Directory sites are tantalizing for a business owner. Why?
Directories online are important and popular. They are a way of viewing the field and seeing at a glance what web sites, products, or services are available online in a particular niche. They can often be considered as “gateways” or “doorways” into a particular subject or field.
The question often asked by web site marketers is this: Are directory style web sites viable? Are they worth my time. Will they make me a profit and will they draw targeted traffic to my site?
The short answer is . . . Yes, directory sites are viable in some niches . . . but they may not be a good fit for other niches.
Tiny and relatively obscure niches may not have enough participants and/or viewers to make your efforts worthwhile. You should always be concerned about your audience . . . the prospects that make up the pool of those you can draw from to your web site and business. These are the people that you want to engage and eventually sell your products and services to within your defined niche.
If done well (meaning your directory gives great value to both the directory participants and the directory users), this web site model can be a great success.
Realize also, that some of the most profitable online directories . . . the public will never see . . . they don’t cater to the general public audience. They are reserved for and targeted to specific audiences like trade groups, associations of members, businesses in defined industries, wholesalers targeting B2B, people with a common problem or condition, or owners of specific products (like Corvettes or Harley Davidson motorcycles).
Here are five purposes for a web directory:
1- Solicit – Identify and attract participants in the niche and qualify them to be a participant in the directory.
2- Organize – Assemble the participants into defined and workable categories and subsets making their presence intuitive and easy to locate for those using the directory.
3- Educate – Viewers may know relatively little about the niche so the directory can be a source of education about the types of information and participants that are in the niche. In a different model, participants in the directory may be targeted for education by a sponsor, an association, or a manufacturer.
4- Advertise – Participants in the directory listings want their presence known and will often pay for that privilege.
5- Reference of Authority – Viewers (and to some extent participants) might feel that being a part of a niche directory adds to the credibility of participant. Additionally, participants expect that viewers may use the directory often as a reference source (much like a phone directory). In the future, this is where viewers can find contact information for a specific participant.
The best advice I can give is to find ways to add value to your directory for both participants and viewers (directory users). In addition, make sure your site is responsive so it can be seen on all sorts of devices besides a computer monitor.
Most people who say “directories are dead” have in mind the older spammy directory model where free listings were hopefully (for participants) a source of business leads but there was really no added value for viewers or participants. This model became a source of much spam so many have avoided it lately.
But in the right niche, and targeted to the right participants, I believe a directory site can be both a source of value for niche participants and viewers and as well as a money maker for the publisher.
Focus on making your directory site a valuable resource of niche information. In fact, make it a “portal” (a well tested business model) in the industry and you could turn it into a nice source of multiple income streams. You can set up your portal to charge a fee to all businesses that want to highlight their presence in the niche. You can charge for niche advertising space in your portal. In some circumstances, portal owners can even charge niche participants a “membership fee” in order to see who and what is contained in the portal. Your ability to earn money with a portal site will vary depending upon how you set it up and how valuable the site is to those who will be paying you.
Focus on giving value (and not just once), targeting a very specific audience (probably not the general public), organizing and segmenting the participants, and being a one-of-a-kind genuine “resource of authority.”
As you might imagine, your directory site won’t be able to provide you with an income stream if you can’t draw traffic (and lots of it) to your site. What advertiser will pay you to list his business if no one uses your directory? Generally, the more focused and the more benefit and value there is to your directory site for both viewers and advertisers, the more you will be able to profit from owning it!
To your online business success,