Starting a successful directory website is a huge undertaking. You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes searching the web to find a long list of directory sites that were clearly started with a flash of motivation yet quickly died out just as quickly.
It’s sad but true. There are many directory websites out there that look like they had real potential if only someone had stuck with them long enough to generate results and ROI.
The problem is that too many people start looking for ROI before they’ve actually invested any serious time or effort into the project. If visitors sense that your site is about little more than making a quick buck, there’s a good chance they’ll disappear in a flash and never come back.
One of the great things about directory websites is that there are so many different ways to monetize them. That said, monetization isn’t something you want to jump into too quickly — especially when you’re content is still thin. Our last few posts have been about the importance of creating high-quality content before anything else and I’d recommend you read those posts first.
Here are the links to our previous posts:
Creating a directory website has become easier than ever with the available options. You can pick up one of the WordPress directory templates or go for a directory software platform to create feature rich directories.
Of course, once you put in the required work to create plenty of great content and your traffic numbers have begun to prove your site’s value, it’s time to start thinking about how to monetize.
There are plenty of ways to monetize your website and 10 of the most common ones are covered in this post. When it comes to selecting a monetization method, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The ideal method varies with every website and will depend on things such as topic, location, traffic volume and authority.
One of the smartest things you can do is subtly experiment with a few different monetization methods. Figure out what monetization method works well for your site and then work on optimizing it.
1. Sell Directory Listings
Not surprisingly, selling directory listings is often the default option when it comes to monetizing a directory website. It’s also one of the most challenging ways to monetize your directory site because anyone paying for a directory listing will want to see some kind of return on their investment.
You’ll need to demonstrate that your website has adequate traffic and that you are able to generate referral traffic to your customer’s websites. If you’re able to achieve both these objectives, our Paid Claims Plugin will allow people to claim and pay for a listing on your directory website with little or no involvement from you other than the initial setup.
2. Paid Claims for listings
The businesses who are already listed on your website can be allowed to claim for the ownership of their listings on your site with the claim ownership feature.
Clicking that button, allows the visitors to pay the required price and claim the ownership of the listing. Once the ownership is granted, they can edit their listing on your website and add more details about their business and make their listing more powerful and information-rich.
This feature proves to be more beneficial for large directories with a substantial amount of traffic. Under such circumstances, businesses would want to be listed on your online directory. Or if already listed, they would want to get the ownership of the listing so that they can add more information so that your prospective customers to could reach you easily.
3. PPC Ad Networks
Whether or not you can monetize your directory with ad networks will depend directly on how much traffic your site is generating. Obviously, more traffic equals greater potential revenue.
Ad Networks are a popular monetization option because getting started is relatively simple. The most difficult part is often deciding which ad network to go with and where to place your ads. Popular ad networks include AdSense, Media.net and Federated Media but with a little research you’ll find many more. Before you commit to using an ad network on your directory site, give careful consideration to your other options — PPC ads don’t always provide the best bang for the buck.
4. Private Ad Placement
If your directory site targets a specific niche, you might find it easier to sell advertising directly. Although this usually takes a little extra work, not having to rely on ad networks or adhere to their policies might make it worth the effort. You’re also free to renegotiate your rates as your traffic increases or your website authority improves.
While ad networks only require you to fill out an application and drop in a piece of code, private advertisers will likely want much more. Plan on putting together a media kit or advertising sales page that contain a thorough description of your website, the content you produce and some detailed traffic statistics.
5. Locally Sponsored Articles or Posts
On a small scale, sponsored articles can be a great way to generate additional revenue. Just make sure that when you write a sponsored post, it’s clearly identified as such. The last thing you want to do is alienate your visitors with an undisclosed sales pitch – not to mention the FTC.
If you’re interested in using sponsored posts to generate revenue, you might find this HubSpot article helpful. It points to a strong correlation between sponsored post prices and domain authority, Facebook fans, Alexa and PageRank.
You can also tailor sponsored post to your niche. For example, of you’re creating a directory that contains businesses, you could interview business owners and feature detailed articles about them and their business.
6. Affiliate Products
There are plenty of ways to advertise affiliate products on your website although the ease of doing so will probably depend on what niche your directory site is targeting. If your directory site is travel based, consider looking at affiliate offers around travel accessories or even a program like the Expedia Affiliate Network. If you’re targeting tourism or events in a specific city, you could try to arrange a commission or revenue share on tours sold through your website.
When looking for specific products, the biggest affiliate programs is Amazon. Not only is it easy to get started, but you have plenty of control over which ads are placed on your site — something that doesn’t always happen with the PPC networks. You’ll also find plenty of well-known products and services at shareasale.com.
7. Field monetization
This is Access control at the field level. Field monetization lets you charge extra letting the submitters use a particular field for their listing.
The image above explains it all. For the free package, a user can upload only one image. But if a listing owner wants to upload more than one image for the listing, they can do so by buying the premium package. Therefore, it is a way to charge more for more fields. Therefore, for the ability to add more information on the listings, your visitors will have to choose a higher package.
The concept is very simple, you can get your submitters to pay more to submit more and make the listing more informative. For example, This can work great with the contact fields like the website URL for the listing owner’s website. So those who want to link your listing to their website will have to choose a package that allows him to do so.
What’s more? You can even control the number of characters that can be added into each field based on the package the user chooses.
8. Price Per Category
This is a monetization feature that allows you to charge more for specific categories. If one (or more) of your categories are performing better than the other categories, then you may probably want to charge more for that specific category.
Therefore, the Directory WordPress Template comes with this feature, that lets you add category specific price. Hence, giving you an opportunity to earn more through the popular categories on your website.
9. Access control to earn through your Directory Website
Your directory website is nothing but location based information portals. A while on the internet and some very important listings on your website can eventually make your online directory an important information source.
When your Directory reaches that peak, you can restrict general audience to access the information. Those who seek access to the information can sign up for the membership, pay the fees and get the access.
For example, Consider a hotels directory website, where the hotels list their rooms. You can simply restrict the contact information which can only be accessed by the members who’ve signed up.
Putting it simply, Access control lets you restrict the content. You have the full control on what you want to restrict. It can be in form of the whole listing, or at field level.
10. Lead generation & CPA Networks
Lead generation is another option for monetizing directory websites and one worth giving some serious consideration to, especially if you’re in a well-defined your niche that’s willing to pay for quality leads. Like PPC advertising and banner advertising, you could choose to use a CPA network like Diablo Media, PeerFly or Neverblue or you might decide to sell your leads through a private agreement.
Well-targeted CPA offers can often be profitable with less traffic that is required for an equally profitable PPC network. If your traffic stats are not that impressive yet, this might be a good place to start.
Don’t Be Quick to Monetize a Directory Website
Most people start a directory website with the intent of generating a profit — there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re providing value to your visitors and a reason for them to return to your website, you traffic numbers will reflect your efforts.
Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect that occurs. Too many website owners place the cart before the horse — looking to generate revenue and profits without actually providing anything in return.
Instead of launching your directory website and immediately looking for ways to monetize, focus on creating content and providing your visitors with the information they’re looking for. The resulting increase in traffic will open up additional revenue opportunities that go far beyond the typical directory site that’s just trying to sell listings.
If you’ve been experimenting with different types of monetization for your directory website, we’d love to hear about what has or hasn’t been working for you.