Yes, they do, depending on your monetization plan. We create and run directory websites using the BePro Listings WordPress plugin that we created. I guess there is some benefit to understanding the technical and business aspects of running a directory website.

Yelp and Yellowpages are still popular brands, so directories are definitely not dead. Google has changed Seach Engine Optimation (SEO) and hence many operational rules have changed but the business of owning a directory still makes sense. So let’s review what used to work, how things have changed, and what can be done now.

The Past

In the past, you could charge for dofollow backlinks. This activity has been outlawed by all-mighty Google since they consider it to be unnatural. In fact, they have outlined their expectation for you to use, nofollow, ugc, and sponsored attributes to add to links. In short, an article passes on its power via the link unless one of these values is attached programmatically to the link. Because Google now reads this attribute, many of your favorite directories were penalized out of existence or could not find an alternative monetary option. These backlinks came in various modes:

  • Product review articles
  • Pages dedicated just for linking to others
  • Ads and sidebar links in general
  • Spammy comment links

Notice you don’t see many of these anymore? Those that don’t know will pay for the activity but its value is greatly reduced. Also notice the slow demise of paid reviews and testimonials. In short, they are illegal according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). So for those living in America, there are real penalties to ignorance of the law.

You could ignore these organizations and try to make money this way but that’s dangerous. With that said, many companies still engage in these practices today. How exactly would Google or the FTC know right? It’s up to you to take a chance or not

You also used to be able to rank well with very generic or repeated content on your website. Unfortunately, there is a lot more competition posting the same generic information. Repeated information can actually get you banned by Google, so make sure your pagination and redirects are configured correctly.

How Do We Make Money

We charge users to post in our directories. However, our primary focus has been on engaging with the businesses listed in the directory. We learned through selling BePro Listings that the initial product sale was an opportunity to sell services as well. Depending on your speciality, that can be a lot of money. For us, we make a lot more per customer via selling services by the hour, compared to selling a WordPress plugin

Companies spend a lot of time and effort making their brand popular online. During their growth phase, no one sees or cares much about them. However, this is your time to support their growth. Be their gateway to the internet. If they won’t work with you, feed off of their popularity by being one of the few people online listing them on your website. This is a great way to get traffic to your site from their customers, employees, and competitors

We also use an ad server to manage and sell ads on our websites. Dofollow ads are outlawed but you still see ads everywhere right? Whether its through Google Adwords or another advertising network, you should definitely monetize your traffic through ads. Once your website has enough valuable information on it, Google will rank you and ad buying customers will come

The thing is that the BePro Listings plugin has the schema already built-in. So, once you add the information and the meta details, Google will definitely notice your directory. This is a step above the rest since most directory solutions have not evolved into the new world of SEO. Apart from helping you to build the perfect URLs, BePro Listings also helps you with making your content attractive to google. You simply have to add quality content.

How does it work?

For those with deep pockets, Pay Per Click (PPC) and Display advertising on the world’s biggest sites (Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Reddit, Twitter, etc) are your best bet. Depending on the geographic niche of your website, these companies can handle millions of US dollar marketing spend per month. Create a campaign based on your competitor performance using a tool like Semrush and you are off to the races. Manage the client flow and enjoy the winnings.

For everyone else, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is your best bet. That means creating a site that people see value in and return to. Like everything else in life, this takes lots of hard work. You will have to actually do what Google requests and create value. Google is the biggest search engine and generic directory in the English speaking world so it doesn’t need you for basic business listings. Your directory needs to have information in it that others do not.

In our Canadian┬áCannabis directory, we list the information that search engines typically don’t put in one location like:

  • Jobs
  • Social links e.g. Instagram/facebook/twitter
  • License status
  • Videos
  • Related locations
  • Related news

Some may say Google owns Youtube so how can you add video to the list. How often does google put relevant videos next to the correct company search result? That’s the whole point, you need to do things Google isn’t doing, whether or not it has the capability to one day do it. Assembling the information onto one directory listing adds value to the visitor, creating positive analytic numbers, which will result in higher search engine rankings. It’s that simple. For your directory to be successful, it must elevate to this level, or what’s the point of any search engine sending users your way? More importantly, you will begin to add value beyond the websites owned by the many of the companies.

The fact of the matter is, companies won’t list bad news about themselves on their website. Often times, they don’t keep up with their blog and rich content like their job postings are listed on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. Of course, this dynamic of weak websites ranges by the niche of your directory; however, chances are that you will add value beyond most.

We use BePro Listings because it allows us to capture the specific information we need for any directory. We are able to quickly build out pages for any region around the world through various features including:

  • Google Maps
  • Search templates
  • Location URLs e.g. /British-Columbia/Vancouver/Tours

We tend to rank for Brand and Geographic searches very quickly. Then with SEO, we outrank the competition. The brilliance here is that we rank in areas that aren’t highly competitive but they were easy for us to build out with quality content. The plugin helps with the build-out, the hard part is getting the quality content. Once you get it, you can upload via a CSV or enter it manually. We are actively working on solutions from Mapbox and OpenStreetMap because of the cost of Google Maps at scale

Conclusion

You can still make money from a directory website in 2020, you simply need to rethink the monetization and content plans. You can no longer charge for dofollow backlinks or paid reviews so use the engagement opportunity to sell something to the companies or visitors.

This example was all about a business directory but there are many types of directories including vehicle, real estate, jobs, people, and more. With the use of our Form Builder, BePro Listings can help you to build any type of directory. The gameplan is still the same, drive value and you will rank


Date: Do directory websites still make sense as a business in 2020? was last modified: August 9th, 2020 by BePro Software Team Management at BeProSoftware.com

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