Should You Ditch Your Blog Sidebar? Conversions Say “Yes”

should you ditch your blog sidebar? conversions say yes

Ever since blogs started becoming popular, the design for every site has always been very similar. Whether you had a major site like Entrepreneur or a small personal blog about how to train your dog, there wasn’t too much difference.

I mean, sure, the bigger sites had professionals build them and tended to look better than the smaller ones, but they all had the basic structure of a header with the content on the left and a sidebar on the right.

But, is the age of sidebars and the status quo of blog design starting to finally change? Are there new trends that are going to change blogging forever that you need to pay attention to?

 

 

Why Sidebars May Soon Become Obsolete

Back in June of 2007, a little company called Apple (you may have heard of them) released the first iphone. Little did they know that they would completely change the world with this invention.

Now, years later, everyone seems to own some sort of smartphone like the iphone or an android version. What does this have to do with blogging though?

Actually, everything because more people than ever are using the internet on their phones than ever before. Gone are the days where people carry laptops everywhere (unless you do that for work).

People can use these little smartphones for just about all of their internet browsing needs. In fact, roughly 56% of traffic to the leading US websites was from mobile devices in 2015, according to SimilarWeb.

And that study doesn’t even include app usage, so it is probably a little higher than 56%. Either way, smartphone traffic has risen steadily over the 7 and a half years leading up to 2015 and is going to keep doing so.

Here’s a look at the rise in mobile internet users compared to desktop:

Mobile traffic stats vs desktop

Credit: comScore

No Sidebars On Mobile

And the thing about mobile traffic is you can’t see sidebars. Well, some websites have it to where sidebar widgets are listed after blog posts when reading them on a phone, but who will even see them?

Most people will not go past the end of the article they are reading.

The only other way people will see your sidebar on a mobile device is if your site isn’t optimized for mobile and just shows your entire website design exactly the same on any device.

You may be thinking that sounds good, maybe you should have it like that. Wrong. You MUST optimize your site to where it specifically adapts to the device it is on or Google will slam your rankings.

Ever heard of Mobilegeddon? Yeah, people who didn’t optimize for mobile got hurt pretty bad in the search rankings. Don’t fall into that trap.

But, think about it, if smartphone traffic continues to rise, that means less and less people will even know your sidebar is there. Or if it levels off and stays around 50%, that is still half your traffic not seeing the sidebar.

So, is the sidebar really worth depending on for just a portion of your readers?

 

A Few Other Reasons You May Want To Ditch The Sidebar

More and more companies are starting to get rid of their blog’s sidebar, or at least test for a month or so to see how it affects their numbers. But, not everyone does it just because of the rise of mobile traffic.

Here are a few other reasons companies have ditched sidebars:

  • Minimalism – Some people just want to have a personal blog that is clean and doesn’t look cluttered. Minimalists are big on decluttering their lives and their websites are no different.
  • No need for a sidebar – Some people have blogs that just have no use for a sidebar. They use it as a personal blog or a public journal and don’t care to make money off it or worry about traffic.
  • Better conversions – Many studies show that the less choices people have, the more likely they are to make a quick decision. If you have share buttons, follow buttons, subscription forms, popular posts, about pages, affiliate links and lot of other things in your sidebar, visitors might get overwhelmed and take no action.
  • A consistent experience – Why have half of your traffic looking at one version of your site and the other half seeing a completely different one? That’s how some people think. They try to make their website look fairly similar on any device.
  • Better focus – This is kind of similar to the “better conversions” point, but conversions aren’t always the #1 thing on bloggers’ minds. Maybe they just want people to focus on the content or one certain action, rather than have a sidebar full of options.
  • Better user-experience – Users don’t usually go to blogs to click on ads or share buttons. They go because they think you might have articles that can help them find out what they want to know or just entertain them with interesting content. Many people find it easier to read content without a distracting sidebar.
  • Site speed – The less your site has to load, the more lean it will be and the faster it will load for your visitors. This is a huge ranking factor in search engines and the less time people have to wait for your blog to load, the more traffic, conversions and smaller bounce rates you will get.

Whether you want to just help your visitors have an easier time focusing on the content, get better conversions on offers, or just get rid of the clutter in your design, there can be many benefits to removing the sidebar from your blog.

 

Related: How To Create Perfect Blog Post Titles That Grab Attention

 

The Alternative To Sidebars

Now that I’ve shown you some reasons and statistics that give you an idea of why you may consider removing your sidebar, you may be wondering what that looks like.

Basically, the removal of sidebars is not having anything on the sides of your content, therefore centering your actual posts in the middle of the page.

Now there are a couple of ways to do this. You can just change your settings to make your posts full width and leave it that way or you can narrow the width of the blog after doing so.

The problem with full-width:

To be honest, I don’t recommend you just go full-width and leave your blog that way. Although, it might be easier, it isn’t user-friendly. People need to be able to read your content left to right quickly and effortlessly.

Full-width blogs make this harder because they are too wide. Here’s what full width looks like:

full width post

The content in full-width posts stretches almost all the way across your screen.

It makes reading unpleasant. Think, would you rather read a paragraph written on a regular piece of paper or on a classroom-sized whiteboard, going from end to end?

That may be a somewhat extreme example, but I think it proves the point. Your blog is only going to do well if it is user-friendly for your visitors.

To make it that way, focus on keeping content centered in the middle of the page after removing the sidebar and having a maximum content width of between 700-750px or so.

This narrows your content area, making it easy to read from left to right, but without making it too skinny to where it looks weird.

Here’s what the narrowed version looks like:

narrowed blog full width

The content only takes up about a third of the total page width and is perfectly centered, making it easy to read left to right quickly.

The different ways to structure a no-sidebar blog:

  • Change your blog settings to be full-width and then use CSS to edit your code to where your max content width is between 700 and 750px.
  • Don’t like or know how to code? That’s totally fine. If you use WordPress for your blog, just get a new theme that is a no-sidebar style. Try No Sidebar Pro for example.
  • If neither of those first two options work for you, maybe you can make your blog a two-sidebar style (sidebar on each side). Then, just don’t put anything in the sidebars and you essentially have the same thing as a no sidebar blog.

As long as you can center the content in the middle of the page and not have clutter on either side, there are many different ways to structure this style.

 

FREE BLOG RESOURCE: 

320 Blog Post Ideas (With Examples) 

Never Worry About Writer's Block Again And Start Getting Bigger Blog Conversions, Traffic, Rankings And Engagement. 

Download Your Free Resource Here

 

Examples Of Brands With No-Sidebar Sites

If you want to see some proof that this is becoming a trend and I’m not the only one trying this structure, here are a few recognizable brands that have no-sidebar blogs:

  • Medium – There is a sidebar on their homepage, but not on blog posts. This is the style I personally like and am trying for myself and Medium is a huge brand that does it well.
  • Buffer – You probably have heard of Buffer’s social media tool that allows you to schedule and share posts faster and easier. Well, they have no sidebar on their entire blog.
  • Moz – Moz happens to be one of the biggest SEO companies in the world and they switched their blog to a no-sidebar style not too long ago.
  • Sparring Mind – Sparring Mind is the personal blog of Gregory Ciotti, a marketing expert who writes about productivity and company success. The blog is 100% sidebar-free.
  • Becoming Minimalist – The idea of minimalism is decluttering your life, so that the things you own don’t end up owning you. So, of course one of the biggest minimalist blogs went without the sidebar.
  • Crazy Egg – This site has one of the best analytics tools you can get. They know all about conversions, split testing and getting the most from a site. Guess what, they ditched the blog sidebar.

These are just a few examples of some of the biggest brands to go away from the sidebar design in favor of a cleaner, more streamlined and focused style.

 

Some Statistics On The Impact Of Removing Your Sidebar

Still need further proof that removing your sidebar can be quite beneficial? Well if you’re like me, you want to know the numbers. You want to see a positive trend before switching to a new method.

So, here are some statistics from case studies that prove the positive effect of a no-sidebar design:

When you type in different variations of keywords relating to case studies about removing blog sidebars and the impact on conversions, you don’t see a lot of them. The few you do see are all positive and the results are listed above.

But, while there aren’t a lot of case studies yet, more and more big brands are starting to think about the point of having a sidebar.

Although it is a new, rising trend, it is definitely catching on, especially with some of the best marketing and business sites (which do a lot of testing and know what they are doing).

So, even though there aren’t a lot of published case studies about this yet, you can definitely tell that sidebar removal is being tested and implemented on more and more sites.

 

Related: How To Get 100,000 Blog Visitors Per Month

 

Conclusion

Although it is ultimately your decision whether you remove your sidebar or not, it may definitely be something to look at if it almost always increases conversions as studies show.

In fact, I’ve decided to try it myself for many of the reasons listed above. Obviously,  the numbers seem to support the switch.

And, before concluding, there are a few more points I would like to bring up that may be huge factors in your decision.

Powerful Closing Points You Should Consider

1. For one thing, Google, the biggest website in the world, removed its sidebar ads completely. Why? I’m sure there are many reasons, but a big one is because mobile traffic keeps rising and sidebars serve no purpose in aiding the experience of mobile visitors.

2. Another thing I’d like to bring up is the 80/20 rule. This states that you typically get about 80% of results from 20% of what you do. After seeing the above case study stats, doesn’t that seem to apply to websites as well?

If you get so few clicks on the sidebar and at least half of your site’s visitors don’t see it, why have it?

3. And my last key point is to think about trends. I’m no expert on trends, but it seems to me like one is starting to emerge to help the transition of desktop to mobile traffic.

Google, has made it a top priority for us to have mobile-friendly websites and them to have more mobile-friendly ad results. Plus, some of the biggest SEO sites and marketing sites are the first ones switching to a no-sidebar design.

At this rate, in a few years, mobile traffic won’t just account for half of overall traffic, it will have a significant percentage more than desktop.

So, more sites will be forced to consider removing sidebars and Google will probably make it a ranking factor.  That is usually how trends that support traffic and user-friendliness turn out.

Therefore, maybe it’s time you get on the ground floor of a rising trend in web design  Or, then again, maybe you have a unique situation where you heavily rely on your sidebar conversions.

Either way, at least now you have the information to make a well-informed decision on the subject. It’s up to you whether it makes sense for your blog or not. Only you know for sure.

What do you think about the rising number of sites removing their sidebars?

FREE BLOG RESOURCE: 

320 Blog Post Ideas (With Examples) 

Never Worry About Writer's Block Again And Start Getting Bigger Blog Conversions, Traffic, Rankings And Engagement. 

Download Your Free Resource Here

I’m an entrepreneur, fitness freak, artist, car enthusiast, sports fan and self improvement addict. My goal is to help people be their best and create incredible businesses that change the world.
About The Author

Justin Bryant

I'm an entrepreneur, fitness freak, artist, car enthusiast, sports fan and self improvement addict. My goal is to help people be their best and create incredible businesses that change the world.

2 Comments

  • Richard Stevens

    Reply Reply April 23, 2016

    I do hope Google will not one day ‘rule the roost’ and punish us on this one. As an author, my website is mainly sidebar free to keep it uncluttered for the viewing of my novels. However, not to have a sidebar on my blog page would be a disaster. Losing the ability to display the much used format of being able to select categories, dates, archives (and often ‘follow me’) to view other works, would leave visitors unable to see or find my author pages and books.

    • Justin Bryant

      Reply Reply May 2, 2016

      As far as penalties, I doubt they will do anything like that in the near future. I think more sites will switch to the no-sidebar format to at least test it, but I wouldn’t worry about them penalizing anyone just for their blog style.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field