The Business Directory Plugin for WordPress is available as a free plugin, with additional premium modules available to extend its functionality. The plugin is one of a number of options available for adding a business directory to your WordPress site. It’s a popular choice with over 120,000 downloads and a 4.3 out of 5 star rating.
Common uses for this type of plugin include listing businesses or service providers related to your site’s subject matter, or a more general list of businesses operating in a specific geographical area. The directory can deployed as a useful addition to your website, or it could be the main focus of your site and the chief reason people visit your online presence.
Whatever reason you decide to add a business directory to your site, this plugin aims to be the solution of choice for WordPress users. This review will take a look at the features on offer, how easy the plugin is to use, and whether it’s worth the asking price.
Features and Usage
As mentioned, the core functionality of this plugin is available for free and can be installed via your WordPress dashboard or by downloading the files from the WordPress.org repository. The premium modules can be bought individually or as part of a discounted package. These files are downloaded separately and uploaded via FTP or through the WordPress plugin uploader.
Setting up the Business Directory Plugin
Once the plugin is installed and activated, two new menu items are created on the WordPress admin dashboard side menu. The first is ‘Directory’, while the other is ‘Directory Admin’. From the Directory menu item, you can view your directory and manage the directory categories, tags and listings.
The plugin also creates a page which contains the directory shortcode. This page is used for displaying the directory and its listings to the visitors of your site.
The first step in the setup process is to create at least one directory category. These categories work in the same way as the regular WordPress post categories, but they are a separate taxonomy which can only be applied to directory listings. Once at least one category has been created, the directory is ready to start accepting listing submissions.
Listing Submission Form Fields
The next step is to configure the form fields that are used when creating the listings. Out of the box, the plugin includes a set of form fields that can be used to capture basic information about the listings. However, it is easy enough to create additional form fields, in order to allow the directory to store and display information relevant to the types of listings in your directory.
Using the free version of the plugin, these form fields include things like the business name, the website address, and other contact information. Although you can create your own form fields, by purchasing a premium module, you can add a form field that enables file uploads, allowing you to add files such as PDFs and images to the listings.
Creating a form field is pretty straightforward. Some of the options available for the fields include setting the field type, making it a required field, validating the entry, whether to show the entry in the public view of the listing, plus a few more.
When creating a form field, the field association must be selected. This is where the field’s content will be entered and stored and applies mainly to listings that are added via the admin backend. The options include:
- Post Title
- Post Content
- Post Excerpt
- Post Category
- Post Tags
- Posts Metadata
For example, this means that whatever is entered as the post tile on the Add New Listing page will be displayed as the corresponding field on the listing, which by default, is the business name.
The data types for the form fields can include lists, radio buttons, checkboxes, email address, dates, and more.
Using the Business Directory Plugin
When it comes to populating your directory, there are two main options for adding listings. The first option is to add them through the WordPress admin area, as you would a new post. To do so, simply go to the Directory menu item and then click on ‘Add New Listing’.
From here you can create a new listing by filling in the form fields that you setup when configuring the plugin. Depending on how each field is setup, its information could be taken from the post tile, the post content, or the page’s metaboxes, as well as the directory categories or tags.
The other main option for adding listings to the directory, is through the front end of the website. The directory page contains a button which allows visitors to submit a listing to the site, via a straightforward web form.
Depending on how you’ve configured the plugin, visitors can either submit a listing immediately, or must register as a user on your site before being able to do so. Once the visitor has completed the necessary steps to be able to submit, they can then use the form to submit their listing information.
Once the listing has been submitted, it will be added to the Directory page on the WordPress backend, with the status of Pending by default.
From there, the site admin can approve the listing by changing the status to Published, after which it will be added to the directory and made visible to visitors.
By clicking on the View button, visitors can then see the detailed view of the listing and also send a message to the listing owner, by filling out a reply form. By default, the listing owner’s email address is not published on the site.
The third option for adding listings is to import them via a CSV file. This is ideal for those moving to this plugin from another option, or those who have managed their listings in another way and want to get them online quickly. Images can also be imported along with the data in the CSV file.
Other Features of the Business Directory Plugin
The above is a quick overview of the basic functionality of the plugin. However the Business Directory Plugin comes with a lot more features that allow you to setup more complex and customised directories to better meet your needs and those of your visitors.
Charge a Listings Fee
While this plugin is great for creating a free business directory, it can also be used to charge and collect a payments from those who submit a listing. The free version of the plugin includes support for taking payments via Google Checkout, but there are premium modules available for collecting payments via PayPal and 2Checkout.
Once you’ve setup a payment method, you can then create multiple fees each with their own properties, such as price, duration, number of images allowed and which directory category that particular fee applies to. The different fee plans can also give users access to different listing fields. For example, the basic fee plan might not let users list their Facebook and Twitter accounts, while the regular plan allows the listing of the Twitter account, and the premium fee plan allows the listing of both.
The plugin can be setup to require users to register with your site, using the WordPress user management functionality, before they can submit a listing. The plugin can also be integrated with a number of membership plugins, such as eMember and s2Member, for greater access restriction abilities.
Google Maps for Listings
By using the premium Google Maps module, it is possible add a Google Map to the directory and individual listings. This is a great feature to have if you are running a localised directory and want an easy way for your visitors to find listings by location. The map feature can be setup to show all listings on one map. Additional maps can also be created at category level for more targeted listings maps. With this module it is also possible to customise how the map is displayed including the size and the map type.
Another premium module allows your visitors to rate each listing. With this module enabled, visitors can rate businesses or other entitles listed on your site, making the directory even more useful to those looking for a recommendation from the community.
The options for this module allow you to set a minimum threshold for reviews received before the ratings are shown for a listing, whether unregistered users can leave a rating, require a comment to be left with the rating, auto-approve ratings or set to pending.
Regions and Zip Code Search
These are two separate premium modules. The regions module allows the listings to be classified by custom regions. The regions support hierarchies, so could be structured to include states and then cities listed under each state. While the Zip Search module allows the distance between a ZIP code entered by the user, and the listings to be calculated and displayed. The options give the choice of displaying the distance in miles or kilometres.
To prevent non-human users from submitting listings to your directory, this plugin supports the reCaptcha user verification service. The service is free so it’s well worth considering if you want to reduce the amount of spam listings and replies that are submitted to your site.
Other features include:
- Set listing duration before expiration
- Email notifications for admin of new listings
- Email confirmations for listings owner when listing is published
- Listing renewal email reminders
- Auto-approve new listings
- Charge an additional fee for featured/sticky listings
- Create multiple fee plans, each with their own listing features
The Business Directory Plugin is immensely powerful and comes packed with enough features to really enable you to build any type of directory service and control access to it in a number of ways. To get a fuller sense of what can be done with this plugin, take a look at the documentation page for more details.
Sites Using the Plugin
If you want to see the plugin in action, there are a few sites listed in the showcase on the Business Directory Plugin website. Here are some of the sites that have used this plugin for their directories:
The core features of the plugin are available for free as the Business Directory Plugin. This version allows you to create a directory and take payments for the listings via Google Checkout. The plugin also has a selection of premium modules which add extra functionality to the plugin.
There are currently eight premium modules available for this plugin, with more in development. Each of the existing modules is available for $49 for a single site license. However, they are available as a bundle, which includes all modules, and gives a 50% discount on the individual purchase price.
Support and Documentation
The documentation for this plugin is very detailed and is easy to read and navigate. There is an installation guide that covers the core plugin and the installation of the premium modules, as well as a quick start guide for getting up and running as soon as possible. Then for detailed information, the main support document covers all the core features plus those of the premium modules. This is a good approach as all the documentation can be found in one place, no matter which modules you have access to.
Final Conclusion and Recommendations
This is a very powerful and feature packed plugin that appears to cover every requirement and scenario that may arise when setting up a service or business directory using WordPress. While the core features of the free plugin should be enough for most basic directories, the plugin really comes into its own thanks to the premium modules.
Being able to add features such as Google Maps, star ratings and reviews, ZIP code searching and additional payment gateways, allows for the creation of impressive directories that can compete with many of the commercial directory websites out there in terms of features.
From a management perspective, the plugin is easy to administrate and makes use of the native WordPress UI, ensuring the interface is always familiar and easy to get to grips with quickly. End users shouldn’t have any trouble navigating the directory and its listings, while submitting a listing should pose no problem at all.
If you require access to all the premium modules, then the start-up costs for using the Business Directory Plugin could be more than you are used to paying for a WordPress plugin. However, for the additional features they deliver, you have the potential to recoup the investment in terms of revenue generated from paid listings, or from increased visitors to your site.
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