Will Ditching Your Sidebar Increase Your Profits?

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Is your blog sidebar a side-thought?

When was the last time you looked at your sidebar when trying to optimize your blog?

The closest most marketers get is slapping an opt-in box at the top and calling it a day.

Does this make you lazy? No, not at all. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely the type of marketer who is always striving to be better.

But the sidebar is rarely discussed, because every guru or expert recommends the same thing. It’s thought of as a “solved” element of conversion and user interaction.

As has been shown throughout marketing history, very few things can ever be solved for long.


Will Ditching Your Sidebar Increase Your Profits?
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Why Your Sidebar Doesn’t Convert

Check your analytics if you can to see how many people actually click something in your sidebar.

Your regular readers barely ever click it, while new readers might be curious the first few visits to the site.

Bryan Harris from Video Fruit has a blog known for epic internet marketing content. He saw that his readers clicked his sidebar a whopping 0.3% of the time (yes that’s 3 in 1,000 page views).

Brian Dean, a leading SEO blogger, used Crazy Egg to determine that only 1.9% of visitors click his most important sidebar element, which is unusually high:

backlinko sidebar ctr

Even if you have the most amazing offer on the other side of that sidebar link and you convert 50-100% of the clicks, that’s still an abysmal conversion rate.

Banner Blindness? Sure. But Sidebar Blindness?

Think about the blogs you visit on a regular basis. Do you commonly click on links the sidebar?

No? Why not?

Because it’s the same damn thing every single time.

At best, it’s a distraction. It takes away attention from your blog post, even if your visitor has no intention of ever clicking on the sidebar.

Google already penalizes duplicate content across a site because visitors don’t want to see the same thing over and over (although they’re more lenient for sidebars).

What is the Goal of Your Blog Posts?

The golden rule of conversion: one page, one goal.

Most blog posts are designed to capture the email address of the reader.

A busy sidebar takes away attention from the most important part of your post: the intro. It’s like trying to focus on listening to your music when there is noise in the background.

When someone lands on your post, they have a decision: should I keep reading or stop?

This infographic from Slate illustrates that decision with a large spike of readers leaving an article right away.

This is a histogram showing how far people scroll through Slate

(Image Source)

With about a million other blog posts being published every minute, there is an essentially infinite supply of competing posts.

This is why the average time a user spends on a page is decreasing every year.

average time on page

(Image Source)

You have a finite amount of time to capture a reader’s attention, and you’re just going to throw away half of it with a clunky sidebar? No, you’re not, you’re a conversion rate optimizer. You’re going to test, and find a better alternative.

Does Your Sidebar Have Any Value?

Derek Halpern says every blog sidebar needs 3 things:

  1. an opt-in form (at the top of the sidebar)
  2. links to resource pages (preferably right under the opt-in form)
  3. links to popular articles

The opt-in form collects emails, and resource pages and popular articles are useful for new visitors.

This makes sense for new readers, but what value does this add to longtime readers?

Occasionally they might look for your top posts, but couldn’t you have a single link for that in the top menu?

There are very few items in a typical sidebar that could be considered essential, which is typically a red flag that space is being wasted.

Sidebars Are Useless For Mobile

Everyone knows that mobile usage has been consistently increasing for years, and that trend isn’t changing anytime soon.

Assuming you have a responsive website (which you should), have you ever checked what happens to your sidebar on a mobile device?

Most slide down to the very bottom of the page.

After the post.

After the related or recommended posts.

After the email signup form.

After the comments.

Only the most hardcore fans will ever scroll down that far and click on something or fill out an opt-in, but they’ve already done that further up the page.

Conclusion: Most sidebars only detract from your blog on mobile.

A Bold Hypothesis: Increase Your Signups by X% to Y% By REMOVING Your Sidebar

I think it’s clear by now that on most sites, a blog sidebar might not be the most useful part of your pages.

But every blog needs a sidebar…right?

Maybe not.

Luckily, there have been a few that were not only bold enough to test removing the sidebar completely, but to also publish the results.

Case Study 1: Video Fruit

Bryan Harris already had a simplified sidebar on the Video Fruit blog. It looked like this:

videofruit with sidebar - before "remove sidebar" test

He decided to split test the original (with a sidebar), with a version that involved removing the sidebar altogether:

videofruit without sidebar - after "remove sidebar" test

The results? He was able to improve his email signup rate from about 11% to just under 14% by removing the sidebar altogether — an increase of 26%.

Most would be happy to achieve either one of those email opt-in rates. A major part of Bryan’s strategy is the content upgrade. Devesh showed how he increased his email subscribers by 492% with content upgrades a little while ago. Best of all, since these opt-ins are in the content, they convert well with mobile visitors as well.

Case Study 2: Impact Branding & Design

The team over at Impact Branding & Design also tested removing their sidebar, and ended up loving the results.

Unlike Bryan, the Impact BnD team originally had a really busy sidebar, like many blogging gurus recommend:

impact bnd with sidebar - before "remove sidebar" test

They tested removing the sidebar completely, and instead put a call-to-action lead generation form at the bottom of the post.

impact bnd without sidebar - after "remove sidebar" test

The results? A 71% increase in leads.

These are not small improvements we are talking about. A small change like removing the sidebar may make a significant improvement to your bottom line.

Next Steps: Test Your Sidebar

Start by analyzing the typical user interaction with your sidebar. Make a note of any links or parts that users most frequently find useful.

Create and complete a split test comparing your standard layout to one with no sidebar. Make sure to come back and leave a comment about how it went.

After that, you have your answer as to whether or not a sidebar works for you.

But wait, you’re not done. Remember those sidebar elements that your users found most helpful? Find a way to preserve the elements that readers use most, either by including them in the header, the content, or slightly before or after the content. Test that again and you could further improvements.

You have a chance to increase your email opt-in rates by 26-71% from a simple test. What are you waiting for?

Read other Crazy Egg posts by Dale Cudmore.

The post Will Ditching Your Sidebar Increase Your Profits? appeared first on The Daily Egg.


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How Giving Away Money Can Lead to More Profits

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Working for a for-profit business doesn’t always feed the soul of employees and although it may not seem like a critical factor for most people, apparently, it is. In fact, the number three most important consideration for millennials when deciding to apply for a job is the company’s level of involvement with charitable causes, trailing behind what the company specifically does, sells or produces, and the company’s culture (Source: Millennial Impact Report 2014). Employees in profit-driven companies seek opportunities to feel fulfilled and a paycheck typically isn’t enough. Corporate philanthropy is one way to help satisfy that need and stimulate a more productive and loyal workforce. Charitable giving doesn’t just benefit employee satisfaction but it can foster customer loyalty and influence purchasing decisions. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that if companies choose causes that their customers care about, it can help drive sales (Source: Making Charity Pay, Harvard Business Review 2014).

Based on this knowledge, we’ve compiled three best practices that companies can implement when creating or enhancing corporate charitable giving programs.

1) Create Opportunities for Employees and Customers

Companies can create charitable opportunities for employees and customers to get involved in that create long-lasting, meaningful experiences that go further than writing a check. A group volunteering opportunity creates a team bonding activity and can foster customer loyalty. Research indicates competitive advantages of philanthropy for many corporations, such as Tom’s Shoes, where customers are willing to pay a competitive price because they know that they are helping donate one pair of shoes to a child in need with each purchase (Source: The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy and Making Charity Pay, Harvard Business Review 2002 and 2014).

Employees have diverse interests, which means that a company should create different types of philanthropic opportunities in order to appeal to the masses. For example, our company, Affect, offers several charitable-based benefits for its employees as part of the “Affective Giving Program.” This includes Charity Days, where Affect offers employees two days off per calendar year to volunteer at a nonprofit of their choice. Affect also offers employees the option to donate to a non-profit and the company matches their contributions up to a certain dollar value. Additionally, the staff takes part in team building activities like the One Book at a Time program (which provides children with books and an employee pen pal), conducting a coat drive for New York Cares, and planning and hosting an annual birthday party for children living at a homeless shelter. This broad range of opportunities allows for each employee to find a program that they can feel passionate about.

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2) It Is Not All About the Money
Organizations sometimes first look to their budget to determine how much money they can give away to a cause, and many corporations ultimately assume that corporate philanthropy programs are too expensive to implement. However, effective giving programs are about more than just throwing money towards a donation. Other factors to consider aside from finances include time and resources. Cost-effective (or cost-less) philanthropic endeavors include time-off for employees to volunteer outside of work, opportunities to apply their skills to a non-profit cause at work, or providing pro-bono services, products or other resources, including use of an office or facility.

3) Rethink How You Choose Your Charity

Companies often try to match the charities they contribute to with ones that align with its business goals and industry. While this approach often makes sense from a business perspective, it may not inspire employees or customers to take action. Another mistake is initiating a program of giving that is solely based on the CEO’s passions. If companies want employees and customers to fully support the initiative and absorb the positive benefits of it, they must also provide programs supporting issues that staff and customers are care most about.

Employees’ connection to their company’s non-profit initiatives directly correlates with their motivation, so allowing staff members to select foundations of their choice is vital. For Affect’s 10-year anniversary, the company pledged to donate $ 1,000 to 10 different charities that employees chose. Each staff member nominated two charities and shared their personal connection to it. The touching, inspiring and sometimes heart-breaking stories moved the team to tears. It was as much a bonding and team-building experience as it was a charitable initiative. Ultimately it proved too difficult to chose only 10 worthy causes and the company decided to donate to each one.

Corporate social responsibility is more than just another box for businesses to check off. It attracts, strengthens and empowers company stakeholders, including employees and customers. Everyone tells you to “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life,” but not everyone has that opportunity. In the corporate environment, in the absence of that ‘greater good’ charity work motivates and fulfills that void. Through corporate social responsibility, employees and customers can feel good about working with an ethical and philanthropic company.

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