Should you remove the sidebar from your site?

By Altay Gursel | August 8, 2020

How Removing The Sidebar Affects Your Website?

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wordpress sidebar

A sidebar is an area that allows site owners to display different widgets next to the main content on the page. It may be on the right, on the left or on both sides depending on your choice.

Today, I’m going to talk about whether you need to have a sidebar on your website.

Nearly all WP themes come with a sidebar by default and are usually placed on the right side of your content box. However, I have started to see a new trend to completely remove them from the websites.

But, why is it the case?

Why are people removing sidebars from their sites?

Although there is no definite answer to this question. I’m going to share my thoughts about it.

Until recent years, internet marketing is made ignoring the user experience. Marketers were grabbing offers and running them all over their site.

They placed banners with flash animation on their sidebars, footers, headers, and even in the middle of their contents.

They abused their websites so aggressively by displaying many ads, animated images, opt-in form, etc. People became sick of seeing low-quality ads, pushy CTAs (Call to action), and vague offers.

Then a new type of mindset evolved to more effectively market products or services.

Webmasters started to remove the sidebar sections from their sites altogether. It was a quite bold decision at that time. Because early adopters risked their ad revenue, the number of new email subscribers, and finally their profitability.

However, the expected scary scenario didn’t happen to them. In fact, websites removed sidebars attracted a larger group of audience. People generally trust websites that have no sidebars, and banner ads more than sites with a sidebar.

Because a sidebar usually telegraphs the message of selling, and we hate being sold.

Although we purchase a lot of things in our everyday lives, we want to feel that we are the ones making the buying decision, rather than being a victim of someone’s marketing junk.

Today, there are many affiliate blogs with no sidebars, using only contextual linking to affiliate offers to monetize their blog. I believe there is nothing wrong with their approach. Even if you run a service business having no sidebar, it will look clean, and establish more credibility with the user.

Being said that, marginal ideas are rarely right. I will remind you of one of the best quotes ever.

Albert Einstein once said:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

If you eliminate the sidebar from your website, there are things you will need to compromise.

Here are the problems with not having a sidebar.

Almost all businesses have a conversion goal. A conversion can mean having a phone call to sell your roof repair services or purchase an item from your eCommerce store.

Here is the catch.

Most keywords that are likely to bring direct conversions are very competitive.

Continuing the same conversion example, keywords like “roof repair services” or “buy office furniture” will be very hard to drive traffic organically. Most businesses can only target long-tail keywords with low volume, or informational keywords to convert their traffic at the end of a funnel.

What that means most content on your site will have hardly any actionable buying intent. People will need to visit your site, click around to see what are you doing, and only then they will decide to shop from you.

If you eliminate the sidebar from your site completely, you almost encourage the audience to a situation like “read or leave”. If the audience is forced to make a decision they would likely choose the easier one, which is leaving your website.

Also, one-page sessions are very harmful to SEO rankings. Google wants to see people engage with your website by clicking on different pages. If you go to your Google Analytics you will see there are visits that are “zero-second sessions”.

Can you imagine a user comes to your site doesn’t even spend a 1-2 second, but immediately bounce back to the search results. In the past, it didn’t make any sense to me until I learn the following.

If a visitor reads your content (not depending on if the visit is 10 seconds or 3 minutes long) and then leaves your site, it is a zero-second visit, or in other words, a bounced visit.

What it signals to Google, the user couldn’t find what he was looking for, or the user doesn’t want to see anything else on your website. I don’t think you would like that to happen to your website. You want to maximize visitors’ time spent on your website.

The sidebar is a very strategic place used smartly can really help your business to grow. You need the sidebar and there is definitely a function of it.

Here is the million-dollar question.

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Should you have ads in your sidebar?

You can choose to have ads or not. It really wouldn’t change anything. Unless you overdo with multiple banners, having one relevant banner wouldn’t discredit your business.

As I have said, most traffic in many niches doesn’t have direct buying intent. Why not present to the user your other high buying intent content to convert them into buying customers?

Why leave money on the table if you have the opportunity to sell.

Alternatively, you can place your opt-in or squeeze form to collect email subscribers, to sell them later on. That is also another great idea, depending on how you would use the sidebar area.

A sidebar can help your SEO rankings

I will take it one more step further. Having a sidebar is a quality signal for Google.

Let me explain why.

A sidebar can allow you to place an opt-in form signals that you build an email list or community. Google needs to know you have long term plans with your site. Having an email list may signal Google having a community and an active website.

A sidebar can allow you to add category sections that help people to navigate your website easier. You can also add a search bar in your sidebar. This will help people to make a search on your site by typing their own search query.

Do you see if used smart, how a sidebar can improve the user experience?

You can even add your own photo in your sidebar if you are a personal blogger. There is no limit in terms of having a sidebar to improve the overall user experience.

Finally, don’t fear to have a sidebar. Use it smartly and provide a lot of value upfront. People are not concerned about seeing your ad as long as you help them solve their issues.