Geolocation in WordPress: What is it and why should you care?
Even if you have never heard of geolocation, I’m pretty sure you will have experienced it> especially if you live outside the US or have checked a US website while on holiday abroad.
Geolocation is a system that detects your computers current location, either in a broad sense such as country or even down to within a few feet or meters from where you are sat.
Many sites and apps use geolocation to improve the customer experience or restrict it, depending on need.
For example, a mapping system like Google Maps or Apple Maps, uses geolocation to detect your current position and give you an accurate route plot.
E-commerce sites, especially international ones, use geolocation to route users through to the correct location specific sub site, or to work out the correct taxes and shipping costs for you.
While geolocation is useful it can also be a pain in the rear! Take it from an expat living in a non-English speaking country, that some companies can be over enthusiastic with geolocation, and not offer alternatives (yes Google, I’m looking at you!).
However, when done right, geolocation can easily boost both user experience and website income.
There are numerous ways in which you can and benefit from geolocation with your WordPress website (the example below mainly focus on Woocommerce because, well, Woocommerce!).
The most common place you will see geolocation on the internet is on an e-commerce site.
If your business is selling products international, be them physical or digital products, you could benefit from incorporating geolocation in your site.
The most obvious use is changing the tax rate on your products, especially with the new (and ridiculous) EU VAT tax changes! Even if you only sell inside the United States, each states tax rates need to be taken into account.
For EU Vat compliance you can use Woocommerce EU VAT Compliance which provides an easy way to help with that headache!
If you need a more general tax system, the Tax Display by Country for Woocommerce plugin should be up your alley.
Currency and Price
Some businesses charge the same amount for an item in the US as they do in South Africa, but sometimes it’s good business sense to change pricing to reflect the local economy.
If that’s something you want to achieve then I would suggest Woocommerce Currency Switcher plugin which will swap your prices over to the visitor’s country currency.
You could also try the WooCommerce Product Price Based on Countries which is free on the WordPRess.org plugin repository.
What if you simply want your international visitor to see what the price is in their local currency while still charge in yours? Then pick up the Smart Currency Convertor for Woocommerce plugin. This will auto detect the visitors location and allow them to easily see how much $10 bucks is in Euros, or Australian Dollars or whatever.
Another option that only changes the currency for informational purposes is the Currency Conversion Widget.
Probably the best plugin for restricting shipping options in Woocommerce is Woocommerce Conditional Shipping and Payments, which has the added feature of restricting what payment gateways your visitor sees as well.
Sometimes you can’t sell a product to another country because it’s simply illegal to sell it there or even export it.
Using a plugin such as WooCommerce Geolocation Based Products can help with that. This plugin hides products based off of country or state code, so that your visitors from that location don’t even see the product.
Catalog Visibility Options also does something similar, should you want to turn Woocommerce into a catalogue
If your site has multiple languages, geolocation makes perfect sense. For example, if you are using a subdomain for your additional languages, you could also use the Geo Redirect plugin to send the user to the correct subdomain should they land on the wrong one. (Note, that plugin hasn’t been updated in a while, but still seems functional).
WPML, the multi-language plugin for WordPress, has a redirect feature built in that can also achieve this.
The GeoReg Lite plugin is another option, but you would need to be able to code up the redirects yourself, but it has been updated more recently.
Even if you don’t run an e-commerce store, geolocation can still be useful.
For example, you may wish to show certain content (posts, or even parts of posts) to a visitor from Canada, while hiding it from all other visitors.
One of the best, and free, plugins that you can use for this has to be Geo my WP. It’s fully featured and allows you to control posts, pages, post types by location. You can use it with BuddyPress and even search content by location (useful for directory sites!). It really is a Swiss Army knife for WordPress geolocation.
Another option, that includes a shortcode feature for post content, is WP Pro Geo Targeting. This plugin also allows full posts to be shown by country.
If you are looking for something that can give you the data and allow you to do something custom, then I would suggest checking out GeoIP Detect – if you’re not comfortable coding though, I’d skip this one.
It makes financial sense, as well as customer experience sense, to geolocate adverts. You’re much more likely to have customers click and advert if it is relevant to them, which not all services or products are.
Two plugins that can assist with this are:
Geo Ads Switcher – a true geo location plugin for your adverts, whether they are from Adsense or custom made.
WP PRO Advertising System – This plugin actually doesn’t have geolocation, but can use its sister plugin WP Pro Geo Targeting alongside this one to give you all the advert features plus geolocation.
The popular Ad Rotate plugin also has a geo targeting feature for adverts as well!
Similar to adverts, many WordPress websites use affiliate links. Most are location neutral, but some, especially Amazon, are very much location specific. Combine this with the fact that a large number of the links are in the content itself and you have a bit of a nightmare.
The best solution for this is a plugin called Easy Azon.
This is really easy to use, and virtually one click can enable the plugin to dynamically change your Amazon links dependant on the country the visitor is on. This small change can drastically change your income, especially if your site focuses on Amazon affiliation!
Maps and route finders
One classic way to implement geolocation on your WordPress site is to use a mapping system.
For example, you could use a plugin like CP Google Maps to link an address in a post to a Google Map.
How about adding a map to your business website that geolocates the visitor and plans a route from them to your business? You can do that with the Google Maps Module with Geolocation plugin.
The final use for WordPress geolocation plugins is somewhat controversial: blocking people by country.
It’s awful to think that in this connected world of ours, that some websites will simply stop customers from viewing their site, or particular content based on their country of residence.
However, there are some good reasons for it too:
- Not all content can legally be shown in other countries
- As a business you simply do not sell outside of your own country
- To block hackers/spammer/naughty people who are harassing your website from a particular country.
Blocking visitors on a country level is a big decision to make, but if more people from that country cause you problems versus the number that can benefit you then it is understandable.
On one of my sites, visitors from a certain non-English speaking country are hammering my site. From the stats, they never go anywhere but the home page, or the login page so it’s easy to deduce these are merely hackers and bots trying to worm their way into my site.
For that reason alone it makes sense to block that country, with little to no financial impact on my site.
The following plugins can block unwanted visitors:
My favourite out of that bunch has to be IQ Block Country, it’s easy to set up, works for both the front and backend, and it just simply works.
There are so many different ways that you can extend your WordPress site with geolocation, that the question is why would you use geolocation, but why aren’t you using it already!
Just remember to have pity on us poor expats and take into consideration that being forced into a certain route is poor user experience.
Have you used geolocation on your WordPress site? Let me know how you did it and how it has benefited you, via the comments below.