A sidebar shouldn’t be random clutter that you use to fill up white space. In fact, many bloggers (and their readers) love the crisp, clean layout of content with white space cradling it on either side.
But you can’t ignore the fact that it’s advertising space you could be profiting from when you’re running an online business. Especially above the fold, it’s important to test out the space you have in your sidebar to see if it can help you turn a profit.
There are five favorite sidebar items that marketers like to use to help the visitor experience and to boost financial rewards as well. You can test a variety of them to see what works better for you.
Social networking badges help you build a following on other places, besides your own website. You might put a “Follow me on Twitter” badge, a FriendFeed badge that shows the latest web 2.0 items from you, or a FaceBook badge that lets people navigate to your profile and friend you.
While social networking might not immediately seem like a revenue booster, the more you’re able to connect with your target audience on a friendly level, the more able you are to build a relationship of trust with them and convert them into long term, loyal buyers.
Banner graphics that are hyperlinked with your affiliate URL can help generate revenue instantly. If you’re an affiliate, look for an affiliate toolbox page from the product creator (or email them and ask if they have vertical banners or buttons). You can use simple HTML code to show the banner graphic and have it hyperlinked to the product with your affiliate URL.
Images or text that are placed in your sidebar for ad space sold to other marketers is another instant revenue option. But you have to be careful because if a visitor sees an ad, they’re assuming it’s you who is endorsing this product or service.
Link lists to your other sites can help turn a profit, too. While you may start out as a newbie in the business, your online empire will grow and soon you may have 10-20 websites to call your own. You can link to them in your sidebar and even write a textual description to accompany it.
Widgets that help your visitors navigate or utilize your site can be placed in your sidebar too. Letting them subscribe to your RSS feed, for example, keeps them in tune with what you have to say.