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10 Ways to Monetize a Directory Website

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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.

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:

The Importance of Creating Engaging Content for Your Online Directory Website

How to Define and Serve Your Audience

Creating a directory website has become easier than ever with the available options. You can pick up one of the WordPress directory templates 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. You can use a tool like Google Analytics to find out about the traffic, demographics, etc.

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 can get people to post listings on your website under desired category by explaining them their advantages. It gets really easy to get business to post on your website once it starts getting enough traction. A city directory acts as a mid ground between the business owners and the people of the city looking for specific services/locations. This makes it the attraction center of both types of users where the business may find your directory website a great place to advertise their business and services.

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 typically happens when you already have a listing posted for a particular business. But now they want the ownership for the listing to be able to add new details like new phone numbers, new services, modified description. Therefore, they can submit a claim for the listing, by paying the decided amount. However, as a directory owner, it is completely up to you whether or not to approve the claim.

The verification process however, is offline and you can use your own methods to verify the ownership. Once verified, you can easily transfer the ownership of the listing using the inbuilt options.

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

Medianet ppc network

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, 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. Here’s how you can use Google AdSense to generate revenue through your directory website.

This method works with almost all kind of websites. Whether it is a business website or a blog, but works very well with directory website because of two main reasons:

  1. The volume of traffic: A directory website is bound to have enormous amount of traffic. Both in form of the listing owners, as well as the searchers looking for business information. You can use this traffic to your advantage by displaying sponsored advertisements or Google AdSense banners.
  2. The type of traffic: Not just the amount of traffic, but also the diverse type of traffic is what makes the directory website one of the best place for advertisements. Different type of business owners, people of different age group like students, tourists, etc. can all be the part of a directory website’s traffic.

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

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 them to do so.

What’s more? You can even control the number of characters that can be added to each field based on the package the user chooses.

More about Fields Monetization

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.

With this feature, you can set different prices for different categories and it helps not just to monetize your website even more, but also to attract more listing submissions. For certain categories, you can set a low price as a discount offer to get people to post on your website.

For others, you can set a higher price. The businesses who want to advertise their listings under that category will have to pay more than the others. This helps you with more flexible pricing and better monetization with your directory 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 traffic reaches that peak, you can restrict the general audience to access the information. Those who seek access to the information can sign up for the membership, pay the fees and get 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. Or take an example of a job board directory website, where the vacancies and the job details are mentioned, but to access the contact information, or to enable the “apply now” button, you will have to get the membership.

Putting it simply, Access control lets you restrict the content. You have full control over what you want to restrict. It can be in form of the whole listing, or at field level.

More about Access control Manager.

10. Lead generation & CPA Networks

monetize a directory website with CPA

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, your 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.

2 thoughts on “10 Ways to Monetize a Directory Website

  1. Mark Boudreau says:

    You mention a Hubspot article in #4 but there is no link.

    1. Daryn Collier says:

      Sorry Mark, my bad. I’ve added that link.


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