Everyone knows that mobile marketing is huge! In fact, by 2015 it is tipped that people will use their smart phones more than their desktop computers. For internet marketers this means that your content needs to be viewable on mobile devices (smart phones and tablets). Right now you can probably “view” your content on a smart phone but it’s a challenge ….scrolling, zooming and squinting are involved!
Now, some people may think that they don’t need to do anything because who would be going to your website on a mobile phone anyways? Well the truth is that more and more people are doing searches every day for all sorts of things on their mobile phone. If you want to find out if people are searching for your keywords on their mobile phone just go to the Google Keywords tool and choose from the Devices menu “all mobile devices”. Type in your keyword as usual and sit back and be amazed at how many people are searching for your keywords right now.
So, hopefully we’ve established very quickly why you need a mobile website …now it’s time to look at plugins.
Before I do list the top 5 plugins available for free in the WordPress repository I do want to say one thing that may raise a little controversy :)
Here’s the thing, personally, I don’t think every WordPress site should be mobilized with a WordPress plugin. In fact, it’s like all things WordPress with me – just because you can do it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Let me explain
Mobile plugins for WordPress sites work very well when they are little blogs with regularly updated content. The front of your phone will display the latest posts and they’ll be easy to navigate and nice and user friendly. However, sites that are a CMS, authority sites and ecommerce sites do not offer the same appeal when viewed on a mobile device when a free wordpress plugin has been added. Simple reason – the plugins that are free generally do not create great site layouts and navigation menus. This makes it difficult for visitors to access the information that they might be looking for. Although the recent content might look great on the mobile device, the navigation sucks. Now, of course, this is just my opinion but simple blogs I’d use a plugin. Sites with guts I’d go with a mobile builder or script that offers you more opportunity to create great easy to use navigation for your visitors.
WP Mobile Detector - I’ve tried quite a few plugins on this site for mobile and this is the one that I’m currently testing on this site. The current plugin, at the date of this post, is compatible with WP 3.3.2.
The plugin is simple to install and use and includes an installer to choose one of the 7 themes available (or your own mobile theme). Importantly it differentiates between visitors using a standard mobile phone to access your site and those using a smart phone (not everyone has a smart phone!). It automatically formats the content and resizes it to fit the screen and is said to detect over 5,000 mobile phones.
Included in this plugin is a statistics module where you can track unique visitors, visits,mobile search engine bots and more. I prefer it to other mobile plugins I tried because from my testing it was the one that displayed my site best on both my phone and tablet.
There is also a premium version of this plugin available from the developer’s site. I use the free version.
WP Touch WordPress plugin – This is by far the most popular free WordPress plugin. Any site that is serious about its navigation should use this plugin. It gives webmasters the opportunity to have a nice splash screen setting out the navigation of the site or even a regular page. Alternatively, if you have a smaller site then you can just use the post view (similar to the plugin above).
WP Touch works with the most popular mobile devices (but doesn’t profess to work with all of them). One of the good things about the plugin is that it is quite fast loading.
Another advantage of WP Touch is that you can insert your own adsense or admob code for those that like to earn a few pennies from adsense.
I’m a big fan of WP Touch but I don’t use it anymore on this site. Simple reason – it didn’t display nicely on my ipad. Other users in the forums from time to time have reported similar issues and presumably it was a little bug that has now been fixed.
There’s also a premium version of WP Touch where you get more features and more control over styling. I’m not a big fan of their pricing structure for the premium version but if you were leaning towards getting it the Developer version would be the best value.
WordPress Mobile Pack – Another popular plugin in the WordPress repository. Although the repository shows that it is compatible with 3.0.5 it worked fine on a 3.3.2 installation for me.
This plugin is described as a “complete toolkit to help mobile your WordPress site”. It includes a mobile theme switcher to select themes based on the type of visitor hitting your site. It also includes a handy admin panel so the site authors can make posts on the run.
One of the things that I do like about this plugin is that it works with a networked set up. However, it is of concern that the plugin was last updated in 2010 (at the time of writing) and as we know mobile technology is constantly changing and this plugin may not be taking into account all the mobile devices that there are currently.
This plugin includes as well a mobile ad widget for Google Adsense or Admob ads. It also has some simple analytics so you can track your mobile visitors.
Unlike most plugins in the WordPress repository this one comes with comprehensive instructions for setting up and installing the plugin and testing your installation.
WPMS Mobile Edition – Don’t be fooled by the fact that this plugin is called WordPress Multi Site Mobile Edition. It works on both multi site networked set ups and normal blogs.
By default it displays the plain Carrington theme but you can choose and upload your own mobile theme for use with it. The plugin is compatible with version 3.1.4 of WordPress at the time of writing.
The plugin is easy to install from the WordPress dashboard. You will also need to install the latest Carrington Mobile Theme (or upload your own). You only need to install the theme not activate it. Then simply activate the plugin and it will automatically go to work detecting the mobile browsers used by visitors and displaying a mobile version of your site.
Wapple Architect Plugin – If you are familiar with Wapple mobile site builder then you will find using the Wapple plugin a breeze. If you aren’t then you are in for a learning curve. This plugin is by far the one that has the most customization to allow your mobile site to look like your desktop site but it also has the most configuration. I’ve played around with the Wapple Architect interface before (there is a free version for you to play with too). Wapple uses it’s own web services to display your blog. One of the great things about is that any theme you’ve installed on your site and customized will be used on your mobile version. If you are into “branding” then this will suit you to a tee.
Most wordpress plugins redirect your blog to a mobile version of the site but not Wapple. Wapple uses the exact same url for both the mobile and desktop version meaning that your SEO efforts can all be directed to the one place. The plugin automatically resizes images, retains your SEO, integrates advertising, can be used with a networked site and loads of other features. If you want control, branding and SEO then Wapple is worth checking out.
In order to get started you will need to sign up with Wapple and get a key. Once you’ve installed the plugin you will need to insert your key into the field provided in your WordPress dashboard.
Word of warning – according to the forums if you reach a certain number of page views per month your site will become “ad funded” for the rest of the month (meaning Wapple will be displaying ads on your site). There doesn’t appear to be an option to pay for ad free service.
My pick – for ease of use, design, overall mobile compatibility it would have to be WP Touch. However, before you run out and install a plugin assess what your site needs are and if you should be using a plugin, a html/php script or a builder.