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How to Display Different Sidebars for Different Posts in WordPress

Learn how to display different sidebars for different posts in WordPress. This tutorial explains the easiest way to achieve this for your WP posts and pages.

Breaking Away from the Norm

Most WordPress themes display the same sidebars across all posts. Site familiarity can be a good thing for frequent visitors or members. Responsive (mobile-friendly) themes allow some customizations. It includes the position, i.e., left or right, the number of sidebars—or none—and widgets. Despite these customizations, any updates to the sidebars are the same on all posts.

Why Show Different Sidebars?

It makes sense to tweak your sidebars to reflect the content on different pages and posts. That doesn’t only mean left and right-side sidebars, either. It also includes any widget-friendly areas, which can be footers and headers with some themes.

These areas are perfect for displaying sponsored ads or affiliate banners for certain posts. Others may benefit from a newsletter signup form or have links to related content. You get the idea. Having control over what to display around the central content is a powerful feature.

Other unique examples for sidebar and footer content could be:

  • Content based on category
  • Related to archive pages
  • Sidebars for custom pages, e.g., error 404 landing page
  • Individual posts or pages

There are a few excellent custom sidebar plugins for this purpose. The one used for this tutorial is Custom Sidebars | Dynamic Widget Area Manager, by By WebFactory Ltd.

Custom Sidebars | Dynamic Widget-Area Manager

Please read the short beginner’s plugin guide first if you’re new to WordPress plugins.

The Custom Sidebar plugin is a great tool for controlling sidebar widgets and configurations across posts and pages. It also has options for archive pages, categories, and post type. The plugin enjoys high ratings and has more than 200,000 active installations.

Log in to your WP Dashboard.

Install and activate the Custom Sidebars plugin by WebFactory Ltd.

Go to Appearance => Widgets from your WP Dashboard.

If you see this pop-up message, click the X close it.

Notice the new dedicated central section created for custom sidebars.

Click Create a new sidebar to begin.

A New Custom Sidebar pop-op window appears.

Type a name and short description, then click Create Sidebar.

Tip: Think carefully about names if you plan to create lots of custom sidebars for your website or blog. Descriptive names make it much easier to find, manage, and edit them later.

Let’s call this one Test Sidebar and use it to display a few miscellaneous items.

The new sidebar is now ready for whatever widgets we drag into it. You can change the name and description at any time by clicking the Edit link.

Decide what widgets you want to display in your custom sidebar. The power of this tool depends on your creativity as a blogger, influencer, or internet marketer.

Custom sidebar ideas

Here’s a recap of some of the WP default widgets that can go into custom sidebars.

  • Search the site box
  • Recent posts
  • Client testimonials
  • Social media feeds and social follow links
  • Interactive calendar
  • Eye-catching, clickable images
  • Sales ads and affiliate banners

Let’s drag a Calendar, an Image, and a Search Box into the custom sidebar for this tutorial.

Each widget has options to add titles, upload images and anything else that’s specific to it. You can also drag-n-drop widgets to rearrange their order if you want to.

Remember to click Save for individual widgets when you’re done.

Next, make sure you place a tick (check) into your theme sidebar boxes for:

Allow this sidebar to be replaced.

Don’t skip this vital step. You can’t choose a new custom sidebar location until you give WordPress permission to replace existing ones.

Now click the Sidebar Location link at the bottom of the Custom Sidebar.

The pop-up screen has options—and links to—the following sidebar locations.

  • Unique post or page
  • As footer for ‘selected categories’
  • As footer for ‘selected post types’
  • For archives, i.e., Types, Category, and Authors
  • For screen sizes

Decide where to display the sidebar based on the options available to you.

Let’s choose to put our test custom sidebar As Footer for Selected Post Types.

Click Save Changes when you’re done.

Our new custom sidebar now displays in the footer area, but only for WordPress posts.

We added a Calendar, an Image, and a Search Box to the footer. You could choose any other widgets and place them on the left, right, top, and bottom areas if your theme has them.

Here’s how our custom elements look on the test site.

You now know how to create custom sidebars—including all widget-friendly areas—in WordPress.

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