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The Sidebar Conundrum

I’m working on a new site today. While I build it, I’m trying to build out the steps I take when putting one together. I always try to do that when I start a new site, then I forget. I end up logging into three or four sites at once while building a new one to check on the plugins, settings, colors and everything else that I used before.

That works out, but it’s not the most efficient method. But it had me thinking – almost all of my sites have a sidebar. Some are good, some not so much. They’re the kind of thing that seems to grow organically over time.

This new site currently has about 70 categories (I decided to do them first for a change) and… two posts. There’s not much to go in a sidebar. I started to question whether to bother having one at all.

I Googled “what should niche sites have in the sidebar” and one of my favorite people in the space came up as the second result. Doug Cunnington says to get users to focus on the content. If that means ditching the sidebar, so be it.

I was also browsing Niche Site Lady’s newsletters, and a segment on basically cutting the crap caught my eye. You don’t need tags, and related posts produced by a plugin (rather than hand-selected) are a waste of bandwidth. It makes sense, especially when speed is such a crucial ranking factor nowadays.

I don’t have much to put in a sidebar on that new site. Even here, with my single digit posts, I’ve at least got the latest articles.

However, I like having that space. There won’t be any ads on that site any time soon, but there will be eventually if all goes to plan. Sidebars are prime ad real-estate.

I also like the way they bookend the article on mobile, where most of my traffic inevitably comes from. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but I typically prefer sidebars to footers. They’re even harder to keep up with. Just ask Doug – Doug, if you’re reading this, the copyright statement on Niche Site Project hasn’t been updated since 2021.

The site is live, but it isn’t ‘launched’, so I guess I’ll see how it pans out. For now, latest posts and categories will keep the space full, even if it doesn’t achieve much.