how to use directories to boost search traffic

The Definitive Guide to Directory Sponsorships

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

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

What Are Directory Sponsorships

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

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

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

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

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

How to Sell Directory Sponsorships

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

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

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

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

How to Increase the Value of a Directory

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

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

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

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