3 Ways to Add a Search Bar in WordPress

Are you looking to enhance user navigation and improve the accessibility of your WordPress site? Adding a search bar could be just the thing you need.

A search bar is an essential tool for any website as it makes it easy for users to find the info they need.

In this guide, I will explore some methods and provide detailed instructions on how to add a search bar to your WordPress website.

There are 3 ways to add a search bar to your website:

  1. Using the built-in WordPress search widget
  2. Using a plugin
  3. Manually adding the search functionality to your theme

We will cover each of these methods in detail in the following sections of this guide, but first…

Why add a search bar to your WordPress website?

Adding a search bar to your website has a few benefits you can’t overlook, such as:

  • If you have a big website with a large amount of content, or if someone is new to your site, a search bar helps everyone get around easily without having to click through a lot of pages.
  • If users can’t find what they’re looking for quickly, they may leave your site.
    A search bar can help reduce bounce rates by providing a quick solution to user queries.
  • For e-commerce websites, a search bar is a handy tool because it gives users smoother shopping if they can quickly locate products.

    In essence, having a search bar on your website is like placing a helpful guide at the door to direct visitors to whatever they are looking for.

    It saves users precious time and effort.

So, let’s get started and learn how to add a search bar to your WordPress website!

Before you make any changes to your site, even the seemingly small changes, back up your website so that you have a bounce back if anything goes wrong during the editing.

Opt 1: Add a Search Bar in WordPress using a Widget

WordPress dashborad

WordPress’ Widgets panel provides you with a simple and convenient way to add a search bar to your website.

Follow the steps below to do so:

Go to your WordPress admin dashboard and navigate to Appearance > Widgets.

WordPress widgets area

In the available widgets, you’ll find the “Search” widget.

Click on the dropdown to select which area of your web page you want it displayed, such as the sidebar.

Add WordPress search widget
WordPress appearance > widget location

Once you’ve added the search widget, you can customize its settings to suit your preferences.

For example, you can choose whether to display the search form label or placeholder text.

WordPress search bar in header widget

You can also specify the search button text and select whether to open search results in a new window.

Additionally, you can further customize your search bar to suit your website’s design by adjusting its color, fonts, size, style, adding a border or background image, etc.

With this, your visitors will easily search for content without leaving the page they’re on, making it easier for them to find the information they need. You will have to use custom CSS to do this.

Opt 2: Add a Search Bar to WordPress using a plugin

Add wordpress search bar

WordPress by default only allows you to add the search widget to widget-ready areas like the sidebar.

However, you may want your search bar in the navigation menu for easier access.

To achieve this, you can use plugins specifically designed to add a search bar to the navigation menu.

A popular one is the SearchWP Modal Search Form, which provides an easy and stylish way to add a search bar to your menu.

Follow the steps below to use a plugin:

Step 1: Install and Activate the SearchWP Modal Search Form Plugin:

On your WordPress dashboard navigate to the Plugins >Add New and search for SearchWP Modal Search Form.

Search WP plugin

Once you find the plugin, click on the Install Now button and then activate it.

Step 2: Add the Search Bar to your Navigation Menu

After activating the plugin, go to the Appearance > Menus section and select the menu where you want to add the search bar or create a new menu.

Add search widget wordpress

On the right side, you will see a list of available menu items.

You can drag the Search item to the position you want it, and you can rename it from the default “Native WordPress”.

Assign search widget to navigation menu

Once you have added the search bar to your menu and are satisfied with it, click the Save Menu button.

You can then visit your website to see the search bar in the navigation menu.

Opt 2: Add a Search Bar in WordPress manually (For Advanced Users)

Add search bar wordpress manually

If you have advanced technical/coding knowledge and prefer to have complete control over the customization and styling of your WordPress search bar, you can manually add it to your theme’s template files.

This method allows you to have full flexibility in terms of search bar location and design.

Here’s how you can do it:

Step 1: Locate the Template Files

To get started, you’ll need to locate the template files of your WordPress theme.

You can use an FTP client or the file manager in your hosting control panel to access your WordPress theme files.

The commonly used template files for placing the search bar are header.php and sidebar.php, depending on where you want to position the search bar on your website.

Step 2: Add the Search Bar code

Open the chosen template file in a code editor and find the location where you want to place your search bar.

Insert the following code snippet in that location:

<div class="search-bar">
   <?php get_search_form(); ?>

This function will call the search form from the searchform.php template file.

Step 3: Customize the Search Bar Style

After adding the search bar function, you can further customize the style and appearance of the search bar by editing the style.css file of your WordPress theme.

Adjust the CSS properties like font size, color, background, and padding to match your desired design.

This will allow you to seamlessly integrate the search bar into your website’s overall look and feel.

You can also add a search bar to your WordPress website using third-party plugins like Ivory Search or Advanced SearchBar.

These will provide you with a range of advanced features such as live search, Ajax-powered search results, and customizable search form design.

Just go to your Plugins section on your dashboard, search for the plugin then install and activate it, then you can configure its settings to customize the search bar according to your preferences.


Is it possible to remove the search bar in WordPress if I change my mind?

Yes, if you added the search bar manually, remove the code from your theme files.

If you used a plugin, deactivate or uninstall the plugin to remove the search bar and its functionality.

What should I do if my site breaks after adding a search bar?

If your site breaks after adding a search bar, try deactivating the plugin (if that’s what you used) to see if it resolves the issue.

Check your theme files for any errors if you added the search bar manually.

If none of those solutions works, you might want to consider restoring your site to a previous version.


In summary, adding a search bar to your WordPress website is a significant step in improving user experience and site usability.

With various methods available, you can easily enhance the functionality of your site and help visitors find the content they are looking for quickly and efficiently.

The options discussed in this article cater for both basic and advanced WordPress users.

Regardless of the method you choose, be sure to optimize the search bar for your specific website.

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Grace is an Editor at GoTechUG and she has written many articles about website design and social media. She has experience in IT and loves to tinker with anything to do with computers. In her spare time, she loves music, movies, reading books, and learning Spanish.

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