Web visitors usually have very short attention spans. Show them something they’re not interested in, and they don’t think twice before leaving you alone.
This is where your sidebar comes to rescue (well, mostly!). Here, you can always place stuff to tell your user what other exciting things they can explore on your website.
The links that appear in the sidebar section (left or right) of your page are known as sidebar links. The section where they appear is called sidebar widget. And the functionality they perform is named sidebar navigation.
Benefits of Sidebar Links
Although many webmasters argue that sidebar links carry less significance in the internal linking plan of your website, but they can often be very rewarding if you’re playing with them nicely. The rule of thumb is do not make these sidebar widgets stagnant i.e. place them on every webpage with different links and/or with different anchor texts.
How Sidebar Links Affect SEO
Sidebar links can pass useful information about your website to the search engines, especially, if you include keyword rich links to important sections of your site. Below are some points needed to be kept in mind while placing links in sidebars.
- Try to avoid duplication of links on webpage.
- Never make internal links nofollow.
- Do not over optimized keywords in them. Try to diversify your anchor texts across the website.
- Give links to important webpages instead of placing them randomly.
How Sidebar Links Affect Usability
User experience is the most important factor that counts towards the well-being of a website. Therefore, every element on your site must be user-friendly. Same goes for the sidebar links. Sections that are useful to your users (such as recent or most popular posts, related links etc) should be added there to ensure that your users have a pleasant experience in navigating your site.
Tip: Create a widget and put your latest posts and webpages there. You can also attach your website’s popular sections there to grab user attention. This way their interaction will increase and will result in better engagement on your website. Moreover, this technique will also feed search engines with good optimization as internal links pass link juice to linked pages.
Sidebar Links Best Practices
Like all other contributing factors on your site, sidebar links need well-thought-out optimization in order to help you rank high in the SERPs. While there are no concrete rules for that, you can implement some best practices to get wanted results. Have a look at these!
- Link to content that your user may find useful
Do you think linked page will add value to the user concerns? Make sure you are providing links to content relevant to the content of current page. Link to anything that you assume your user may be interested in.
- Include links with your target keywords
You can include links to other useful pages using your target keywords. This can help pass your relevance to the search engines.
Tip: Use descriptive or long tail keywords in these links. Such keywords would be easy to get ranked in SERPs.
- Offer related services and products
You do not get customers by shoving your products in their face. Once you’ve supplemented your readers with enough useful information, you can always add links to your products or services in the sidebar section.
- Include your freebies in your sidebar
This is a very good idea for converting visitors. Once your users are satisfied with your free product, they will surely come back for more valuable resources, even if they have to pay for them.
- Serve suitable ads
Getting traffic is one thing but what after that? Don’t you want to cash this traffic? Sidebar is a good place to include ads that are coherent with the content of your page. They look more natural and your page won’t look cheesy.
- Make it clear and easy to use
No fancy fonts and buttons. Well, this goes for your entire site, but just to remind you, your sidebar should be simple and easy on the eyes.
- Include widgets that support the purpose of your page
This is very important if you don’t want to confuse your users. Every page should have only ONE unique purpose, and your sidebar should deliver it as well. This is also important for informing search engines about your purpose.
As we said, there are no rules written in stone for creating the best sidebar ever, but the above practices can certainly help a lot. Plus, don’t be afraid to experiment with your sidebar. You never know what works.