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.

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.

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

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.

Revenue Strategies for Magazine Publishers

5 Revenue Strategies for Magazine Publishers

We all know brand sponsorships pay the bills at national magazines, but smaller streams of revenue can still add up to big financial gains for digital outlets. Rather than “thinking big,” the latest revenue strategies for magazine publishers are taking advantage of unused web space and repurposed content.

The big trend among magazine publishers right now is to generate income from existing content. Why reinvent the wheel when there’s an opportunity to make money from content that’s already there? But repurposing content is just one of a number of revenue strategies for magazine publishers. Selling website space is another way that savvy digital publishers are generating incremental sources of income.

Take Philadelphia Magazine. The regional monthly magazine maintains a popular “Best of Philly” list, along with directories of top restaurants, doctors, dentists, realtors, wedding resources, and home and design businesses.

Like so many other digital magazine publishers, Philadelphia Magazine had already done the work of creating a thriving publication with an excellent reputation. It already maintains a website, which attracts a large audience, and the content management system and other back-end operations were already firmly in place. Why not add on a directory and “best of” lists and start generating extra income?

Publishers that have existing websites can add new sections to their websites—like directories, ‘best of’ lists, calendars, job boards, and obituaries—to bring in extra revenue. These are revenue strategies for magazine publishers that require minimal financial investment and virtually no ongoing costs, which means significant upsides or rewards.

Let’s do a deeper dive into how these revenue strategies for magazine publishers actually work.

1) Business Directories
Business directories are the most popular of all the revenue strategies for magazine publishers included on this list. Business directories tend to be profitable from the very beginning.

Magazine publishers with business directories can charge sponsors—i.e., businesses included in the directories—to have their listings appear at the top of each directory page or inside highlighted boxes. Sponsors might also be able to get their listings to appear at the bottom of magazine articles as “related resources.” (For a fee, of course).

2) ‘Best Of’ Lists
Like business directories, ‘Best Of’ lists are an excellent source of revenue for both online and print magazine publishers. While it is usually frowned upon to charge businesses to be included in a ‘Best Of’ list, publishers still have a number of options when it comes to monetizing their lists, including running display advertising and creating “highlighted” business listings at the top or in the center of their lists. Publishers can also sell window clings to businesses included in their ‘Best Of’ lists, as a way to highlight the fact that the business was recognized.

3) Calendars
Online calendars are growing in popularity among digital magazine publishers, both because of the service they provide to readers and the opportunity for revenue generation. Top magazine publishers work with sponsors to develop custom advertising opportunities in their online calendars. That might mean a business paying to have its calendar listings bolded or highlighted. Publishers that send out daily calendar emails can also monetize those emails by featuring selected businesses.

4) Jobs Boards
Listings in an online jobs board can be sponsored by businesses or promoted in some other way. Jobs boards are a huge resource for readers, particularly at niche or B2B publications. Jobs boards are also excellent traffic drivers that bring new people back to websites time and time again.

Although job listings are the foundation of any jobs board, for profit schools and other businesses can pay to advertise educational seminars and job fairs, either as display advertising along the sides of the jobs board or as native advertising.

5) Obituaries
Although it is rare to see obituaries in a city or regional magazine, this is not an uncommon feature in alumni magazines and other industry publications. The only real way to make money through an obituaries page is to have volume. Publishers rarely charge more than nominal fees to include obituaries, but those nominal fees do add up for publishers with large online followings.

Volume is really at the heart of all of these revenue strategies for magazine publishers. It takes a great deal of enhanced listings, paid job postings, and the like, to make up for one big brand sponsorship. But these revenue generators also require no salespeople, and minimal financial outlay, which means the money that comes in is all profit.

We’d love to hear if you’ve tried any of these revenue strategies, and if so, how they are working out for your publication.

'Best Of' lists

Creating Traffic with ‘Best Of’ Lists

‘Best Of’ lists are useful resources that generate plenty of search engine traffic for digital publishers. They are also considered highly “linkable,” meaning that visitors and other web publishers are likely to link to ‘Best Of’ lists.

‘Best Of’ lists fulfill two roles for digital publishers. First, they satisfy reader demand for information about the best providers—physicians, restaurants, hair stylists, etc.—in their communities. Second, when optimized appropriately with the latest monetization opportunities, ‘Best Of’ lists give businesses a way to reach consumers in their target demographics.

Although ‘Best Of’ lists are usually tied to existing web publications, such as city and regional magazines, a number of websites have popped up with the sole purpose of publishing ‘Best Of’ lists for certain industries. For example, www.BestDoctors.com publishes a list of more than 50,000 medical experts. Castle Connolly is another firm that publishes ‘Best Of’ lists, featuring the best doctors in specific regions of the country.

It is important to know how the publishing business model works, in order to understand how ‘Best Of’ lists fit into that model. The vast majority of digital publishers today rely on display advertising for monetization. But display advertising rates have declined in recent years, and publishers are leaning more heavily on ancillary revenue opportunities to make up for the shortfall.

By publishing ‘Best Of’ lists, online publishers are creating a new stream of revenue where there was not one before. Publishers are monetizing their ‘Best Of’ lists through list sponsorships, native advertising, enhanced listings, and premium content.

The content in ‘Best Of’ lists has significant SEO value. ‘Best Of’ lists are organized by topic, which search engines love. This strategy also helps publishers rank well for long-tail keywords related to those topics.

The more search engine traffic a publisher drives to his ‘Best Of’ lists, the higher the premium the publisher can charge to advertise alongside that list.

Tips for Increasing Traffic with ‘Best Of’ Lists

When people search “best [type of business or professional] in [city],” you want Google to bring up your ‘Best Of’ list first. Doctors and restaurants are two especially popular themes here, but ‘Best Of’ lists can really focus on any industry. Publishers will have greater success, in terms of search engine rankings, when they choose less popular industries. For example, a publisher is more likely to reach No. 1 in the search rankings with a “Top Podiatrists in Fresno” list than a “Top Doctors in Fresno” list, because there is less keyword competition for the word podiatrist than doctor. However, there are going to be fewer people searching for podiatrists than doctors—known as “keyword volume”—so that is also something to consider.

As you can see, the topic and keywords matter when it comes to creating traffic with ‘Best Of’ lists. Some list topics in popular metro areas are too competitive to rank highly in Google. For example, it would be challenging—although not impossible—for a digital publisher to break through to the first page of Google results with a list of the best lawyers in New York.

More unique topics will have less keyword competition, and they will rank higher in Google and Bing search results. But there’s a catch. More unique topics or smaller industries also have lower keyword volume, meaning there will be fewer people searching for those keywords, and the overall number of visitors may be small.

Publishers who have already launched their ‘Best Of’ lists can still make small tweaks to boost the traffic coming from search engines.

As a best practice, we recommend building individual pages for each topic or listing. On a ‘Top Lawyers’ list, for example, each lawyer would have a landing page with basic business information and links to external websites. This is in addition to the main page, which would include a complete list of lawyers in the directory.

Keep the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of each business consistent to avoid creating duplicate entries. In addition to generating traffic, individual landing pages can be a selling feature if you decide to charge businesses a monthly fee for premium or upgraded listings.

One final recommendation for creating traffic with ‘Best Of’ lists is to create a link-building plan.

Linking plays a major role in how Google ranks webpages. For digital publishers with existing online magazines or blogs, the easiest way to start a link-building plan is by linking existing articles and other web content to the ‘Best Of’ list. For example, a regional magazine could include a link to its ‘Best Restaurants’ list at the bottom of every restaurant review. We would also recommend linking restaurant reviews to the landing pages, if you have created them.

Inbound links lead to greater page authority, greater page authority leads to higher rankings in the search results, and higher rankings in the search results lead to greater amounts of website traffic. If you’d like even more information on how to create more traffic with ‘best of’ lists, let’s connect!

online directory software

How to Choose Online Directory Software

When launching an online directory, the first step is to choose a focus. The second, is to find the best online directory software possible.

Online directory software can make or break a directory. Not all software products are the same. Many online directory software products require retrofitting in order to meet the needs of today’s digital publishers. Avoid those. The best online directory software should be designed for just this purpose, allowing you to get your directory up and running with minimal hassle.

Publishers who launch online directories don’t setup their websites in the same way as other digital publishers. Running a blog, for example, requires very different tools. Why are so many publishers, then, choosing to use blogging software and content management systems when they setup their online directories?

What happens when you try retrofitting blogging software to build an online directory? In our experience, publishers have wasted precious time and financial resources trying to make square pegs fit into round holes. This is time when they could have already had their online directories up and running, generating revenue and helping to financially support their other digital endeavors.

Some online directory tools is simply blogging software that’s been re-jigged. We don’t recommend this, either. These tools are usually a poor fit for publishers with unique needs. Out-of-the-box solutions created from the remnants of outdated blogging software don’t typically support paid or enhanced listings, or the self-serve portals that have become popular among top publishers today. Exporting from these solutions can also be an issue.

The smarter option is to work with a company that specializes in online directories. Companies that work regularly with online directory publishers understand the business model, and they have designed systems that monetize every aspect of the online directory.

Here are five factors to consider when comparing online directory software:

1) Does the software support enhanced listings? Enhanced listings have become a big money maker for directory publishers, but not every software product makes enhanced listings available. Before choosing online directory software, check to make sure it gives you the option to charge businesses or individuals a fee to make their listings stand out within your online directory.

2) Can visitors upload their own content? Self-serve portals allow publishers to take a hands-off approach to directory management. Visitors can upload the content for listings on their own, meaning the publisher (or his or her staff) does not need to manually create content for each individual listing. Self-serve portals should be designed in a way that makes them intuitive for visitors to use. They should also integrate with payment processing tools, but we’ll get more into that later in this article.

3) Have the monetization opportunities been streamlined? What you don’t want, when you launch an online directory, is for businesses to have to call and pay by telephone each time they place an enhanced listing. Make sure that the software you choose is optimized for website monetization. That means businesses should be able to pay for ads or listings from within your website’s self-serve checkout. The best online directory software integrates with Stripe, Authorize.net, and Paypal, to make this a seamless process.

4) Which customizations and add-ons are available? More and more publishers are using interactive maps with location targeting as a way to make their directories stand out. Check to make sure your software supports this, and integrates with the Google Maps API, before getting too far into the process. Also check for adserving integration, support for multiple locations, and the ability to import/export data via CSV, as these are all features that directory publishers will ask for as their directories grow.

5) Has the company worked with directory publishers before? Online directories are fundamentally different products than news websites or blogs. Trying to use blogging platforms to design and manage an online directory will only lead to stress. Our recommendation is to work with a company that has plenty of experience building online directories. Ask how many they have built, and what role publishers have had in the process. A company that specializes in your needs will be worth its weight in gold.

Choosing online directory software that aligns with your goals will make a big difference in your success as a digital publisher. The decision will also impact the monetization opportunities you have available, both in the beginning and as your directory grows. State-of-the-art online directory systems enable all of the functionalities we have mentioned above, as we believe these features are necessary for directories to be profitable.

If you’d like to learn more about the online directory platform we have available, and how our experience working with top publishers has influenced the way we see the online directory business model, then schedule a time to chat with a member of our team.

Local SEO tips for directory publishers

Local SEO Tips for Directory Publishers

Are you looking for new ways to increase your visibility in local search results? Then let’s talk about local SEO tips for directory publishers.

Local SEO is all about optimizing websites to rank better for local audiences. This is true for any digital publisher, but particular those with directory websites.

Why is that, you ask? For starters, a significant percentage of directory websites are locally focused. Business directories are an obvious example here. Most business directories are focused on a particular city or region. That makes business directories, at their core, locally centered websites. The same can be said for many different types of online directories. Regardless of the primary focus—restaurants, job listings, etc.—the secondary focus is location.

When someone searches for “best doctor in [city],” we want them to arrive at our client’s online directory, not a website run by a hospital or physician practice. How do we make that happen? Local SEO is the key. Following best practices for local SEO, we optimize directory websites for city-specific or region-specific audiences.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is how we get online directories to rank better for local audiences. In order to do that, we need to optimize each listing for the city name and address, essentially making sure that search engines like Google and Bing know where to find the businesses mentioned in each listing.
Businesses optimize their own websites for local SEO all the time. They do this to ensure that customers can find their storefronts in real life. But publishers, who are not looking to get web visitors into their own offices, should still be targeting people located in the same geographic area as the businesses featured in their online directories.

Local SEO Tips

Now that you understand what local SEO is, and why local SEO is important for directory publishers, let’s get into the nitty gritty and talk about what you can do to improve the local SEO on your directory website.

These strategies are regarded as “first steps” for directory publishers targeting audiences in specific locations.

  • Include a proper address for each directory listing using schema.org formatting.
  • Ask your web developer to add the city and state to the titles and meta description tags for directory listings.
  • Make sure the city or region is mentioned frequently in directory content, including any business descriptions.
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Add ratings and reviews to your website, if possible.

Fewer than one-in-five marketers incorporate schema markup on their websites, which could be one of the reasons why they are struggling with local SEO. Incorporating proper schema markup is one of the ways that we can communicate the focus of the online directory—businesses in a particular location—to search engines. It makes the online directory more relevant to whichever local keywords you are targeting, as well.

Keep local SEO in mind when generating content for new listing pages. One strategy here is to insert the business location as close as possible to the top of each directory page. This ensures that the city not missing from search results when someone types in a phrase like “best restaurants in Los Angeles.”

Don’t forget about link building, either. Online directories are well positioned to build the types of positive connections that search engines love. Always include links to each business’ website on listing pages. You should also be encouraging business owners to add links to your directory from their own business websites and social media pages. Digital publishers with properties outside of their online directories—for example, those that also publisher online newspapers or magazines—should take advantage by including links to directory listings any time a specific business is mentioned in an article.

Including Maps in Business Listings

What do the most well-known business directories in the U.S. have in common? Those sites almost all include maps on individual listing pages.

Yelp, Whitepages, YP, and Mapquest have pioneered the use of maps in online directories. And why not? If you’ve followed the local SEO tips outlined above, you’ve already added an address for each business listing in your directory. That means you already have all the data you need to include a map on each listing page.

Google Maps is the most well-known of the mapping solutions, but a number of other plugins are available for directory publishers with WordPress websites. Just make sure that the directory software you purchase is capable of including maps on listings pages, as this is not something that every directory platforms can handle.

directory publishers analytics metrics

The Most Important Analytics Metrics for Directory Publishers

Important decisions shouldn’t be left up to gut feelings. Using analytics metrics, directory publishers can get a big picture view of how their websites are performing and where areas for new opportunities exist.

Directory publishers don’t just have to worry about search engine traffic and visitor engagement, although those are powerful factors that can play a major role in impacting the bottom line. They also have to think about advertisers and the businesses signing up for paid listings. The latest analytics metrics give directory publishers insights into how visitors and advertisers are finding their websites and what makes them convert.

The goal here is twofold. Directory publishers want to use analytics metrics to make smarter business decisions, and they want to gain a deeper understanding of how visitors and paying advertisers are using their directory websites. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

1. Top Keywords

How are people finding your directory? The answer may not be what you think. Using Google Webmaster Tools, directory publishers can find out what keywords are driving the most traffic to their sites. Navigate to Search Traffic, then Search Queries to see a list of the keywords driving traffic to your directory. You should see the click-through rate for each of these top keywords, letting you know how often someone clicked on your directory over another Google listing. Another option here is to use Google Analytics. Click over to Acquisition, then All Traffic, then Channels, then Organic Search.

Most directory publishers see 75% to 90% of their search volume coming through the top 200 phrases. For example, publishers with restaurant directories may find that most people are landing on their sites after typing Top [City] Restaurants or the name of a specific restaurant with a listing on the directory.

Regardless of what you discover through keyword analytics, you’ll want to use the information to optimize your content and take advantage of the keywords people are using.

2. Visitor Engagement

Clicks, shares, and time on page are all trackable metrics that directory publishers can look at as they gauge visitor engagement on their websites.

While engagement is often confused with reach, particularly when it comes to analytics metrics for online directories, they actually tell us two very different things. A directory’s reach is determined based on the number of people who see it, even if they only see it for a moment. Publishers can boost their reach by using clickbait headlines or landing pages that are only minimally related to the content in their directories. Are those stunts worthwhile in the long run? Probably not. Visitors who arrive at a directory under false pretenses—for example, thinking they are getting restaurant coupons when they are actually just seeing business listings—are likely to leave quickly and not return.

Engagement is something else entirely, and there’s a reason why we encourage directory publishers to focus on engagement over reach. Tracking engagement means looking at how involved visitors are with the content in a directory. There’s a number of ways to measure that. One idea is to track comments and shares. People don’t usually leave comments unless they are legitimately interested in the content. Tracking how commenting ebbs and flows over time, and which directory pages are receiving the most comments, can provide you with insight into how you should format landing pages or promote your most popular directory listings.

Another option here is to track scroll depth. Scroll depth means how far down a webpage a visitor scrolls. If a visitor is scrolling down to the bottom of a “Best Of” list or a directory listing, there is a good chance he is engaged with the content.

3. Email Capture Rates

Many directory publishers use email marketing to bring visitors, and advertisers, back to their websites. For these publishers, website email capture rates show how what percentage of website visitors are subscribing.

Determining a website email capture rate is fairly straightforward. Just divide the number of new email subscribers acquired via the directory website over a period of time (one week or one month) by the total number of unique visitors during the same time period.

Let’s say that through this process, a publisher learns that .1% of the visitors coming to his business directory are signing up to receive a monthly email newsletter. The next question is, how do you increase web-to-email conversion rates? A little bit of A/B testing can help determine whether simple changes to capture forms or landing pages could be enough to see major improvements.

What metrics do you analyze, and how could a deeper analysis of the trends lead to greater revenue on your directory? We’d love to learn more about what you’re doing and how we could help take your online directory to the next level.