Where is The Best Spot to Put Site Navigation?

SEO Question: I am accustomed to left navigation down the left side of the page. Is their any reason your blog has navigation on the right side?

SEO Answer: The original reason this site had navigation on the right hand side was that I liked the default template that had right hand navigation. The site is a slightly hacked up version of an old default MovableType template (I will post a how to hack MT post soon).

I think that for sites selling products it probably does not matter a whole bunch if they use right or left hand navigation.

The way I think of site navigation is that it should help people get where they need to go if the site does not naturally lead them along the way. It should act as a back up.

Many sites screw up by assuming that people will use the navigation. You really want to lead people toward your desired goal in the active window / content portion of the site.

Let people easily achieve their goals or follow through the site down a path that interests them by linking them to where you want them to go from within the content. Both The Big Red Fez and Don't Make Me Think are great books that stress the concept.

I originally had the mini ad for my ebook in the navigational area, and the day I started to put it in line with my content my sales tripled. In the rush to get more traffic or free leads it is easy to forget that the biggest and easiest wins usually come from boring changes back home.

Now that I know enough about CSS to be able to modify it a bit I still do not mind my navigation being on the right hand side because having a bunch of content rich postings right off the start really lends to the brand image that I give away a bunch of information and know a decent amount about the web, plus having the navigation a bit out of the way probably makes my advertising post look a bit more like content. I also think that using up nearly all of the screen real estate with a liquid design may lend to the impression that my site has more and higher quality content, although most award winning designs are not liquid designs.

The assumption that navigation should be on the left side is that way because a long time ago a few big sites did it and then most people followed suit. Having said that, sometimes it makes sense to go against the grain. If your site makes money selling contextual or affiliate ads it makes sense to place advertisements in typical content or navigation areas.

If you look at the Google heat map they show you that the best ad locations are typical content or navigation locations. So if you make your money off AdSense you may want to put your navigation in a right column and place a wide AdSense rail down the left column.

If you also want to place ads near the top of the right column I have found that using AdSense adlinks looks more like navigation and is more likely to get clicked than regular AdSense ads.

Published: February 18, 2006 by Aaron Wall in Q & A

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