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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.