Social Media for Directory Publishers

The Ultimate Social Media Checklist for Directory Publishers

If you’ve got a solid SEO strategy in place and your online directory still isn’t ranking highly in Google search results, then a lack of social media awareness could be to blame.

Many directory publishers are under the impression that organic traffic alone is enough to sustain their businesses. That may be true in some cases, but the vast majority of directory publishers need to step it up with a solid social media strategy if they want to build momentum and generate sustainable revenue from their websites. The challenge in creating an effective social media plan is often knowing where to begin.

Building a social media profile for a traditional local business, like a restaurant or a clothing store, is easy. Plenty of tools are available to help small business owners do just that. But directory publishers have a unique set of challenges as the owners of online businesses, and specific goals that they need to reach before they can consider their social media efforts a success. Getting profiles set up across all the major social media channels is just the first step.

If the thought of scheduling posts on Twitter and running ads on Facebook leaves you feeling overwhelmed, or if you’re not even sure which social media tasks you should be doing in which order, then keep reading for a step-by-step social media checklist designed specifically for directory publishers.

First Steps for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers who are still in the earliest stages of creating a social media strategy should begin by completing the following tasks:

  • Creating profiles across all relevant social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn
  • Ensuring all branding, logos, and images are consistent across social profiles
  • Promoting new social pages with links on all directory pages, as well as in any email newsletters
  • Researching the best posting times to maximize post views based on target demographics and the social media channels you’re posting on
  • Promoting new social pages with paid advertising campaigns

Daily Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks every day:

  • Replying to comments across all social media channels
  • Monitoring mentions of the directory on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Reviewing the established posting calendar
  • Researching industry-related keywords and hashtags

Weekly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks at least once each week:

  • Brainstorming new content and updating the posting schedule for the week
  • Visiting competitors’ social media pages and tracking which of their posts are receiving the most interaction
  • Reviewing any paid campaigns and tracking the results

Monthly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks on a monthly basis:

  • Collecting monthly statistics across all active social channels
  • Analyzing which strategies are working and which are not
  • Comparing monthly page statistics against competitors’
  • Researching upcoming industry events and related news items that could be used on social channels

Quarterly Social Media Activities for Directory Publishers

Directory publishers should be doing the following tasks at least four times per year:

  • Reviewing branding and remedying any inconsistencies across social channels (for example, updating profiles with new logos or company descriptions)
  • Evaluating the past quarter’s KPIs
  • Setting goals and defining KPIs for the next quarter
  • Using a tool like SEMrush’s Social Media Poster to understand the demographics of your Facebook audience
  • Running audience analysis to ensure the right demographics are being targeted with any paid campaigns

Our goal in creating this social media checklist for directory publishers is not to make anyone feel overwhelmed. By making these tasks a regular part of your routine, the hope is that you’ll be able to easily stay current with the latest trends and be more likely to reach your target goals, whatever those goals may be.

Directory Sponsorships

Directory Sponsorships: 10 Ideas to Get More Sponsors in 2019

How do you attract sponsors to your directory website? How do you persuade local businesses that your online directory is the best place to invest their advertising dollars, and that directory sponsorships deliver a strong ROI?

First and foremost, your online directory needs to shine. The value of directory sponsorships is directly tied to the quality of the online directory. The more traffic the directory gets, the longer visitors stay on the site, and the more they engage with content, the more businesses will pay for sponsorship packages.

With only one chance to impress potential advertisers and get website sponsors signed up, it’s important that publishers seize the day and pull out all the stops.

Most directory publishers understand how important sponsorships are to their financial success. With regular website sponsors, publishers can continue growing their directories and other digital properties.

Finding businesses willing to pay for directory sponsorships, and bringing in premium rates, is challenging for publishers. What’s the key to getting local businesses interested in sponsoring your online directory? If the traffic is there, what’s preventing potential advertisers from signing on?

Here are our best tips for selling more directory sponsorships in 2019.

1. Focus on SEO. Directories that rank highly in Google and show authority on the topics they cover—local restaurants, top physicians, etc.—will be more successful in attracting sponsors who are willing to pay premium rates.

2. Develop an identity. Businesses have hundreds of options to choose from when it comes to advertising their services online. What makes your directory unique? Work to develop a strong identify for your directory right from the get-go. That identity should include cohesive branding, an area of focus, and a distinctive writing style.

3. Pinpoint dream sponsors. Make a list of every business that has advertised on your directory in the past, what they paid, and what type of advertising package they purchased. Using this list, you should be able to identify businesses that may be interesting in upgrading their advertising and purchasing directory sponsorships.

4. Get active in the community. Publishers with local business directories should pay particular attention to the communities they serve. Who are your readers and what types of businesses do they visit? These are the businesses you should be targeting with sponsorship opportunities. The more well-known the directory is in the community, and the more name recognition it has, the easier it becomes to sell sponsorship deals to area businesses.

5. Track relevant metrics. A directory’s sales team is going to have an easier time selling directory sponsorships when they are armed with the right information. Advertisers are interested in knowing how many people are visiting the directory each month and how long they are staying on the site.

6. Highlight visitor demographics. Publishers with city-specific or niche directories should highlight the demographics of their website visitors in any sales pitches to potential advertisers. Advertisers want to know that the people seeing their ads are potential customers, which might mean they live in a certain area or they share other traits, like an occupation or hobby.

7. Send better proposals. Sending proposals via email is acceptable when your sales team is trying to push the idea of directory sponsorships to potential advertisers. Proposals should include as many details as possible, including weekly or monthly rates and mockups of how advertiser logos would appear to website visitors.

8. Dare to be different. Who says your directory sponsorship packages have to be the same as everyone else’s? The digital advertising world rewards innovators, so think outside the box when designing sponsorship packages and consider which benefits businesses would be most interested in receiving for their advertising dollars.

9. Check out the competition. Visit competing online directories to see which businesses are advertising on their websites. Make a list of which local businesses are purchasing the biggest advertising packages, since there is a good chance these businesses might be interested in advertising on your directory website, as well.

10. Promote sponsor success stories. Get on the phone and check in with businesses who have purchased directory sponsorships to find out what they thought of the experience. Did they get new customers as a direct result of their sponsorship? Improved name recognition around town? Gather up these positive anecdotes and feature them prominently in any marketing materials you use when selling directory sponsorships.

Paid Directory Listings

How Paid Directory Listings Actually Work

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:

  1. How will businesses submit their listings?
  2. How much will you charge for premium listings?
  3. How will paid listings be differentiated from unpaid listings?
  4. 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.

Local Business Directory

6 Places to Find Listings for a Local Business Directory

It isn’t a directory without the listings. For publishers launching a local business directory, finding the information that’s ultimately used to generate business listings is no easy task.

Businesses and other organizations aren’t lining up to provide the information needed to create online listings—most business owners simply don’t have the time. The number of business owners who will manually add listings to a local business directory is incredibly low.

Thankfully, publishers have a number of options when it comes to sourcing the information that will ultimately be used to populate their directories. The most time consuming of these options is to drive around cataloging local businesses and then manually adding listings for those businesses one-by-one. What more directory publishers are opting for these days, as they work to get their new directories off the ground, is to purchase listing data from sellers online.

Let’s look at six resources publishers can use to find listings for a local business directory.

  1.  InfoUSA
    InfoUSA is a part of Infogroup, one of the largest data and marketing service companies in the country. One aspect of what the company does is to sell business information. Typically, InfoUSA sells to salespeople looking for fresh leads, but that same data can be used by publishers launching local business directories. In addition to lists of business organized by location, InfoUSA also sells lists of doctors, churches, and healthcare organizations, which could also be useful when creating “Best Of” content. Publishers who are interested in trying out InfoUSA’s product can contact the company for specific pricing information.
  2. Yellow Pages Spider
    The company behind Yellow Pages Spider has created a tool that searches all the most popular business directories to find relevant business information for its users. Publishers input keywords and location data to pinpoint the category of businesses they are looking for, and Yellow Pages Spider extracts all available data, including name, address, phone number, and website URL for each business. Yellow Pages Spider’s data is ready to export in multiple formats, including TXT and Excel. Yellow Pages Spider charges a one-time fee of $97.
  3. Dun & Bradstreet
    Dun & Bradstreet is a large commercial data analytics firm. Publishers can work with the company to create targeted business lists based on more than 175 data points. The company’s DataVision product leverages more than 120 million business records from 30,000 sources. In addition to providing clients with lists of businesses in their target markets, Dun & Bradstreet is also able to identify which businesses are most likely to be interested in paying for premium listings or advertising opportunities. Dun & Bradstreet’s data can be exported in a number of ways, including directly to a publisher’s CRM.
  4. Yellow Scrape
    Publishers with local business directories can use Yellow Scrape to extract business information and create listings for their websites. Yellow Scrape’s software gathers business names, addresses, phone numbers, websites, social links, and contact information from the web and delivers the data in a way that directory publishers can immediately input into their websites. Publishers select the location and business type, and Yellow Scrape collects that information from Yellow Pages directories. Data is available as .csv files. Yellow Scrape’s U.S. and Canada software costs $75.
  5. Better Business Bureau
    Publishers with city-specific niche directories can get information about local businesses from the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau runs a well-populated directory that’s searchable by business industry and zip code. Most business listings include contact information, website links, and brief overviews of what the companies do. Because the Better Business Bureau does not sell its listing information, publishers will have to manually research businesses on the organization’s directory. The upside to this strategy is that it’s completely free.
  6. WP Local Plus
    WP Local Plus is a WordPress plugin that publishers can use to add local directories to their websites. The plugin automatically creates business directories with Google Maps integration. One of the upgraded features is auto-generated listings, which means publishers get access to local business listings that they can use to populate their own directories. In addition to basic business information, WP Local Plus’ listings also include information about business locations, reviews, maps, and external website URLs. WP Local Plus’ listings are self-updating, which means the system will edit things like business names, addresses, and phone numbers as they change over time. Publishers in the U.S. and Canada can purchase WP Local Plus for $39 per year.
Local Business Directory

Do You Need a Local Business Directory?

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.

Revenue Strategies for Magazine Publishers

5 Revenue Strategies for Magazine Publishers

We all know brand sponsorships pay the bills at national magazines, but smaller streams of revenue can still add up to big financial gains for digital outlets. Rather than “thinking big,” the latest revenue strategies for magazine publishers are taking advantage of unused web space and repurposed content.

The big trend among magazine publishers right now is to generate income from existing content. Why reinvent the wheel when there’s an opportunity to make money from content that’s already there? But repurposing content is just one of a number of revenue strategies for magazine publishers. Selling website space is another way that savvy digital publishers are generating incremental sources of income.

Take Philadelphia Magazine. The regional monthly magazine maintains a popular “Best of Philly” list, along with directories of top restaurants, doctors, dentists, realtors, wedding resources, and home and design businesses.

Like so many other digital magazine publishers, Philadelphia Magazine had already done the work of creating a thriving publication with an excellent reputation. It already maintains a website, which attracts a large audience, and the content management system and other back-end operations were already firmly in place. Why not add on a directory and “best of” lists and start generating extra income?

Publishers that have existing websites can add new sections to their websites—like directories, ‘best of’ lists, calendars, job boards, and obituaries—to bring in extra revenue. These are revenue strategies for magazine publishers that require minimal financial investment and virtually no ongoing costs, which means significant upsides or rewards.

Let’s do a deeper dive into how these revenue strategies for magazine publishers actually work.

1) Business Directories
Business directories are the most popular of all the revenue strategies for magazine publishers included on this list. Business directories tend to be profitable from the very beginning.

Magazine publishers with business directories can charge sponsors—i.e., businesses included in the directories—to have their listings appear at the top of each directory page or inside highlighted boxes. Sponsors might also be able to get their listings to appear at the bottom of magazine articles as “related resources.” (For a fee, of course).

2) ‘Best Of’ Lists
Like business directories, ‘Best Of’ lists are an excellent source of revenue for both online and print magazine publishers. While it is usually frowned upon to charge businesses to be included in a ‘Best Of’ list, publishers still have a number of options when it comes to monetizing their lists, including running display advertising and creating “highlighted” business listings at the top or in the center of their lists. Publishers can also sell window clings to businesses included in their ‘Best Of’ lists, as a way to highlight the fact that the business was recognized.

3) Calendars
Online calendars are growing in popularity among digital magazine publishers, both because of the service they provide to readers and the opportunity for revenue generation. Top magazine publishers work with sponsors to develop custom advertising opportunities in their online calendars. That might mean a business paying to have its calendar listings bolded or highlighted. Publishers that send out daily calendar emails can also monetize those emails by featuring selected businesses.

4) Jobs Boards
Listings in an online jobs board can be sponsored by businesses or promoted in some other way. Jobs boards are a huge resource for readers, particularly at niche or B2B publications. Jobs boards are also excellent traffic drivers that bring new people back to websites time and time again.

Although job listings are the foundation of any jobs board, for profit schools and other businesses can pay to advertise educational seminars and job fairs, either as display advertising along the sides of the jobs board or as native advertising.

5) Obituaries
Although it is rare to see obituaries in a city or regional magazine, this is not an uncommon feature in alumni magazines and other industry publications. The only real way to make money through an obituaries page is to have volume. Publishers rarely charge more than nominal fees to include obituaries, but those nominal fees do add up for publishers with large online followings.

Volume is really at the heart of all of these revenue strategies for magazine publishers. It takes a great deal of enhanced listings, paid job postings, and the like, to make up for one big brand sponsorship. But these revenue generators also require no salespeople, and minimal financial outlay, which means the money that comes in is all profit.

We’d love to hear if you’ve tried any of these revenue strategies, and if so, how they are working out for your publication.

online directory software

How to Choose Online Directory Software

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.

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.