For long time, sidebar is one of the important parts of a webpage’s layout. Many WordPress themes offer custom sidebar widgets to offer attractive layout. You can easily get themes with two or even three sidebars as part of the layout selection. Though recent web development focused on mobile-first approach makes the sidebar less useful, it is still an easy way to place widgets and tempt users to take action. If you are using sidebar, here are 10 useful WordPress sidebar widgets for your site.
WordPress Theme Support for Sidebar
First thing is to make sure you use a theme that supports sidebar(s). Though majority of commercial themes support sidebars, some themes do not. For example, the default twenty-twenty-one WordPress theme comes without any sidebar. Go to “Appearance > Widgets” section to find the available sidebars for your theme. If you only find footer option then your theme does not support sidebar and the best option is to choose a theme that offers a support.
Depending upon your theme, you will see one or multiple sidebars under “Appearance > Widgets” section. For example, Astra theme offers one main sidebar.
You can customize the appearance of the sidebar on left or right side under “Appearance > Customize > Sidebar” section of page/post/archive layouts of your site.
10 Sidebar Widgets to Spice Up WordPress Site
After making sure your theme has a sidebar, you can simply drag and drop the widgets on your sidebar. WordPress by default offers few widgets like archives, audio, text, custom HTML, recent posts, etc. Your theme and plugins may add custom widgets in addition to the default. Here are the top 10 sidebar widgets that you can add in the sidebar to take your site to next level.
1. Author Bio
If you are a solo blogger, we strongly recommend you to make your visibility clear to the reader. Author box at the bottom of the posts can help to showcase your bio. However, themes like GeneratePress does not offer an author box. In addition, placing author box at the bottom along with many other items like recommended content, tags, post navigations and comments will dilute the purpose of showcasing yourself. The best option here is to use an author bio widget in the sidebar that readers can see first when landing on your page.
Below is an example of using author box in Yoast.com website. The good part is that you can place the widget anywhere on the content area in addition to the sidebar widget area.
You can use plugins like Simple Author Box to add an author bio widget on the sidebar.
2. Recent Posts
Recent Posts is a default widget comes with WordPress. You can simply drag and insert the widget on your sidebar.
You can set the number of posts to show and enable or disable the post date to show. This widget can help your readers to quickly grab the recently published content and get the updates after landing on your site.
3. Popular Posts
Popular posts is a next WordPress sidebar widget for your site. Similar to recent posts, you can add popular posts widget to showcase your masterpiece content on the sidebar. However, WordPress does not offer default widget for this purpose. You can use free plugins like WordPress Popular Posts to insert customized popular post widgets on the sidebar. This plugin helps you to create multiple widgets with time range and you can get the click statistics and comments on the popular posts displayed on your widget.
4. Social Feed / Follow
Displaying your social feed and follow buttons is one of the most successfully ways of using the sidebar. There are hundreds of free and premium social plugins available for WordPress. In addition, you can also try third-party embeds from AddThis, ShareThis or any other service. For example, if you are focusing on displaying your Instagram feed as a gallery then Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed is the best available option.
For simply displaying social follow links, you can try lightweight plugins like Lightweight Social Icons.
5. Navigation Menu
This is a default widget that many users do not use it properly. You can create a menu under “Appearance > Menus” section and insert in your sidebar using “Navigation Menu” widget. The appearance of the navigation menu depends on your theme’s style and you can also customize with simple CSS if needed.
6. Newsletter or Email Subscription Widget
If you are focusing on email marketing then displaying a newsletter or email subscription widget will work nicely for you. However, you need to have a plugin to create forms (like Contact Form 7) and a third-party services to manage your campaigns (like MailChimp). You can use MC4WP: MailChimp for WordPress plugin to insert a newsletter widget in the sidebar.
7. Affiliate Coupons
If you are an affiliate blogger then the sidebar widget in WordPress is one of the best option. The sidebar widget can boost your click through rate and increase the possibilities of higher commissions. There are multiple options to show your coupons or affiliate links in the sidebar widget:
- Simply use text widget and insert a list of your affiliate links.
- Use “Custom HTML” and embed the affiliate code.
- Add an image widget and link that image to your affiliate link.
- Use professional coupon plugins like WP Coupons to showcase a random or specific coupon in the sidebar.
8. Bundled Widgets
Content bloggers need multiple widgets to show in the sidebar and footer area. Installing multiple plugins for different purposes will reduce the speed of your site. Also, it will become complicated task to manage multiple plugins on your site. The solution is to use bundled widget comes as a single or add-on plugin. For example, SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle is the best bundled widgets option available for free.
After installing the plugin, go to “Plugins > SiteOrigin Widgets” section and activate the required widgets.
Here is a list of available widgets with the plugin:
- Contact Form
- Google Maps
- Hero Image
- Image Grid
- Image Slider
- Layout Slider
- Post Carousel
- Price Table
- Simple Masonry Layout
- Social Media Buttons
- Video Player
After activating the required widgets, go to “Appearance > Widgets” section and insert the required widgets on your sidebar. Remember, you do not need the SiteOrigin Page Builder plugin in order to use bundled widget plugin.
Alternate option for you is to use the free version of Shortcodes Ultimate plugin. This plugin offers 40+ useful shortcodes that you can use anywhere on the site including sidebar. You can select and insert any element using “Shortcodes ultimate“ widget and customize the appearance.
9. YouTube Gallery
YouTube becomes an essential part of any WordPress blogs. If you have a dedicated YouTube channel then it makes sense to showcase the video gallery in the sidebar widget of your WordPress site. You can use plugins like Video Gallery to insert YouTube and Vimeo gallery in the sidebar widget area of your WordPress site. after installing the plugin, you can go to “Video Gallery” section and create galleries to get shortcode. After that go to “Appearance > Widgets” and insert the shortcode using a text widget in your sidebar.
Alternatively, you can also use the default Video widget to insert single video from your site’s media library or from external URL.
10. Product Widgets
If you are primarily focusing on selling items through your digital store then product related widgets on the sidebar can boost your sale. The available sidebar widgets depends on the online store plugin you use. For example, WooCommerce offers the following sidebar widgets and popular products in an easy choice to drive traffic to your popular product pages.
In addition to inserting widgets in the sidebar area of your WordPress site, you can also use the following options to get the most from those widgets.
- Jetpack Widget Visibility – use this option in Jetpack plugin to control the behavior of each widget on the sidebar. For example, you can show or hide any specific widget on the home page or posts.
- Multiple Sidebars – if you have multiple categories on your site then you can try using different sidebars for different categories. This will help you to increase the relevancy of the content you show in the sidebar. You can use plugins like Advanced Sidebars to manage multiple sidebars easily with different controlling options.
- Floating Fixed Widget – use Q2W3 Fixed Widget to make any widget on your sidebar to float when scrolling the content. This will increase the click through rate and increase the conversion of the sidebar floating widget.