A niche or local business directory website thrives on two things: (1) the number of listings in the directory and (2) the number of users of the directory. Promoting your business directory website results in an increase in those two connected things.
To be honest, I have found that marketing a directory website is not much different than any other website or online business. Many of the same things marketers have been doing to promote websites in the past still work today.
Of course, if you have a marketing budget, you can use a wider range of tactics to get you to your traffic goals much faster. But there are things you can do that definitely work to increase the visibility of your directory website that does not involve paid advertising.
To get started with your directory website, you will need web hosting and a domain name to make your project live. We recommend you get a domain name from Namecheap and Cloudways for web hosting. Read how you can get a 3-day free trial of Cloudways.
Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you purchase a product or service I recommend using those links. The price you pay is not increased in any way by this.
Why Do You Need To Promote Your Directory Website?
A really straightforward answer to this is that you need to promote it and make it visible to your target audience before you can monetize a directory website. It’s that simple.
If you sell listings or upgrades, potential customers (businesses) want to visibly see how you are promoting listings and your brand to find out if its a worthwhile investment, given the number of ways they can spend limited money (and time) on promotional activities.
Now let’s take a look at how you can market your directory website.
Create Quality Content Relevant to Your Directory’s Target Audience
The easiest and most effective way of promoting your business directory website is through quality content such as blog posts and Youtube videos that are relevant to your target audience.
Once you do that, your content will be indexed and ranked on Google and Youtube for the relevant keywords and topics in it. Your directory website will then become recognized as an authority and excellent resource, beyond being just a list of businesses.
You will also use your content to promote your listed businesses and send traffic to their specific listings, adding to the value of your own brand.
An example from event vendor directory website VendorsForEvents.com is “15 Wedding & Event Venues in and Around San Fernando in South Trinidad”. While individual business listings get some traffic from business name searches on Google, blog posts like these get ranked for relevant search terms and drive traffic to listings.
These blog posts and Youtube videos are also excellent opportunities for Sponsored Content if you are seeking alternative methods on how to make money from a directory website, other than selling listings.
How To Come Up With Content Ideas?
So how do you come up with content ideas for your own directory website? It comes down to basic keyword research. An excellent guide is Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide at the Backlinko blog.
PRO TIP: While you should definitely concentrate most of your efforts on keyword optimized content, you should also create the occasional “viral” post or video that’s still related to your niche or location and that viewers will want to like and share.
For example, VendorsForEvents.com can create a post like “The 20 Most Scenic Wedding Venues in Trinidad”. That’s a post that future brides will definitely want to view, then share 🙂
Badges and Embedded Ratings Widgets
While many people only see links as a ranking tool, I see links as a traffic tool.
Your listed businesses can embed a badge or ratings widget from their listing on your directory website on to their own website; that is if your directory software allows it.
These provide two major benefits besides “link juice”: (1) traffic from the links, and (2) increased brand visibility for your directory website.
While these links should be set to “nofollow”, you should see these as a set-it-and-forget-it way to grow traffic without much effort. And while the traffic individual listings send would be minuscule, those links as a whole will contribute to your total site traffic over time.
Paid Online Advertising
If you have a budget, even a small one, you can promote your directory website for increased visibility using paid advertising on the two biggest networks: Google and Facebook.
With Facebook, you can create an image ad with the express purpose of driving traffic to your home page. You can also choose to increase the number of likes to your directory’s business page on Facebook.
Check out “How to Use Facebook Like Ads to Grow Your Fan Page & Business” on the Post Planner blog with help on setting up your Facebook ad to increase likes.
There are also a tonne of DIY services to create ad graphics for Facebook and Google like Canva, or promo videos like Wave.video. A short 30-second promo video makes a great ad for Facebook.
PRO TIP: If you shared one of your viral content posts on your Facebook page and see it’s doing pretty well in terms of organic reach, give it some more gas by doing a Boost post.
If you have the budget, you can also consider promoting your directory website using traditional offline advertising, also known as “old media”. They of course include outdoor signage (billboards and posters), television, radio and print.
Of these, in my opinion, the most targeted of these would be advertising in an industry print magazine if yours is a niche directory website.
But if you have the budget and want to reach a broader audience of people who might have never heard of you, take out an ad package on your local television station syndicate or local newspaper, but only after you’ve used some of the other methods in this list.
PRO TIP: You could do paid advertorials in local newspapers and segments during a radio or television broadcast. These might give you a little more traction than a regular ad in these media.
Social Media Platforms
You can choose to promote your directory website on social media platforms in two major ways: (1) to drive traffic back to your website, and (2) to nurture a community on a platform around your brand or niche.
Some platforms are better than others for reaching each of those goals. But let’s look specifically at promoting your directory website on Facebook, the biggest social media platform with over 1.5 billion daily active users.
Increase Reach on Facebook
If driving traffic back to your website is your goal, you would share links to your individual listings to promote them. I can tell you from personal experience though that you should expect very little organic reach (maybe 1%) if you do that.
But maybe you would want to do a Boost post or paid promotions for the paid or upgraded listings on your directory to increase the reach and value you provide to them.
By sharing your blog content links though, you stand a better chance of increasing their organic reach, especially the “viral” clickbait posts.
Repurpose Content With Video
What you can also do is to repurpose your blog content into a video, which you then share on Facebook, with a link back to the original post on your website.
Video posts now tend to get more organic reach than other types of posts on Facebook and other social media sites.
Feed the Content Monster, or 20 Clever Ways to Repurpose Your Content on the Wave.video blog has some great tips on repurposing your content.
Grow a Community on Social Media
Besides trying to send traffic back to your directory website with links, you can also grow a community of people who get to know and interact with your brand instead, as well as getting answers to their general questions about your niche.
Sharing content from your website is included but you also create the type of posts that get people interacting with them, such as polls, questions and humor.
PRO TIP: For some additional promotion on social media, you can ask your listed businesses to share their listing, your home page or your page on their social media pages. Start with your best performing listings as these businesses would be happy to help you in return for your directory helping their business.
Events & Sponsorships
To promote your directory website, you could host a live industry event. These could be trade fairs, training seminars or conferences based around your niche or location.
Alternatively, you could be a sponsor for a relevant event that someone else in your industry is hosting.
Outreach to Industry Associations
If there are industry associations related to your niche and they do not already have their own member directory online, you should definitely contact their leadership and introduce your website.
Position your website to them as a useful medium for generating leads for their business. This may work particularly well if your directory has a free tier that their membership can take advantage of.
One-to-One Outreach to Businesses
If you can acquire a list of relevant businesses for your directory, you can then do one-to-one outreach to these businesses.
This might be one of the methods you use when your directory website is very new, especially a local directory. You can use multiple contact methods to reach them, including email, SMS and telephone calls.
PRO TIP: Hire a virtual assistant to gather a list for you and then to send the emails.
If you’ve never heard of cross promotions before (highly unlikely), they are basically partnering with other entities to promote each others’ products, services and brands.
Cross promotions for your directory website can take a number of forms, but here’s one I observed firsthand. The local chapter of a global Christian group decided to create a directory of Christian-owned businesses. To enhance their offering, they partnered with a local Christian-based television station to provide promotional opportunities as well as promo video creation.
You can seek opportunities like these to serve your listed businesses and increase your directory’s brand recognition.
There’s enough here for you to work with to promote your directory website and thereby increase traffic and revenue.
If you’re still on the fence of building your own directory website project, I encourage you to get a Cloudways free trial and just get started.
Do you have an idea for promoting your niche or local directory? Please tell us in the comments if you’ve come up with a new, out-of-the-box idea for marketing your directory website.