The ULTIMATE GUIDE to WordPress Sidebar Widgets

If you are new to WordPress and you are wondering what a widget and a sidebar are, this article will be your guide to the WordPress Widget Sidebar.

We have curated a list of everything that you need to know about widgets and sidebars.

In this article, you will learn:

Now, let’s jump right into these guides and become experts in using WordPress widgets and sidebars.

Introduction to WordPress Widgets and Sidebars

WordPress widgets and sidebars are powerful tools that allow users to customize the layout and functionality of their websites effortlessly.

Widgets are small content blocks that perform specific functions and can be added to specific areas on a webpage, typically within sidebars, footers, or other widget-ready areas of a WordPress theme. These content blocks can make customization to enhance your website easier without using complicated codes or design skills.

Sidebars, on the other hand, are labeled as one of the most important parts when you’re designing a website. Sidebars are the designated areas within a WordPress theme where you can add information, ads, email opt-ins, images, and other things that can attract visitors. 

By leveraging widgets and sidebars, WordPress users can personalize their websites to meet their specific needs without delving into complex coding. This user-friendly approach to customization makes WordPress widgets and sidebars invaluable tools for both beginners and experienced developers alike, empowering users to create dynamic and engaging websites with ease.

Common WordPress Widgets and Sidebar Features

Now that we have a basic knowledge of widgets and sidebars, let’s go over the following common WordPress widgets and sidebar features: These features add to the overall functionality of a website. However, the relevance of the contents is the key deciding factor when considering what to place in your sidebar, including these widgets. 

Let’s also take a look at the common mistakes in using sidebars as well as the solutions to correct them.

WordPress widgets sidebar feature includes the author’s information, blog categories, and recent and related posts

The author’s bio, blog categories, and recent posts, among others, are default widgets in WordPress sidebars. Since these widgets are default, we tend to just leave them in place without carefully considering whether we really need them or if they just waste a good amount of space. Yes, WordPress sidebars come with default widgets, but that does not mean they are for keeping. This is a common mistake: keeping ALL default widgets visible.

The solution is to figure out what you need. Determine which of these widgets has redundant functions. Delete them or move them into the “Inactive Widget” list. With the help of some plugins, you can turn on and off widgets depending on which page you want them shown or hidden on.

Some default widgets are oftentimes worth keeping

Some default widgets are worth keeping. One of these features is the author’s biography. Visitors get interested in who the author is when the contents are useful and of good quality. Another thing is that if the author consistently provides such material, people will start to remember that author. They search for the author the next time they need the kinds of information the author has established to offer.

However, many of us find it hard to figure out which author’s information should be displayed in the sidebar. This is sometimes overdone in such a way that it almost outshines the main content. Remember to stick to the basics: a photo, the full name, a line or two for the most important credential, and a link to the author’s other works. Never try to squeeze in as many details as you can in widgets such as this. Remember that you have other widgets in place. You don’t want them to appear too dense. You can also find customizable widgets that blend in with the theme.

Links to blog categories can be best shown in the sidebar. Proper indexing of contents contributes to a good user experience. Recent posts can entice new interests and invite users to explore your other content. In addition, related posts that are likely to provide answers to follow-up questions not answered by the main content are more important than recent posts. It sounds really useful, but do you really need them to consistently appear on every page? If your answer is ‘no’, again, there are plugins that will help you control the appearance of these sidebar contents on each page. This way, you only make them visible on pages that you think are necessary to show up.

Links to social media sites are also one of the WordPress widgets sidebar features

Social media widgets should hold a spot in your sidebars. This is because your site must be anchored to your visitors’ social media accounts. Your visitors engage with people of the same interests on their favorite social networking sites. Thus, these sites are a good place for you to reach out to those people and increase your online presence. Lest you become tempted to put all the social media icons in the sidebar, ask yourself, “Do I have to?” Another common mistake is putting all the social media icons. To resolve this, choose only the most popular social networking sites. For example, as per Forbes, Facebook ranks no. 1 in terms of engagement as of 2023, with 2.9 million monthly active users across the world, followed by YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat, and Tik Tok. By conducting this type of research, you will have an idea of what social media you should use.

Choosing Between Left And Right WordPress Sidebars

Sidebar location in WordPress is NOT limited to only one side of a page

When designing a WordPress website, this feature lets you choose between left or right sidebars, if the theme permits, in such a way that it contributes to the overall look of the page. However, you don’t consider aesthetics as the only element when picking the perfect place for your sidebars. Functionality is far more important. For instance, there’s a good reason why most web designers choose the right WordPress sidebars over the left. It’s because we read content from left to right. This reading pattern has accustomed us to focusing our minds on whatever is on the right-hand side of the reading material. Thus, when you choose that sidebar location, it gets a good amount of attention, and readers are likely to look further; however, never ignore the power of a left sidebar because it is the first that people notice. What you put on either left or right is what matters most.

On the other hand, right sidebars can provide a unique visual balance, especially for websites aiming for unconventional designs. They can also offer a seamless flow for users accustomed to right-to-left reading languages.

Moreover, we’re not saying that you don’t need to try putting anything, such as widgets, at the bottom of the main content area, for example. There are certain relevant contents worth placing there, especially if you think the main contents you have created are worth looking at until the very end. This means that you can drive your visitor’s attention down to the location of the widgets, so you can place items such as social media icons, related posts, etc.

Consider the content and goals of your website. If you prioritize traditional readability and content hierarchy, a left sidebar may suit your needs. However, if you seek a more visually appealing or unconventional layout, a right sidebar might be a better choice. Ultimately, the decision should align with your website’s objectives and user experience goals.

Graph shows 40.25 % of the 75 popular websites ONLY use the right WordPress sidebars

40.25 % of the 75 popular websites use ONLY right WordPress sidebars.

Only 10.38% have pages wherein they place sidebars on the left. 14.28% of these sites use left and right sidebars (some pages are on the left; some are on the right) and rarely have pages where sidebars are placed on both sides.

We have also conducted research for this year, 2024, and found this article from titled “LEFT SIDEBAR VS RIGHT SIDEBAR – WHICH ONE PERFORMS BETTER?”. In the author’s conclusion, he said, “Based on my data I’m lead to believe that the sidebar position is mostly irrelevant. Although the right sidebar did offer better pages/visit, visit duration and goal conversion there was barely anything in it. — So as long as the sidebar is where people expect it be, at the side – it doesn’t matter if its left or right aligned!” – Matthew Woodward

Left and right WordPress sidebars are widget-ready

Perhaps by now, you can imagine a wide range of widgets that you can place on your websites. However, you also realize that your chosen theme limits your customization power over the limited number of widgets. Otherwise, you may not allow widgets at all. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that most of the WordPress themes have widget-ready sidebars. Furthermore, it’s even better to know that you can take full control over those widgets. It’s possible with the help of some plugins available for free or for a premium. More on these plugins later.

We already outlined the role and features of sidebars. Along the way, we pointed out their limitations. We also finished enumerating the issues encountered when deciding what to place in them. Let us then go over the widgets that they feature and the common mistakes committed when using those widgets. Let’s also look at how to properly address these mistakes. This way, we can finally turn your sidebars and widgets into wonderful traffic-drawing tools.

There are a wide array of widgets to choose from. In addition, with the help of some plugins, it’s easy to just download, drag-and-drop, remove, and replace these widgets. Then again, the hard part is determining which widgets are worth keeping in your sidebar (as well as in the other widget-ready areas of your website.) It may seem fun to add too many widgets, as you probably think you are doing your visitors a favor or that you are hitting many birds with one stone, but you aren’t.

Top 15 WordPress Sidebar Widgets

Once you make sure that the theme that you’re using has a sidebar, you can now start adding widgets to your sidebar by simply dragging and dropping. By default, WordPress offers a few widgets like archives, audio, text, custom HTML, recent posts, etc. There might be additional custom widgets to the default, depending on your theme and plugins.

Below are the top 15 sidebar widgets that you can add to the sidebar.

  1. Author Bio: The Author Bio is strongly recommended for solo bloggers to increase their visibility among visitors. The author bio can be showcased at the bottom of the post with the help of the author box. However, some themes don’t offer author boxes, for example, GeneratePress. Additionally, placing other information regarding the content in the author box at the bottom will overshadow the purpose of showcasing the author. That’s why the author bio widget comes in as the most suitable option; if the author bio is on the sidebar, visitors can see it first upon landing on the website.
  2. Recent Posts: Another default widget that comes with WordPress is Recent Posts. This widget is simple to use since you can drag and insert it into the website’s sidebar. One of the features of the Recent Posts widget is that you can customize the number of posts that you want to be shown on the website, as well as the post date. With this feature, visitors can quickly see newly published content and updates upon landing on your website.
  3. Popular Posts: Popular Posts is another WordPress sidebar widget that you can add to your site. Just like in the recent post, you can customize this widget and add your most well-written content to the sidebar. However, Popular Posts is not a default widget offered by WordPress. The good thing is that there are free plugins like WordPress Popular Posts that you can use to insert customized popular post widgets on the sidebar. This free plugin can also help you create multiple widgets where you can add a time range, click statistics, and comments for the popular posts that can be displayed on your widget.
  4. Social Feed / Follow: One of the most successful ways to customize your sidebar is by displaying your social feed and follow buttons. There are a lot of free and premium social plugins available for WordPress. There are also third-party embeds that you can try from AddThis, ShareThis, and other services. For example, Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed is the better option if you want to display your Instagram feed as a gallery. You can try lightweight plugins like Lightweight Social Icons if you want to show your following links.
  5. Navigation Menu: The Navigation Menu is a default widget that many users do not use properly. You have to remember that the appearance of the website’s navigation menu will depend on the website’s theme’s style, and if needed, you can customize it with simple CSS. Another way of creating a navigation menu is by clicking the “Appearance > Menus” section and adding it to your sidebar using the “Navigation Menu” widget.
  6. Newsletter or Email Subscription Widget: Displaying a newsletter or email subscription widget is a great decision if you want to focus on email marketing. However, a plugin is needed to create forms like Contact Form 7 or the MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress plugin if you want to insert a newsletter widget in the sidebar. You will also need a third-party service like MailChimp to manage your campaigns.
  7. Affiliate Coupons: The affiliate coupon side widget in WordPress is one of the best options if you are an affiliate blogger or if you want to start becoming an affiliate blogger. If you want to boost or increase the possibilities of higher commissions, then this sidebar widget is the perfect choice. 
  8. Bundled Widgets: If you are a content blogger, you might need a lot of widgets for different purposes to show in the sidebar of your website, and installing these plugins might reduce your website’s speed. Another downside of installing multiple plugins is that it will become an overwhelming task to manage all of them. To make it easier, you can use the bundle widget as an add-on plugin.
  9. YouTube Gallery: Recent WordPress bloggers are starting to add YouTube to their blogs. You will need a sidebar widget if you have a dedicated YouTube channel that you want to showcase in your site’s video gallery. Plugins like Video Gallery can be used to insert YouTube and Vimeo galleries in your site’s sidebar widget area. 
  10. Product Widgets: If selling items in your digital store is your primary focus, then product-related sidebar widgets are the perfect option that can boost your sales. The sidebar widgets that will be used will depend on your online store plugin. One example is WooCommerce. This plugin offers sidebar widgets and popular products that’ll drive traffic to your product page. 
  11. Best Login WordPress Sidebar: If your website is a multi-author WordPress site, a Login widget on the sidebar is needed to make it easier for the authors to log in to your site. Some WordPress plugins allow adding a Login/Registration login or registration form in the sidebar.
  12. Best Search WordPress Sidebar Widgets: The number of blog posts on your site will help you decide if you need to add search widgets. If you only have a few blogs, then there is no reason to add a search box widget. If you have a huge number of blog posts on your site, you might want to add a search box. You can check the WordPress default widget for a search box.
  13. Testimonial WordPress Widget: Adding a Testimonial WordPress Widget is one of the easiest ways to increase your blog posts’ credibility. Allowing testimonials from clients can be a big help in increasing your conversion rates, especially if you are offering services or products. You have the option of adding a testimonial widget; you can add it by using a text widget. But if you’re thinking about functionalities like collecting testimonials, you’ll need to install plugins.
  14. Ratings/Poll Widget: Rating/Poll Widget is a must-have if you are creating a product/review-based blog. You can add these widgets whether you’re writing many reviews on your blog or not. You can use the Poll widget if you’re frequently running a quick survey on your visitors.
  15. Content Aware Sidebars: If you are looking for a fast and powerful sidebar plugin, then you can never go wrong with Content Aware Sidebars (CAS). This plugin can create custom widget areas in a second. CAS is the perfect solution if your website is starting to grow. With this plugin, you can do a lot of things when customizing your website’s sidebar widgets.

Sidebar widgets are not the focus of every page. They are tools to keep the focus on your main content and what it really wants to impart Therefore, put only the vital tools, and certainly not all that you can get from the widget market! Keep the number to the point of reaching the ideal density of your sidebar.

Sidebar has room for useful links, including links to external pages.

Useful links find a good place in your sidebar for easy access. Of course, you want to be able to provide information that you think is helpful to your visitors. Accordingly, you provide a link to it, even if such a link drives them away. Nevertheless, this clearly hinders you from reaching your goal of keeping your visitors on your site. Remember, your goal is to draw traffic and keep it. Consequently, when you place links to external sites, you invite visitors to navigate away from your site. Build links within your site. Moreover, make sure what your visitors need can be found somewhere on your site premises.

Sidebar lets you arrange widgets as you wish.

You sure can place widgets in the sidebar in a way that pleases you. Nonetheless, there’s no harm in following the trend. You can use the list of the top 15 WordPress sidebar widgets as a guide. Deviating from conventional widget arrangements is not necessarily a mistake. However, while every website must be unique from one another, some elements must be in place in a way familiar to visitors. Needless to say, sidebar widgets are among those elements. We have observed how widgets are arranged on the popular sites we have visited. Email opt-in is usually at the top, and comments are placed somewhere near the bottom.

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WordPress Sidebar Ads and Email Opt-ins placement

In the first part of this article, which is the introduction, we have talked about the things that you can add in the sidebar, and two of those things are ads and email opt-ins.

In this part, we will talk about two of the most important roles of WordPress sidebars: displaying ads and email opt-ins. Why do we need to use sidebars for these widgets and not just place them within the content area instead? How does placing WordPress sidebar ads and email opt-ins on your sites help increase user engagement? 

Let’s look at the following sidebar uses and start rearranging your ads and email opt-ins.

Why is placing WordPress sidebar ads a must?

Advertisements can be a nuisance to many users, especially if they appear somewhere within the content of your WordPress sites. Placing WordPress sidebar ads allows for clean and smooth viewing, while the ads still get a great chance to get noticed. However, how many ads can you put in the sidebar? Placing too many Google ads and affiliate links is not good. While sidebars containing Google advertisements and affiliate links are OK, placing an excessive number of ads on your website gives the impression that it is being used for marketing purposes rather than for the purpose for which it is intended. Place only one or two proportionate ads in one consistent spot on every page. This way, your visitors can get accustomed to such a layout and can easily recognize the ads from the main content.

Graph shows around 69% places no ads, internal or external, on any of their pages.

Placing either internal or external ads seems to be uncommon on these popular websites. Around 69% (a huge percentage) places no ads, internal or external, on any of their pages. These sites have product pages running promotions by themselves.

One of the best examples that utilizes these ads is the Europa Press. Europa Press is a Spanish news agency. They broadcast 24 hours a day and published an average of 3,000 articles per day.

They use the content widget ads to gain organic clicks and to make their stories known to the world. By doing these, their blogs become monetized. From organic clicks to regular cash flow from their article.

Article source:

Sidebar is the perfect spot for email subscription options

When you’re planning to start adding useful content to your site, visitors will start wanting to hear from you. Adding an email subscription option to your sidebar will be very handy. A lot of articles and tips suggest that the sidebar is one of the most successful spots when it comes to choosing where to add your email subscription option. 

The reason why the sidebar is the right option is because it won’t disturb visitors while they are reading the website’s content. The sidebar is also the common go-to spot where you can add an email subscription option. You can also never go wrong with adding the email subscription option in the sidebar since a lot of visitors know to look at the sidebar when checking for an email subscription option.

Article source:,way%20to%20capture%20email%20addresses,Sidebar,when%20they%20decide%20to%20subscribe

Better Conversions With WordPress Sticky Sidebar Widgets

There’s more you can do than just prune the redundant widgets. It’s not enough that you ensure low-density sidebars and place relevant content. You should display relevant sidebar widget content per WordPress page. You should also opt for fewer sidebar widgets on mobile devices. Moreover, make widgets stand out in style to get them the attention they deserve. Alternatively, simply make WordPress sticky sidebar widgets that float over the page as users move around it.

First, display relevant sidebar widgets

Can you display relevant sidebar widgets per WordPress page? Do you have to? The answers to both questions are “Yes”! Your contents vary from one page to another. Thus, sidebar contents must vary from one page to another, too. This way, you let them do their important job of providing relevant sub-content to every page.

Second, turn off widgets on mobile devices

Optimizing WordPress sidebars on mobile is generally more difficult than on desktops. This is because of mobile devices’ smaller screens. Mobile screens may appear overcrowded with all the widgets displayed. The good news is that you can easily opt to switch some of these widgets off from mobile view. You can do this while you make them all visible from the desktop.

Last but not least, make WordPress sticky sidebar widgets

There are widgets that you think must stand out from the rest, so you have to give them a distinct look. It’s not impossible anymore to tweak their appearance. Also, turn them into sticky sidebar widgets on any given page to maximize their visibility.

Graph shows 28 (65%) of the 43 blog post pages have fixed widgets

28 (65%) of the 43 blog post pages have fixed widgets. Most of them are social media links (57%), and navigation bars (42%).

Of course, you will need to use a plugin dedicated to performing these and more functions. Widget Options by PHPBITS Creative Studio is one of them. Aside from the features mentioned above, Widget Options allows for special user-only sidebar widget content for logged-in users and post types. It also lets you archive related content for better user-relevant interactions.

To sum it all up, optimized WordPress sidebars have three main characteristics:

  1. Sidebars contain only the widgets that are relevant to the main content;
  2. they provide support to visitors for easy and smooth navigation around the site;
  3. and they do not overshadow the main content and its purpose.

Always check if your sidebars have all these characteristics. Apply the suggested solutions to weed out mistakes in your sidebars. Moreover, remember to maximize the many tools available. Choose those that help you take control of your sidebars and widgets.

Optimizing WordPress Widget Areas For Pages With No Sidebars

It is not at all strange to see WordPress pages with no sidebars. Around 37% of the 75 websites we have surveyed use no sidebars on any of their pages. Alternatively, they place floating widgets either on the sides, the header, or the footer. These WordPress widget areas function just as well as sidebars, and sometimes even better, as long as they are optimized.

Graph shows around 37% of the 75 websites surveyed use no sidebars on any of their pages

WordPress has themes and layouts that don’t have sidebars. If you opt to use such themes because of your design preference, space issues, or simply because you don’t like sidebars, how do you place relevant content on your pages? It is important to decide on this, especially now that you have learned the importance of sidebars and widgets in achieving user engagement. The answer is creating widget-dedicated areas that are not limited to the left or right side of the page. In other words, you can make practically all corners of your widget areas. However, just like sidebars, WordPress widget areas must have these three main characteristics.

  1. WordPress widget areas contain only the widgets that are relevant to the main content;
  2. they provide support to visitors for easy and smooth navigation around the site;
  3. and they do not overshadow the main content and its purpose.

Optimize WordPress Widget Areas If You Opt For Full Width Pages

You mustn’t place any widget however you like. Instead, optimize it in such a way that it is appropriate to the main content. More importantly, enhance it so that users find it convenient to explore from one page to another. An optimized widget does not distract visitors from using your website. You may want to think about what action you want your users to take. For example, to view paid ads.

Moreover, it is important to be mindful of the reason why these users end up on your page. It is most likely not because of the ads. It is certainly because of the information you provide. So, you don’t want ads to be too distracting, such as those pop-up types. Instead, you want to place them, say, below the content or flash them by the header. Furthermore, you want to keep it sticking around and floating over that corner while users go up and down the page without it blocking their sight of the main content.

Using plug-ins, such as the Widget Areas, you can create widget areas above, below, or within the content areas.

Improve your WordPress footer widgets

Subscription, sharing, related posts, and comment widgets can help increase user interaction. Placing them below the content area is a good idea. These footer widgets encourage further engagement. Comments, for example, make users stay, increasing the chance of exploring the page for more relevant information. Related posts, whose links appear just below the post headline, can be sources of relevant information.

Moreover, you can make these footer widgets float. Footer widgets may appear to be sticking around and floating over as users scroll up. This way, they are ready to receive action from the users without them having to move to the bottom. Make subscription widgets or social media icons visible at all times. Otherwise, hide these widgets from pages you think they are irrelevant to, such as the contact page.

Add WordPress widgets inside your content on full-width pages

Use shortcodes to add widgets inside your content. Widget Areas (plugin) makes this possible, as well. Post categories, tag clouds, and advertisements are some of the most common widgets placed within the content.

Add a sliding panel with a call-to-action button for optimum user interaction

Having centralized user-directed call-to-action buttons is the solution to the void created by the use of full-width WordPress templates or layouts. Add sliding sidebar panels for important content like a contact form or newsletter subscription. These panels don’t take up too much space on your page.

Combine plug-ins for optimum results

By combining thousands of free widget plugins on the repository, you can have full control over your widgets.

In a nutshell, sidebar content can appear on or disappear from any page or post with the help of some plugins. Tweak their appearance, make them sticky, or slide. With these plugins, you don’t have to do tedious coding work. With your good discernment of what’s relevant and not and using these powerful plugins, you can optimize your sites with any value-adding widget available.