Online directories offer some unique benefits for digital publishers. When they’re executed and managed in the right way, online directories can generate traffic, revenue, and engagement across a publisher’s existing websites.
We’ve talked a lot about monetization strategies for online directories in previous blog posts, so you should already be familiar with the various paths toward profitability. What you may not realize is that selling listings and charging readers for access are not the only two ways to generate revenue from an online directory.
Google loves online directories. Directories that are setup using the right tagging and markup standards, and following widely recognized best practices for search engine optimization, drive traffic from Google and Bing. Even better, online directories can be setup to push traffic back to a publisher’s existing website.
Pushing traffic to a secondary website is a powerful strategy, and it’s one that is under-utilized within the digital publishing community.
Driving Traffic with Online Directories
Online directories usually contain the type of SEO-friendly information and formatting that Google loves.
Let’s say you have an online directory that’s brimming with information about all the best restaurants in your city. When people search for terms like “best restaurants in Seattle” or “best tacos in Seattle” they should see your directory rank more highly than individual restaurant websites. That’s because Google has the tendency to rank online directories high in search results—something that works in your favor as a publisher.
One of the factors at play in Google’s decision to rank online directories highly is Domain Authority. Domain Authority is determined largely by the quality of website content (which should be excellent in an online directory with hundreds or thousands of business listings), along with who is linking to the website, the total number of links, and the overall value the website provides to its users. Each website has a Domain Authority score.
There is a good chance that your directory will perform well on search engines, even without much effort, but you can still improve your rankings on Google and Bing with simple upgrades. For example, page titles and meta tags can help establish a page theme. You should also be submitting XML sitemaps to make it easier for Google and Bing to index your directory.
Increasing Engagement on Existing Websites
Now that a user has found your online directory via a search engine, the first thing she’s going to click on is a listing. Your business listings should offer up all the pertinent information, including a brief description, location, hours of operation, website link, and phone number.
In order to take advantage of the three-pronged approach to success with online directories, you always want to make sure your listings link back to your existing website whenever possible. In this case, that means including links to relevant articles that have been featured on your website, such as any reviews that have been written about a restaurant with a listing in your directory. You could also link back to image galleries or maps.
Publishers who run online magazines and blogs should consider coordinating content to promote engagement on their directories. That means making sure links to directory listings are included any time a business is mentioned in an article.
Revenue Generation Strategies
Blind luck could be responsible for an online directory having excellent traffic and engagement metrics, but generating revenue requires a strategic plan.
The majority of publishers with online directories utilize self-serve portals, where businesses can pay a nominal fee to add listings to the website. Having a self-serve system means the publisher doesn’t need to worry about staffing up a large sales team to create and publish individual listings. From an ROI standpoint, self-serve portals are always smarter for digital publishers than going the full-service route.
In addition to charging businesses for listings, publishers in certain sectors are also finding that readers are willing to pay for access to their directories. For example, a niche healthcare publisher might charge physicians to access an online directory, knowing that physicians and hospital administrators are more likely to pay for access than the general public.
Considering all the blank space available around the perimeter of most websites, publishers are also smart to run display advertising. Display advertising rates have been falling in recent years, however this is still a popular strategy for generating additional revenue.
If you’d like even more information about the three-pronged approach to success with online directories that we have developed here at Web Publisher PRO, reach out to our team for a consultation.