How to Design Your WordPress Sidebar

Last updated on June 23, 2020  ∙ by Edwin Contreras11 comments
Sidebar design ideas for a blog

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Bloggers! Don’t ignore your blog sidebar design. It’s taking up 300 pixels of valuable space on every page of your blog.

While ultimately the content of your blog is king, a bad sidebar is such a waste of valuable real estate.

Every single inch of space on your sidebar should serve a purpose and provide value to the reader.

Are you sure you’re taking advantage of your sidebar and using it correctly?

If your blog sidebar doesn't KICK ASS don’t worry because in this post I’m going to show you how to create the perfect blog sidebar design.

The purpose of the blog sidebar

You don't just have a sidebar just to have one.

If it does you no good, just get rid of it!

But if you want to take advantage of this space, make sure your blog sidebar serves a purpose.

An awesome blog sidebar design increases engagement on your blog.

In other words, it makes the reader click through to other pages of your blog.

You can drive visitors to your other blog posts, to your optin form and to your products.

The one thing your WordPress sidebar must have is an email optin form. Starting and growing an email list is so important when trying to monetize your blog.

I use ConvertKit as my email marketing provider. With ConvertKit I can set up an automated email sequence that is sent to new subscribers.

This is the perfect way to nurture leads by providing value - before eventually asking for the sale. This concept (also called a sales funnel) is the number one way bloggers make money.

Let's now dive deep into figuring out how to design the perfect WordPress sidebar.

Keep your sidebar simple

Keep the design of your blog sidebar simple on your blog.

I've seen so many sidebars that are super long. This is total information overload.

Remember, the attention should be focused on your content. Your sidebar is for more information/resources.

This means you should avoid all those sidebar widgets available in WordPress.

Not only will your blogs' sidebar look cluttered, but it will also slow your site down.

New bloggers often feel like more information is good. But in fact...

When you give your reader too many options, they will do none!

So keep the search box, category list, archives, tag cloud, recent posts and blogroll widgets off your sidebar!

If it doesn't serve a super important purpose for your overall strategy, don't add it.

Think about it, why would anyone want to navigate your blog via the date archives? Who ever has clicked on a tag cloud? Not me.

So I urge new bloggers to avoid the temptation of adding too many widgets on your sidebar.

Get rid of your sidebar ads, they don't work!

Create an ad-free sidebar design for your new blog.

Say whaaaat! Geez, how are you supposed to make money with our blogs if you remove the ads, right?

Well, let me tell you something.

Website visitors don't click on ads anymore.

Our brains are trained to overlook ads nowadays so the tricks of the past don't work anymore. When is the last time you clicked on a banner ad to buy something? Nobody does that anymore.

Not only do banner ads on sidebars look unsightly,  they turn off the reader. It makes them feel like a customer who is being sold something.

You need to convince them why they need to spend money and you just can't do that in the limited space of a blogs' sidebar. Worse yet, if you are using Google Adsense, the ads may not even be relevant to your blog.

Removing the ads from your blogs' sidebar doesn't mean you can't make money off your readers though.

You can and should recommend affiliate products within the content of your blog posts and also in your emails.

Left, right floating, or no sidebar at all?

Blog sidebar layout options - no sidebar, left sidebar, right sidebar and two sidebars.

You have options when designing your new blog.

  • Left sidebar or right sidebar?

I prefer the right sidebar because your content should be the focus. And since we read left to right, we need to put the content on the left and the sidebar on the right.

  • What about a floating sidebar?

Some WordPress themes have a floating sidebar option. What this means is that when you scroll down on your blog, the sidebar remains on the screen.

While this may seem 'cool' it is actually very annoying. Keeping something on the screen, even when they are trying to get rid of it, is essentially hijacking their browser.

  • Two sidebars, one, or none?

Personally I think two sidebars is overkill. More information isn’t always better. Your blog would look cluttered.

On this blog I have no sidebar. That’s a personal choice and I made it because I want my content front and center.

I don’t have any ads to display and I keep my opt-in forms in the header and footer.

For new bloggers the best option is to choose one sidebar, on the right. It’s the perfect balance of additional information without cluttering the design of your blog.

Does your blog theme allow you to customize... everything? Probably not.

But there is one WordPress theme that lets you change every aspect of your blog. It's Divi by Elegant Themes.

With Divi you can build your blog design from scratch using their drag-and-drop visual editor. Or you can just choose a template and edit it as you wish. It is the only blog theme I know of that gives you full control of your blog design.

Divide your sidebar into 3 sections

Blog sidebar mistakes new bloggers make and how to avoid these blog design mistakes.

Let's divide your sidebar into 3 sections. The top, middle and bottom. Each has an important role to play.

The top will introduce them to who you are and what your blog is all about.

The middle section of your sidebar is to provide additional information, resources or links.

The bottom section of your sidebar is where you can put a call to action.

Let’s get into it.

What do put at the top of your sidebar

Put your About Me section at the top of your blogs' sidebar content.

For your "above the fold" content, you will need to place the most important thing you want every visitor of your blog to see.

This will depend on the nature of your blog, but for most blogs, this would be your about me section.

If you offer a course or coaching of any kind, you'll want the reader to immediately see who is behind the blog so they can connect with you.

Include a picture, introduce yourself and give your story in a couple of sentences.

What to put in the middle of your sidebar

Add links to your best and most popular content in the middle of your blogs' sidebar.

The middle of your blog sidebar is where most new bloggers go wrong.

This isn't the place to add a badge of a useless blog award you won.

It also isn't the place to link to other bloggers.

And it most definitely is not the place where you want to fill up with ads.

The middle of your blogs' sidebar is an ideal location to add links to your best content.

This is an awesome way of showcasing articles you want visitors to navigate to. For example if you have some sales centered content you want to give more visibility to.

Do not show the same sidebar links to all your traffic. Using Thrive Clever Widgets, you can show customized information to each visitor - depending on the blog post they are reading.

This is what all the big bloggers do. Heck, Facebook, Google and Amazon do this too. They have built billion-dollar companies on showing custom ads geared to each person.

What to put at the bottom of your sidebar

Place a call to action at the bottom of your blog sidebar, like in this blog sidebar example.

The bottom of your blogs' sidebar is the ideal location to add a call to action.

On mobile devices, the bottom of your sidebar is actually the bottom of your entire blog. A few quick swipes and the reader will be looking right at this section before deciding what to do next.

The bottom of your sidebar is an awesome place to add an email opt-in form.

Remember, don't just say 'subscribe to my newsletter' because who the hell wants a newsletter, right? Give something away like a report and say 'enter your email to receive my free report on the top 14 ways to..."

I use Thrive Leads to build my opt-in forms. They have an insane amount of templates you can customize to match your branding.

Perhaps their best feature is the option to show different forms on different pages. This lets you show targeted forms which definitely helps improve conversion rates.

You can also choose to promote your own product or service - but only if you feel a reader would actually buy from you after reading just one article.

What is most important is that this section be a "call to action" to what you want to promote the most.

There you have it, the formula for the perfect WordPress blog sidebar.

If you enjoyed this post, you'll also want to read my article on how to write the perfect blog post too.

If this article helped you improve your WordPress sidebar, please share this post on Pinterest.

Until next time,
Edwin, DoSixFigures.com

just a little > about me

About edwin

Edwin Contreras is the professional blogger behind Cash The Checks and Do Six Figures. Over the last 17 years, he has started over 100 profitable blogs on his way to a six-figure income as a full-time blogger. He is now obsessed with helping people just like you escape the 9 to 5 and make serious money online. You in?

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continue > the conversation

  • This was an awesome informative post! I have spent all day trying to figure out what my sidebar needed. I kept adding widgets and then going back and deleting them the next second. I never thought about even putting the newsetter in the sidebar until now. Thank you for information to us new bloggers!

  • Winnie Xu says:

    Hi Edwin, I understand the point and logic behind why banner ads should be removed. But are there any other ways to monetize a blog other than recommending affiliate products? I always thought that ads were the primary source.

  • Hi. Great article and made me think a bit about my sidebar. Made me realize I should change the order of my widgets. CTA at the bottom make so much more sense.

  • Blog update: I’ve decided to get rid of my sidebar altogether on this blog. My reasoning was that I didn’t have enough to fill up my sidebar and didn’t want to leave a big empty white space since I do long-form articles. I also didn’t want a “sticky” sidebar.

    What about you? How are you approaching your blogs’ sidebar?

    • I noticed that. I have thought about getting rid of my sidebar, but ad networks usually require them. And, well, I’m not making much on affiliates, but my traffic is increasing. It’s a tough call.

  • Great advice. Thankfully I’m not too far off with my sidebar, a little rearranging and seeing up an email list is all I need to do now! 🙂 I definitely think pretty blood and simple clean layouts do better, and it’s easy to go overboard with all the plug ins available.

  • This is a refreshing blog post. I’ve always wanted to hear different views on how to setup the sidebar correctly. I currently have my opt-in form at the top, but now I agree with you on its placement on the bottom as the call to action. And, I need to redesign mine to an offer rather than a newsletter.
    I also agree with you on the About me section. Mine is currently at the bottom of my posts and I find that it may deter readers from commenting!

    Thanks a lot for sharing and educating me.

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