Membership Programs for Directory Publishers

Membership Programs for Directory Publishers

Consumers are finally warming to the idea of paying for premium content, and directory publishers are capitalizing on the sea change. Like news organizations, a growing number of directory publishers are launching membership programs for their most frequent visitors.

Similar to subscription packages, premium memberships offer incremental revenue for directory publishers who’ve grown tired of the month-to-month fluctuations in display advertising.

What’s most important for directory publishers to understand is that membership programs are a beneficial tool for leveraging an existing platform. The strategy itself also fosters better relationships between publishers, readers, and business advertisers. When digital publishers launch directory membership programs, they decrease their reliance on online advertising and business sponsors.

How Do Directory Memberships Work?

One of the most successful revenue models for directory publishers is the paid membership. Paid memberships are driven by readers, which means publishers that go this route can dedicate themselves to meeting the needs of readers without having to spend time catering to the needs of advertisers.

Website visitors who’ve found value in the directory can purchase premium memberships for special access to content and other exclusive benefits. This works similarly to a subscription, where premium content is reserved for visitors who pay a regular fee.

Membership packages are generally paid for through self-service portals on the directory website, with new members being encouraged to pay on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis. Some programs offer reduced prices for members who pay annually. From that point, memberships are billed automatically through the publisher’s chosen payment gateway. Memberships may be considered tax deductible, depending on the publisher’s tax status.

Once readers have become paying members, they are given login credentials to enter each time they arrive at the directory. Entering these credentials unlocks content that other visitors don’t have access to, such as enhanced listings and reviews. Directory members may also receive special benefits, including things like:

  • Access to private Facebook groups
  • Free admission to members-only events
  • Members-only emails
  • Branded tote bags, t-shirts, and other swag

Publishers who have created membership programs for their online directories will often introduce tiers or levels. Readers who purchase lower tier memberships get fewer benefits, while those at the highest levels get special “benefactor” status, in addition to more discounts and swag.

Which Directories Have Successful Membership Programs?

While it is true from a technical sense that any online directory can create a membership or subscription program, the reality is that this strategy works better for some publishers than others. The greater the competition in the publisher’s niche, the less likely a membership program is going to be successful. You’re less likely to see a paid membership program for a local business directory (which has competition from the Yellow Pages, Yelp, and many other websites) than you would for a directory that’s focused on a niche topic.

Publishers with online directories focused on certain hobbies tend to have the greatest success in cultivating the type of dedicated fan base that’s required to have a successful membership program. For example, trade groups will often create membership programs to go along with their online directories. People who become members of the trade group can access premium listings in the directory, or they themselves can be listed, depending on the types of services they offer.

Backstage.com offers us another example of a site with a popular membership program. For $99 per year, performers can become Backstage members and add their own talent profiles to Backstage’s online directory. They can also sign up to receive instant notifications when new job listings go live, and they have access to listings that other readers can’t see on the website.

Why Do Directory Publishers Create Membership Programs?

Membership programs help loosen the reliance that directory publishers have on digital advertising and business sponsorships. But unlike subscriptions, which simply involve website visitors paying a fee for access to premium content, membership programs offer a greater sense of belonging.

Website visitors who sign on to become members of their favorite online directories feel like they are in an exclusive club, and they are more likely to promote the directory to their friends and to support the directory publicly in other ways. Some membership programs allow only a certain percentage of website visitors to become members, creating greater demand for the membership, while others use private Facebook groups and Slack channels to bring their members together under one roof.

What’s most important here is that creating a membership program makes readers feel like they belong to something valuable. It’s more than just a financial transaction. That’s the real reason why publishers decide to setup membership programs instead of traditional subscription packages.

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.

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.

'Best Of' lists

Creating Traffic with ‘Best Of’ Lists

‘Best Of’ lists are useful resources that generate plenty of search engine traffic for digital publishers. They are also considered highly “linkable,” meaning that visitors and other web publishers are likely to link to ‘Best Of’ lists.

‘Best Of’ lists fulfill two roles for digital publishers. First, they satisfy reader demand for information about the best providers—physicians, restaurants, hair stylists, etc.—in their communities. Second, when optimized appropriately with the latest monetization opportunities, ‘Best Of’ lists give businesses a way to reach consumers in their target demographics.

Although ‘Best Of’ lists are usually tied to existing web publications, such as city and regional magazines, a number of websites have popped up with the sole purpose of publishing ‘Best Of’ lists for certain industries. For example, www.BestDoctors.com publishes a list of more than 50,000 medical experts. Castle Connolly is another firm that publishes ‘Best Of’ lists, featuring the best doctors in specific regions of the country.

It is important to know how the publishing business model works, in order to understand how ‘Best Of’ lists fit into that model. The vast majority of digital publishers today rely on display advertising for monetization. But display advertising rates have declined in recent years, and publishers are leaning more heavily on ancillary revenue opportunities to make up for the shortfall.

By publishing ‘Best Of’ lists, online publishers are creating a new stream of revenue where there was not one before. Publishers are monetizing their ‘Best Of’ lists through list sponsorships, native advertising, enhanced listings, and premium content.

The content in ‘Best Of’ lists has significant SEO value. ‘Best Of’ lists are organized by topic, which search engines love. This strategy also helps publishers rank well for long-tail keywords related to those topics.

The more search engine traffic a publisher drives to his ‘Best Of’ lists, the higher the premium the publisher can charge to advertise alongside that list.

Tips for Increasing Traffic with ‘Best Of’ Lists

When people search “best [type of business or professional] in [city],” you want Google to bring up your ‘Best Of’ list first. Doctors and restaurants are two especially popular themes here, but ‘Best Of’ lists can really focus on any industry. Publishers will have greater success, in terms of search engine rankings, when they choose less popular industries. For example, a publisher is more likely to reach No. 1 in the search rankings with a “Top Podiatrists in Fresno” list than a “Top Doctors in Fresno” list, because there is less keyword competition for the word podiatrist than doctor. However, there are going to be fewer people searching for podiatrists than doctors—known as “keyword volume”—so that is also something to consider.

As you can see, the topic and keywords matter when it comes to creating traffic with ‘Best Of’ lists. Some list topics in popular metro areas are too competitive to rank highly in Google. For example, it would be challenging—although not impossible—for a digital publisher to break through to the first page of Google results with a list of the best lawyers in New York.

More unique topics will have less keyword competition, and they will rank higher in Google and Bing search results. But there’s a catch. More unique topics or smaller industries also have lower keyword volume, meaning there will be fewer people searching for those keywords, and the overall number of visitors may be small.

Publishers who have already launched their ‘Best Of’ lists can still make small tweaks to boost the traffic coming from search engines.

As a best practice, we recommend building individual pages for each topic or listing. On a ‘Top Lawyers’ list, for example, each lawyer would have a landing page with basic business information and links to external websites. This is in addition to the main page, which would include a complete list of lawyers in the directory.

Keep the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of each business consistent to avoid creating duplicate entries. In addition to generating traffic, individual landing pages can be a selling feature if you decide to charge businesses a monthly fee for premium or upgraded listings.

One final recommendation for creating traffic with ‘Best Of’ lists is to create a link-building plan.

Linking plays a major role in how Google ranks webpages. For digital publishers with existing online magazines or blogs, the easiest way to start a link-building plan is by linking existing articles and other web content to the ‘Best Of’ list. For example, a regional magazine could include a link to its ‘Best Restaurants’ list at the bottom of every restaurant review. We would also recommend linking restaurant reviews to the landing pages, if you have created them.

Inbound links lead to greater page authority, greater page authority leads to higher rankings in the search results, and higher rankings in the search results lead to greater amounts of website traffic. If you’d like even more information on how to create more traffic with ‘best of’ lists, let’s connect!

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.

Promoting a Business Directory

6 Strategies for Promoting a Business Directory

Launching an online business directory isn’t like opening a coffee shop on Main Street. Nobody passes by a website and randomly decides to pop in. That’s why marketing and promotion are so important for digital businesses. It’s also why publishers need to work so hard when they’re promoting a business directory, if they want to generate traffic and cultivate a loyal audience.

You might be wondering what it means to promote a business directory, and which tactics are most effective for building an engaged audience. While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for promoting a business directory, there are certain approaches that work better than others.

When it comes time to promote a business directory, you have more options than you may realize. Some of the marketing strategies highlighted below may seem obvious, but all of them have proven to be highly effective for digital publishers.

1. House Ads on Your Website
Why promote other people’s businesses when you can promote your own? Running house ads for your new business directory on the homepage of your publication’s existing website allows you to capitalize on your audience. Consider placing a banner ad for your new business directory directly above the header on your website, or along the sidebar on any article pages. Static ads will work just fine here, but slideshows and galleries are also useful ad formats when you’re promoting a business directory.

2. Promotion in Email Newsletters
Most digital publishers already have lists of email subscribers who’ve indicated they’re interested in the publication. These subscribers are the perfect audience for a new business directory. Take advantage of the audience you have already built by inviting your existing email subscribers to check out your new business directory before its “official” launch. This lends the air of exclusivity and it will get people talking. A well-placed link in the header or footer of an email newsletter can work wonders at getting people to click over, as can an embedded logo or a static ad.

3. Search Engine Optimization
When people search for businesses in your city on Google, which websites do they see first? Review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor get top billing in the Google search results for many small and mid-size businesses. With proper search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, you can ensure that your business directory appears on the first page of results, as well.

We’ll dig into which SEO tactics work best for business directories in a later article, but the most important thing for you to know right now is that Google heavily favors listings with complete business information, which means it’s important that you have an accurate phone number, business hours, address, and website links for as many listings as possible.

4. Pay-Per-Click Ads on Google
Let’s face it, reaching the first page of Google results can be tough for a business directory that’s just getting off the ground. Why not start with a pay-per-click campaign to ensure people are finding your business directory online? You can create ads using keywords that people might use when searching for your directory—for example, local bookstores in Sacramento, California—and target those ads to people in specific zip codes or other demographic traits.

5. Exit Intent Popups
Display ads aren’t the only type of digital advertising that publishers can rely on when they’re promoting a business directory. Exit intent popups are ads that appear as an overlay in the middle of a webpage when a user moves his or her cursor towards the address bar. Although publishers usually charge a premium to run exit intent popups on their websites, these ads are free when you run them on your own publication’s website.

6. Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing never goes out of style. Get out into the community and start telling friends, acquaintances, and potential advertisers about your new business directory. While you won’t reach as many people through word-of-mouth marketing as you might with the other strategies on this list, there’s a higher chance that the people you do tell about your business directory will actually visit the website—and that they will share the directory’s link with their friends in the real world and on social media.

generate revenue from online directories

5 Ways to Generate Revenue from Online Directories

For years, business listings and “Best Of” lists have been an undervalued component of most city and regional publishing websites. However, with the right ad sales strategies and self-serve checkout tools in place, digital publishers are now finding that it is possible to generate revenue from online directories in a way that’s both passive and sustainable.

Hosting an online directory has significant upside for the savvy digital publisher. New plugins and platforms make the process of building a directory fairly straightforward, and a number of payment solutions enable advertisers to pay for enhanced listings in a self-service fashion.

From Yellow Pages-style business listings to jobs boards, “Best Of” lists, real estate showcases, and customer review portals, there are endless opportunities for digital publishers who want to generate revenue from online directories. This is particularly the case for digital publishers with niche audiences, since those audiences often look to professional publishers as a trusted source of information. Capitalizing on that goodwill makes it possible for city and regional magazine publishers, in particular, to bring together their loyal audiences with business sponsors.

Here are five popular ways for digital publishers to generate revenue from online directories.

1. Enhanced Listings
The most popular way for digital publishers to generate revenue from online directories is by selling enhanced listings. For example, a publisher with a local business directory might publish a listing for every business for free, but charge a fee for listings with bolded text, images, or additional information. Most publishers will sell enhanced listings through a self-serve portal, which means advertisers can manage their listings and sign up for recurring payments without requiring any handholding from the publisher’s sales staff.

2. Display Advertising
Online directories are popular with search engines, which means they can drive a significant amount of traffic to a digital publisher’s website. One of the ways that publishers can capitalize on that influx of search engine traffic is by running display advertising alongside their directories.

Publishers have the option to run Google Ads or sell advertising directly to the same local businesses featured in their directories. Imagine a city-specific business directory flanked by display ads paid for by a local restaurant or automotive dealership. Publisher should ideally be using online directory software that includes widgetized ad zones that support Google DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) and other major ad serving platforms, including Broadstreet.

3. Subscription Access
Whether readers will pay a premium for access to an online directory depends on the value of the information behind the paywall. While readers won’t usually pay for basic information, like local business listings, niche publishers — particularly in the healthcare and legal fields — have found success charging for access to their “Best Of” lists.

Another option is to charge readers for premium content within a free directory. For example, homeowners looking at an online directory for contractors in their area might see the names of the top contractors for free, but they have to pay to see verified reviews and images of the contractor’s past work. This strategy should be combined with enhanced listings for publishers who are looking for more than one way to generate revenue from online directories.

4. Featured Listings
Featured listings go one step beyond enhanced listings, justifying a higher price tag for advertisers. Whereas an enhanced listing is one that’s bolded or includes an image, a featured listing usually sits in a place of prominence within the online directory. For example, featured listings can sit inside a large box towards the top of the webpage or they might be included under a “Related Resources” tab below the directory. Like enhanced listings, featured listings should include an image and a heading that’s somehow bolded or highlighted. Advertisers should also be able to pay for featured listings through a self-serve portal on the publisher’s website.

5. Sponsored Directories
Display advertising typically runs alongside or at the top of an online directory, but section sponsorships take business branding to another level. Wallpaper ads that are automatically inserted in the full background of every page within the online directory are impossible for readers to overlook. Publishers who want to generate revenue from online directories can charge a premium for these types of sponsorships. For example, a local Realtor might pay to have his or her logo splashed across the background of every page of an online directory of real estate listings.

The key to maximizing profits with an online directory is to combine revenue generation strategies. This allows publishers to make a profit from both small and large advertisers, as well as readers who are interested in accessing premium content. If you’re interested in learning more about how to combine these tactics to generate revenue from online directories, we’d love to chat.