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 Out-of-the-box solutions created from the remnants of outdated blogging software don’t typically support paid or enhanced listings, or the self-serve portals that have become popular among top publishers today.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.