Updating WordPress on the Fly with Dynamic Local Area Information
It used to be that when you visited a website, you could expect the same thing upon each visit. Sure, new pages might’ve been added, but unless a total redesign was completed, everything was pretty much the same.
But gone are the days of static websites. Websites now don’t just have new content added each time you visit them – they also have new content added while you visit them.
I’m 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 constantly being updated through a third-party service and is inserted into your site using a widget or code. 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 require local content. And sites with just about any subject matter can benefit. 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 dachshunds. Readers would certainly like to see info about local breeders, pet supply stores, dog shows, veterinarians, dog parks, and so forth.
Yes, any kind of site with any kind of content can make use of local content. But there are some whose benefits are a bit more obvious. Let’s outline those here:
News sites are obviously going to need dynamic content. It needs to showcase the latest breaking news when it first posts. Old news just isn’t relevant, which is why it’s important to feature the latest stories as they happen. 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.
If you’re actually running a news site, one would hope you’re creating your own content. But let’s say you’ve created a website about your city. You’ve included information about local attractions, the City Commerce, and even the current weather (which we’ll talk about more in just a bit). It makes sense to include the local news as well either on its own dedicated page as a news feed or pulled into a sidebar widget.
Social Media Hubs
Every business needs a social media presence nowadays so it makes sense to include this onto your site as well. Many sites are now creating social media hubs, which are basically a collection of all of your social media feeds in one place. I know you’ve seen them.
For instance, on whitehouse.gov, there’s a dedicated social hub page with a bunch of widgets containing the government Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram, YouTube, and so forth. It’s a one-stop shop for everything social related to the White House.
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 your latest news.
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, I mean—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 location. That means including dynamically updated news, weather, hotel information, airline reviews, and more.
Sites dedicated to reviewing different airlines, hotels, restaurants, and attractions can also make use of dynamic widgets that update to display the latest reviews and information about these locations.
Write 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.
I mean, if you’re writing about your stay in the Caribbean, it might be nice to show readers that it’s balmy and breezy there right now, don’t you think?
Still other sites that can use dynamic local info are those that reside in the legal industry.
A lawyer might want to showcase times he’s been mentioned in the news and that can be accomplished through a custom Google search widget.
Or, a site that’s about a particular area of practice might want to feature stories that relate. So, an Orange County bankruptcy firm would want to display local bankruptcy cases and news mentions.
All of these examples highlight the importance of dynamic local information and just how frequently we come across it in our everyday web browsing. So with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some types of local info you can include on your site and a few plugins or code-based solutions that make it possible to do so.
No matter if your site pertains to the travel industry or you just want to feature some information about your hometown, weather is the perfect example of local dynamic information you can include with relative ease.
You can add a weather widget with code by hand, if you wish. This is particularly beneficial if you want to have total control over the look and feel of the widget. If you’re super concerned about precise branding, this is your best option.
Add Local Weather Using simpleWeather
An easy way to add a weather widget to your site is through using the Simple Weather jQuery plugin. It was created by James Fleeting and it offers a robust yet surprisingly simple way to add weather by pulling Yahoo! Weather Feed info directly onto your site, anywhere you specify.
To get started, you just need to download the file from the link above and then upload the file called jquery.simpleWeather.js into your website’s root directory. Then from your WordPress dashboard go to Appearance > Editor and select the Header file. Right before </head> paste this code:
Make sure you change the location in this code to the location you wish to feature on your website.
Save your progress then go back to Appearance > Widgets and add a new text widget to your site’s sidebar or footer and paste this code into it:
You can use this code snippet in your posts and pages as well. This is how you create a very simple, albeit plain, dynamic weather widget on your site. You can add whatever customization you want in your site’s CSS file using this code:
The widget is just responsible for pulling the weather data from Yahoo! How it looks is totally up to you. It can appear precisely as you want. You have free reign over customization options.
For instance, maybe you want to just show the current temperature.
Or show a multi-day forecast.
Or you can have the weather itself affect the displayed styles – warmer colors for warmer weather and cooler colors for, obviously, cooler weather.
Dynamic Weather Plugins
If you don’t need to have precise control over your weather widget’s look, then you might just want to save some time and opt for a plugin instead. Here are several of the best options out there right now:
Weather Underground is a great little plugin that taps into the invaluable resource that is wunderground.com. The site is known for its super in-depth weather reports and accuracy without being associated with the big-name companies out there. So if you have a passion for supporting the little guy, this plugin should be doubly satisfying for you to use.
It works really well with most WordPress themes and has an aesthetically pleasing look, so styling usually isn’t a problem. It works in widgets and in posts and pages thanks to a shortcode. This 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.com or weatherbug.com and works by displaying weather forecasts in a sidebar widget or in your pages and posts.
This plugin comes with several options for what’s 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.
If you’re looking for a slightly larger feature set, you might decide to go the premium plugin route. And in those cases, WeatherSlider Premium WordPress Weather Widget is a good choice. This plugin is lovely to look at and supports a wide variety of features so you’re sure to never leave anything out. It offers support for geolocation, multiple units of measurement, multiple date and time formats, responsive design, touch gestures, and more.
The admin interface is easy-to-use and includes localization and multisite support. It comes with 48 weather types, a three-day forecast, CSS3 animations, a location search bar, auto-refresh, cross-browser support, documentation, updates, and support.
WeatherSlider is available now for $13.
Need another nice-looking weather widget to consider? Then check out the Bonobo Weather Widget, which supports 22 different types of weather all pulled onto your site using the Yahoo! Weather API. Other features include a metro style, a slider, and multi-language support.
Set up is a snap and you’ll be pleased to see it comes with 8 different color schemes to choose from. Pick between Fahrenheit or Celsius and more.
The Bonobo Weather Widget is a very reasonable $5.
Your options for incorporating live weather updates into your site are vast and this plugin adds to the list in a big way. Weather Master loads quickly and offers accurate weather updates for any WordPress site. It’s built on the TechGasp framework and HTML5 and is totally responsive so it looks good no matter where it’s viewed. It works in a widget and as a short code and offers real-time updates so your visitors always know what’s up.
The forecast icons are lovely to look at and it even displays cloud overlays for an aesthetically pleasing effect. This plugin is ideal 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 to keep regular visitors and weather geeks satisfied.
Weather Master is free.
If you want a weather widget that can be inconspicuous or in your face depending on your site’s needs, the Animated weather widget by weatherfor.us is a good choice. Once set up, it lets you display weather forecasts in multiple units featuring attractive icons. Put it in your sidebar or in the footer of your site, depending on your site’s focus and needs.
It comes with two different skins including a 720px wide widget and a mini preview mode widget, both of which give you plenty of options for customization. And the whole thing loads really quickly thanks to a CDN server.
This plugin is also free.
Another plugin you should check out is called POWr Weather. It’s a plugin that taps into the cloud and allows you to edit it while it’s live on your website. You can add the widget anywhere on your site like the sidebar or footer or you can just click the POWr icon in your post editor to insert it into a page or post.
The free version comes with several features including responsiveness; the ability to display weather for any location; font, color, and background customization; current, hourly, and daily forecasts; as well as several weather factors like humidity, cloud cover, and wind speed. Site visitors can input their location for personalized weather as well. The pro version removes logos and watermarks, includes an advanced forecast, analytics, support, and more. It costs $3.99/month.
If you want to keep it totally official, then the National Weather Service Alerts plugin is a great choice. Once installed on your site, the plugin pulls weather alerts from the National Weather Service using AJAX. Pick a location and you’re all set to go. You can also pick what kinds of alerts will show up.
Though this plugin only works for the U.S. right now, it comes with several impressive features like shortcode and widget functionality, an alerts bar, developer API, and weather alerts for a variety of events including thunderstorms, tornados, blizzards, floods, flash floods, freezing temperatures, dust storms, high winds, and more.
Still another option is called WP Cloudy. This plugin is highly flexible and can be adapted for use on any type of site. Just make a new weather widget via custom post type, pick the city you want to highlight and set the customization options. That’s all there is to it! You can insert your newly generated weather forecast anywhere on your site using a shortcode.
Some notable features include multiple fonts, a 16-day forecast, custom fields, API key, geolocation, a cache system, and more. Choose what kind of weather to display from temperature, wind direction and speed, cloud cover, atmospheric pressure, humidity, and more. It supports multiple languages and is retina-ready.
The last weather plugin I’m going to mention is Alfie WP Weather and it earns its place on this list thanks to a stylish design, GeoIP based weather, excellent load-time, and multiple language options.
It also comes with an AJAX search bar so users can customize their weather experience on your site if need be. You can also choose what kind of forecast is displayed from minimum, full, or custom. It plugs into the Yahoo! API for accurate and real-time weather updates, too.
Dates and Time Plugins
What says local more than the date and time? It’s kind of an important thing to note. And if you’re building a site in the news sector especially, you’re going to need to make sure your visitors know what time it is as it may pertain directly to the content you’re offering. 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 (along with the weather as described above). These local touches go a long way toward making your site visitors more mentally in line with your content.
While it’s pretty darn easy to include the local time on your site, if you want a little something extra to further customize the local experience for your site visitors, one of the following plugins ought to do the trick.
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.
Sometimes adding local information to your site is about more than just displaying a clock. Sometimes it’s about relaying time sensitive information relative to a person’s location. So instead of just displaying the date the post was published, you can say it was published today or two days ago or even two hours ago. If this is something that would be beneficial to you, you might want to check out WP-RelativeDate.
This plugin allows you to display a relative date and time on your posts and pages. That’s all it does and it does it well. This plugin is free.
This plugin is kind of similar to the one above, but can be used throughout your posts and pages to ensure any dates and times listed there are automatically and relatively updated. This means if you have a sentence that says I’ve been working in this industry for 10 years, this bit of information would be automatically updated to say the appropriate year when a new year begins.
This means you don’t have to manually update this content from year-to-year or month-to-month or day to day. Magic Dates does all of this for you thanks to a shortcode. Again that is all this plugin does, but it does it well.
While not exactly related to local information, the Date/Time Now Button is a useful plugin to have regardless. Why? Because it allows you to set the date and time on a post or page to right this second. And that can come in handy for a number of reasons but the best reason I can think of is if you update a post significantly and want to push it back to the top of your blog.
As an added bonus, this plugin can also be used to change the time on comments, keeping your discussions relevant in the eyes of your visitors.
As I’ve mentioned several times throughout this post so far, 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.
But how can you 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 a few potentials:
- News tickers: These are exactly what they sound like—a ticker that rolls across a portion of the screen offering the latest news story headlines. You can even use them to make site-wide announcements.
- Aggregators: These work by pulling news feeds in from multiple sources to populate your site with content. They often work by displaying a list of relevant headlines that visitors can then click through to read the full story.
These are general categories of ways you can display 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 considering the above options for adding local news to your WordPress site:
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.
And ThemeLab has a nifty tutorial for implementing this plugin you might want to check out for faster setup.
Another plugin option is called Announcement ticker highlighter scroller and it works by adding an announcement scroller in the sidebar of your site. It scrolls up messages about your site from the bottom to the 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 Newsbar is another great plugin that lets you create a dedicated news section on your site. It accomplishes this through a fixed or floating newsbar that works via a custom post type. It also comes with Twitter integration, a links manager, and a custom display option.
This plugin also features three animations, four skins, multiple news items, and sports cross-browser compatibility. This premium plugin will set you back a very reasonable $9.
Another news scroller to consider is the WP Easy News Scroller plugin. It lets you show off site news or you can even use it to showcase relevant new posts. It comes with 16 different themes and several sliding effects. It will work in the sidebar or the footer depending on your needs and can show an unlimited number of news items. You can even set the speed of the scrolling. Adjust the height and width, upload images, edit via HTML, and more.
WP Easy News Scroller costs $15.
The last news ticker style plugin I’m going to talk about here is called FP News Ticker and it works by letting you showcase a category of your posts in a widgetized ticker. The output is like a typewritten note, which is pretty cool. It also sports fadeIn/fadeOut effects and post limit, category, and sliding or scrolling options.
This plugin is free.
The first plugin in the aggregator category in this list is our very own Autoblog. If you want to post content from multiple places to your site, you can using this plugin. It works by pulling content via RSS feeds. It makes it super simple to curate a blog in a matter of minutes. All you need to set it up is a list of URLs to insert. The plugin takes care of the rest for you.
It works very much as a set it and forget it solution. Still, you should make an effort to review the content that is being posted on a regular basis to make sure it’s in keeping with your theme, message, and quality standards. Need a practical example of how this could be really useful for adding dynamic local information to your site? Try this on for size:
Let’s say you have a website that caters to local businesspeople. Insert the RSS feeds for sites that are relevant to this niche and then include the words or phrases that relate directly to your location. Autoblog imports posts based on the words and phrases you specify. You can pull in posts excerpts, full posts, or even just a linked headline.
Autoblog also comes with several add-ons for including images, auto tweeting, and setting featured images. You can get this plugin for $19/month by itself for $24.50/month with a WPMU DEV membership. If you need help setting it up, we wrote a handy little tutorial a while back that walks you through it step-by-step and offers up some advice for implementation.
If you’re looking for another aggregation 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 short code 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 make this page on your sites 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, which is an autoblogging solution, Keyword Filtering, which lets you filter your feeds based on specific keywords, and Excerpts & Thumbnails, which adds post excerpts and thumbnail images to the linked headlines.
Another nifty plugin is called FeedWordPress. it’s another RSS and Atom feed aggregator and 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.
This plugin 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 to use.
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 the area including opinions, reviews, inside information about the area, and more.
Here’s a sampling of services and plugins that allow you to add straight social media feeds, create social hubs, and insert custom social search queries:
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 televisions.
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, which starts at $500/month. There is a free version available but it has a limited feature set.
Another great social hub solution is called RebelMouse. It works by allowing you to distribute social content to just about anywhere you want, from websites to newsletters. Setup is simple and lets you configure precisely what content is displayed based on parameters you set.
You can easily create a community around your local business and industry with this service thanks to mobile first sites and native app integration. Plus you can encourage the people in your community to participate by interacting with your content. I’m talking polls, quizzes, and the like with real-time results. You can even ask your followers to contribute content. You can’t get much more dynamic than that.
Other features include mobile push messaging, email alerts, a/b testing, and more. Individuals can sign up for free and businesses and enterprises can request a quote.
One final social hub you should check out is called Postano. It’s the perfect way to showcase a local hashtag you’re curating or your social media feeds. It works with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Google+, Foursquare, Tumblr, Flickr, Weibo, and Phhhoto, along with standard RSS feeds.
Everything about Postano can be customized for your brand and gives you a chance to tap into content created by people in your community. Why do the work yourself if your fans and followers can take some of the load? Especially as it pertains to sharing locally relevant info. I mean, who would better know the community than your community members, right?
Should you decide to seek further input from your community, the Listly plugin can be extremely helpful. This plugin makes it so your site visitors can contribute content in the form of listicles. These list articles are a quick way for visitors to contribute their local knowledge without being bogged down with the demands of traditional formatting. This plugin takes care of all that for you.
By making a list collaborative, you make it more than just a list of items written out in text on your site. You make it dynamic so it can be added to by fellow community members and shared easily across the breadth of social media. And one factor stands to extend the reach of your site and its content even further—Listly content is embeddable.
This plugin is free and marks an excellent way to create and solicit new content for your site.
To further encourage site visitors to contribute to your site, you might want to check out the Frontend Uploader plugin. It works by allowing you to use shortcodes to insert forms in your posts and pages. You can customize these forms in any way you’d like to solicit precisely the kind of content you want.
After you set up your form(s), visitors can contribute content. This content is then held in moderation for your approval. Once approved, the content will appear on your live site. This is a great way to keep fresh content on your site all the time without constantly having to write it yourself.
Another plugin you can use to add user-generated content to your site is called 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.
WP User Frontend is another plugin that lets people contribute to your site via its front-end. Site visitors can create 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, for instance, 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 the free version appeals to you.
Moving away from user-submitted content, another important aspect of adding dynamic local information is highlighting social media feeds on your site. The POWr Twitter Feed plugin is a good way to add your Twitter feed right in your site’s sidebar or anywhere else in your theme. You can even add it directly to a specific page or post. This is really helpful if you’re trying to create your own social hub from the ground up.
And if you want to feature a specific search phrase, you can do that as well. Just set the plugin to display a feed for a hashtag (#) instead of an account (@) and you’ll be golden. This is really great if you want to show off all the things people are saying about #portland for instance.
While this plugin is free, there is a premium version available as well that adds advanced controls, faster updates, analytics, and more for just $2.99/month.
Another offering from POWr is the POWr Instagram Feed plugin, which lets you show posts from several Instagram accounts all in one feed. It’s widget based and can be used anywhere in your theme. The plugin also adds a POWr icon to your post editor. Just one click inserts the feed into any post or page.
The feed displayed is responsive and can be customized to feature accounts or hashtags or both. A premium version is available as well that removes POWr logos and adds faster updates, premium support, and analytics for $3.99/month.
If you want to create a combined feed from multiple social media sites but don’t want to invest in a full-fledged social media hub, you might want to check out POWr Social Feed. This plugin allows you to combine @ accounts and/or hashtags from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and even RSS feeds.
This plugin is easy to install and setup. It allows for the integration of images and videos from social accounts as well. You can pick from pre-designed templates or customize the look as you see fit. A premium version is available as well that removes POWr logos, offers faster updates, and adds support and analytics to the mix. This upgrade is $4.99/month.
Juicer is another social media aggregation service that combines the 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.
This plugin works with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Vine, Flickr, Vimeo, and RSS. It can also be used to filter hashtags, so truly local search results are possible here. You moderate what posts are displayed, setup the layout, and enjoy both a responsive design and infinite scroll. It comes with analytics and custom CSS, too. Surprisingly, Juicer is totally free.
Still another option for displaying all of your social media content on your WordPress site is TwineSocial. This plugin makes it super simple to showcase content from any social media account and/or hashtag, including text, photo, and video posts. This plugin offers a really aesthetically pleasing front-end experience and works with all the popular social networks. You can also pull in content based on location, which is really helpful when trying to show off what people from a specific city have to say about your site’s subject matter.
Additional features include the ability to establish rules and filters to weed out content you don’t want displayed, a video player, a URL expander, moderation, permalinks, content groups, a responsive layout, infinite scroll, custom CSS, multi-language compatibility, analytics, and the ability to cast your custom social stream to Google Chromecast.
TwineSocial is also free.
The last plugin I’m going to share with you today is called Feeder Ninja. It offers an all-in-one solution for displaying content from multiple social media and RSS feeds. All it takes is a few clicks to set up. It works very similarly to the plugins described above but you will need a Feeder Ninja account to get started, so it’s not all handled from the WordPress dash, just an FYI.
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.
From clocks to weather reports; news feeds to social streams, constantly-refreshing local content is actually pretty easy 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.
Now I want to hear from you. Have you added local info to your site? If so, what was it and how did you implement it? I want to know all the details, so feel free to sound off in the comments.