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The Great Sidebar Debate Turns In My Favor

Does removing the sidebar from a blog help or hurt use engagement?

That's what we're here to find out. And let me tell you, thinks are looking very good.

It's been two weeks since I removed the sidebar from my blog and moved to a single column layout. After a week Arfan updated his stats in the post comments, and now with two weeks of data to compare I have some results for you.

All blog success metrics are up.

I like to back everything up with data so here's a screenshot straight from my Google Analytics account. Click on it for the full monty:

Dempsey Marketing Blog Sidebar Stats 9-17-2011

Dempsey Marketing Blog Sidebar Stats 9-17-2011

Here's the quick overview with even more numbers:

Before After % Change (+/-)
8/21/11 – 9/2/11 9/4/11 – 9/16/11
Visits 2236 2604 +16.46%
Unique Visitors 1711 1994 +16.54%
Page Views 3548 4607 +29.85%
Pages / Visit 1.59 1.77 +11.50
Avg. Time On Site 2.09 2.29 +15.94%
Bounce Rate 76.39% 70.58% -7.60 (good)
% New Visits 69.81% 67.74% -2.97%

The only stat not positively effected was the % of new visits, but that's not up the sidebar to make happen, that's my job. But what that number also means is that I had more repeat visitors after the change than before, something I value highly.

I love it when you all keep coming back here, so please do.

But things are looking even better!

Another recent change I made was updating the mobile versions of this blog to support just about every mobile smart phone in existence, or at least the ones that count 😉 How is that faring? Let's go to the chart…

Before After
8/21/11 – 9/2/11 9/4/11 – 9/16/11
iPad 78 67
iPhone 36 43
Android 19 37
Blackberry 6 14

So for the most part the numbers are up there too!

But what about opt-ins?

Opt-ins remain nice and steady. In fact a few hours after updating the home page of DempseyMarketing.com I got a new lead. That's practically instant gratification. My kind of update.

Have you removed your sidebar?

If so how as it impacted your important metrics? Or a question that is even more fun, how do you measure success on your blog? Is it leads, sales, page views, low bounce rate, something else entirely?

Let us know in the comments…

I'll see you there!

Comments

  1. interesting results indeed; had a sneaky peak at my own stats and while after 9 days the numbers and now settling down, page views + time spent (and best of all bounce rate) has improved.

    While my traffic numbers for the site are not as yours. I feel the ‘topic’ of the site also holds sway. As in the leads I am after are more interested in a specific topic where they require information before making a decision.

    Will be interesting to see this with a week vs week comparison from when you did have side bar. i.e week 1 (with) vs week 2 (with) vs week 3 (without). so we can ‘attempt’ to rule out week to week fluctuations.

  2. Robert,

    Certinaly an interesting idea you have here with disabling your sidebar. I can’t say I am ready to jump onboard yet. But numbers don’t lie and the stats look good so far. The only other fact to think about is that summer is over… I think ALL blog traffic has picked up a little bit. I will be interested to see how this plays out on a longer time scale.

    At very least it seems like it hasn’t hurt and bottem line is that it does highlight your content. (after all, isn’t that what it is all about)

    • Hi Steve – highlighting content is the point as that directly connects to positioning and customer attraction. As for jumping on board, be sure to look at the data and the context. There is no single number that tells you whether or not this will work, and you have to go outside of the numbers as well to greater trends.

  3. Very interesting … I have been watching this with much interest … not ready to take mine off but will continue to think about it!

  4. Hey Robert, how you are doing?

    Really interesting data you’ve got there…do you have any theories as to why the results have been so positive? I think a lot of people (myself included!) would be loathe to remove their previous sidebar 😉

    Cheers,

    Tom

    • Hi Tom – it goes back to what I discussed when I first took it off in this article – Does your blog really need sidebars?

      Long story short it comes down to what all of my analytics told me, namely that people come, they read, they subscribe or opt-in to one of my offers, and then take off. Then they come back the next day. So basically this was a test of what the numbers (that I watch continuously) told me. So far the data hasn’t lied. Now I’m testing even more things here.

      But I would be remiss if I only did this here. I am also implementing these changes on client sites too. But frankly I don’t recommend this change without first looking at the data and the context around it as well. There is always more than a single factor at play.

  5. Interesting…I’ve been thinking of disabling comments on my blog and going with a 2-4 question survey/vote at the end of each post.

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