Web directories have zigzagged in popularity over the years, but with a clean, original design and good content and promotion, they can be a valuable – and profitable – resource. With the launch of the new .directory domain name extension, it’s a great time to set up a listings site for property, cars, classified ads, web links, local areas and much more.
By far the most important question to ask yourself first is: What’s the purpose of your directory? This will determine everything else, from the design to the call to actions to the promotion. Ideally, your directory will supplement (or be in the same niche as) one of your existing sites or businesses for an instant traffic boost straight from launch. However, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting or using it as a project to develop your skills and get out of your comfort zone.
How will you establish a reputation? It’s crucial that your directory stands out from the crowd and that people see your site as interesting and useful enough to link to, share, bookmark and revisit.
How will you manage your directory in the long term? Managing emails and approving/rejecting listings may seem like a less stress-free task than creating a mass of regular, unique written or visual content, but over time it can become a demanding chore…especially if you get a lot of submissions. Ensure you have an easy way to open and close your submission form, automate approvals where there is no potential for abuse, and schedule specific time for reviewing submissions so you stick to it.
Naming your directory
Choose a descriptive name for your directory that lends itself to being different. Avoid the words ‘free’ and ‘seo’ as they have long been associated with low-quality directories. If you’re planning to promote your directory offline, select a short name that’s easy to remember and spell. Avoid unconventional spellings and commonly misspelt words, particularly if there’s a chance you may promote your website on local radio.
Once you’ve made a shortlist of potential names, do a domain name search to see what’s available. Using the .directory extension saves you having to include the word in the first part of your domain name, and there are plenty of brandable and generic words and phrases still available to register.
Speed up development
When it comes to building your directory, there are plenty of options available. The most efficient and cheapest option is to install a content management system such as WordPress, and then install a directory plugin, which will give you the barebones of your website.
If you’re a Heart Internet customer with a Home or Business Web Hosting package, a Reseller Hosting account or a VPS or Hybrid Server, you can install WordPress in a click from your control panel. Find out more about free hosting one-click installs and server one-clicks.
There are also plenty of directory scripts available for free on the web, but make sure the code is still being actively developed (and used) by other people if you’re not confident in securing and updating it from scratch.
Think outside the box
There are thousands, if not millions, of directories on the web, so making yours stand out from the crowd is a challenge.
But it’s a challenge worth taking on.
Searching for existing web directories for inspiration will throw up a mass of abandoned cookie-cutter sites created by spammers, so it’s essential that the design and content of your directory offers your visitors an attractive and engaging experience and clearly signals an active, professional website.
Customise as many options as possible and ensure your directory stands out from the crowd. If you’re not comfortable with creating your own design or theme, websites such as ThemeForest and the WordPress Theme Directory have plenty of modern and visual directory themes to choose from. Snappy copy with clever use of large headlines and titles will give your directory a more modern, individual feel without requiring lengthy amounts of writing or detracting from the main aims of your website.
Monetising your directory
As with any website, there’s a wide spectrum of options when it comes to profiting from your hard work. The most popular plan for directories is to have paid listings, so it’s important to consider what benefits these have over free listings (either in your own directory or in comparable directories) so you can determine a reasonable price. Remember that paid links need to be nofollowed in accordance with Google’s rules regarding paid links.
You can also opt for simple advertising links and banners, which can be done via a third party platform such as Google Adsense or arranged directly through individuals and companies. The latter option is particularly good for directories that have a local or specific industry-based theme. In addition to real-world regional advertising, it’s also a good idea to create a page with advertising and contact details for interested parties to quickly get in touch.
Promoting your directory
There’s a strong positive correlation between traffic and money, so promoting your directory effectively is essential. Again, if you have a directory for a town/city location, it’s worth promoting offline through leaflets, posters and even stickers in local businesses (you could even consider setting up your own award scheme). If you’ve chosen a specific niche, take some time to research online and then email, call, or visit your best prospects as needed. Always outline the advantages for them and be clear on what you’re offering to create initial interest. Make a list of contacts that may help you promote your website or direct you to prospective advertisers or customers.
Improving SEO for your directory
One of the biggest reasons that standard directories tend to have a high bounce rate is due to a lack of interesting content and engagement prompts. Having additional content in the form of text, images or video for featured listings goes a long way, as does providing a welcome introduction and explanation on your home page.
To optimise your website for search engines, ensure that your website is easy to navigate and can be crawled correctly by uploading a sitemap. Install Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools so you can pick up on any problems, and check your URL structure to ensure they use logical keywords rather than numbers.
If you’re using WordPress to power your directory, we recommend taking advantage of the Yoast plugin to make titles, descriptions and much more easier to manage.
There's a lot to think about, but once you've created a plan and answered the most important questions, you can have your directory up and running in just a few hours – it's a great rainy day or spare weekend project.
Don't miss out on your perfect name – search for available .directory domains!