The website sidebar. That narrow column usually found on the right hand side of a website. I like to look at it as the place where you can provide added value and offer visuals to help your website visitors make good decisions. If you can provide a good and consistent experience for them, you can ultimately encourage them to take an action [because, ladies, it’s all about conversion. We want more business, yes?]. We want them to comment, share our content, subscribe to our list, contact us, or purchase our offerings. We can use the sidebar of our websites to accomplish just that!
Here are my top five principles to consider when deciding what to include in the sidebar of your website:
You want to use the content on your site to develop a relationship with your visitor right from the get go. As your content gets shared more and more, it’s possible people may not be landing on your home page. It’s therefore very important to have a ‘mini bio’ show up in the sidebar of your website. You’ll be able to introduce yourself and tell a bit about what you provide. It creates a relationship immediately by giving some context to those who may be browsing but who also may be interested in potentially working with you.
The key here girls is to ensure that everything that shows up in your sidebar relates to your personal brand. A great question to qualify this might be, “How does this support my brand?” If you’re able to articulate a reasoning that enhances your online presence, consider it a good decision.
Here’s an example: Item considering adding is RECENT POSTS
Q. How does showing my 5 most recent posts support my brand?
A. By highlighting my posts, I’m demonstrating my knowledge as an ‘expert’ to help my client solve their problem.
YES! Include it.
I believe in minimalism in the sidebar – keeping things clean and uncluttered. I’m fairly certain I don’t need to talk to you ladies about the importance of a page loading speed. I mean, how many times have you clicked a link and it takes forever to bring the page up? When that happens to me, more often than not, I go back to my search results and find another source. Ideally, converting web visitors into paying clients is an objective in designing your site. Keeping your sidebar clean and getting rid of excess plugins will dramatically speed up your site. Remember that the purpose of your sidebar is to help your website visitors experience you and your brand as well as encourage them to take action. By letting go of the excess widgets, plugins, and extra ‘fillers’, you won’t overload your sidebar with things that don’t convert visitors into clients.
The bottom line is that with 3-5 sidebar items, the more likely the person checking you out online will be inspired to take action because they won’t be overwhelmed.
23% of Facebook users check into their account more than five times daily.
Twitter is the fastest growing social media platform with over 288 million active users.
Google reports that active users spend more than one hour a day using Google services.
CLEARLY, people are looking for opportunities to communicate outside their personal environment. What does this mean for you? I believe you have an opportunity and possibly even an obligation to show up for real, online. It’s ultra important. You have the power to to build your own community by intentionally choosing where you comment, what you say, who you follow, what you share, and how you converse with others. It all relates back to you and your brand. The how, when, and where to show up in social media circles can help you create your own community for your ideal clients. By having all your social media links in your sidebar, you’re inviting your clients to engage. So permission granted to go hang out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked In, Instagram, YouTube, or wherever your people are! Consider that you are building a community for your brand!
You have the opportunity to show your web visitors your ‘expert’ status within your field. By including words from happy clients, it validates your value as a trusted partner. You can offer third party evidence illustrating how you really help your clients solve their problems. People love to read about the impact you made. So add testimonials to your sidebar. Active on Twitter? Include favourite tweets. Be bold and be you.
I’d also like to turn the tables here and give you three things you should NOT include in your sidebar.
1. A badge that is an affiliate link for another brand. Let me be up front: I do believe affiliate marketing can be a positive experience and when you believe in something, sharing it with your people should absolutely be on the top of your list. What I don’t believe in is having that advertisement in your sidebar that takes invites your website readers to visit your affiliate. In essence, you’re taking your web site visitors away from your site when you provide this information. The goal is keep them on your site! Make sense? Your sidebar is very valuable real estate, ladies. Let’s not waste it by promoting someone else. [There are LOTS of other ways to promote that affiliate link…just not in your sidebar, please!]
2. A tag cloud. I just don’t believe that you’ll inspire people to click through to investigate the other offerings on your site if you publish the words you use the most when tagging posts.
3. Too many options. Use the KISS principle. Keeping it simple, clarifies your offers and provides a clearer message.
There are so many options to create a sidebar that represents you and your brand in a way that feels like you. By no means is this list exhaustive, but here are a few of my favourites. If you apply the principles above, you can rock your sidebar in no time and turn those browsers into buyers!
- mini bio
- subscribe to newsletter
- social media icons
- vertical navigation
- Twitter feed
- Facebook feed
- Pinterest Feed
- Flickr feed
- Instagram feed
- YouTube video
- search bar
- recent comments
- upcoming events
- contact information
- video intro
- highlight a new service
- blog categories
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I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!