Want to Create an Online Directory? First, Think About How Your Can Define and Serve Your Audience

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Last week we talked about a few of the features of our most popular theme, Directory, that we believe make it the best WordPress directory theme on the market. The most important of which is our commitment to continual improvement and adding new functionality via plugins.

We receive a lot of questions about both the technical and practical aspects of launching a successful website using our Directory theme. This post will be the first in a series that center around that exact topic.

One of the things we mentioned last week was the importance of planning. Our Directory theme has a lot of functionality built into it. So much in fact, that if you try to build a site without having a clear direction of where you’re going, you might find yourself off course rather quickly.

To help you with the planning process we’re going to cover two important questions you need to answer before getting started. Let’s take a closer look:

build an online directory with wordpress

What Market Will Your Directory Website Serve?

You were probably hoping we’d start this process with how to pick a great domain name or the best ways to monetize your site. Those hold some importance, obviously, but without a market to serve, you’ve got no audience.

A common question we see is “why can’t I get business owners to sign up and pay for a directory listing?”

The answer is simple. You need an audience. And even then it might not be enough. Because you also need an audience that is relevant and has the potential to attract new business.

Attracting an audience is something that’s going to take time, energy and a lot of focus. The time and energy you probably already knew about, but what about the focus? This is where deciding what market you’ll serve becomes important.

Let’s consider two ways you could approach this question:

First is to focus on a local market. Ideally, one that’s in your immediate area. For example, I live in a town where there are about 15,000 residents and many times that number in annual tourists. So, while a local business directory might be a mediocre idea, a site that focuses on the local tourist market might be a little more appropriate. You can always branch off into other areas, but the more specific your audience is to begin with, the easier the next step will be.

Alternatively, you could decide to focus on a niche market that covers a geographically diverse area. For example, you could create a detailed directory of North American Hostels. Or maybe you create a directory of the top surfing locations in SE Asia. If your geographic target grows in size, you’ll probably need to counter that by focusing on a more well-defined niche.

Are You Creating Content that Serves Your Audience?

Along with selecting a market or audience, comes the need to create applicable content. What the internet doesn’t need is another list of businesses, tourist attractions and restaurants. What it does need, is more high quality and relevant content.

One way to tackle this challenge of content is to realize that while you might be building a directory website, the directory itself does not need to be the focal point. With a little effort, you can come up with some content ideas that are more interesting for the reader and are also more likely to attract higher quality, organic search traffic.

For example, if you’ve decided on a local site that targets the tourist market, there are a few different ways you could tackle the problem.

You could build a simple directory listing of each tourist attraction in the city. You could provide plain vanilla reviews, prices and location information. You might even leave some of the information fields blank and let the owners fill the details themselves after claiming the listing. This is how a lot of directory website owners tackle to process and as a result, they never see the results they are looking for.

Or, consider a tourism website that features local attractions in full-length articles. Each one contains a mix of photos, videos and information that can’t be easily found anywhere else. You could include visitor information for each season, accommodation information, local events and activities. You could even allow visitors to book tours or accommodations directly from your website.

Consider the two scenarios above. As a visitor, which site would you rather spend your time on? And more importantly, as an advertiser, or paid listing, which site do you think provides more value?

Create an Online Directory The Right Way

Creating and launching a site is relatively easy. Simply pick any WordPress directory listing theme, add a minimal amount of information and hit publish. But attracting traffic and building an audience will take a little more work than that.

We can provide you with the best WordPress directory theme, plenty of plugins to add your desired functionality and hours of tutorials and instruction to help you with the technical aspects. But the first step in getting started is to decide who your audience will be and how you can best serve them. Once you’ve got those two questions answered, we can move on to the technical details.

If you’ve recently launched a local or niche directory website, we’d love to hear how you went about the process of selecting your audience.

Or, if you’ve got some specific questions surrounding this topic, please add them to the comments below.

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