Sidebars are important areas on your website that can often be overlooked or not used effectively. Designed correctly, your sidebars can help provide a great user experience, promote your business, generate leads, and help you increase your revenue.
There is no one set rule as to what widgets should be displayed in your sidebars. Instead, your sidebar content should be driven by your site goals. In this article, we will look at how to choose the right widgets for your site goals to optimize your sidebars. We will then look at a selection of the most important widgets, including displaying opt-in forms, social media links, and popular posts, amongst others.
By the time you finish this article, you should have a clear view of exactly what widgets you should display in your site’s sidebars.
Establish Your Site Goals
It’s important that you use every space of your sidebars to help your site convert against its goals. Therefore, the widgets you use in your sidebars should be directly related to the aims of your site.
It may be that you that you are trying to grow your email list or social media following. You might be looking to keep your audience on your site for longer, encourage them to read more of your blog, or become regular returning visitors. Or you may be wanting to sell products, services, or an online course or membership. Whatever the goals, your widgets should reflect them.
The order of your widgets is also important. The widgets linked to your most important goals should be given prominent positions at the top of a sidebar. Lower ranking goal focussed widgets should be pushed further down the page.
Make sure you don’t overload or clutter your sidebars. Get this wrong and you could end up losing visitors or at least confusing them. Think carefully about what you will add to your sidebar. Always make sure there is a reason behind each widget you’ve chosen.
So let’s have a look at some of the WordPress widgets that you should be using.
Display an About Me Widget
Whatever type of website you are running, an About Me widget is important. It helps visitors relate to your site and understand what you are trying to achieve with your business.
On my freelance writer portfolio site, I used the ‘Genesis – User Profile’ widget. This allowed me to add a title ‘About Me’, text about myself, as well as my gravatar image. A link at the bottom of my text also lets me link to an appropriate page, which could be your About page, your Contact page, or another relevant page that you would like your audience to visit.
If your theme doesn’t have a specific ‘About Me’ widget, a simple text widget will suffice. If you would like to display your gravatar, Jetpack provides a module called Extra Sidebar Widgets. One of these is the Gravatar Profile Widget. This widget enables you to add your gravatar to sidebars, as well as some of your gravatar profile data.
Add an Opt-in Form
Collecting email addresses should be a goal for all sites, whatever your business. Being able to contact your audience after they have left your site is crucial. Obtaining visitor emails means you can continue to market your business to them, send newsletters, promote articles, products and services, and encourage them back to your site.
Adding an opt-in form to your sidebars is a great way to get your visitors to sign up to a monthly newsletter or general correspondence. Mostly, people won’t bother to look for an optin form, so displaying it in sidebars keeps it visible and makes it as easy as possible for your audience to sign up.
Bloom from Elegant Themes is a premium email optin plugin. It has six different ways to provide opt-in forms, but one of these options is to add widget area opt-in forms to your sidebars or footers. Bloom’s stylish and professional forms are perfect for catching your audience’s attention. This should help contribute to an increase in lead generation.
Promote Social Media
Social media is another key area that businesses should always be promoting. Sidebars are a good place to display follow buttons to help gain followers. You can also show a social media feed, or two, to show off what is going on on your social media channels.
AddToAny Social Share Buttons Widget
AddToAny Social Share Buttons is a free WordPress social media plugin that will allow you to add follow buttons to your sidebars (or really anywhere else on your site). Adding this social media widget to your sidebars means that your follow buttons will be constantly visible, encouraging your visitors to follow you.
Feed Them Social
Feed Them Social is another social media plugin, but this time one that displays social media feeds. Create custom feeds for Facebook pages, groups, events, photo albums, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and more. These feeds can then be placed in sidebars to display what is happening on your social media channels.
WordPress Social Sidebar
WordPress Social Sidebar is a fantastic plugin that adds beautiful social media bars to your website. It is fully compatible with over 30 social networks. However, its main strength is the customization options on offer. For starters, you can place a social bar in any of the four corners of your website – vertically on the left or right, or horizontally at the top or bottom.
You also have full control over the social buttons’ appearance. You can display them as a solid block, or as separated squares/circles. There are four “themes” to pick from, too, displaying the social media icons in full color, greyscale, dark, or light. The buttons are also available in small and large sizes. The plugin is mobile optimized, too, ensuring your social media buttons look beautiful on all devices.
Use a Popular or Related Posts Plugin
If you are looking to keep your visitors on your site for longer and explore your content then it is important to display a widget to help with that. Using a related posts or popular posts widget is a great way to give visitors a snapshot of what else is available on your site. Equally, if you have specific content that you are wanting to promote, then you can display that instead.
WordPress Popular Posts Plugin
A widget displaying your most popular posts is an effective way to encourage your visitors to click onto another article. People like to follow the crowd, so if certain posts are perceived as being ‘popular’, this should help increase the click through rate.
WordPress Popular Posts is a free WordPress plugin that enables you to display your most popular posts in your sidebars. This highly customizable widget gives you numerous options over which settings and features you use, as well as providing statistics on your most viewed popular posts.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
If your site covers a wide range of interests and subjects, a popular posts plugin may not interest readers, as the articles displayed could be off topic and not specific to individuals tastes. In this case, displaying a related posts widget in your sidebars will be more appropriate.
A related posts plugin will show posts that are relevant to the article that is being read. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) is a free WordPress plugin. It relies on a powerful and unique algorithm that finds content across your site relevant to the post being viewed. Results are then displayed in a thumbnail or list format in your sidebar, to help grab your viewer’s attention and encourage them to keep reading.
Display a Google Map
If your business is a brick and mortar shop, restaurant, spa, or something else, then you need to tell your online audience where you are located. Make this easy for them by adding a map into your sidebars.
The Google Maps Widget allows you to add a thumbnail map with a custom pin icons to your sidebars. There are also interactive and lightbox options, to help your map grab your visitors’ attention. This widget is the perfect way to show your customers where you are and increase traffic to your store.
Increase Your Sales
If you are looking to increase sales then use your sidebars to help you achieve this. Whether you are selling course membership, products on your site, or affiliate products, use your sidebars to encourage your audience to make a purchase.
Display your most popular products or specific ones you are trying to promote. Add a banner advertising a course or membership. Always make sure your audience can click through to help them quickly and easily find and purchase the item they are interested in.
Final Thoughts on Which WordPress Widgets to Use
As you can see, there are numerous widgets that you can add to your sidebars. Choose the ones specifically relevant to your site goals. Every widget displayed should be helping your site deliver the results you need.
What widgets are you going to add to your sidebars? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.