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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.

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.

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 SEO tips for directory publishers

Local SEO Tips for Directory Publishers

Are you looking for new ways to increase your visibility in local search results? Then let’s talk about local SEO tips for directory publishers.

Local SEO is all about optimizing websites to rank better for local audiences. This is true for any digital publisher, but particular those with directory websites.

Why is that, you ask? For starters, a significant percentage of directory websites are locally focused. Business directories are an obvious example here. Most business directories are focused on a particular city or region. That makes business directories, at their core, locally centered websites. The same can be said for many different types of online directories. Regardless of the primary focus—restaurants, job listings, etc.—the secondary focus is location.

When someone searches for “best doctor in [city],” we want them to arrive at our client’s online directory, not a website run by a hospital or physician practice. How do we make that happen? Local SEO is the key. Following best practices for local SEO, we optimize directory websites for city-specific or region-specific audiences.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is how we get online directories to rank better for local audiences. In order to do that, we need to optimize each listing for the city name and address, essentially making sure that search engines like Google and Bing know where to find the businesses mentioned in each listing.
Businesses optimize their own websites for local SEO all the time. They do this to ensure that customers can find their storefronts in real life. But publishers, who are not looking to get web visitors into their own offices, should still be targeting people located in the same geographic area as the businesses featured in their online directories.

Local SEO Tips

Now that you understand what local SEO is, and why local SEO is important for directory publishers, let’s get into the nitty gritty and talk about what you can do to improve the local SEO on your directory website.

These strategies are regarded as “first steps” for directory publishers targeting audiences in specific locations.

  • Include a proper address for each directory listing using schema.org formatting.
  • Ask your web developer to add the city and state to the titles and meta description tags for directory listings.
  • Make sure the city or region is mentioned frequently in directory content, including any business descriptions.
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Add ratings and reviews to your website, if possible.

Fewer than one-in-five marketers incorporate schema markup on their websites, which could be one of the reasons why they are struggling with local SEO. Incorporating proper schema markup is one of the ways that we can communicate the focus of the online directory—businesses in a particular location—to search engines. It makes the online directory more relevant to whichever local keywords you are targeting, as well.

Keep local SEO in mind when generating content for new listing pages. One strategy here is to insert the business location as close as possible to the top of each directory page. This ensures that the city not missing from search results when someone types in a phrase like “best restaurants in Los Angeles.”

Don’t forget about link building, either. Online directories are well positioned to build the types of positive connections that search engines love. Always include links to each business’ website on listing pages. You should also be encouraging business owners to add links to your directory from their own business websites and social media pages. Digital publishers with properties outside of their online directories—for example, those that also publisher online newspapers or magazines—should take advantage by including links to directory listings any time a specific business is mentioned in an article.

Including Maps in Business Listings

What do the most well-known business directories in the U.S. have in common? Those sites almost all include maps on individual listing pages.

Yelp, Whitepages, YP, and Mapquest have pioneered the use of maps in online directories. And why not? If you’ve followed the local SEO tips outlined above, you’ve already added an address for each business listing in your directory. That means you already have all the data you need to include a map on each listing page.

Google Maps is the most well-known of the mapping solutions, but a number of other plugins are available for directory publishers with WordPress websites. Just make sure that the directory software you purchase is capable of including maps on listings pages, as this is not something that every directory platforms can handle.

directory publishers analytics metrics

The Most Important Analytics Metrics for Directory Publishers

Important decisions shouldn’t be left up to gut feelings. Using analytics metrics, directory publishers can get a big picture view of how their websites are performing and where areas for new opportunities exist.

Directory publishers don’t just have to worry about search engine traffic and visitor engagement, although those are powerful factors that can play a major role in impacting the bottom line. They also have to think about advertisers and the businesses signing up for paid listings. The latest analytics metrics give directory publishers insights into how visitors and advertisers are finding their websites and what makes them convert.

The goal here is twofold. Directory publishers want to use analytics metrics to make smarter business decisions, and they want to gain a deeper understanding of how visitors and paying advertisers are using their directory websites. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

1. Top Keywords

How are people finding your directory? The answer may not be what you think. Using Google Webmaster Tools, directory publishers can find out what keywords are driving the most traffic to their sites. Navigate to Search Traffic, then Search Queries to see a list of the keywords driving traffic to your directory. You should see the click-through rate for each of these top keywords, letting you know how often someone clicked on your directory over another Google listing. Another option here is to use Google Analytics. Click over to Acquisition, then All Traffic, then Channels, then Organic Search.

Most directory publishers see 75% to 90% of their search volume coming through the top 200 phrases. For example, publishers with restaurant directories may find that most people are landing on their sites after typing Top [City] Restaurants or the name of a specific restaurant with a listing on the directory.

Regardless of what you discover through keyword analytics, you’ll want to use the information to optimize your content and take advantage of the keywords people are using.

2. Visitor Engagement

Clicks, shares, and time on page are all trackable metrics that directory publishers can look at as they gauge visitor engagement on their websites.

While engagement is often confused with reach, particularly when it comes to analytics metrics for online directories, they actually tell us two very different things. A directory’s reach is determined based on the number of people who see it, even if they only see it for a moment. Publishers can boost their reach by using clickbait headlines or landing pages that are only minimally related to the content in their directories. Are those stunts worthwhile in the long run? Probably not. Visitors who arrive at a directory under false pretenses—for example, thinking they are getting restaurant coupons when they are actually just seeing business listings—are likely to leave quickly and not return.

Engagement is something else entirely, and there’s a reason why we encourage directory publishers to focus on engagement over reach. Tracking engagement means looking at how involved visitors are with the content in a directory. There’s a number of ways to measure that. One idea is to track comments and shares. People don’t usually leave comments unless they are legitimately interested in the content. Tracking how commenting ebbs and flows over time, and which directory pages are receiving the most comments, can provide you with insight into how you should format landing pages or promote your most popular directory listings.

Another option here is to track scroll depth. Scroll depth means how far down a webpage a visitor scrolls. If a visitor is scrolling down to the bottom of a “Best Of” list or a directory listing, there is a good chance he is engaged with the content.

3. Email Capture Rates

Many directory publishers use email marketing to bring visitors, and advertisers, back to their websites. For these publishers, website email capture rates show how what percentage of website visitors are subscribing.

Determining a website email capture rate is fairly straightforward. Just divide the number of new email subscribers acquired via the directory website over a period of time (one week or one month) by the total number of unique visitors during the same time period.

Let’s say that through this process, a publisher learns that .1% of the visitors coming to his business directory are signing up to receive a monthly email newsletter. The next question is, how do you increase web-to-email conversion rates? A little bit of A/B testing can help determine whether simple changes to capture forms or landing pages could be enough to see major improvements.

What metrics do you analyze, and how could a deeper analysis of the trends lead to greater revenue on your directory? We’d love to learn more about what you’re doing and how we could help take your online directory to the next level.

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.

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.

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.