Widget areas are where you place widgets in WordPress. These widgets can be a Google advert, affiliate marketing campaign, a list of your latest blog posts, photo galleries and more.
Most blogs sport a sidebar widget area with some widgets mentioned above while there are some very popular blogs that don’t use any widget area and design a full-widget blog layout.
They are all making money with their blogs, and they have their own reasons as to why they chose to hide or show the widget area.
But, the real question is, “Should you disable widgets area in your WordPress blog?”
In this article, I am going to dig deep and list all the pros and cons associated with either choice.
Having a Google AdSense ad placed inside the widget area helps in increasing the revenue
This is an obvious fact. The more impressions your ads get, the more money you make. So, having multiple ads; one inside the content and one in the sidebar, will help you in drastically improving your revenue.
Even a small ($500) bump in your monthly revenue is more than enough of reason to enable sidebar widgets in your blog.
I use Google Ads on my niche websites. Along with affiliate links and product promotions, Google AdSense helps in generating more than $3000/month. If I remove the widgetized sidebar, I would lose almost $700 on revenue.
Since I am not using any sort of disruptive popups or content blocking ads, it doesn’t have negative impact on the user-experience.
You can showcase the most important blog articles in the widget section on every blog post
It is not possible to manually insert popular and important articles in every individual blog posts manually. So, you need to use the latest articles widgets plugins or some popular posts plugin to highlight the trending blog posts.
These posts can be:
- Product reviews
- Sponsored content
- Articles targeting competitive keywords
If there are no widgets with such information, most people will spend a few seconds scanning your content and then leave your website.
Having a recent posts widget or a popular posts widget will help draw their attention to the amazing pieces of content on your website. If they are interested, they can click on the link and visit the page to continue consuming more content on your website.
The more time a user spends on your website, the better search ranking you get.
Usually, with blog posts you have a pretty high click-through-rate. Having a widget with some links may be able to bring down this CTR.
Build credibility with a small “about me” section in the sidebar
Whenever I visit a blog and start reading a piece, I tend to lose interest after a few minutes because I find it hard to related to the author as there’s no info about the author.
But, when I see an “about us” section in the sidebar with the author’s photo and a small snippet with some basic information about them, the blog post becomes conversational and welcoming.
It helps build some credibility and even encourage someone to finally purchase a product that you are recommending.
Of course, such an author widget is not possible with a multi-authored blog, but you can still sport a “about team” widget.
It doesn’t take that much space, and you can remove it afterwards if it doesn’t positively impact the monthly blog revenue.
Most bloggers who sell digital courses make sure to have an “author widget” with some vital information about themselves and their blog.
Having no sidebar makes your blog look dull and boring
From a web design point of view, having a no sidebar layout may look clean and balanced. But, when you are running a niche blog or a money making blog, having a full width layout may look boring and basic.
With just a bunch of text and images, it is hard to remain focused. There’s a reason why you don’t want to write formal content in blogging. Nobody likes reading them.
So, when you don’t have sidebar widgets, your content looks and feels like reading a newspaper column.
If you only pan on targeting mobile users, having no sidebar is fine but if you want to make the most out of screen space available in the desktop version of the website, you should insert a few widgets with some of these widgets:
- Recent posts
- About the author
- Popular posts
- Affiliate deals and coupons
- Newsletter widgets
- Social media feeds
- WordPress search form
These were some advantages of using a widget section inside your blogs. Now, let’s talk about the “Cons” or disadvantages of using a sidebar widget area.
Most mobile users will never be able to see those widgets
Since sidebars are moves below the main content area, most mobile users will not see any of your widgets, ads and other elements.
Considering the fact that sidebars are positioned just above the footer section of a website in mobile devices, it doesn’t make that much sense to have a sidebar area when most of your users visit the website using a mobile device.
For mobile users, all type of websites are full width websites with no sidebar.
What about hiding the sidebar on mobile devices?
Well, Google follows the mobile-first indexing rule. This means that if your content is hidden on the mobile devices, Google will not index the hidden content rendering the SEO aspect of the widgets such as recent posts widgets and popular posts widgets useless.
A little workaround would be to take a note of your monthly website visitors and see what portion of these visitors comes from mobile and other devices.
If you see that more than 80% of all traffic comes from mobile devices, it is recommended to remove the sidebar in this case.
If you don’t care about the SEO aspect of hiding content on the mobile devices, you can still enable widgets for the desktop users to score more clicks, ad revenue, etc.
It doesn’t make sense for new blogs to have a widget area
New blog websites don’t have any content on them.
Let’s say that you publish 3 articles every week. By the end of the month you will have 12 articles with little to no organic search traffic to them.
So, there’s no way to determining which articles are trending. So, most popular posts widgets will display nothing.
You can still promote affiliate products on your sidebar widget area, but you will make no money as you don’t have any organic search traffic to your blog.
Furthermore, Google AdSense application will be rejected easily as they don’t approve applications if you don’t have any content and also don’t have any website visitors.
So, there’s no point in having a sidebar with just a list of your latest blog posts.
When working with a new blog, your primary goal should be to publish quality content and optimize your website to load within 2 or 3 seconds.
Some widgets will slow down your website and user more server resources
Most professional bloggers these days use a powerful virtual private server or even a dedicated server to host their websites. They can have multiple server heavy visual elements in their sidebars without facing any performance issues.
You can’t afford such luxuries when start your blogging journey as you are on a limited budget.
A new blog needs content that’s optimized for better search ranking and performance. So, having a sidebar does more harm than good.
When you are on a shared hosting plan, you need to limit the use to heavy-duty widgets and other visual elements or else you’ll end up overusing shared server resources resulting in suspension of your account.
If you still want to use a sidebar widget for some purpose, make sure to use it sensibly
So, what’s my recommendation?
I use sidebar widgets on my blogs as most of my user are desktop users. Even if it’s a 50/50 split between mobile and desktop users, I’d still use sidebar widgets to display ads and marketing deals to my viewers.
That said, whenever I launch a new blog, I go with a full-width layout to reduce the load on my server.
Which widget/plugins to not use on your blogs?
Most people ignore the fact that using too many plugins can have a negative impact on the website’s performance, security and SEO but still end up using 40+ plugins on a tiny blog.
Here’s a list of plugins that you should avoid at all cost:
- Photo gallery plugins – If you don’t run a photography blog, there’s no point in including such a widget in your sidebar. You are not going to make any money, there are no affiliate promotions, and it takes valuable screen real estate.
- Search forms – most themes have search icon included in the header of the website. So, you don’t need to include a search box inside the sidebar. Plus, how many times have you used the WordPress search feature on your favorite blogs? Never.
- Site Meta with login link – Having your login link in the open will only increase login attempts from unwanted parties.
- Social media feeds – I couldn’t understand the importance of this widget. Having a simple social icon would be more than enough.
- Too many ads widgets – Please, remember that you are running a blog to help people solve specific problems. If you include too many ads and links inside your content, it will distract your users and turn them off.
Conclusion: Should you disable widgets on your blog?
Depending on your blog content, type of content and various other metrics, using a sidebar can have its own Pros and Cons.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide whether having a blog will help you make more money and build a loyal following.
On Rocketcodex, I mainly focus on publishing long-form content with resources and tools. Having a sidebar helps me in putting an important piece of content in front of the right audience. This helps me increase affiliate incoming and helping more people with their problems.
But, there are some niche blogs targeted towards “healing” niche where I tend to hide sidebars on specific blog posts and enable sidebars on others.
For me, it is all about testing and research.
What do you think? Have you noticed a significant increase or decrease in the blog revenue or email subscribers after enabling or disabling the sidebar widgets?
Please drop your thoughts in the comment section below.