Launching an online business directory isn’t like opening a coffee shop on Main Street. Nobody passes by a website and randomly decides to pop in. That’s why marketing and promotion are so important for digital businesses. It’s also why publishers need to work so hard when they’re promoting a business directory, if they want to generate traffic and cultivate a loyal audience.
You might be wondering what it means to promote a business directory, and which tactics are most effective for building an engaged audience. While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for promoting a business directory, there are certain approaches that work better than others.
When it comes time to promote a business directory, you have more options than you may realize. Some of the marketing strategies highlighted below may seem obvious, but all of them have proven to be highly effective for digital publishers.
1. House Ads on Your Website
Why promote other people’s businesses when you can promote your own? Running house ads for your new business directory on the homepage of your publication’s existing website allows you to capitalize on your audience. Consider placing a banner ad for your new business directory directly above the header on your website, or along the sidebar on any article pages. Static ads will work just fine here, but slideshows and galleries are also useful ad formats when you’re promoting a business directory.
2. Promotion in Email Newsletters
Most digital publishers already have lists of email subscribers who’ve indicated they’re interested in the publication. These subscribers are the perfect audience for a new business directory. Take advantage of the audience you have already built by inviting your existing email subscribers to check out your new business directory before its “official” launch. This lends the air of exclusivity and it will get people talking. A well-placed link in the header or footer of an email newsletter can work wonders at getting people to click over, as can an embedded logo or a static ad.
3. Search Engine Optimization
When people search for businesses in your city on Google, which websites do they see first? Review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor get top billing in the Google search results for many small and mid-size businesses. With proper search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, you can ensure that your business directory appears on the first page of results, as well.
We’ll dig into which SEO tactics work best for business directories in a later article, but the most important thing for you to know right now is that Google heavily favors listings with complete business information, which means it’s important that you have an accurate phone number, business hours, address, and website links for as many listings as possible.
4. Pay-Per-Click Ads on Google
Let’s face it, reaching the first page of Google results can be tough for a business directory that’s just getting off the ground. Why not start with a pay-per-click campaign to ensure people are finding your business directory online? You can create ads using keywords that people might use when searching for your directory—for example, local bookstores in Sacramento, California—and target those ads to people in specific zip codes or other demographic traits.
5. Exit Intent Popups
Display ads aren’t the only type of digital advertising that publishers can rely on when they’re promoting a business directory. Exit intent popups are ads that appear as an overlay in the middle of a webpage when a user moves his or her cursor towards the address bar. Although publishers usually charge a premium to run exit intent popups on their websites, these ads are free when you run them on your own publication’s website.
6. Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing never goes out of style. Get out into the community and start telling friends, acquaintances, and potential advertisers about your new business directory. While you won’t reach as many people through word-of-mouth marketing as you might with the other strategies on this list, there’s a higher chance that the people you do tell about your business directory will actually visit the website—and that they will share the directory’s link with their friends in the real world and on social media.