local business directory

5 Reasons to Launch a Local Business Directory

The biggest business directories in the world are generating millions of dollars in profit for online publishers.

Launching a local business directory is a no-brainer for digital publishers right now. Using sophisticated content management systems, publishers can create directories that are nearly autonomous. Self-serve portals allow businesses to generate and pay for online listings themselves, while publishers sit back and watch the profits pour in.

With a net revenue of more than $218 million last year, Yelp has become one of the most influential directory publishers for local businesses. The company saw paying advertising accounts grow 21% year-over-year, with approximately 163,000 businesses now advertising on the platform.

While those figures are substantial, they also show that there’s still plenty of room for growth in the local business directory space. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that there are more than 30.2 million small businesses operating in the U.S., which means the advertiser market for local business directories is substantial.

Here are five reasons why digital publishers are rushing to launch local business directories — and why you might be interested in launching one of these directories, too.

1. Generating Ancillary Revenue

By far, the primary reason to launch a local business directory is to create a new form of ancillary revenue. Businesses typically pay a fee of $5 to $10 per month to have their listings included in local directories, providing digital publishers with a reliable stream of revenue that they can count on. Consider this: A local directory with 1,000 listings, charging businesses $10 per month, generates $10,000 in income for a publisher. Although there are a number of other reasons to launch a local business directory, the opportunity to create an entirely new stream of ancillary revenue is something that most publishers can’t afford to overlook.

2. Providing Advertisers With More Options

A growing number of advertisers are moving away from display advertising, fearing that the medium itself has gotten stale. Instead, they are pushing for more unique, relevant advertising experiences. Sponsorships and paid listings are just two examples of “new” advertising avenues that businesses are excited to explore. Sponsorships, in particular, can be lucrative for digital publishers, since advertisers will pay a premium to ensure their logos are the only ones featured on the directory’s homepage for a given period of time.

3. Increasing Search Traffic

Search engines like Google and Bing love online directories, thanks in part to their local focus and keyword-rich listings. The smartest digital publishers are capitalizing on the search traffic that their business directories bring in and converting those visitors into readers of their publications. “Related Content” tags and links to articles about the businesses featured in each listing are two examples of ways that digital magazine publishers are bringing directory visitors over to their publications.

4. Reinvigorating Subscription Programs

Online subscriptions can be a hard sell, especially for digital publishers that already give away a certain amount of content for free and those that rely on display advertising for revenue. Instead of placing a paywall around their articles, some publishers are giving subscribers access to VIP benefits or services. One of these benefits can be a subscribers-only directory. This strategy works better for niche publishers (such as industry-specific online magazines) than local newspapers, but it’s still a concept worth exploring for any publishers looking to increase the value of their subscription programs.

5. Building Connections in the Community

Although we focus a lot on the revenue that online directories generate, the reality is that a local business directory is more than just an advertising service. Like community calendars—which we’ve written about previously—business directories actually serve an important function in local communities. In smaller towns, especially, a local business directory can become a hub of information for both everyday citizens and business owners.

If you have already launched a local business directory, reach out and tell us why you decided to jump onboard. We’re always interested in learning about other publishers’ experiences with emerging platforms.

how to use directories to boost search traffic

Using Directories to Boost Search Traffic

Prominent directory websites like Yelp, YP.com, and Whitepages receive millions of site visits each month, but you don’t have to be one of the “big guys” to benefit from Google’s preference for directory websites.

Digital publishers use directories to boost search traffic on their own websites all the time. It’s a strategy that’s been used for years, and it’s one that becoming even more effective as search engines like Google and Bing refine their algorithms to give more preference to websites with local information.

The key to using directories to boost search traffic is to make sure your directories are created with the right structures and subdomains for successful search engine optimization (SEO). Without the right structure, Google can’t synthesize the information, and it’s unlikely that your directory will rank highly enough to generate substantial search engine traffic.

It’s been a few years now since Google launched it Pigeon Update in 2014. The update involved the creation of a new algorithm that intends to provide more useful, accurate local search results. What most digital publishers noticed about the update was that it placed an increase emphasis on local content and created greater visibility for online directories.

Mobile’s Impact on Online Directories

The rise in mobile search plays a role here, as well. Mobile usage is now surpassing desktop. As more people started searching for content on their smartphones, Google placed a greater emphasis on location. That’s part of the reason why typing in “Italian restaurant” on your phone will bring up listings for Italian restaurants in your own city.

According to Google, more than one-third of mobile searches are now related to local. Publishers with online directories understand this changing dynamic, and they’re adjusting the way their websites are structured so that they can use their directories to boost search traffic.

Optimizing Directories for SEO

Publishers have the most success using directories to boost search traffic when they optimize their content for local search. That means including local keywords in business listings, and it also means localizing schema markup.

Incorporating schema in a website lets Google know the focus of the content and the geographic area you’re trying to serve. Although schema is not directly tied to search rankings, it is tied to local targeting, and we know that local is something Google cares a lot about right now.

Unfortunately, fewer than one-in-five publishers have incorporated schema markup into their websites. That could be making it harder for their directories to rank in search engine listings, and ultimately decreasing the revenue they’re able to generate through advertising on their sites.

So what’s the answer here? How can you start using directories to boost search traffic?

A great place to begin is by inserting local keywords into the title and meta description tags. You should also make sure your business listings include long-tail keywords whenever possible. For example, rather than titling a list “Best Restaurants” you would want to title it, “Phoenix’s Best Restaurants.” And of course, each individual business listing should include local information, such as addresses and phone numbers. This helps Google index the content for the geographic area.

Some SEO experts will also recommend updating NAP information (name, address, phone number) for each listing, including businesses with multiple locations.

One thing we haven’t touched on yet, even though it directly impacts your ability to use directories to boost search traffic, is consumer behavior. Are consumers actually researching the topics covered by your online directory? Is there enough search volume, for example, to sustain an online directory that exclusively focuses on shoe stores in Santa Ana, California?

The best way to know for sure is to take a look at Google’s Keyword Planner, as well as your own website traffic data and performance. Which keywords are people using in search before they land on your website? If there are thousands of people searching for shoe stores your city, and they’re all coming to an article in your digital magazine that contains those keywords, then maybe there is enough interest there to sustain such a hyper-focused online directory.

What you’re more likely to find, though, is that that there isn’t enough traffic to support the creation of a narrowly-focused online directory, and you would be better off creating something more broad, but still with a local focus.

For more details on what’s involved in creating an online directory reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

Digital Publishing Industry

These 5 Strategies Are Revitalizing the Digital Publishing Industry

Bring together the leaders of news organizations, platforms, and foundations, and you’re bound to get some honest opinions on the state of digital journalism. Rather than focus on dire predictions for the future, the dozens of industry executives brought together earlier this year by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard and the Lenfest Institute expressed an optimistic view of the future of digital publishing.

Publishing executives at the Shorenstein Center’s event agreed that reader revenue should be at the heart of sustainable business models for digital journalism, but they also acknowledged that newer strategies need to be explored in order for the industry to flourish. Revitalizing the digital publishing industry will require more than just the tried and true tactics for generating revenue online.

Advertising and reader subscriptions are still important, of course, but the industry group put together by the Shorenstein Center and the Lenfest Institute also came up with five new opportunities for publishers looking to grow sustainable businesses.

Let’s take a closer look at the areas of opportunity identified by this group of 63 industry leaders.

1. “Diversifying and strengthening revenue streams for journalism”

Despite the group’s instance that reader revenue should remain at the center of all sustainable business models, there was a lot of optimism around the idea that publishers can successfully drive support for their publications in different ways. There was also some acceptance among industry leaders that traditional revenue streams, including display advertising and reader subscriptions, are no longer enough to support digital publishing businesses on their own.

Diversification is something we’ve discussed quite a bit here at Web Publisher PRO. Our interest in diversifying digital publishers’ revenue streams is one of the reasons why we encourage our publishing clients to explore new opportunities, such as launching business directories, membership programs, and producing sponsored content for selected advertisers. Participants in the Shorenstein Center’s roundtable highlighted these strategies, as well as live events and direct public offerings, as potential solutions for digital publishing companies looking for long-term profitability.

2. “Field-building to grow a culture of philanthropy”

Interest in non-profit news organizations is growing, and philanthropic individuals are primed to support digital publishers’ efforts towards creating high-quality journalism. As display advertising dwindles, industry leaders are recommending that digital publishers begin exploring outside sources of philanthropic support. Accepting contributions from individuals and charitable organizations can create some challenges, and news organizations should keep a close eye on any strings that may be attached to donations from individuals that might have specific agendas.

3. “Finding and seeding growth capital for mission-driven journalism enterprises”

One of the hottest topics among attendees was about providing digital journalism startups with the resources they need to succeed.

Industry leaders say they have seen digital publishing startups struggle when they accept funding from firms with vastly different strategies for growth. One of the most substantial opportunities to come out of the Shorenstein Center’s roundtable involved the idea of an industry group creating a “Crunchbase for investors.” This website would connect investors and charitable groups with digital publishing organizations that have similar missions or goals.

4. “Growing the next generation of publishers in business acumen and leadership abilities”

Industry leaders agreed that it’s time for journalism schools to reimagine their curriculum, with a greater emphasis on business courses and financial education. One way to encourage this would be with the creation of more business-focused journalism fellowships, similar to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism and UNC School of Media and Journalism’s business journalism program. Obtaining an MBA for journalism would give future digital publishers greater insights into how to turn around struggling companies and ultimately create the types of media organizations that could revitalize the digital publishing industry as a whole.

5. “Building products to increase revenue and engagement”

The final opportunity for revitalizing the digital publishing industry happens to be the one we’re most interested in here at Web Publisher PRO. That’s because we believe strongly that the key to growing this industry is introducing new products designed to increase revenue and engagement. Online directories, “best of” lists, community calendars, and jobs boards are just a few examples of the types of low-cost publishing tools that make sense for digital publishers interested in new streams of ancillary revenue.

If you’d like more information about the latest products we’re recommending for digital publishers of all sizes, we’d love to connect and offer some of our insights.

directory landing pages

How to Create Directory Landing Pages

Businesses will pay top dollar for landing pages that go along with their listings in online directories. In order to be effective from a traffic and conversion standpoint, directory landing pages should include a few key ingredients.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk a little about what directory landing pages actually are. Directory landing pages are also called business profile pages. When people visiting an online business directory click on a listing—for example, the name of a restaurant or a retail store—they aren’t typically directed to that business’ website. They’re usually taken to a landing page hosted by the directory publisher.

Directory landing pages highlight a business’ best attributes, and they can help with search engine optimization. In addition to the organic visibility of the landing page itself, outbound links make it easier for consumers to find the business’ traditional website.

What Should Directory Landing Pages Include?

Think of directory landing pages as online billboards, promoting the best features of a company. Directory landing pages should include profile photos, or logos, and much of the same basic business information that shows up on a business’ Google My Business listing.

For a good example of a directory landing page, check out D Magazine’s business directory. Restaurant landing pages include business addresses, hours of operation, official website links, categories, brief profiles, special features (such as catering or delivery), reservation information, payment types accepted, and price range. When relevant, landing pages in D Magazine’s directory also include links to awards that businesses have received from the magazine, such as the Readers Choice award or the Restaurant Design award. Including those links keeps visitors engaged in the digital magazine’s website.

The best directory landing pages are mobile-friendly and optimized for search engines. According to a 2018 survey, 76% of top landing pages have location in the title tag and 66% have the business name in the title tag. One-quarter of top landing pages also include at least one video. (We’ll dig deeper into that later in this article.)

Publishers are granted a lot of leeway in deciding how much content they want on to feature on their directory landing pages. Most landing pages contain somewhere between 400 and 700 words.

What to Charge for a Directory Landing Page

The price a publisher charges to create directory landing pages should be commiserate with the price of directory listings and the overall time involved in creating individual pages.

First let’s start with the business directory itself. A publisher that charges businesses $20 per month for inclusion in an online directory can charge more for landing pages than a publisher that only charges businesses $5 per month. In order to justify the higher price tag, publishers should rely on web analytics. Showing the actual number of website visitors, along with conversion and engagement rates, digital publishers can demonstrate the value their online directories provide to businesses.

The next part of the equation has to do with the time involved in creating directory landing pages. How involved is each page, and how much original content had to be created by the publisher? Some publishers hire writers to create distinctive profiles for each business, usually ranging from 150 to 250 words long. While brief, these profiles are an excellent advertising technique and businesses are usually willing to pay for that feature.

Other features that might justify a higher price tag for a directory landing page include design customization, additional images, and any one-on-one conversations that took place as the business owner described what he or she was looking for. The more unique a publisher is willing to be in creating individual landing pages for businesses, the higher the final price tag.

Directory landing pages are an excellent place to post videos, which a publisher’s advertising department should create as part of the directory sales package. Videos can be setup as brief commercials or they can be documentary style, showcasing a day in the life of an employee at the business. The sky is the limit here. In any event, the business landing page is typically the place videos would be posted. Promotional videos are an add-on for publishers looking to generate more income from their business directories.

If you’d like to learn even more about how to create directory landing pages for your business directory, reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

online directories

The Three-Pronged Approach to Successful Online Directories

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.

online directories

How to Turn a Free Business Directory Into a Profit Center

The most successful business directories aren’t the most exclusive. They usually aren’t the most expensive for advertisers, either. What the most successful business directories have in common is that they’re free — up to a point, at least. The free business directory has a way of luring in both readers and advertisers with the promise of something for nothing. And who doesn’t like that?

Just remember, creating a free business directory doesn’t mean you have to give everything away for — free. Savvy digital publishers are discovering that it’s possible to launch a free business directory that generates substantial revenue. Here’s a few of the ways those publishers are making it happen.

Basic listings

In order to run a free business directory, publishers usually need to give away something at no cost. In most cases, that means letting businesses add their listings to the business directory for free. What’s the catch? Well, those free listings are usually very small and minimal in scope. Most include just a business name, telephone number, and physical address. In order for business owners to include images, highlighted text, or outbound website links, they need to pay for upgraded or premium listings.
Basic listings are a great way to bring new businesses, which could eventually turn into paying advertisers, to an online directory. Just make sure to give business owners plenty of opportunities to upgrade their basic listings, even once those listings have gone live on the directory. For example, you could send business owners weekly emails showing how much web traffic and engagement their listings are generating, as well as invitations to upgrade to premium listings — for a fee. These periodic emails serve as good reminders, in case business owners have forgotten about their listings, and relevant page view statistics justify the value of upgrading to paid promotions.

In some cases, a simple weekly or monthly email isn’t enough to encourage a business owner to upgrade from a basic free listing to a premium listing. In those cases you may want to try…

Free trial offers

If you’re confident in your product, then a 30-day free trial is an excellent way to expose business owners to the effect that premium listings on your directory could have on their companies. For maximum impact, upgrade businesses to the highest level of service — for example, a premium listing with an image gallery and outbound website links — and then carefully track the number of page views, click-throughs, and other engagement metrics during the trial period. These metrics will be valuable when the 30-day free trial has expired and it’s time to sell the business on a regularly-priced upgraded listing.

When you sell digital products, like listings on a free business directory, it doesn’t cost you anything to temporarily give away the product for free. It’s also easy to revoke access, which makes the 30-day free trial an effective strategy for encouraging business advertisers to upgrade to premium listings on your business directory.

Digital incentives

Basic listings are the foundation of a free business directory. Most businesses — particularly small and mid-size businesses — will create accounts on a free business directory just for the opportunity to have their business information included on the public page. But even a free business directory that’s centered around listings can have some valuable add-ons, for a price.

The sky is the limit when it comes to the value-added services you can offer with a digital business directory. Outbound links, location maps, and image galleries are a few of the self-service options that businesses can add to listings on their own, but the addition of more customized marketing services, like individual business landing pages, ecommerce capabilities, and online reputation management, can turn your free business directory into a hub for local digital marketing.

Imagine if a business owner arrived at your free business directory planning to post a basic listing for his business, and after doing so, he sees the option to sell products or accept client bookings directly through the listing he just created. Imagine the extra value you would be providing for the business, and the profit that these digital marketing add-ons would generate on a larger scale.

On the surface, it may look like business directories are generating their revenue from paid listings, but the vast majority of successful directory publishers are utilizing digital incentives and other value add-ons to make their directories profitable. If you’d like more information about how to increase the profitability of your own business directory, feel free to reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

"best of" lists popularity

Why “Best Of” Lists Are The Next Big Thing in Digital Publishing

City and regional magazines have been printing “best of” lists for decades, but fundamental changes in the way publishers generate revenue now are creating renewed demand for this type of advertiser-heavy content.

The latest generation of “best of” lists—think, Top Doctors, Best Restaurants, and the like—are creating an additional stream of revenue for digital publishers already facing increasing production costs and diminishing display advertising rates.

Capitalizing on Authority

Anyone can make a website today, but city and regional magazine publishers have a level of authority that can’t easily be replicated. Years of quality reporting on the issues facing local residents make up the foundation of a respected publication.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that city and regional magazines have a reputation for quality. These publishers have to maintain an elite esthetic if they want visitors bureaus, hotels, and other hospitality and tourism organizations to hand out their print editions and advertise within their pages.

That quality leads to authority, and authority then becomes the foundation that digital publishers need to successfully develop and sell advertising against editorial features like “best of” lists.

Authority, quality, trustworthiness are three factors that separate a city or regional magazine publisher’s “best of” lists from consumer review sites, like Yelp or Healthgrades. Readers have no idea whether the reviewers on Yelp are being honest, or whether they have the same taste in restaurants or bars. When city and regional magazines publish their “best of” lists, there’s an automatic trust in the quality of the list.

City and regional magazines have another thing going for them. Over the last decade, these publications have emerged as some of the last remaining authorities on lifestyle subjects like local shopping, dining, and entertainment. Budget cuts have caused many print newspapers to scale back their lifestyles and dining sections, since lengthy reviews take more time and money than daily newspaper reporters have available. City magazines have largely reached in to fill that void, making them especially well positioned to supplement their lifestyle coverage with annual “best of” lists.

Searching for Alternative Revenue

Having already tapped the market with display advertising and subscription programs, digital publishers have gone out in search of new opportunities.

In some ways, running a city or regional magazine has never been more challenging. Advertising rates are stagnant or dropping, and online upstarts are syphoning off readers. But looked at from a different perspective, the opportunities for generating alternative revenue as a digital publisher have never been greater.

City and regional magazine publishers are primarily looking at “best of” lists as revenue generators. Readers will subscribe in order to access these lists, and advertisers will pay a premium to sponsor popular “best of” sections. Publishers can also charge a higher rate to advertise alongside their “Best Restaurants” or “Top Doctors” lists, since having a banner ad at the top of one of these lists gives the advertiser a certain level of cache.

What’s more controversial is the practice of charging businesses to be included in a “best of” list. Rather than break the trust they have earned from readers, most city magazines are avoiding charging businesses to be included in their “best of” lists. Instead, they may offer premium listing placements within their lists, for a fee. What that means is that a reader would see a list of the best restaurants in her city, but there might be a box around one listing with the word “sponsored” at the top. That listing is most likely being paid for by the restaurant. This is a way for city magazines to keep their integrity intact while still generating alternative revenue.

Another option for publishers looking to generate more revenue is to embrace brand licensing, or the leasing of media assets to third-party organizations. According to a survey by Folio: and Wright’s Media, nearly 27% of publishers feel that editorial lists have the potential for logo and content licensing for their brands. That might involve letting a third-party group lease the publisher’s name and logo for a “best of” list or allowing another publisher to reprint an existing list.

As editorial lists grow in popularity among city magazine publishers, the opportunities for monetization are increasing. Here at Web Publisher PRO, we are excited to see this evolution. If you’ve got questions or other ideas for how publishers can be generating revenue through their “best of” lists, we’d love to connect.

how to use directories to boost search traffic

The Definitive Guide to Directory Sponsorships

Digital publishers monetize their directories in all different ways, but no strategy delivers as much bang for the buck as selling directory sponsorships.

In order to generate a profit through paid listings and display advertising, digital publishers must successfully sell their services to dozens or hundreds of businesses. With directory sponsorships, that level of widespread sales success isn’t necessary. A single enthusiast business owner is all it takes to turn a profit when publishers offer directory sponsorships as part of their online advertising packages.

What Are Directory Sponsorships

The vast majority of digital directories generate revenue through small banner ads displayed around the perimeter of the webpage or within directory listings. When one business or brand purchases exclusive rights to advertise across the entire directory, we typically refer to that as a directory sponsorship.

Digital publishers who sell directory sponsorships earmark their directories for specific advertisers. The majority of sponsored directories feature a simple header with the sponsor’s brand name and a website link. Others might feature the same display ad in every slot on the directory’s main page. As a way to make their deals more attractive, some publishers will even reserve popups, slideshows, and full background wallpapers for advertisers on the sponsorship level.

Directory sponsorships are a great example of a situation in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Large brands will pay more to sponsor a directory than they would to fill all of the display advertising spots on a webpage thanks to the promise of exclusivity. A brand like Coca-Cola, for example, would pay a premium to sponsor a “Top Restaurants in Dallas” directory because its ads would not directly be competing for attention against ads for Pepsi or Dr. Pepper.

Being able to position ads adjacent to relevant content is also important. Digital publishers tend to have more success going after large healthcare organizations to sponsor their “Best Doctors” lists, or large law firms to sponsor their “Top Lawyers” lists, because those advertisers directly align with the content in the directory.

To get a first-hand look at a sponsored directory, check out Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly 2018 package. Sitting atop the package is a heading that says, “Best of Philly. Presented by Mercedes-Benz.”

How to Sell Directory Sponsorships

Larger publishers with a stable of brand advertisers have the easiest time selling directory sponsorships, but mid-size digital publishers can find success with this strategy, as well.

Start by adding specs about sponsorship packages to the Media Kit or Advertising page of your website. This is the time to decide how to price your sponsorship packages.

Whereas display advertising is usually priced at CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions), digital publishers have more flexibility in setting the prices for directory sponsorships. Directory sponsorships usually guarantee complete advertising exclusivity for a given period of time, such as one month. In exchange for that exclusivity, brand advertisers agree to pay a flat price.

Publishing an editorial calendar lets potential brand advertisers know when new directories and “Best Of” lists will be published, along with the types of sponsorship packages being sold against each directory.

How to Increase the Value of a Directory

The more targeted the audience, the higher the premium a digital publisher can charge for a directory sponsorship. For example, a realtor might pay $2,000 per month to sponsor a city magazine’s “Real Estate Directory,” or $3,000 per month to sponsor the “Luxury Listings” page (with home over $10 million) within the directory. A realtor who specializes in upscale real estate is more likely to get qualified leads by sponsoring the “Luxury Listings” page, even if that page generates fewer page views over the course of a one-month sponsorship.

Publishers can also increase their potential profits by splitting a single large directory into multiple directories. Instead of having a “Best Of Sacramento” directory with listings for all the top Sacramento businesses, a digital publisher might consider having separate directories with listings for the “Top Restaurants,” “Top Doctors,” and “Top Lawyers” in their city.

Making directories more targeted isn’t the only way digital publishers can boost the value of their directory sponsorships. Publishers can also charge a premium when they put their sponsor’s logo atop email newsletters or when they embed the logo inside individual directory listings. Creativity is key here, as big brand advertisers are always looking for innovative strategies for reaching consumers in their target demographics.

If you’d like more ideas for how to monetize your directory through brand sponsorships, reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

directory landing pages

3 Steps to Increase the Value of Your Business Directory

Business directories can be lucrative for digital publishers. In addition to generating revenue, a business directory also increases website traffic and user engagement.

The majority of publishers are undervaluing their online business directories, failing to leverage what could be a key asset in their digital portfolios. The truth is, a robust business directory is likely worth more than most publishers realize. This is particularly the case when the directory is being properly monetized through a combination of advertising and sponsorship strategies.

Here are three steps to increase the value of your online business directory.

1. Assess what you’ve got.

Not all business directories are created equal. While most publishers can expect to generate revenue from their online directories, some will have to do more work than others before getting to the point of profitability.
We recommend starting this journey by assessing the value of your business directory in its current state. Quantify the size of your database, the number of free vs. paid listings, and the amount of excess display advertising inventory. How many of the businesses listed in your directory are paying for premium placements? How could the vendor pages and other related content be more efficiently monetized? With the answers to these questions in hand, you should be able to start identifying new areas for growth.

When you’re assessing your business directory, look at any existing limitations and brainstorm ways to surpass them. For example, a business directory may be limited in the amount of room available for display advertising. The best way to overcome this obstacle is to increase the advertising rates.

2. Fill any gaps in content.

Look at the results of that initial assessment to find places where your business directory could be improved. If the number of listings relative to the number of businesses in your community is low, then start by adding more listings to the directory. If you already have listings for nearly every business in town, but the information contained in those listings is thin or outdated, then get to work adding descriptions, phone numbers, addresses, and social links.

If manually updating your business directory is too burdensome or time consuming, consider a paid solution that automatically populates directories using publicly available business data. Another option is a self-serve interface where local business owners can submit information for their business listings. Revenue optimization should only be considered once there is strong, and accurate, content in the business directory.

A substantial business directory with updated information will encourage more visitor engagement and attract more advertising dollars. This is also the time to consider value add-ons for advertisers. Individual vendor pages, photo galleries, and click-to-call links all bring more value to an online directory, and more importantly, these are features that businesses will pay a premium to have attached to their profiles. Consider which of these add-on features makes sense given the specifics of your own publication’s business directory, then make sure to include information about them in any promotional material that are distributed to potential advertisers.

3. Sell, sell, sell.

Each step here builds on the last. The real value in an online business directory is in the listings that businesses pay to have included. Once you have assessed the current state of your directory and filled in any gaps in content, it’s time to start bringing in the revenue.

Reach out to local businesses that might be interested in having their listings featured in your business directory. Self-service marketing portals allow advertisers to submit content and pay for enhanced listings online. With the click of a button, an advertiser can decide how long the listing should run, and whether he or she would be willing to pay an additional $5 or $10 per month for extras, like logos, product images, or promotional videos.

Promotional materials published on your website should include information about the price of basic listings, as well as any add-on services. Many digital publishers are finding that they have an easier time selling to small and mid-size businesses when they provide potential advertisers with information about the number of visitors who click on individual listings each month. These same reporting tools can be useful as publishers evaluate their own pricing structures, since it might become apparent that specific add-on services—such as photo galleries or highlighted text—offer more value than others.

If you’d like to learn more about what it takes to build a successful online business directory, we’d love to set up a time to chat.