Updating WordPress on the Fly with Dynamic Local Information
It used to be that when you visited a website, you could expect the same thing each time. Sure, new pages might’ve been added, but unless a total redesign was completed, everything was pretty much as it had been.
But gone are the days of static websites. Websites now don’t just have new content added each time you visit them—they have new content added while you visit them.
We’re talking about dynamic information here, that updates on the fly while a user is on the site. You see this all the time in the form of news or stock tickers, social media feeds, and weather reports. That information is inserted into sites using a widget or code, and is constantly being updated through a third-party service.
But before we delve into the “how” via plugins, services, and good old-fashioned code, let’s talk a bit about the “why.”
Why Do I Need Dynamic Local Content?
There are a multitude of reasons your site might be better with local content.
For instance, if you run a site that provides information about weddings, it would be helpful to visitors if information about local vendors or venues was displayed.
The same goes for sites about domestic animals. Interested readers would certainly like to see info about local adoption events, pet supply stores, veterinarians, dog parks, cat cafes, and so on.
Dynamic Content Categories
Truly, any kind of site with any kind of content can make use of local information. But there are some whose benefits are a bit more obvious.
Let’s look at those now.
News sites are obviously going to need dynamic content. It’s critical that they showcase the latest breaking headlines when they first hit.
Old news is obsolete, which is why it’s important to feature the latest stories in real-time. Using a widget or feed-based system that posts news (and refreshes often) can keep your site’s content relevant, and take some of the work out of day-to-day maintenance.
Let’s say you’ve created a website about your city. You’ve included information about local attractions, the area commerce, and even the current climate (which we’ll talk about more in a bit). It’s not a big stretch to include the local news as well, either on its own dedicated page, as a news feed, or tucked into a sidebar widget.
More and more consumers flock to social media nowadays, so businesses without a presence in these power platforms can really suffer. Not only is social media important to have, tethering it to your company website can be a great advantage.
Many online businesses are now creating social media widgets, as well as hubs, which are basically a collection of their social media feeds in one place. Chances are good you’ve seen them.
Including a social hub on your site is an easy way to keep your content dynamic and local, but also keep visitors up-to-date on the latest happenings.
Travel & Tourism
A rather obvious example of the kind of site that can benefit from dynamic local info falls within the travel and tourism industry. Because—well, duh!—if you want to showcase content about a certain locale and convince people to go there, then you need to have up-to-date information about the geographical area. That means including dynamically updated news, weather, lodging information, transportation options, etc.
Sites dedicated to covering travel, destination events, dining, and attractions would want to make use of dynamic widgets that update to display the latest ravings, rantings, and overall ratings about them.
Writing a travel blog? Include a weather shortcode at the top of your post to set the mood for what the visitor is about to read.
Commenting about your stay in the Caribbean? It might be nice to show readers that it’s balmy and breezy there right now, to create an ambiance.
Still other sites that can use dynamic local info are those that reside in the legal industry.
A lawyer or law firm might want to showcase being mentioned in the news, which can be accomplished through a custom Google search widget.
Likewise, a site that’s about a particular area of practice might want to feature stories that relate. For example, a bankruptcy firm would want to display Chapter 11 cases and news blurbs specific to their area of expertise.
Dynamic Content Delivered
All of the prior mentions highlight the importance of dynamic local information, and just how frequently we come across it in our everyday web browsing.
With that in mind, here is a list of various local info you can include on your site, along with associated plugins, products, or code-based solutions that provide the ability to do so.
If you need to have precise control over your weather widgets’ look and know how to code, you could make your own. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make it from scratch, you could opt for a plugin instead.
Below are some fine options we’ve come across.
Weather Atlas Widget
The Weather Atlas Widget is a great plugin that is highly customizable. All elements (backgrounds, borders, and font) can be modified, and adapt automatically to mobile displays.
Choose weather information to display: from current conditions and hourly, to long-term forecast. Current conditions show temperature with a weather icon, real-feel temperature, wind, humidity, pressure, and UV index, along with the sunrise/sunset time for the location. Hourly forecast shows up to 5 hours of forecasted temperatures, with the weather icons.
It works well with most WordPress themes and has an aesthetically pleasing look, so styling usually isn’t a problem. Weather Atlas Widget plugin is free.
Another plugin you might want to consider is wp-forecast. This plugin is really simple to use but offers quite a few different features to tinker around with. It pulls data from AccuWeather or WeatherBug and works by displaying weather forecasts in a sidebar widget or in your pages and posts.
This plugin comes with several options for what is displayed. Select the location, time between refreshes, language, windspeed, number of forecast days, day and night forecasts, and more.
It works with WordPress widgets, uses a drop-down to show longer forecasts, and a connection checklist. It also comes with an API and can be integrated into CSS for a more seamless style. wp-forecast is free.
This plugin is a nice addition to the list. Weather Master loads quickly and offers accurate weather updates for any WordPress site.
It’s built by TechGasp on HTML5, and is totally responsive so it looks decent no matter where it’s viewed. It works in a widget and as a shortcode, and offers real-time updates so your visitors always know what’s up.
It was actually created for news agencies, and can be used to display the weather for cities, states, or countries. It comes with geolocation, SEO-readiness, and plenty of other features. TechGasp Weather Master is free, but if you want expanded options and gorgeous effects/overlays, it might be worth it to pay for the advanced version.
Date and Time Plugins
What says local more than the date and time? It’s kind of an important thing to note. Especially if you’re building a site in the news sector, you’re going to need to make sure your visitors know what time it is, as it’s likely to pertain directly to what they’re viewing at any given moment.
If you have a travel site all about visiting Orlando, it might be kind of nice to show what time it currently is in that city. It gives people in different time zones a feel for its’ 24-hr cycle as compared to theirs. These touches of locality go a long way toward your site visitors being more mentally aligned with your content.
While it’s pretty easy to include the local time on your site, if you want that little something extra to further customize the local experience for your site visitors, one of the following plugins ought to do the trick.
Date Counter is a small plugin that simply displays the current date or calculates the difference between two dates. The basic code is very easy to cater to your preferences.
You can set it up for three different scenarios: Current Date & Time (example: August 10th, 2021), Date & Time Difference (example: we are 222 days into this year), or Total Date & Time Difference (example: only 29 days left until vacation!).
Each scenario has clear cut documentation which displays all possible formats. You just need to install the plugin, then copy the desired shortcode to the page you want it displayed on. Date Counter is a free plugin.
Local Time Clock
Now here’s a nice and simple plugin that gets the local time across to your visitors without being in your face about it. It displays in the sidebar and is easy to read and set up.
You can select from several styles including digital and analog clocks. Pick from many different colors and sizes for the text, borders, and background. It automatically adjusts for daylight savings time, too.
Local Time Clock is responsive and built on HTML5. You can also add multiple clocks on your site if you wish. This plugin is free.
Including news on your site can be an invaluable way to engage visitors and keep them abreast of current topics related to your neck of the woods. And of course, if you’re running a news site, up-to-date feeds are essential.
What’s the best method to integrate local news onto your site so that it is seamless with your theme, up-to-date, and relevant to your site’s area of interest? Here are two:
- News tickers: A line or lines of text that scroll across a portion of the screen offering the latest news and headlines. You can even use these to make site-wide announcements.
- Aggregators: These work by pulling news feeds in from multiple sources to populate your site with content. Typically, these display a list of relevant headlines that visitors can then click through to read the full story.
These are general options for displaying news content on your site. Most often, these methods are accomplished through the use of plugins.
What follows is a good list of plugins you can refer to when adding local news to your WordPress site.
Ditty News Ticker
The Ditty News Ticker plugin makes it easy to add custom news directly onto your site via a widget or shortcode. It comes with three preset modes to choose from including scroll, rotate, and list. This plugin is totally free.
Bonus: ThemeLab has a nifty tutorial for implementing this plugin you might want to check out for faster setup.
Announcement Ticker Highlighter Scroller
Another plugin option is Announcement ticker highlighter scroller and it works by adding an announcement scroller in the sidebar of your site. Messages about your site scroll up from bottom to top.
It’s simple, easy to set up, and nice to look at. This is especially useful if you want to add custom announcements to your site or to manually post local news.
It supports a drag-and-drop widget, as well as inserting the PHP code directly into your theme. This plugin is also free.
WP RSS Aggregator
If you’re looking for an RSS option, WP RSS Aggregator is a great choice. This plugin allows you to import, merge, and display RSS and ATOM feeds on your site with minimal fuss. Add as many feeds as you want through the admin side and the plugin will pull and display items from each feed in publishing order as one single feed. To insert your custom feed, just add a shortcode to your preferred page or post.
This is a great way to pull content from multiple local news sites and display them in one consolidated page on your site. In this fashion, you can make the ultimate curated news source for your local niche. It’s automatically updated when new content is posted.
While this plugin is free, there are premium add-ons available as well that let you configure things like Feed to Post (an autoblogging solution), Keyword Filtering (lets you filter your feeds based on specific keywords), and Templates (offers premium template types including fully customisable Grid as well as an Excerpts & Thumbnails template).
Another nifty plugin is FeedWordPress, which is also an RSS and Atom feed aggregator. It works by syndicating content from multiple feeds into custom posts on your WordPress site.
The plugin itself is highly flexible and can be configured for any purpose. It’s another solid option in this space. And it is free.
We’ve already talked about why creating a social media hub on your site is a great way to pull in dynamic and local information on a regular basis. Of course, if you’re looking to actually accomplish this, it might be helpful to have some tools at the ready.
There are several services and plugins out there that make adding social media to your site easy. But in this case, there’s a little bit more to it than that. Yes, adding local information might be as simple as adding a local Twitter feed—either run by you or perhaps a local news organization. However, for many of you out there, it’s not going to be that simple. Just like with the custom search results described above, you’re going to need social media search queries displayed on your site in an easy-to-read fashion.
And in some cases, your site might benefit the most from allowing the visitors themselves to contribute. Maybe you’ve set up a site about a specific neighborhood. Residents of that neighborhood would be able to contribute content about it including opinions, reviews, inside information about the lay of the land, and more.
What follows is a sampling of services and plugins that allow you to add straight social media feeds, create social hubs, and insert custom social search queries.
TINT is a UGC (User-Generated Content) platform that tells your story through fans, customers, and employees. If you want to add a full social hub to your site that’ll let you connect any of your social feeds and preferred hashtags, then you’ll want to check out TINT.
This service is perfect for pulling in content exclusive to your brand from all of your social profiles across the web. So you can get your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest feeds all featured in one place right on your site. And Tint is designed to be mobile responsive, so it’ll look good on any device—even TVs.
There’s a great level of customization available here as well. Change the theme, colors and/or add custom CSS. You can also manually select what does and does not appear in your feed. Tint is especially helpful when trying to provide dynamic information from a local event. Calling up a branded hashtag from the event will populate your feed with relevant local content, making your site a one-stop shop of info.
Tint is a professional-level solution and it’s priced as such. When this article was originally written in 2015, fees started at $500/month. Currently you must request a custom quote on their website. You can get a free demo to see it in action.
One more social hub you should check out is Sprinklr’s Social Suites. Cited as the world’s first and only Unified-CXM platform (customer experience management), Sprinklr is custom-built for enterprises—leveraging strong roots in social media management for an improved customer experience.
Sprinklr consolidates all the components of social media management—social listening, publishing and engagement, marketing & advertising, actionable insights, and customer response—on an AI-powered, unified platform, enabling your internal teams to collaborate on a single merged content source.
This is also a premium solution. You must request a quote or a demo through their website.
User Submitted Posts
Another plugin you can use to add user-generated content to your site is User Submitted Posts. It’s pretty basic, but works very well for adding a form to your posts and pages. Users can create posts, add images, and modify specific post settings like categories, tags, titles, and more.
It’s up to you how your site handles these user posts. They can be published immediately, or they can be saved as a draft for your approval. It’s highly customizable and totally free. You can also purchase a pro version, which includes more features and settings, such as unlimited custom forms, infinite custom fields, multimedia file uploads, and much more.
WP User Frontend
WP User Frontend is another plugin that lets people contribute to your site via its front-end. Site visitors can make new posts, create and edit profiles, and more, all without requiring access to the site’s admin panel. Attachments are allowed as well.
This is really helpful if you’re asking people to contribute reviews of local restaurants, or you want people to sound off about their opinions on something else related to a specific location. And if you need more features, there’s a premium version as well, so be sure to check that out if this plugin appeals to you.
The last plugin we’ll mention is Juicer. It’s another social media aggregation service that combines feeds from all of the social media accounts you specify into one single feed.
You can then embed this combined feed into any page or post using a simple shortcode. The feed is then automatically updated so your visitors will always see your latest, freshest social content. It comes with analytics and custom CSS, too.
This plugin works with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus, and more than a dozen additional social platforms. It can also be used to filter hashtags, so truly local search results are possible here. You moderate what posts are displayed, set up the layout, and enjoy both a responsive design and infinite scroll.
Juicer is totally free. They also offer a paid service that gives you extra features, like adding more social media accounts, creating multiple feeds, and getting detailed social analytics.
Tying it All Together
Creating a site that requires fresh content on a near constant basis can feel a bit overwhelming at first. But that doesn’t mean you should cut corners or skip out on it entirely. Rather, it’s a much better idea to leverage the tools that are currently available to make local and dynamic information an easy and intuitive thing to add to your site.
Many of these dynamic plugins need to communicate with their servers to keep information on the sites updated. If you are hosting with WPMU DEV, you can allowlist 3rd-party application IP addresses in our WAF, so concern over site speed isn’t an issue.
From clocks to weather reports, news feeds to social streams, constantly-refreshed local content isn’t that difficult to add to your site. You just need to know how to get started. And hopefully this comprehensive post will set you out on the right track.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and relevancy. [Originally Published: April 2015 / Revised: August 2021]Tags: