For online entrepreneurs our websites are much like our second home and just like with our regular home, we love to change the appearance and add new decor now and again.
We like to “pretty things up” by playing with templates, color changes and even altering our logos, headers and images. But oftentimes the “redecorating” process spills over into our sidebars and they become much like the cluttered bulletin board at home that is filled with gaudy artwork, expired coupons and awards for things that nobody else has ever heard of.
For online marketers, having too much “bling” on our sidebars in the way of advertisements, courses and event info can end up looking tacky and giving the visitors to our sites the wrong impression about our business.
People that land on your website get a first impression of y our site much like you get a first impression of meeting someone new. You want to put your best foot forward. Here are a few things to think about when evaluating your sidebar for clutter:
OPS (Other People’s Stuff)
As online marketers, we know that our sidebar is the “prime real estate” of our site and we often can’t resist the urge to load it up with other people’s products, especially if an affiliate for those products. Unfortunately it may appear to visitors that you don’t believe in yourself and your own products enough to advertise them on your own blog. In my opinion, you should choose a few (if any) very carefully. An effective alternative would be to write up a blog post or review of the product or have a recommendations page. You can still promote them; you just won’t be filling up your sidebar with this non-essential information.
Your Own Stuff
With the above thought in mind, the same principle applies to your own products as well. Your site’s sidebar should never act as an online catalogue of all your own products or services. Yes, you should reserve some of the top spots, or “above the fold,” area for a few of your top products or services, but the wiser choice is to use that area to create a single ad that directs potential buyers to your Store, a Recommendations Page or a sales page.
Outdated Ads Scream I Don’t Care
It’s great to advertise events and sales for yourself, business peers or your affiliates, but be mindful of that ones that are dated. Visitors who show up to your site and are greeted with a long line of out-of-season ads or expired information may question whether the rest of your information is timely and relevant as well. Just as you wouldn’t leave your Christmas décor up until July 4th (I only did that once, just so you know) keeping the information that others see fresh and up-to-date will only reward your business in the long run.
Displaying your Accomplishments
It is super-awesome that your blog was voted Cutest Little Blog on the Block, but that was back in 2006 and honestly, it has nothing to do with your business. Although I am all for showcasing social proof of your accomplishments, before doing so ask yourself one all-important question; does this offer value to my readers? Unless you are offering blog design as one of your services, being the Cutest Little Blog on the Block does little for your business cred and instead just adds clutter to your sidebar. Instead offer images of products, designs or photography that you’ve created for others as a way to show a skillset that is relevant to your niche.
The Loooonnnggg Sidebar
You may think you are offering value by showing a calendar, a blog roll, the blog buttons from four of your friends and snapshots of your latest Pinterest Pins, Twitter feed and eBay listing… but if the contents of your sidebar continues far past your actual content, you may have a problem. Your blog’s sidebar is meant to fill in the gap alongside your main blog content and highlight important facts, not to provide extra length to the page. If you find that what you want/need to share on your sidebar is creeping past your content, consider either switching to a three column layout or try displaying different information on different pages.
What are your tips for maintaining a “tidy sidebar?”