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.