[i]your content goes here[/i]
[i]your links go here[/i]
[i]your footer information (copyright, etc.) goes here[/i]
Now, to put the links on the left and the content on the right, you can use CSS to float things to where you want:
The clear statement ensures that your footer is always below the content and links, regardless of which column is the longest. Using this method, you can easily switch the links to be on the right of the content, simply by swapping the float rules in the CSS. Both the links and the content can have a separate background. Putting the content first in the markup helps search engines to properly index your pages. I've used the 65/35 split as an example, but you can alter those percentages to suit whatever you want (as long as they add up to 100).
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