5 WordPress Plugins Every Local Business Website Needs
Just the other day, I received a slick menu/flyer/advertisement from a new pizza restaurant in my mailbox at my home. I looked at their address but didn’t recognize the street name. I assumed they must be close, or else they wouldn’t have targeted me for their advertising. Yet when I looked for a map to see exactly where they were, there was none.
They had gone to all that time and expense to print up a very slick flyer with full-color pictures of pizzas and nachos and cheese cakes, and yet for some reason they wanted me to go online and type in their address in order to try to find out where they were.
Well, of course they didn’t want to inconvenience me like that. But they did. They simply weren’t thinking about the questions a customer might have—as we talked about in a previous post.
And so with that, we start this list of five plugins every local business should have with a pretty obvious one …
1. A Map Plugin
In addition to simply letting people know how to get to you, some people want someone local simply because they feel more comfortable knowing that you’re nearby. We talked in another post about how listing your physical address increases your credibility. Putting a map on your site increases that piece of credibility even more.
Google Maps Plugin Lite
WPMUDev offers a free Google map plugin here. This plugin allows you to put maps on pages, posts, and in sidebars. It puts an “Add Map” icon to your visual editor. And it includes a customizable widget.
Google Maps Plugin
There is also a pro version here. In addition to the features listed above for the Lite version, the Pro version lets you create as many maps as you like, lets you choose from road, satellite, hybrid, and terrain views, has advanced options for sizes, and of course comes with guaranteed support and updates.
2. A Mobile Conversion Plugin
Plugins that convert your site to a mobile version when a mobile device is detected is especially important for local businesses. Some types of businesses need this more than others, obviously. A restaurant is a classic example. When people are out and about and decide they want to get something to eat, they will often jump on their smartphones.
But a mobile conversion plugin is smart for almost any company that does business locally. The reason for this is simple—people are simply on their mobile devices more than ever. You might not think that an accounting firm, for example, would really require a mobile version of their site. But consider this scenario. Someone needs help with their taxes. They’ve been putting off finding an accountant. While walking through the park one nice day after lunch, they decide that it’s something they need to finally do. They have fifteen minutes before they need to be back to work, so they figure, “Why not?” and whip out their phone.
This is how a lot of business and errands get done these days. People connect and take action wherever they are because they can. If your site is hard for them to navigate on their mobile devices, they will probably just move on.
There are a number of mobile conversion plugins out there. Here are three:
The Wapple plugin claims its plugin is different from other for several reasons, among them …
- It retains the styling of your site from the original version to the mobile version.
- There is no redirection to a mobile version on your site – the URLs are exactly the same as on your regular site.
The WP Mobile Dector’s main claim is that it can automatically detect if the visitor is using a smart phone or a standard mobile phone. It then loads the appropriate theme accordingly.
3. Mobile Smart
One of Mobile Smarts main claims is that it allows your user to manually switch between desktop and mobile versions. It also has template functions that help determine what type of mobile device is accessing your site—a tablet, a smartphone, or other.
3. A Text Chat Plugin
A chat plugin is important to have on your site for a number of important reasons.
- It lets people get info immediately.
- It lets them easily ask questions they can’t find the answer to.
- It creates an interactive and live type of communication. This type of immediacy helps you build a stronger relationship and more trust with your visitors.
WordPress Chat Plugin
WPMUDev has a pro chat plugin available here.
This plugin allows you to have as many chats as you like on any post or page. It includes gravatars, emoticons, logs, and numerous customization options. Users can logon in several ways, including using their Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress accounts.
Free Google Talk Plugins
There are also free chat plugins available. They may offer fewer options, and at times may be a little less stable, but they are a possible alternative.
In both of these Google Talk chat plugins, you will need to find your personal Google Talk Hash Key (ID). This is easier than it sounds. You will simply need to be logged into your Google account, and then follow the link and the instructions that the plugins give you. It should be noted that in order for you to use the chat on your site, you will need to be logged into your Google Talk account. If not, it will show you as offline. Visitors can still leave you a message even though you are offline, however.
4. A Phone Plugin
A phone plugin is similar to the chat plugin above, except that it lets your visitors connect with you via audio. I would suggest having both text and audio. Different people will definitely prefer one over the other.
I came across this plugin recently, and it seems to be quite handy. It allows your visitors to choose one of three ways to contact you: via the browser, from a phone, or with Skype.
You can also set up several ways in order to receive calls. It seems that calling to a landline is where the company plans to charge and make its money in the future, but there is an option to receive calls to your Skype account (without the caller knowing your Skype ID).
I did a test on this and called myself. I used my web browser to call my Skype account. It worked like a charm right out of the box. … I might also add that it was the most interesting conversation I’ve had in ages. :)
The one thing that could use some improving with this plugin is button positioning options. As it stands, you can’t just put your “Call” button anywhere you like. You have the option of putting it at the top, at the bottom, on the left, or on the right. At first I went looking for the button in my widgets section because I thought I would be able to put it wherever I pleased. But there was no widget for it. It was then I discovered that the buttons appear automatically when the plugin is activated, and you control the position through the backend of the plugin.
5. A Contact Form Plugin
Some people are understandably reluctant to install any more plugins than they have to. And so because of this, some choose not to put even a basic contact form on their site. They reason that if they make an email address available, then that’s enough.
And while it may be technically enough, a contact form adds a lot of convenience for the visitor. If you only make an email address available, then your visitor will need to copy the address, log onto their email account, open up their editor, paste your email address in, and only then can they begin to send you a message.
In this day and age where we’ve gotten used to click-and-shoot, that’s a lot. So do your visitors a favor, use a contact form.
WPMUDev Contact Widget
WPMUDev has a pro version contact widget available here. It’s simple and easy. Just pop it into any widget.
One of the more famous WordPress contact form plugins is the Contact Form 7. At nearly 5 million downloads at the time of this writing, it’s safe to say it’s been tested. You can have several forms on your site, and it supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, and Akismet spam filtering. Contact Form 7 is relatively simple, but it does the trick.
The Fast Secure Contact Form is also a well-know WordPress contact plugin. At the time of this writing, its download total was approaching 2 million. With a slightly more complex backend, it might appeal to users that desire more options at their fingertips.
Regardless of which contact form you go with, you should take into consideration that some people don’t completely trust contact forms. They feel that when they hit send on a contact form, their very important message seems to disappear into the vast whiteness of cyberspace (even when a confirmation message appears). Of course with email their message also goes into cyberspace, but they are familiar with their email client, and they also have a “Sent” box that assures them their missive was aimed in the right directions. For this reason, you may want to include an email address in addition to your contact form.
Convenience is the Word
All five of these WordPress plugins for local business sites are about convenience—convenience for the visitor. Yes, there are other plugins that can surely help a local business site, such as a good SEO plugin, but when you’re doing business locally, it means a large part of your business is about connecting with your customers. And one of the best ways to facilitate that is to make connecting convenient.
>> Does anyone have suggestions for other plugins a local business should be running? If so, leave a comment below.