During the last years, removing blog sidebars has become almost a trend. For several good reasons.
Copying other people’s ideas without pondering too much whether such ideas are applicable to your unique case or not isn’t the smartest strategy though.
So more and more bloggers ask themselves whether it is good or not to remove their sidebars.
I’ll skip the double sidebar case. Very few bloggers still use them anyway. No offense, but every time I visit a double sidebar blog, I feel like a bunch of kiddos turned the house into a playground. Various random things everywhere. Even if each individual item may not be questionable, the big picture is. That’s a big NO from me.
That was easy :) Now let’s move to one sidebar blogs and analyze the most common cases that influence the decision of removing or not the sidebar …
The Significant Influence of the Mobile Traffic
The rise of the mobile devices has had a remarkable impact on the blogosphere. Mobile-friendly themes are a must these days.
One of the major changes introduced by the mobile-friendly themes is that on mobile the layout of your blog is different from the layout of the same blog seen on desktop.
On mobile, the sidebar isn’t actually a side bar anymore. It goes to the bottom, after the article and the comments area.
The consequence? Most visitors won’t get to the sidebar. The sidebar is not in front of visitors’ eyes anymore. It’s way too far. Most of the times there’s no strong reason to spend the time in order to reach the place where the sidebar is located.
So who sees the sidebar on mobiles? I cannot say that no one sees it. But it’s safe to say that most of your mobile visitors won’t see it. So…
Check your blog stats. If most of your traffic comes from smartphones, remove the sidebar. Usually using a sidebar has advantages and disadvantages. But in this particular case, there’s no advantage in keeping the sidebar.
Increasing the Conversion Rate for Your Main Objective
But don’t expect your blog visitors to click all your banners, sign up for your newsletter, and also buy your services. That’s unrealistic. No one gets a conversion rate of 100%.
Actually, the more options the visitors have, the lower the conversion rate for each (or almost each) individual option.
One sure theoretical way to increase the conversion rates of certain options is to diminish the total number of options the visitors have.
The extreme version of this solution is to keep only one main objective/option. For example, you can remove the sidebar together with all the options from it, and focus only on building your mailing list.
However, be very careful if you choose this extreme solution. You put all your eggs in one basket. It works, but only if you know very well what you’re doing. For example, if you’re a very good email marketer and you focus only on list building, for sure your results will improve.
In practice, I’ve seen an extremer version on certain business blogs: removing all the options, or a very similar variant: removing the sidebar, keeping links only in the menu, and also keeping one or two options in obscure places where almost no one sees them – such as the bottom of the page, after tons of comments.
That’s an unfortunate way of applying the marketing principle mentioned in this section: without understanding it. When you remove all the objectives, it’s obvious that you cannot increase any conversion rate.
Successfully Selling Sidebar Ads
As we speak, Matthew Woodward’s space for sidebar ads is sold out. There’s also a waiting list.
And he’s not the only one who successfully sells ads located on the sidebar of his blog.
If this kind of blog monetization works fine and everyone is happy – the customers, the blogger himself – then there’s no good reason to remove the sidebar, right?
Side-note: A picky voice from the background doesn’t let me continue the article … “Everyone’s happy? How about the readers? Wouldn’t they be happier without those ads?”
Sure, but why remove only the ads from blogs? Why not ban all sources of online and offline income? When everything becomes free (making everyone happier, not only certain blog readers!) and no one has a reason to work, we’ll close the Internet and everything, go back to caves and start hunting. Is it actually a good result?
Selling Your Services on Your Blog Pages
The more distractions on your salesletters, the more prospects will leave these pages without buying your products or services. That’s copywriting 101.
That sucks, doesn’t it? So… no shiny side objects (exit links) should be found on your salesletters.
Remove the sidebar from the salesletters or use a special sidebar and make it 100% part of your salesletter.
(Example of sidebar that is 100% part of your salesletter: a sidebar that displays testimonials of customers who bought the product or service that you sell on that page.)
Sidebar on the Home Page of a Business Blog
If you have a business blog and the homepage of that blog is the homepage of your site, I don’t recommend a sidebar on that page.
For the same reasons I don’t recommend sidebars on blog pages that are salesletters.
Actually the homepage of your site should be kind of a salesletter. You don’t sell a certain product or service right on that page, but you display your services or products – example. You don’t need other shiny objects there. Your products and services should be the shiny objects.
Exception: If you sell sidebar ads and remove the sidebar from the homepage, such a removal decreases the value of your service. You may not want to remove it in this particular case ;)
Side-note: Don’t get fooled by the fact that I use a sidebar on the home page of this blog. There’s only one reason for it being there… too many things to do, too little time.
Conclusion – Should You Remove the Sidebar or Not?
The internet marketer I admire the most wears eyeglasses. What do you think? Do I have to get a pair for myself even if I don’t need it? Me neither!
There’s no straight answer valid for all blogs. Each blog is unique and it should be treated accordingly. Don’t be that blogger who said, “All the blogs I love have (no) sidebars. So I decided to keep (remove) the sidebar for my blog.”
As you have seen throughout this article, there are cases when keeping the sidebar is bad, there are other cases when keeping the sidebar is good, and there are cases when a partial removal may be the most appropriate.
To Your Blogging Success!
P.S. Does your blog still have a sidebar (or two), or have you removed it? Why?