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live events

Publishers Are Using Live Events to Combat Lagging Ad Sales – Here’s How

After two years of financial struggles and employee layoffs, the women’s lifestyle publisher Refinery29 is now starting to capitalize on the success of its live events to turn things around. Here’s how the company is growing its pop-up series, and how other digital publishers can turn live events into a reliable source of revenue.

Like so many other digital lifestyle publishers, Refinery29 has struggled to grow in a tough ad climate. Rather than focusing on subscriptions and reader membership programs, Refinery29 is looking to live events as a way to generate revenue outside of online advertising.

Although Refinery29 has been hosting live events since 2015, the company recently announced that it is growing its pop-up series—dubbed 29Rooms—and expanding into international locations. The move comes at a time when Refinery29 is looking to grow its non-advertising revenue. Thirty-percent of Refinery29’s revenue comes from sources outside of digital advertising, including ticket sales for 29Rooms and other related events, but that figure could be much higher in the future.

Refinery29 isn’t the only digital publishing company looking to expand its live events programming as they decrease their reliance on other forms of online advertising. A number of popular magazines, including Smithsonian, Travel & Leisure, and Wired, are leveraging live events in the same way.

Let’s take a closer look at what these publishers, and others, are doing right and how they are making their live events successful.

Maximizing Ticket Value

The amount that a publisher charges for tickets to a live event depends largely on the demographics of the attendees. Refinery29 charges $40 a pop for tickets to its 29Rooms events, which are frequented by millennial women.

Publishers can charge more for tickets to an event geared towards corporate executives than to an event geared towards teenagers or twenty-somethings. Publishers need to understand the demographics of their audiences in order to correctly price their events.

Finding Premium Brand Sponsors

Sponsorships are one of the keys to success for live events programming. Executives will pay a premium to attach their brands to high-end events. With paying sponsors on board, publishers can decrease the price of tickets for attendees. This has the added benefit of increasing the number of likely ticket buyers, thus giving sponsors even more bang for their buck. The more prominently a publisher displays sponsor logos, and the more people who attend the conference or live event, the more sponsors will pay to participate.

Leveraging Sponsorship Deals

Most sponsors will pay to have their logos included on promotional materials, like brochures and step-and-repeats. They may also be willing to donate product, which can be particularly useful depending on the type of brand sponsoring the event. For example, at the Vulture Festival (an event put on by New York Magazine) sponsors Eli, Fiji, and Stella Artois gave away beverages to attendees. Another sponsor, the Viceroy Hotel, invited on-stage panelists to stay at their property.

Keeping Costs Low

Soliciting product donations from event sponsors isn’t the only way publishers can reduce overhead costs. In fact, many successful live events have been organized on shoestring budgets. City and regional magazine publishers will often host meet-and-greet events with readers as a way to boost engagement and promote subscription packages. Newsroom tours are another popular option that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Think of these types of events as field trips for adults. Readers pay for the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes look inside their favorite publications, along with the chance to meet reporters and let them know what topics they’re interested in reading more about.

Turning Events into Digital Content

Looking to squeeze every ounce of juice from their live events, publishers have started recording the original programming and publishing that content in the form of podcasts, e-books, and videos. On-demand videos from summits and conferences are particularly popular right now, as attendees look for ways to share what they learned with colleagues back home.

Bundling Deals for Advertisers

Although most of this list involves strategies for decreasing publishers’ reliance on digital advertising, there are a number of ways that publishers can also use live events to strengthen their existing relationships with advertisers. For starters, publishers can offer discounted, or even free, sponsorship opportunities for businesses that advertise on their websites for a certain period of time. These types of deals are a great opportunity to sell advertisers on larger packages, as well.

Overcome a Drop in Subscribers

Publishing 101: How to Overcome a Drop in Subscribers

The number of people willing to pay for subscriptions to digital news publications has started to decline — here’s what publishers can do to overcome a drop in subscribers.

After years of stagnant subscription sales, it seemed as though news publishers had finally turned things around in 2017. Fresh off the U.S. presidential election, digital subscription rates were reaching all time highs.

A 2017 survey by Reuters Institute found that the number of people paying for online news jumped from 9% in 2016 to 16% in 2017. Those who paid said they were more interested in news reporting that lifestyle and entertainment content, and many publishers shifted their editorial efforts to capitalize on the shift in reader interests. By 2018, 44% of publishers listed digital subscriptions as their most important revenue stream.

Strong subscription programs have helped digital publishers decrease their reliance on digital advertising revenue. The change in strategy has largely been seen as a deft move—one that has bolstered the strength of newsrooms around the country—but new research indicates that there could be a hiccup in the plan.

A new survey, released by Reuters Institute, cautions that the number of consumers who are willing to pay for online subscriptions is small, and that “subscription barriers could end up annoying consumers further and giving people another reason to turn away from news.”

Even more worrisome for digital publishers, Reuters’ survey indicates usage of software or browser extensions to get around online paywalls is on the rise. For publishers who’ve decreased their reliance on digital advertising, a drop in subscribers could be trouble.

What’s the solution?

For starters, we’re recommending that digital publishers who’ve noticed a drop in subscribers consider changing up their subscription packages. They may want to consider introducing membership programs instead. Buzzfeed and The Daily Beast are just two examples of publishers who have launched online membership programs. Other digital outlets, including Fortune, HuffPost, and Yahoo Finance, are expected to come out with similar programs later this year.

Membership programs are different from subscriptions, in that they make readers feel like they have a greater stake in the game. Members are a part of the team, whereas subscribers are merely readers of a publication. Membership programs also tend to come with extra perks, like newsroom tours and reporter meet-and-greets. These serve as powerful incentives that encourage people to pay for the news they consume, but they don’t necessarily cost publishers a fortune to implement.

Another, perhaps less desirable option, is for publishers to return to digital advertising. Yes, display rates have dropped in recent years, but there are still plenty of opportunities for digital publishers who are interested in going this route. Native advertising and sponsored content give digital publishers a way to connect with business advertisers at a higher price point, without involving the programmatic networks.

Publishers who feel committed to their existing subscription programs can try discounts or limited-time offers as a way to overcome a drop in subscribers. That’s what The New York Times has done. The company ran an introductory offer that charged readers just $1-a-week for one-year. That offer produced strong results, in terms of bringing in new subscribers, but it’s too soon to tell whether readers who purchased subscriptions at discounted rates will continue past their initial trial periods and pay full price in the future.

Publishers can also expand their service areas to bring new readers in. This strategy works best for regional publishers and hyperlocal publishers. By expanding the geographic areas they cover, publishers are introducing themselves to new groups of readers who may be willing to pay for access to their websites.

Digital publishers also have to overcome the sense among consumers that online news is something they can get for free. That might mean creating stronger paywalls, or it might mean posting less content on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. What we know for sure is that exclusive, original reporting is always going to be a key element in a successful subscription program.

Readers cannot be expected to pay for content they can consume for free elsewhere on the web, but we’re still seeing plenty of indications that readers are willing to pay for access to premium content that’s relevant to their lives.

Has your publication noticed a drop in subscribers, and if so, which strategies have you implemented to reverse the trend?

Social Media for Directory Publishers

The Ultimate Social Media Checklist for Directory Publishers

If you’ve got a solid SEO strategy in place and your online directory still isn’t ranking highly in Google search results, then a lack of social media awareness could be to blame.

Many directory publishers are under the impression that organic traffic alone is enough to sustain their businesses. That may be true in some cases, but the vast majority of directory publishers need to step it up with a solid social media strategy if they want to build momentum and generate sustainable revenue from their websites. The challenge in creating an effective social media plan is often knowing where to begin.

Building a social media profile for a traditional local business, like a restaurant or a clothing store, is easy. Plenty of tools are available to help small business owners do just that. But directory publishers have a unique set of challenges as the owners of online businesses, and specific goals that they need to reach before they can consider their social media efforts a success. Getting profiles set up across all the major social media channels is just the first step.

If the thought of scheduling posts on Twitter and running ads on Facebook leaves you feeling overwhelmed, or if you’re not even sure which social media tasks you should be doing in which order, then keep reading for a step-by-step social media checklist designed specifically for directory publishers.

First Steps for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers who are still in the earliest stages of creating a social media strategy should begin by completing the following tasks:

  • Creating profiles across all relevant social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn
  • Ensuring all branding, logos, and images are consistent across social profiles
  • Promoting new social pages with links on all directory pages, as well as in any email newsletters
  • Researching the best posting times to maximize post views based on target demographics and the social media channels you’re posting on
  • Promoting new social pages with paid advertising campaigns

Daily Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks every day:

  • Replying to comments across all social media channels
  • Monitoring mentions of the directory on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Reviewing the established posting calendar
  • Researching industry-related keywords and hashtags

Weekly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks at least once each week:

  • Brainstorming new content and updating the posting schedule for the week
  • Visiting competitors’ social media pages and tracking which of their posts are receiving the most interaction
  • Reviewing any paid campaigns and tracking the results

Monthly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks on a monthly basis:

  • Collecting monthly statistics across all active social channels
  • Analyzing which strategies are working and which are not
  • Comparing monthly page statistics against competitors’
  • Researching upcoming industry events and related news items that could be used on social channels

Quarterly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks at least four times per year:

  • Reviewing branding and remedying any inconsistencies across social channels (for example, updating profiles with new logos or company descriptions)
  • Evaluating the past quarter’s KPIs
  • Setting goals and defining KPIs for the next quarter
  • Using a tool like SEMrush’s Social Media Poster to understand the demographics of your Facebook audience
  • Running audience analysis to ensure the right demographics are being targeted with any paid campaigns

Our goal in creating this social media checklist for directory publishers is not to make anyone feel overwhelmed. By making these tasks a regular part of your routine, the hope is that you’ll be able to easily stay current with the latest trends and be more likely to reach your target goals, whatever those goals may be.

How Job Boards Can Enhance Their SEO

Here’s How Job Boards Can Enhance Their SEO

More than a year has passed since Google for Jobs entered beta. Although there was widespread fear at the time about how the launch of Google’s job search capability would impact independent job boards and recruitment websites, the actual outcome has been far less dire than many predicted. Independent job boards can enhance their SEO strategies to compete with Google for Jobs and other mega-sized job listing aggregators.

Online recruitment is a $200 billion industry, with companies spending an average of $4,000 to schedule, interview, and assess each job candidate. With so much at stake, it’s understandable that publishers with online job boards want to do everything possible to keep their sites relevant, and to keep traffic from search engines flowing.

In this article, we’ll lay out exactly how independent job boards can enhance their SEO.

Increase the number of landing pages

Yes, we understand that creating separate landing pages for each job listing takes time. But the effort is well worth it from an SEO perspective.
Using automated processes, and taking advantage of self-serve portals with online forms that employers can use to input information for their own listings, you can quickly create separate landing pages for each listing on your job board. Along those same lines, you might also consider creating separate landing pages for each employer on the site. Each employer’s landing page would include links to that company’s active listings.

When individual job listings get their own landing pages, that increases the number of pages for search engines, like Google and Bing, to crawl. Those individual pages also give you the opportunity to have more long-tail keywords, which is an important way job boards can enhance their SEO. Having individual landing pages for each job listing and employer also means visitors will be spending more time on your website, leading directly to longer dwell times.

Create more backlinks

A backlink is an incoming link from one website to another. Basically, the more people who link to your job board, the higher your site will rank in the search engines. Google considers backlinks to be votes of confidence, telling them that your job board deserves to rank higher in search results. Of course, there’s always a caveat. Not all backlinks are created equal. Bad backlinks, the kind that come from spam sites and content mills, can actually hinder your efforts to keep your website relevant.

The good news here is that having individual landing pages for each job listing increases the number of backlinks that point to your job board. The more landing pages you have accessible on your site, the more chances there are for other reputable websites to link back. For example, there’s a chance that businesses will link to their company landing pages on your websites. Other job search aggregators may link back to your individual job listings, as well. The greater the number of landing pages you have, the greater the opportunity for backlinks.

Improve your social strategy

Did you know that search engines look at social signals, like ‘likes’ and shares, when they determine their rankings? It’s true. Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are playing an increasingly outsized role in search engine optimization. Independent job boards can enhance their SEO simply by boosting their reputation on social media.

How do you do that? For starters, make sure that social sharing links are included alongside every job listing on your website. Make it as easy as possible for visitors to share job listings with their friends. Not only will that boost your rankings in search, but it may help the employers who put listings on your website find more qualified candidates at the same time.

Don’t forget page titles and meta descriptions

You’d be surprised how many publishers forget to add unique page titles and meta descriptions to their webpages.

Meta descriptions are meant to give search engines a short description of the content on a given page. They should be no longer than 155 to 160 characters. Customizing meta descriptions, as well as page titles, will help individual pages rank better for certain long-tail keywords.

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It should go without saying, but none of these SEO strategies will work in a silo. For maximum effect, these strategies need to be taken as a whole and considered when putting together a comprehensive search optimization plan. If you’d like even more details about how an independent job boards can enhance their SEO to maximize website traffic, reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

Membership Programs for Directory Publishers

Membership Programs for Directory Publishers

Consumers are finally warming to the idea of paying for premium content, and directory publishers are capitalizing on the sea change. Like news organizations, a growing number of directory publishers are launching membership programs for their most frequent visitors.

Similar to subscription packages, premium memberships offer incremental revenue for directory publishers who’ve grown tired of the month-to-month fluctuations in display advertising.

What’s most important for directory publishers to understand is that membership programs are a beneficial tool for leveraging an existing platform. The strategy itself also fosters better relationships between publishers, readers, and business advertisers. When digital publishers launch directory membership programs, they decrease their reliance on online advertising and business sponsors.

How Do Directory Memberships Work?

One of the most successful revenue models for directory publishers is the paid membership. Paid memberships are driven by readers, which means publishers that go this route can dedicate themselves to meeting the needs of readers without having to spend time catering to the needs of advertisers.

Website visitors who’ve found value in the directory can purchase premium memberships for special access to content and other exclusive benefits. This works similarly to a subscription, where premium content is reserved for visitors who pay a regular fee.

Membership packages are generally paid for through self-service portals on the directory website, with new members being encouraged to pay on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis. Some programs offer reduced prices for members who pay annually. From that point, memberships are billed automatically through the publisher’s chosen payment gateway. Memberships may be considered tax deductible, depending on the publisher’s tax status.

Once readers have become paying members, they are given login credentials to enter each time they arrive at the directory. Entering these credentials unlocks content that other visitors don’t have access to, such as enhanced listings and reviews. Directory members may also receive special benefits, including things like:

  • Access to private Facebook groups
  • Free admission to members-only events
  • Members-only emails
  • Branded tote bags, t-shirts, and other swag

Publishers who have created membership programs for their online directories will often introduce tiers or levels. Readers who purchase lower tier memberships get fewer benefits, while those at the highest levels get special “benefactor” status, in addition to more discounts and swag.

Which Directories Have Successful Membership Programs?

While it is true from a technical sense that any online directory can create a membership or subscription program, the reality is that this strategy works better for some publishers than others. The greater the competition in the publisher’s niche, the less likely a membership program is going to be successful. You’re less likely to see a paid membership program for a local business directory (which has competition from the Yellow Pages, Yelp, and many other websites) than you would for a directory that’s focused on a niche topic.

Publishers with online directories focused on certain hobbies tend to have the greatest success in cultivating the type of dedicated fan base that’s required to have a successful membership program. For example, trade groups will often create membership programs to go along with their online directories. People who become members of the trade group can access premium listings in the directory, or they themselves can be listed, depending on the types of services they offer.

Backstage.com offers us another example of a site with a popular membership program. For $99 per year, performers can become Backstage members and add their own talent profiles to Backstage’s online directory. They can also sign up to receive instant notifications when new job listings go live, and they have access to listings that other readers can’t see on the website.

Why Do Directory Publishers Create Membership Programs?

Membership programs help loosen the reliance that directory publishers have on digital advertising and business sponsorships. But unlike subscriptions, which simply involve website visitors paying a fee for access to premium content, membership programs offer a greater sense of belonging.

Website visitors who sign on to become members of their favorite online directories feel like they are in an exclusive club, and they are more likely to promote the directory to their friends and to support the directory publicly in other ways. Some membership programs allow only a certain percentage of website visitors to become members, creating greater demand for the membership, while others use private Facebook groups and Slack channels to bring their members together under one roof.

What’s most important here is that creating a membership program makes readers feel like they belong to something valuable. It’s more than just a financial transaction. That’s the real reason why publishers decide to setup membership programs instead of traditional subscription packages.

Directory Sponsorships

Directory Sponsorships: 10 Ideas to Get More Sponsors in 2019

How do you attract sponsors to your directory website? How do you persuade local businesses that your online directory is the best place to invest their advertising dollars, and that directory sponsorships deliver a strong ROI?

First and foremost, your online directory needs to shine. The value of directory sponsorships is directly tied to the quality of the online directory. The more traffic the directory gets, the longer visitors stay on the site, and the more they engage with content, the more businesses will pay for sponsorship packages.

With only one chance to impress potential advertisers and get website sponsors signed up, it’s important that publishers seize the day and pull out all the stops.

Most directory publishers understand how important sponsorships are to their financial success. With regular website sponsors, publishers can continue growing their directories and other digital properties.

Finding businesses willing to pay for directory sponsorships, and bringing in premium rates, is challenging for publishers. What’s the key to getting local businesses interested in sponsoring your online directory? If the traffic is there, what’s preventing potential advertisers from signing on?

Here are our best tips for selling more directory sponsorships in 2019.

1. Focus on SEO. Directories that rank highly in Google and show authority on the topics they cover—local restaurants, top physicians, etc.—will be more successful in attracting sponsors who are willing to pay premium rates.

2. Develop an identity. Businesses have hundreds of options to choose from when it comes to advertising their services online. What makes your directory unique? Work to develop a strong identify for your directory right from the get-go. That identity should include cohesive branding, an area of focus, and a distinctive writing style.

3. Pinpoint dream sponsors. Make a list of every business that has advertised on your directory in the past, what they paid, and what type of advertising package they purchased. Using this list, you should be able to identify businesses that may be interesting in upgrading their advertising and purchasing directory sponsorships.

4. Get active in the community. Publishers with local business directories should pay particular attention to the communities they serve. Who are your readers and what types of businesses do they visit? These are the businesses you should be targeting with sponsorship opportunities. The more well-known the directory is in the community, and the more name recognition it has, the easier it becomes to sell sponsorship deals to area businesses.

5. Track relevant metrics. A directory’s sales team is going to have an easier time selling directory sponsorships when they are armed with the right information. Advertisers are interested in knowing how many people are visiting the directory each month and how long they are staying on the site.

6. Highlight visitor demographics. Publishers with city-specific or niche directories should highlight the demographics of their website visitors in any sales pitches to potential advertisers. Advertisers want to know that the people seeing their ads are potential customers, which might mean they live in a certain area or they share other traits, like an occupation or hobby.

7. Send better proposals. Sending proposals via email is acceptable when your sales team is trying to push the idea of directory sponsorships to potential advertisers. Proposals should include as many details as possible, including weekly or monthly rates and mockups of how advertiser logos would appear to website visitors.

8. Dare to be different. Who says your directory sponsorship packages have to be the same as everyone else’s? The digital advertising world rewards innovators, so think outside the box when designing sponsorship packages and consider which benefits businesses would be most interested in receiving for their advertising dollars.

9. Check out the competition. Visit competing online directories to see which businesses are advertising on their websites. Make a list of which local businesses are purchasing the biggest advertising packages, since there is a good chance these businesses might be interested in advertising on your directory website, as well.

10. Promote sponsor success stories. Get on the phone and check in with businesses who have purchased directory sponsorships to find out what they thought of the experience. Did they get new customers as a direct result of their sponsorship? Improved name recognition around town? Gather up these positive anecdotes and feature them prominently in any marketing materials you use when selling directory sponsorships.

SEO Techniques for Events Calendars

The Best SEO Techniques for Events Calendars

Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm, requiring publishers to adjust their search strategies to keep pace. What changes have you made lately, and what new strategies have you implemented to bring visitors to your local events calendar? If the answer is none, then keep reading for the best SEO techniques for events calendars.

One of the most significant recent changes made to Google’s search engine algorithm involves mobile-first indexing. More than half of the webpages shown in search results now are from Google indexing content using a new mobile-first indexing procedure. Rather than looking at the desktop versions of websites, Google is indexing pages based on how those pages appear to users on mobile devices.

In the past 12 months, Google has also made speed updates and the company dropped support for the news meta tag. Google also started putting more emphasis on structured data and schema, and it launched an indexing API for job posting URLs.

With all those changes happening in rapid succession, it’s no surprise publishers with local events calendars had trouble keeping up. Many wondered what all the algorithm changes meant for their websites, and which SEO techniques for events calendars would be most effective in today’s environment.

To answer those questions, we put together this guide to the best SEO techniques for events calendars, along with information about what digital publishers can do to drive traffic to their websites and engage first-time visitors.

Is Your SEO Outdated?

As a rule of thumb, publishers who notice a drop in traffic to their events calendar websites of 10% or more in a short period of time need to consider updating their SEO strategy. That’s because the best SEO techniques for events calendars are always evolving, and a strategy that was implemented a year ago may need to be updated for optimal performance.

To diagnose whether your declining traffic is due to changes in Google’s algorithm, start with the following:

Use Google Webmaster Tools to determine whether your events calendar is being crawled by Google and whether your site map is in place.

Check out Google Analytics to see the total number of page views and sessions on your events calendar. Dig deep into when your traffic started to drop and compare new traffic patterns with historical trends for your website.

A few questions to consider as you make your way through Google Analytics include:

  • Is the drop in traffic happening across all events categories or only certain categories?
  • Was your website down for a period of time?
  • Were any updates made to your calendar before or after the drop in traffic occurred?
  • Is Google tracking turned on?
  • For WordPress users, have you added any new plugins recently?

WebPageTest offers a free service that publishers with events calendars can use. We recommend comparing your current performance with previous tests.

The Latest SEO Techniques for Events Calendars

In the simplest terms, search engines like Google and Bing follow links and index whatever content they find. To increase the chances of your events calendar being indexed properly, place as few hurdles in the way of search engines as possible. That means using clear URLs that have never been used for live websites before and disallowing bots using robots.txt.

Two issues that can cause problems for publishers with events calendars are listings that expire and URLs that are reused. The latest SEO techniques for events calendars call for redirecting deleted listing pages to more relevant pages using a 301 redirect. For example, rather than deleting an outdated listing for a theater production, redirect that listing URL to the landing page for the Arts & Culture category. There, visitors can see a list of all upcoming theater productions.

Using a 301 redirect tells the search engine that the expired listing has been moved, and it avoids the visitor reaching a 404 page by accident.

One of the smartest SEO techniques for events calendars is to perform a complete function check on the calendar to make sure it is working properly. We recommend digital publishers do this on a regular basis. Not only will a function check ensure that visitors are able to successfully interact with the website, but it also ensures that search engines will be able to index the website properly.

Potential trouble spots worth checking include:

  • Listing submission forms
  • Search functionality
  • Multimedia players
  • Tracking pixels
  • Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools verification

Digital publishers using WordPress for their events calendar websites should check all of their plugins to make sure a “Search Engine Visibility” box hasn’t accidentally been checked. This seemingly small error can result in the events calendar being dropped entirely from Google’s index.

What other SEO techniques for events calendars have you found especially helpful, and what changes do you plan to implement in the coming year?

Paid Directory Listings

How Paid Directory Listings Actually Work

Publishers have a number of options to choose from when it comes to monetizing their online directories, but paid directory listings are by far the most popular strategy.

If you’re considering going this route, you might be wondering how to set the right listing rates and how to structure your business subscription packages. You might even be curious how other publishers reach out to potential business advertisers with information about their premium listing opportunities.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive to uncover exactly how paid directory listings actually work for digital publishers.

How Directories Make Money

Online directories wouldn’t be popping up all over the internet if they weren’t profitable. Any publisher who is good at marketing and capable of managing a website can make money running a directory.

One of the keys to generating profit from an online directory is finding the right niche. Digital publishers with existing city and regional magazines are at an advantage here, since their niche (local businesses) is already clear. Publishers starting from scratch will have to do research to find new areas of opportunity. Google Keyword Planner is a popular tool for this. The online tool helps publishers discover which keywords people are searching for online and makes it easier to find the best keywords to target for display ads.

Real estate, restaurants, healthcare, pets, sports, and travel are just a few of the most popular niches for online directories. Give any of these niches a local angle, and you’re ready to start selling paid listings and generating revenue from your website.

Choosing Between Self-Serve and Full-Service

Before you can start accepting listing submissions, you need to make some important decisions about how your online directory will run. Ask yourself these key questions:

  1. How will businesses submit their listings?
  2. How much will you charge for premium listings?
  3. How will paid listings be differentiated from unpaid listings?
  4. Which payment gateways will you use?

The answer to the first question—how will businesses submit their listings—hinges on whether your online directory is self-serve or full service. In a self-serve online directory, businesses input their listing information and payment details directly into online forms (available through the directory). The more customization options you provide, the lengthier and more complex these online forms become.

Another option is to make your online directory full service. In a full service directory, businesses submit listing information and payment details to a service representative from the directory via email, live chat, or telephone. This option costs more money for the directory publisher, because it requires the publisher to pay representatives to manage business clients and manually upload new listings. However, those same representatives can let business clients know about monthly specials and other promotions. That type of human-to-human interaction leads to more upselling, and generally higher levels of income.

How to Reach Local Businesses

Directory publishers who go the full service route can usually rely on their sales representatives to reach out to local business owners with information about their online marketing programs. These informal sales pitches, also known as cold calls, happen via telephone or email.

The most successful directory sales pitches let businesses know that the online directory exists, how many people visit each month, and how purchasing a paid listing could lead to new customers. The more succinctly a sales representative can explain the value of a paid listing, the greater the chances that the business owner will join on.

Directory publishers who opt for the self-serve model have a decidedly different sales approach. Rather than reaching out to local business owners directly, publishers tend to focus on building traffic and developing a reputation in the community, and then letting business clients come to them. Directories that accept listings via self-serve portals tend to have more links and display ads encouraging visitors to submit their own listing information.

How Much to Charge for Paid Directory Listings

Paid directory listings work best when publishers have done the legwork to determine the optimum price businesses are willing to pay for the number of leads they can expect each month.

Certain niches or industries will pay more for directory listings than others. For example, businesses in the healthcare and legal industries are comfortable with higher price tags for paid directory listings than businesses in home services industry.

The amount of money businesses will pay for paid directory listings also depends on the amount of online competition. A niche directory with zero competition can charge more for listings than a directory with multiple competitors in the local market.

Making Money from Free Listings

Most publishers who charge for paid directory listings will accept listing submissions for free, with the goal of converting those business clients into paying customers via upselling opportunities.

Directory publishers who are interested in going this route should plan to place links for “free” listing submissions prominently on their websites. Businesses are then funneled into self-serve portals where they can enter their listing details without paying a dime. Over the course of the next month, however, publishers should follow up with upselling opportunities via email. For example, getting prominent placement on the directory home page for $20 per month, or the ability to add photos or reviews to a listing for $5 per week. Upselling opportunities are incredibly lucrative, and they are one of the keys to long-term success for directory publishers.

If you would like to learn even more about how to implement these strategies, reach out to our directory publishing experts here at Web Publisher PRO.

Local Business Directory

6 Places to Find Listings for a Local Business Directory

It isn’t a directory without the listings. For publishers launching a local business directory, finding the information that’s ultimately used to generate business listings is no easy task.

Businesses and other organizations aren’t lining up to provide the information needed to create online listings—most business owners simply don’t have the time. The number of business owners who will manually add listings to a local business directory is incredibly low.

Thankfully, publishers have a number of options when it comes to sourcing the information that will ultimately be used to populate their directories. The most time consuming of these options is to drive around cataloging local businesses and then manually adding listings for those businesses one-by-one. What more directory publishers are opting for these days, as they work to get their new directories off the ground, is to purchase listing data from sellers online.

Let’s look at six resources publishers can use to find listings for a local business directory.

  1.  InfoUSA
    InfoUSA is a part of Infogroup, one of the largest data and marketing service companies in the country. One aspect of what the company does is to sell business information. Typically, InfoUSA sells to salespeople looking for fresh leads, but that same data can be used by publishers launching local business directories. In addition to lists of business organized by location, InfoUSA also sells lists of doctors, churches, and healthcare organizations, which could also be useful when creating “Best Of” content. Publishers who are interested in trying out InfoUSA’s product can contact the company for specific pricing information.
  2. Yellow Pages Spider
    The company behind Yellow Pages Spider has created a tool that searches all the most popular business directories to find relevant business information for its users. Publishers input keywords and location data to pinpoint the category of businesses they are looking for, and Yellow Pages Spider extracts all available data, including name, address, phone number, and website URL for each business. Yellow Pages Spider’s data is ready to export in multiple formats, including TXT and Excel. Yellow Pages Spider charges a one-time fee of $97.
  3. Dun & Bradstreet
    Dun & Bradstreet is a large commercial data analytics firm. Publishers can work with the company to create targeted business lists based on more than 175 data points. The company’s DataVision product leverages more than 120 million business records from 30,000 sources. In addition to providing clients with lists of businesses in their target markets, Dun & Bradstreet is also able to identify which businesses are most likely to be interested in paying for premium listings or advertising opportunities. Dun & Bradstreet’s data can be exported in a number of ways, including directly to a publisher’s CRM.
  4. Yellow Scrape
    Publishers with local business directories can use Yellow Scrape to extract business information and create listings for their websites. Yellow Scrape’s software gathers business names, addresses, phone numbers, websites, social links, and contact information from the web and delivers the data in a way that directory publishers can immediately input into their websites. Publishers select the location and business type, and Yellow Scrape collects that information from Yellow Pages directories. Data is available as .csv files. Yellow Scrape’s U.S. and Canada software costs $75.
  5. Better Business Bureau
    Publishers with city-specific niche directories can get information about local businesses from the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau runs a well-populated directory that’s searchable by business industry and zip code. Most business listings include contact information, website links, and brief overviews of what the companies do. Because the Better Business Bureau does not sell its listing information, publishers will have to manually research businesses on the organization’s directory. The upside to this strategy is that it’s completely free.
  6. WP Local Plus
    WP Local Plus is a WordPress plugin that publishers can use to add local directories to their websites. The plugin automatically creates business directories with Google Maps integration. One of the upgraded features is auto-generated listings, which means publishers get access to local business listings that they can use to populate their own directories. In addition to basic business information, WP Local Plus’ listings also include information about business locations, reviews, maps, and external website URLs. WP Local Plus’ listings are self-updating, which means the system will edit things like business names, addresses, and phone numbers as they change over time. Publishers in the U.S. and Canada can purchase WP Local Plus for $39 per year.
Local Business Directory

Do You Need a Local Business Directory?

Why should YP and Yelp get to have all the fun? Publishers of city and regional magazines, hyperlocal news outlets, and industry periodicals are all finding that a local business directory can be a valuable addition to their websites.

Local business directories produce a positive return on investment (ROI) and they serve the needs of both readers and advertising clients, providing digital publishers with a triple play in terms of value.

Who Needs a Local Business Directory?

Online publishers in a number of niches are launching local business directories. Publishers of city and regional magazines, industry periodicals, and news websites are all finding that they can charge businesses a substantial fee for premium listings or directory sponsorships.

Search engines love local business directories, and directories themselves generate good amounts of traffic. As their local directories grow, many city-specific publishers are expanding into new areas or niches.

Premium directory listings can be sold through self-serve portals or by trained salespeople working for the publication. Salespeople appreciate having add-on products, like enhanced directory listings, to sell, since they are generally an easier sell than higher priced options, like section sponsorships and native advertising.

Although most local business directories are launched by publishers with existing websites, some directories are launched as standalone products. Think of these as independent competitors to websites like Yelp and YP. Standalone directories take longer to get up and running, since they don’t have the benefit of traffic or inbound links from an existing news publication, but as Yelp, LinkedIn, and Manta have shown us, they can still be quite profitable.

A local business directory can also be a great option for a marketing firm that sells web design and SEO to community businesses. Having an existing online directory gives the firm a leg up when it comes to getting its clients’ websites ranking on Google, and it could be looked at as a selling feature when businesses decide which local marketing firm to work with.

Monetizing a Local Business Directory

Now let’s get into the dollars and cents. Most publishers are able to launch their online directories for a nominal cost. Web development firms have gotten very sophisticated in the way they setup online directories, which means publishers can have their directories up and running—and generating revenue—in a matter of weeks.

With a local business directory up and running, the publisher has a product to sell from. Most publishers monetize their directories by charging for premium listings and running display advertising alongside directory content. In the premium listings model, basic listings are free, but upgraded or enhanced listings (with more features than basic listings) come with a monthly fee.

However, the publisher needs to have the directory up and running, with at least a moderate amount of traffic coming in, before approaching local businesses with the advertising opportunity. Without enough traffic, businesses will not be interested in paying for premium listings.

How Local Business Directories Pay Dividends

Here’s where we get into the compounding value of a local business directory. Businesses that are paying for enhanced listings want to make sure those listings are being seen, especially if they contain positive customer reviews or other upgraded content, like images and videos.

In order to make sure their listings are seen by as many people as possible, these businesses will publish blog posts and articles, and include links on their websites that point back to their directory listings. These attempts to highlight their listings increase the authority of the local business directory and boost rankings for the directory on search engines like Google and Bing. Thus, publishers with local business directories get even more mileage out of their websites.

A local business directory can also help prop up a sister website, like an online magazine. Links to previous articles about the businesses featured in the directory should be placed prominently on the website, and visa versa. Many magazine publishers will include links to businesses’ directory listings each time they are mentioned in articles or other content. House display advertisements announcing the launch of the directory, or any new features, should also be placed prominently throughout the publisher’s existing websites and mobile apps.

Again, we know that local business directories can boost traffic for digital publishers, and we know that directories can become solid sources of incremental income when they are monetized appropriately. Publishers who regularly mention local businesses by name within their content are leaving money on the table if they aren’t linking to their own branded directories. To learn even more about how this works, reach out to our team.