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5 Tips for Creatively Using Custom Sidebars

custom sidebars in WordPressWhen I first used the Headway theme, one of the things that attracted me to it was the ease of creating custom sidebars. But since then I have also used Woothemes, which have this option built in, and StudioPress, which has a great plugin built just for Genesis and its child themes.

So, you may be asking, what the heck is Bob talking about?

As you may have experienced with some themes out there, when you set up your sidebar with widgets, often you must have the same content on every page and post. So your readers’ eyes are always landing on the same stuff.

Is that good?

In some instances, yes. But let’s put on our marketing hats and think about some of the drawbacks of a static sidebar.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are the widgets in your sidebar distracting readers from the content of a particular page?

Do the widgets supplement and leverage the page content?

Are there other strategies that will make the sidebar more useful?

5 tips for creatively using custom sidebars on your WordPress blog or website

1. Avoid redundant sidebar content.

Take your blogger bio and photo. With many themes, if you place it on your home page sidebar, it automatically appears on every other page’s sidebar. But with the right theme, you can assign that widget to appear only on certain pages (the contact page, for example). So it’s on the page or pages where it logically would appear.

2. Choose affiliate ad placement carefully.

Be sure those ads aren’t competing for your readers’ attention and distracting them from your content. Some bloggers choose to put affiliate ads only on certain pages. For instance, on the Products I Love page or another page that directly complements the product or service.

3. Consider multiple custom sidebar options if you are creating a membership site. 

This is the perfect option for a membership site with several levels. Imagine, if you will, password-protected pages, where on the sidebar for each level you give them specific links to pages only available to their membership.

4. Make your about page sidebar pop with the right tools and widgets. 

When someone goes to your about page, they are interested in you. They want to learn more about what makes you tick. Wouldn’t it be cool to have that sidebar more specific to social media connections and other platforms where they can connect with you?

5. Consider customizing sidebars to specific posts when it makes sense. 

This is where some themes offer incredible flexibility. You can create a custom sidebar for a category, or even better, a specific post. That allows you to focus that sidebar on what you are talking about in a specific post. So it could be affiliate product links, links to specific books or resources, or something else. The list is endless. This enables some focused up-selling without cluttering your actual post with it.

These are just 5 ways of creatively using custom sidebars. Do you have other ideas to share?

This post was originally on For Bloggers by Bloggers

6 comments on “5 Tips for Creatively Using Custom Sidebars

  1. Great tips, Bob. I’ve been experimenting with page templates and a plugin called Widget-Logic to do just these things. It’s a bit hairy with my current theme, so I may need to look at some of your suggested themes.

    1.  @Mitchell Allen Yeah, I found that Widget-logic plugin is a hit and miss. Sometimes it works perfectly, other times can really get wonky with some themes. That’s why I love the themes that have this functionality built in or added by means of a plugin just for that theme : )

      1.  @bobWP Exactly. I had approached the sidebar customization from a template perspective at first, but that does nothing for my existing posts (unless I’m missing something.)
        Technically, I’m way behind the times, using rigid themes. I’m only beginning to study child themes. they’re magical.

  2. While many WordPress websites and blogs are running on pre made themes, there are just as many running on custom designs. Whichever one you decide to utilize, there are several WordPress design tips which you should keep in mind which will help you to organize your content, reduce bounce rate, increase return visitors, and generally ensure your website visitors have a smooth and enjoyable experience.

  3. To put it simply, the layout of your website is how you want it to be organized. Will you have 1 content area with no sidebars? Will you have a single content area with 2 sidebars? Will your website prominently feature advertisements? Will you have a vertical or a horizontal site navigation? It is paramount for you to be able to answer all these questions before you even think about designing your website. Even if you have already created your website, you should still answer these questions as clearly as possible so you have a clear idea of what you want to change.
    My personal recommendation regarding layout is to ensure that your content makes up the bulk of your layout. After all, that is what your visitors have come for.

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