If you are thinking about creating an online directory, it’s important to understand the processes involved in developing, building, launching and marketing your site in the first year and beyond.
Nature of online directory
An Online directory is a kind of platform business model whose value is created by promoting interaction and exchange of information between producers and consumers.
By broad definition, an Online Directory is a website listing individuals or organizations with information such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
The value of an online directory, hence, lies in the exchange of information about listing contents between listing owners and visitors.
Directory owners have a place to show their listings to many users while visitors can access your site and find useful information of any directories.
There are two main areas to focus on when starting an online directory:
- Developing the business plan or idea behind the directory
- Getting the word out and promoting your directory
First is the development of the directory as a business itself. This aspect focuses on what you are providing to people and how effectively you are providing it.
Next, we walk through on the promotion of the site and growing its readership. Even the best and most original of ideas and businesses need to get noticed and must constantly work to find new ways to spread the word about their idea or product.
How to make money with your directory website
Generally speaking, the way to make money from any services you provide is to charge for the value your services can create for users. In other words, users need to pay to get the benefits from your services. So how does this relate to an Online Directory?
As discussed, the main value of an online directory platform derives from the exchange of information between listing owners and visitors. Taking advantage of this type of exchange, you could earn money by effectively taking control of the information exchange flow between two sides.
Mentioning the exchange of information, let’s first talk about the side of listing owners who offer the information. Their purpose when coming to an online directory website is to have their listings displayed on your site. So, to monetize from this target, you can make them pay to list. One popular method is Paid listings.
This is the big money maker of your directory site. Listing owners will pay to get their places listed on your site.
You can offer different pricing plans, each of which includes different benefits. It can be a page introducing solely about your pricing plans. Be clear about why customers should buy listings on your site, how much each plan costs, and what they will get in return. Make it easy and convenient for customers to buy listings.
But, are your customers willing to pay? And how many people will do it? The answer lies your site quality. The more the traffic to your site, the higher the chance all the listed places are noticed, and the more convincible the reasons to buy your listings.
For a newly established site, having a huge traffic is not what you can do in one or two days. One strategy you can consider is allowing free listings at first to attract more listing owners. It can be free for the first 5 listings, or free listings in the first month. Fees will be collected later on. During the free period, it is important to prove that your site is a worthwhile online directory and that staying on your site will bring benefits to your customers.
Featured listings & Special places for listings
You could go further with another revenue model – Featured Listings and Special places for listings.
Choosing this plan, listing owners will have directories appeared at special spots on site, which stands more ability to draw the attention from the audience. The more visitors to site, the more attractive the featured listings.
A special event, promotion news
Besides earning money from the directory listing, you can charge when listing owners want to add an event, promotion news to their listings.
This is preferred to listings that have been on your site for a period of time. Promotion campaigns, discount news, giveaway events, etc. are effective strategies to make better engagement with the audience.
Marketing to the audience
Another revenue model to monetize from listing owners is lending them your visitor database. You will help them send promotion news, advertise marketing campaigns to the list of subscribers on your site. By this way, listings will be promoted not only on site but also personally to their email addresses. As long as your site has collected a big customer database, this method is expected to be an effective money-making tool.
And, if done well, you will provide useful and relevant information to the target users. Needless to say, once users got interested in what shared from your site, the chance they access such information is higher, which is the goal of listing owners when using this marketing plan. Moreover, besides monetary benefit, your site also earns a good reputation from this strategy. Your site will be seen as a quality site for helpful and reliable knowledge sharing, which in the long run leads to higher traffic and bigger revenue.
And, surely I can’t leave out the typical business model of offering spaces for advertisements. You can sell advertising by allowing banners, text ads, and video ads to be put at some specific positions on your site. You can earn quite much from advertisements once you’ve built a sufficient traffic to make your site an attractive place for advertisers.
Collecting membership fee from listing owners is another business model. It can be made on an annual basis or month. Similar to Paid listings, but, instead of charging per listing, this method will charge per listing owner allowing them to be active on your site in a predefined period of time. Based on the quality of the audience on your site, listings owners will decide whether to join or not.
The membership fee is beneficial for listing quality control. Once deciding to join, listing owners will be more serious and act accordingly, and of course, spammers will be reduced significantly.
You can also apply this fee for site visitors. However, consider this method carefully. In my opinion, membership fees should only be applied to high-quality listings, to which members are willing to pay to get access.
Otherwise, it should be easy and convenient for visitors to join your directory site so that you have more opportunity to build a solid traffic to your site, which provides an ideal condition to attract more listings. As a result, it will create the balance in the number of both sides of customers: listing owners and site visitors. More directory owners pay to have listings on site whereas visitors will keep coming back to your site due to its rich and informative content.
In a nutshell, there are a number of ways to make money from Online Directory Business:
- Paid listings
- Featured listings & Special places for listings
- A special event, promotion news
- Marketing to the audience
- Membership fees
To effectively make money from online directory business, it is important to bring the most value for users. Select and apply suitable monetization strategies so that you could simultaneously get both sides of customers on site and utilize the ability to exchange information between listing owners and visitors.
Here are some key points to note when starting and building your own directory listing business
Any business, even an online business, is rarely an overnight success story. Honing vision for a site, developing content, getting indexed by Google and building lucrative business partnerships are all critical elements to building a successful online directory, and each of those steps take time. There’s a very good chance you likely won’t see ROI in the first few months, but if you invest your time wisely, and treat your venture as a business, not just a side venture, you have the opportunity to generate significant recurring revenue.
If you throw in the towel after three months, however, you’ll likely never know what potential your vision had, and in that short span of time, you’ve never really given your business a chance. Every good thing takes time to blossom and flourish, and your directory site is no exception.
Target a Niche
Targeting a specific niche such as dentists, plumber, accountants or even car detailers will get you more subscribers than generalizing all industries in one directory.
People feel connected to a group or interest they have in common, so creating a directory that specializes in listing all the dentists in a particular country or state will yield better results both for you and your targeted market.
Develop a Strong Value Proposition
Based on the niche you have selected, you should develop a very poignant value proposition. This should include the strengths and attributes that your site offers that others don’t. You should continue to develop your site with this value proposition in mind. Build to your advantages and apply what you have learned from your research.
This proposition will be the answer to the question “Why should I come to your site?” or “Why would I want to list on your site?” Having a definitive and persuasive answer to questions of this kind will be an important tool when lobbying for your initial sponsors.
Establish a Brand
As you start to develop your directory, you should make it your goal to make a name for yourself, and establish your site as the leading media vehicle for your area of interest. If you’re developing a Ski Resort Directory, you should be known as the “go-to source” for skiing information. If you are creating a local search site, you should make a name for yourself locally and be the voice of your town, someone who has the finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the area, day in and day out.
Developing a brand is similar to putting a personality on your business or project. Align your brand with the things you learned from your research and your value proposition.
What do you want people to think of when they see your logo or your site? Do you want to be seen as informative, discerning and serious or open, knowledgeable and friendly? Make these decisions first and keep them in mind when decided on a brand name, logo, color scheme, typeface, catchphrase (if you have one) and overall writing style. You want all of the visual elements of your site and your brand to convey the symbol of the brand that you are creating.
Listings are the building blocks of your directory and the bulk of the data that will drive future visitors and sponsors. You should heavily, but honestly populate your directory as best you can. Fill your site with the type of listings that you want your site to be the main resource for My Profit Store’s directory’s “Claim this Listing” feature will allow this listing/business owner’s to claim them at any time and become paying members of your site if they want to edit or promote their information.
Because each page has its own mini ‘website’ with a unique, SEO-optimized URL, it’s important to have listings in your directory, so these URLs can be crawled and indexed by Google even before your site is launched.
Speaking of SEO, its now time to move away from the planning and setup phase of your directory and onto the marketing and promotional aspects that will drive traffic and help you start generating revenue.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it is more commonly called, can be a daunting task and confuse even the most tech-savvy of business owners. SEO can be made simpler if you focus on just a few key factors for optimizing your site.
If you don’t have the time to invest in SEO please contact us and we can assign an account manager to manage your directories SEO.
If you run a business or website then you have a certain expertise that can be shared with your prospects. You can show you are knowledgeable and have a chance to build up trust in your ability as a potential product or service provider. Content provides a great opportunity to become the first stop for any kind of information in your market.
Articles & Blogging
The simplest, yet most effective, way to leverage this expertise is through business articles and blogging. It allows you to demonstrate your know-how and become your own micro media company, able to publish your knowledge for others to see. Educating your readers is key, it will be easier to sell your site’s benefits when people trust your authority and see you as a thought leader.
This type of content will help you to build up your inbound links and also help to raise your website’s rank for main keywords and phrases, which are crucial for SEO and growing your site’s organic traffic.
High-quality content is meant to go a step deeper than articles and blogging and really drill down into some topics for your visitors. The goal of this content is to convert a lead to a customer.
An example of this is that your blog may have brought in a visitor to your site and helped them to understand what your business is about. Now you can introduce them to a case study that shows the direct benefits of your services and provides them with a clear success story that they can relate to. Sharing a real-life success story will help them feel more comfortable with becoming a customer themselves.
Besides case studies, some other examples of high-quality content that can be highly effective include webinars, white papers, eBooks, tutorials, slide decks, demos, videos, and infographics.
Keep Content Fresh
One of the best ways to both attract new visitors to your site, as well as keep visitors coming back to your site is to constantly produce fresh content. Doing feature stories on businesses or topics that are relevant to your site, interviewing key figures in your space, or doing a review on a new restaurant all have a very significant impact on attracting, and keeping site visitors. Google puts a big weight in freshness when it comes to content you’re producing and adding to your site, and accordingly, can help to impact your site ranking in search engines.
It’s important to understand what your budget will be and how much you will be able to spend. If you want to help get the word out about your website in person, it might require making an investment in marketing collateral, promotional materials, or your business may benefit more from online advertising in order to gain significant traction to your site. Plan your spends accordingly and stretch your budget as much as possible.
Some of the lower cost options for physical marketing collateral would include business cards, fliers, napkins, buttons, window stickers and more. Resources like Vistaprint can be great places to find professional yet affordable materials.
For online advertising, Google Adwords is the standard on the web. With an account, you can pay Google to have your site’s advertisement show up whenever someone searches for keywords that you are interested in. You can choose the specific keywords and phrases you want, how much you are willing to spend, the location of the searcher, the time of day searched and more to ensure you optimize to reach your ideal customers.
Local Search site owners also have the luxury of advertising relatively cheaply through Google Adwords. With keywords and phrases as low as 5-10 cents per click, and Google periodically offering $100 credits to start, this can be a great way to drive traffic to your site and build repeat visitors at a lower cost.
Many people often ask the best way to make a sale to a business in their directory. The important thing to remember is that before you make a sale, you need to build a solid relationship with potential advertisers. Rather than walking into a business, slides in hand, trying to pitch them on a sponsorship opportunity, it’s better to form business relationships first and foremost. Introduce yourself as THE person who has started a directory where people come to find businesses like theirs and explain to them the opportunities that they can take advantage of (free listings, guest blog posts, etc).
In making a name for yourself and getting the word out about your directory, it’s important to get in front of most, if not all decision-makers in your industry. The best way to get yourself introduced to businesses that are populating your directory, or other potential advertisers, is to take a journalistic angle. Rather than go in to pitch them advertising or talk up your directory, try asking them to do a feature story, article, or interview. These are things that add value to your site and also make for a great ‘in’ to any business you’re pursuing.
Never Stop Working
The success of your site is directly correlated with how much work you put into that site. Our most successful clients have been on board with us for a few years, and they constantly work at improving their site on a daily basis, and they’ve all at one point or another, followed most, if not all of steps 1-9.
Even after your site becomes profitable, you shouldn’t be putting your site on cruise control. The only way to maintain the success and exceed it is to strive for continuous improvements and to always be on the lookout for new market trends and opportunities.
You should be meeting new businesses, updating your listings, posting news stories or writing whitepapers in addition to finding new markets, creating new marketing campaigns and finding innovative ways to strengthen your brand.