Structuring a website is no easy task. From deciding what items to include on your main menu, to balancing advertisements with helpful content, to determining whether popups are really worth it, there are countless small decisions that can make or break the user’s experience.
As I work on building both the TDG website and my own vacation rental’s website, I have discovered three pieces of website real estate that often get overlooked. Or at the very least, they do not get used to their full advantage.
That is the sidebar, the header, and the footer.
Hear me out!
A short time ago, I transitioned my TDG website from Shopify to WordPress. After almost six months of pouring over the statistics to determine how my audience interacts with my new site, I had a lightbulb moment. You know the one…where everything just comes together.
The trends were ringing loud and clear. My header (also known as a “hello bar”) and my sidebar content—especially my sidebar content— were getting a surprising amount of clicks!
For my header/hello bar, I included a newsletter signup capture… and sure enough, I began to notice an uptick in signups (still tracking this one). On the sidebar, I featured an ad for our Facebook group New to Short-Term Rentals, Airbnb and Hosting… and along came the steady stream of new members. It was working!
This flew in the face of everything I thought I knew about website content and audience behavior. I had decided to try them on a whim, with the expectation they wouldn’t do much. To me, sidebars and headers made the website look crowded and contributed nothing to the brand. I was wrong!
Well—I was right in the sense that it is important to not let your website get overcrowded, especially with ads that aren’t relevant to your audience. But, when employed correctly, with a sense of balance and with info that matters to your audience… they represent a pretty big opportunity. And they are dead simple to use.
How to Use Your Header, Sidebar & Footer
Here’s my trick to not make my website look like a crowded mess.
I only use the headers and sidebars on certain pages of my website, where it makes sense to do so. I often use the blog section for sidebar ads, because people will spend longer on the blog posts than they do on my homepage, for example. (The homepage is for helping people navigate to what is most relevant to them; clogging it up with miscellaneous content is a bad idea.)
I also try to make my ads as visually appealing as possible. Graphic design matters! I also use the same fonts and color schemes as the rest of the site… like coordinating your accessories to your outfit. Both work best when they work together.
So, what kind of information, calls-to-action or other content can you include in your header/hello bar, sidebar, and footer?
- Get newsletter signups with email capture
- Link to your social media accounts (with icons)
- Advertise a sale at your vacation rental
The sidebar is even more flexible than the header, because you have more room to play around with. Here are some ways to use them:
- Links to products or services for affiliate income
- Advertisements for other local businesses
- Discounted stays at your rental
- Invitation to your Facebook group
- Newsletter signups (it’s okay to have a few of these throughout your site! Email addresses are gold)
- Search function
- Info about you/your property
- Links to social
Generally, the footer is where people throw all of the random stuff they don’t have a great place for, like terms and conditions, copyright info, privacy, etc. But don’t forget, it’s also a great place to showcase your social media presence, include one more email opt-in, link to your blog/About Us, and drop in your contact info.
You can also consider the smashballoon plugin which allows you to showcase your instagram account’s most recent posts below the footer. A great opportunity to snag a few more followers by wowing them with your fabulous feed!