?
The keyword here is “should.”
In my experience, most sidebars are on the right. I have seen a left sidebar only once or twice, and I found it odd. So, I did a little digging to get an answer.
It turns out that the answer depends on your purpose.
Today, I will share with you what I found out. By the end of this article, you should be ready to decide whether your sidebar should be on the left or right.
What is a Side Bar and What is It Used For?
A sidebar is not a menu bar. I just want to be clear about that. A sidebar is a static “page” inside a page. Take a look at the example below:
The highlighted area in red is a sidebar. It is a part of a page where you can put several elements. No matter what blog page the site viewer goes to, this sidebar will be there.
The main purpose of a sidebar is to make information available. It is practically like plastering several elements on your website because you want people to see them.
Here are some of the most common ways a side bar is used:
- Ads – you can place Google ads in the sidebar to earn revenue; this ensures that there is an ad impression on every blog page that a site visitor goes to.
- Affiliate links – you can put images of your affiliate links on the sidebar; they are visible to the site visitor, and they do not even need to have any relevance with your article.
- Email subscription – you can add a subscription box in the sidebar, along with your offer; this is a great placement of your subscription offer because it is not intrusive.
- Categories and posts – you can also add blog categories and recent posts on the sidebar—this will help you keep your site visitors on your blog and read more posts.
These things are usually found on side bars because you want people to take action without disrupting the site visitor. The last thing you want is to have too many pop-ups or ads in the middle of your blog.
Do You Even Need Sidebars?
Are sidebars dead?
There are many opinions about this—some say that sidebars are dead because we are now in the mobile age. People rarely use desktops anymore. The issue is that sidebars do not work on mobile devices, so why even bother using them?
Take a look at this blog page with a side bar:
That is how it looks on a desktop. The recent blog posts are showing on the right—immediately accessible to a person when he sees it.
Now, if you look at the same page from a mobile device, it looks like this:
As you can see, there is no sidebar—mobile devices do not have the space to show the sidebar except at the end of the blog post.
See this one:
Now, it is not likely for a site visitor to even reach this end of the page. Most site visitors will read the blog and then leave.
Overall, this is one of the most common sources of debate among bloggers.
There is no single answer as to whether you need a sidebar or not. It all depends on your marketing and blogging approach. To help you make this decision, the best thing we can do is to understand the benefits of a sidebar. We should also look at the cons of having a sidebar.
Pros of Side Bar
All blog pages will benefit from a sidebar if the blogger wants to run ads. But there is more to it than just running ads.
Here are the pros of having a sidebar:
Connection to social media
Instead of asking your users to share your content on social media from inside the blog post, you can create a widget on your sidebar and add your social media buttons. Take a look at the example below:
One disadvantage, however, is that this will appear at the very bottom of the page in a mobile view. What this means is that it is not going to have the same visibility as it would if you put it inside the blog post itself.
As a blogger, you want to generate as many leads as you can. Email subscription is one of the best ways to get returning traffic to your website. If you want to standardize what your email subscription looks like, you can put this section in your sidebar, like the one below:
You can also add more information on your sidebar, such as advertisements, announcements, contests, and so much more. This is one of the best places to put your affiliate links—use images or videos that encourage your site visitors to click your links.
Best blog content
You can also put your best blog content on the sidebar. The benefit here is that your reader may click on one of your best or recent blog posts.
If readers to do this, you will have a low bounce rate. And if you have a low bounce rate, Google is going to think that your content is valuable–so much so that users visit several pages of your website. As such, it is likely that Google will rank your pages higher.
So far, a sidebar has many uses. But the most important purpose of a sidebar is to gather several important elements about your blog and put them all in one neat place.
Cons of a Side Bar
Now, can side bars go wrong? Let us see the disadvantages of sidebars.
Distraction – sidebars can distract a user. This is especially so if you are operating a blog. What you want is for the person to read your blog post, not to click on things. Users are likely to get swayed to visit new pages from your sidebar instead of consuming your content.
Clutter – you are likely to fill your sidebar with so many things—affiliate products that your customers are not concerned about. If you are operating a blog, you want to have an income, and this desire makes you put more and more stuff in your sidebar, making it cluttered and disorganized.
Redundancy – the thing with a sidebar is that it is likely to show the same things that you are already offering on your web pages. If your content is redundant, chances are your site visitors will leave.
There are fixes to these problems. First off, you can avoid distraction and clutter if you minimize the content of your sidebar. What you can do is to limit the content of your sidebar to a maximum of five widgets.
If you are already suggesting items to read from inside the blog post, you can remove the recent posts from your sidebar. Do not put a lot of ads—one Google ad widget should be enough.
Lastly, you need to ensure that the content of your sidebar is not found in your blog content.
When to Put Side Bar to the Left
Now, let us look at the different reasons for putting the sidebar to the left side.
Focus on content
If you want your site visitors to focus on the content of your page, you have to put your sidebar on the left side. Readers read from left to right. As such, readers will typically focus their attention on the center of your page.
Several studies show that people look at websites with an F-shape pattern. If you put your sidebar on the left, the reader will be inclined to look at the top center of your blog post, which is your headline.
This is great if you want your readers to absorb your content, especially so if you are trying to educate your readers. This also applies to a situation where you are doing a product review where you want to convince your reader to buy.
Focus on sales
Since we read from left to right, you can place the sidebar on the left side of the website if you want people to see your ads. With an F-shape reading pattern, a reader will immediately scan what is on the left side of the screen, and it is likely that he will click on the content of the sidebar.
When to put Side Bar to the Right
Now, let us look at the reasons why you would want to put your sidebar to the right side.
It is an expectation – people are so used to seeing sidebars to the right. Placing your sidebar to the left side is odd. If you put your sidebar to the right, your blog is going to look like a blog and not a website that is trying to be different.
It is SEO-friendly – search engines crawl websites based on the HTML that is written. If your sidebar is on the right side, the HTML is written in such a way that the content comes first. If this is the case, the search engine can immediately find out what the content of your blog post is. In this case, it is going to be easier for your website to get indexed.
Are sidebars dead? No, sidebars are still great. There is no negative impact on your website if you add sidebars.
It is really a question of whether you want it to stay on the left or right side. As far as I am concerned, I strongly recommend that you put your sidebar on the right side.
This is standard practice. If you put your sidebar to the left, the reader will get distracted more easily every time he moves to another paragraph—his eyes will see the sidebar and this can cause friction.
Sidebars to the right do not cause this friction—the reader knows that it is time to shift the eyes to the left once he reaches the end of a line.
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