Widgets are one of WordPress most adaptable features. They make it possible to add a ton of different functionality to your WordPress sidebar with some plugins, as well as other areas that accept widgets. Best of all, you can find plenty of free WordPress sidebar plugins – so you won’t even need to open your wallet to get their benefits.
Free WordPress Sidebar Plugins
Out-the-box WordPress ships with a built-in search function and widget. Unfortunately, most users consider it quite poor at its job.
If you want to help your visitors find useful content more easily, consider upgrading the default search function with Relevanssi. The plugin is capable of partial-matching a visitor’s search query, plus it’s better at sorting by relevance than the default option.
With the plugin installed, you still have to use the default WordPress search widget. However, behind the scenes, the widget is now powered by Relevanssi.
YouTube Channel Galler
If you also publish content on YouTube, perhaps you want to use your sidebar area to promote your channel. Enter the YouTube Channel Gallery plugin.
The plugin lets you display thumbnail stills of your videos in any widgetized area — all you need is a YouTube API Key. Then, when a visitor clicks on one of the videos, the video starts playing. You can also add multiple YouTube widgets to one page, letting you promote different videos and channels simultaneously. This is one of the best sidebar plugins.
Contextual Related Posts
Related posts are the most sophisticated navigation widget — the plugin needs an algorithm to determine which posts are related, after all.
The Contextual Related Posts widget uses both a post’s title and content to discover related posts. However, you can omit posts or entire categories from the search should you wish. Related posts can be displayed with thumbnails, plus the posts are cached to increase website speed.
The sidebar is an excellent space to place a contact form so that your visitors can reach out to you.
Not every contact form plugin comes with a dedicated widget, though. If you want one that does, Ninja Forms is one of the best free options — it’s super-easy to use and comes with loads of customizations and advanced fields.
SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle
Let’s kick things off with an excellent all-in-one widgets plugin — SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle.
The plugin introduces all the widget functionality you could possibly ask for, with an impressive 20 dedicated widgets available. Here’s an idea of some of the widgets included in the box: The widgets are fully customizable, too, with support for infinite colors and over 1,500 icons.
The widget space on your website is perfect for building social proof. Consider adding some testimonials, which tell the world what a fantastic job you’re doing, right from the mouths of real-life customers.
The Testimonials Widget plugin lets you display text, image, or video testimonials in stylish sliders. You can also tailor which testimonials are displayed based on a post’s category.
Recent Posts Widget Extended
Most visitors expect to see links to your blog posts in the sidebar — they depend on this for navigation. Now, generally speaking, there are three types of navigation widgets: recent posts, popular posts, and related posts.
For a recent posts widget, I recommend the Recent Posts Widget Extended plugin. The plugin lets you display a thumbnail and excerpt for each post — you can also target recent posts based on category. The plugin lets you order your posts based on publication date or most recent comments.
WordPress Popular Posts
If you don’t fancy recent posts, what about your most popular posts? After all, these posts are popular for a reason, right? They’re probably the best written or most informative, so they provide exceptional value to all visitors.
WordPress Popular Posts is the best plugin for the job. It displays the posts’ thumbnails, plus you can target the popular posts based on category and time range. You can even have multiple popular posts widgets live at once, each with different settings.
Want to make your website more eye-catching? Then why not use the sidebar area to display images? If you’re looking to place a single image, the Image Widget plugin is the obvious choice.
The plugin lets you display an image from your WordPress media library. You can also control image settings such as size, alignment, and title. You can point the image at a custom URL when clicked, too.
Instead of your media library, perhaps you’d prefer to pull your images straight from Instagram. If so, you need the Instagram Feed plugin. It has scored a perfect 5/5 rating over 300,000 downloads — no mean feat.
The plugin lets you display thumbnails, medium-sized, and full-sized images. You can also mix-and-match multiple Instagram accounts. The images don’t have to be from your account either — you can display images from any non-private account. And, if visitors like what they see, they can choose to load additional images by clicking a Load More button.
Meks Smart Author Widget
The Meks Smart Author Widget lets you display stylish author bios in your website’s widget space. The plugin has a use for both multi-author and one-man blogs.
For multi-author blogs, the plugin detects the writer of a particular post then displays the relevant bio.
If you’re the sole contributor to your blog, you can simply display your personal bio on every page — use this as an “About Me” widget. By revealing information about yourself, you become more relatable to readers.
Poll, Survey, Quiz & Form by OpinionStage
Got a burning question to ask your visitors? Perhaps you want their input on future content. Maybe you want answers to topical questions in your niche. Or maybe you just want to run silly quizzes to make people smile. Either way, you need Poll, Survey, Quiz & Form by OpinionStage — you can even use it to run competitions.
The widgets look stunning, letting you upload custom images and apply your own branding. You can also monetize the widget by generating ad revenues or requiring a visitor to sign up to a mailing list.
Google Maps Widget
Want to show visitors your physical location on a map? Then you need the Google Maps Widget plugin — a dedicated maps plugin for your widget space.
The plugin boasts customizable map dimensions and zoom levels, plus you can bring your maps to life by creating custom pins.
Awesome Weather Widget
For some businesses, the weather can have a big impact on trade, like it’s sidebar plugins — say, holiday lettings or outdoor recreation, off the top of my head. If the weather is relevant to your business, why not provide visitors with the info they need using the Awesome Weather Widget plugin.
The weather widgets look gorgeous with customizable color schemes. Most importantly, the weather data is provided by OpenWeatherMap, so you can trust that it’s reliable.
Free WordPress sidebar plugins are one of the easiest ways to add new features to your site, such as custom contact forms, upcoming events, and maps to your location (among many other options). Finding the right widgets can help your site look and work better by adding extra functionality. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the free WordPress widgets we’ve introduced you to in this list until you find the combination that works best for you.