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:
- How will businesses submit their listings?
- How much will you charge for premium listings?
- How will paid listings be differentiated from unpaid listings?
- 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.