Sidebars are pretty common on WordPress sites, and although there’s been a recent trend towards creating web pages without sidebars, you will still find them on most WordPress sites.
Two Examples of Modern Sidebar Usage
CopyBlogger – Uses Sidebars On Blog Pages
CopyBlogger at the time of writing, do not use a sidebar on their home page, nor on any of the landing pages linked to from their home page.
This is because they aim to keep your attention focussed on the conversion goal for each landing page.
As such, sidebars are a distraction, containing as they do, links and brightly coloured buttons leading off to other places preventing you converting.
You will however find a sidebar containing the same items for every page on CopyBlogger’s blog pages. It appears they are less concerned with distraction on their blog.
Becoming Minimalist – Doesn’t Use Sidebars At All!
Becoming Minimalist is a popular website that has decided to use no sidebars at all. Any calls to action are placed at the bottom of posts.
What About Your Sidebars?
Is there a happy medium between removing sidebars from your entire site and having them on some pages but always showing the same content?
There are several methods I use to help with making sidebars more relevant to my main blog post and where required, make the sidebar less distracting without having to remove it altogether.
Here is a quick run-down of some sidebar options. First I must remind you that I only use Genesis themes and two of the plugins I will mention are Genesis only plugins.
How Are Sidebars Formed?
Sidebar content is created by the widgets you drag into the sidebar widget area.
If you drag in three different widgets, these same widgets will display on each page or post unless you switch off the sidebar on individual pages and posts.
This is the all or nothing approach and is what you see on most ordinary small business websites.
What If You Could Control the Contents Of Sidebars?
If you can fine-tune the content in the sidebars to better fit with the content on the main page you should enjoy better conversion and happier visitors.
- Visitors to your site would no longer be assaulted by the same items in the sidebar on every page.
- Because each sidebar would be fine-tuned to the subject matter of the main content, any calls to action in the sidebar would be more appropriate.
- As the sidebar could change according to the current page, visitors are less likely to become blind to its contents as they browse your site.
- Do Nothing
This is the first option open to you. In Genesis, you can set any page or post to have sidebars or not (assuming your child theme includes sidebars at all – most do).
So if a sidebar is not required it is simply a matter of switching it off for that page or post using the easy facility that Genesis provides.
Otherwise all your pages and posts with a sidebar will have the same content no matter which page your visitor sees.
- Control Sidebar Content With Widget Logic
The next step up is to use Widget Logic, or a similar WordPress plugin that allows you to decide if any one widget in your sidebar should show on any particular page.
So say your sidebar starts out with 5 widgets in it, say A, B, C, D and E. Then Widget Logic could be used to say only show widget E on Page Y. And also on Page Z, don’t show widgets C, D or E.
If you have a few pages that need slightly different widgets, Widget Logic works well. But if you have a complicated set of requirements where many pages, posts or categories display different widget combinations, then this is a tedious route to take.
- Control Sidebars With Genesis Simple Sidebars
Genesis Simple Sidebars enables you to set up a number of different sidebars in addition to the default one that your site comes with.
You can plan a fixed number of sidebars, maybe one per category for example.
Each sidebar can then be automatically applied to any posts in that category. Of course you can augment this strategy with some Widget Logic modifications too for say, certain posts or pages. This is much better, easier and cleaner than using Widget Logic by itself.
- Use Content Aware Sidebars
If you don’t think that Genesis Simple Sidebar will be enough – perhaps it would result in too many sidebars – then you can look at Content Aware Sidebars.
Here you can set up a number of different sidebars, but if you have complex rules for deciding how each of those further needs to differ on a per page or post or category basis say, then you can choose to merge a sidebar into another either at the top or the bottom of the receiving sidebar, or replace a sidebar altogether.
You can of course use this in conjunction with Widget Logic to further fine tune your sidebar output.
- Genesis Club Post Specific Widget
We created this special widget within our plugin, Genesis Club Pro. If used by itself or in conjunction with Genesis Simple Sidebars it creates the best solution I’ve found for creating relevant and useful sidebars.
Genesis Club Pro contains lots of features to help you with your Genesis site. However the post specific widget functionality is also available in the free version of our plugin, Genesis Club Lite.
Anyway – getting back to the story – this is the solution I’ve used on this website for example and is my preferred solution.
Using Genesis Simple Sidebars, you start by creating as many sidebars are you need to cater for each category of posts or custom post types. So you might have one sidebar for your blog, another for your category about subject x, another for your category about subject y and so on.
This gives you a broad base for your sidebars with relevant content for each category.
After that when you are writing a post, although the sidebar is basically correct as it is one that has been set up for this category of post using Genesis Simple Sidebars, you may further find you need specialized content to go into the sidebar just for that post.
Say you’re an affiliate and you want put a specific product related call-to-action on that post only, then you’d use the Genesis Club Post Specific widget to do it. If you look over to the left, I have placed an ad to the Genesis Club Pro plugin on this post and this post only using this facility.
It’s easy to do as you add the widget content at the same time and at the same location as you write the post. Of course you can add a bit of Widget Logic control to this as well, which makes the overall functionality extremely powerful.