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How to Start Online Directory site in 30 Minutes – Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

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Are you ready to start an online directory website, but you don’t know where to begin?

Don’t worry because you’re not alone! These steps are designed to be simple to follow, but please note – building any business is not easy.

Starting a new business can be confusing or difficult to get off the ground, but not when you’ve got a direction to move! Again, these steps are simple – but not easy.

There are many ways to build an online directory business – and WordPress is by far the easiest platform to use to build your new directory website. We’re going to walk through the steps, one at a time, to ensure you can launch your directory website with WordPress. Depending on your site’s complexity, you may also be able to do this without consulting any programmers or designers. Of course, if you want that extra spark – a WordPress programmer / designer can help get your site off the ground.

This guide is here to give beginners and entrepreneurs a fast, foolproof guide to launch a Directory site. You can get started without wasting your time exploring a thousand possibilities.

We will also help you avoid all the expensive mistakes that most people do while creating an online directory website. After all, it’s not just a website but a business that you develop. And in business, you want to make a profit – which is what is left of your income after you pay all of your expenses.

P.S. This guide is several thousand words long – which means roughly 30 minutes of reading. So grab yourself a tea, coffee or juice (whichever you prefer) and start with STEP 1.

Step-by-step walk-through to start an Online Directory Site

We have divided the guide into 7 steps. To get the ball rolling you will need a few things to be set up.

  1. Decide the Niche or Domain
  2. Get Domain and Hosting
  3. Get a WordPress Directory theme
  4. Content, Traffic & Get Paid For Listings
  5. Get Paid For Advertisements
  6. Branding
  7. Defend and Expand

…and once you’ve set up your online directory website, we’ve also put together couple of additional guides for SEO marketing.

Since you were searching for how to START a directory website or, launch directory site – I think you might want to get started ASAP!

First of all, what is an Online Directory?

Let’s say you own a local site called New York and you got it to the top of the search engines for all the local New York City real estate key phrases with the best real estate features.

Then, once the site is ranking high for users who come to your site, you could ask every real estate agent/individual in that market to pay you a monthly fee to put up a webpage on your site.

Because that way they can benefit from your traffic and search engine positioning, and you benefit from the cash flow.

As you grow your business you might call every real estate agency in town and say “Would you like us to put up a page in our local real estate directory to represent your business”?

If 20 real estate brokers/agencies take you up on it, and you charge them each $100 per month, then you have a $2k per month residual income from your mlx-idx real estate directory.

But remember … you can build a directory website for just about anything, not just real estate. For example, you could build a website that is a directory of:

  • Dentists in Los Angeles
  • Top Website Designers in China
  • Best Landscape Architects in Greece
  • Cabinet Makers in Europe
  • Worldwide Artists
  • Dog Breeders in Canada
  • Apartment Companies in Dallas
  • Anything else you want …

Also Read: Top 20 Live And Best Online Business Directories of USA to inspire you.

Ways to make money from running an online directory

If you are good at marketing (or getting good at it!) and you know how to build websites, then one of the easiest ways to make money online is by developing and owning online directories. Online entrepreneurs have known this for decades.

However, it turns out that even people with no technical knowledge at all can succeed with their own online directory.

We’ll show you how in this guide! Remember: It is simple to do. It is not easy.

The key to achieving success with an online directory is to become the leader in your niche. So, if you know a lot about Real Estate, Events, Food, Fitness, Pets, Sports, Travel, Cars why not create a directory of your City / local area. Afterward you can expand slowly until you cover every business in your country.

There are several ways to make money from online directories, but most relevant revenue sources are:

  1. Paid listings – where companies pay to have their listing featured at a higher position or with additional pieces (a website link, more pictures, etc…).
  2. Advertising (banners, text advertising, video advertising, etc.) – where companies pay for an advertisement to be put on your website.

As promised, we will show you how to make money from your own online directory in this guide.

The Goal

The goal of this guide is to help you create an Internet business by developing your own Online Directory.

And the ultimate goal for this guide is for you to make $1,000 per day from one single directory (meaning you don’t have to build a huge empire of online directories).

1. Getting Started – Choose your Directory Niche

Now, you need to decide what type of directory website you want to build. You can build a yellow pages directory, job board directory, a real estate directory website, or a classifieds directory. It’s like any business, should be built around the need for it.

Keep in mind:

Just because you might like Rock music doesn’t mean there are enough people in your area that share your interest to justify having a website dedicated to smooth jazz concerts in your city.

An easy way to research this is by looking at what people are searching for online. There are a few great websites that make this easy for you. It is time to do some market research to see how popular certain niches are!

1. The Google Keyword Planner

I would recommend you take a look at the Google Keyword Planner. There is a great video and article done by Neil Patel to show you how to use the tool. Neil is a well-known web marketer with a lot of online content about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Take a look at his website, and watch a few of his videos about using the Keyword Planner – you’ll be able to see who is searching for which keywords and phrases.

2. WordTracker

This is a paid service that will tell you the number of people searching for specific (and related) keywords and will display up to 2,000 keywords per search.

The good news is that WordTracker offers a 7-day free trial.


Let’s pretend that an average of only 9 people are searching for Rock Music in New Jersey each day, so that sounds like a narrow niche to warrant having its own city guide website.

What is the number of daily searches you should look for?

That is tough to say, but I usually use 100 as a ballpark minimum amount of daily searches to consider and workaround.

However, just because people are searching for something doesn’t mean it’s a great idea for a website.

You might have found a great niche that people are searching for, but are there other websites that already fill their needs?

For instance:

There might be a lot of people searching for ‘Real Estate in New York City’. But if there are already 20 directories of NYC Pizzerias, that would be a tough niche to get started with.

Thanks to Google, this is not so difficult to look this on to Google and browsing the competition.

First, we need to figure out what niche we want to build the Directory Site around. And the next step would be to look for a suitable domain and reliable hosting. Let’s get to it.

2. Get Domain & Hosting

Our next simple step is to get a domain and set up a hosting account. If you don’t have a hosting or a domain yet – don’t worry. I’ll be going through this with you.

At the end of this second step, you should have a working self-hosted WordPress Directory on your domain name.

Get Hosting

Signup now to get a FREE domain and discounted hosting with our partner at Bluehost.

Templatic fans get FREE domain and a special low price when hosting with Bluehost. Click here to signup and claim this deal. Read why we recommend Bluehost.

P.S. If for some odd reason you don’t want to use my recommended list, you can always choose another hosting provider.

I can’t promise they will all be that good, but the registration and the setup process should be somewhat similar. Also, some hosting companies do not have one-click install for WordPress, so please choose wisely.

If you choose to go with your own hosting provider please see this guide for installing WordPress manually (not recommended for beginners, though).

Make sure to get a reliable host that can handle a lot of traffic & hundreds of business listings. Because the business listings will have content, well optimized images, and videos.

We have now supported more than 100,000 customers all over the world, and worked with almost every host on the planet. Bluehost consistently is better at hosting many types of themes. Want to read our more in-depth review? Here’s the Bluehost review.

I am hoping the provided guideline will help you to setup your hosting and domain. If not, don’t worry.

Give me shout at [email protected].

3. Choose a Directory Theme

It is time for simple step number 3. Choose a WordPress Directory Theme!

Why do we recommend WordPress? It is because WordPress offers great flexibility – and is widely used all over the world. In fact, there are now more than 75M WordPress websites. Also, customization is affordable and easier on WordPress compared to any other platform.

If you are an advanced user you can handle the customization by yourself. But if you a non-technical person, you can outsource it to freelance developers – someone with experience with PHP, HTML, CSS, and a little bit of Javascript.

We developed the Directory theme platform, specifically for these types of websites.

It is a versatile directory theme – basically, you can keep all the kind of services in a common directory.

Later we observed some of our customers were creating niche directories from our Directory theme. Over the years, we have used our customer feedback to launch 24 niche themes – each designed for different types of websites. For example, you can easily build an Events website or a Classifieds website easily.

See for yourself what some of our customers think about the Directory product and support services:

Niche Directory themes

We’ve made sure that based on your preferred niche you will be able to find a ready-made theme available developed specially for the niche.

That will save you time, energy and money that you might have to pay to developers for customization. Instead – start with one of our ready-made themes!

If you have any questions to discuss before you take your pick of the themes, no worries, Motaz is your guy, and is on our sales team. You can write to Motaz at [email protected] for any queries related to how to go about making a correct choice on directory theme.

Motaz used to be one of our customers, using our Directory theme to build his websites, eventually joining the pack at Templatic.

While you explore themes, you will notice a Demo button on each theme sales page to see how your directory website will look.Eventum Sales Page

Each theme has its own demo created considering all potential aspects of the theme that you can use.

So don’t forget to click on the Demo button and experience it for yourself.

Eventum Demo Screen

Directory and Monetization

Directory sites are different than ordinary sites.

Their sole purpose is to make money from it. And that’s the reason why we’ve made monetization options for online directory owners.

Besides monetization, there are certain aspects if missed later you will have to pay a lot of cash for customization work. Some important parts of a directory website are,

  • User Management
  • How to Submit a New Event?
  • Displaying Events
  • Monetization Options
  • Payment Gateways
  • Search Options
  • Available Shortcodes
  • Mobile App Layout
  • Other Features (third party plugins compatibility like WPML tool to translate your directory into any language, Yoast for SEO and Directory Eventum theme)

Just like other themes in the market, Templatic directory themes are available in regular & developer license.

If you already own a Directory theme like listing Pro, you can get the regular license of a niche theme for $49 – $99. Or you can get the combined package for both Directory and niche theme at $149 – $249.

Once you find your theme, click on “Get It Now”


There is also installation services available at minor cost. The support team will handle your complete installation.

Once the basic setup is ready, they’ll hand you over the driver’s seat.

However, installation is quite easy. You can even try doing it yourself using the step by step theme installation and user guide.

So we have a domain, hosting installed and directory theme purchased.

You also have a comprehensive step-by-step installation guide.

You can log-in to the member area with the credentials received on your registered email address. If you still face any trouble, don’t worry, connect with our support team.

We configure the theme based on the niche we have finalized for the directory website.

Understanding the WordPress Dashboard

The best part about WordPress is, it’s very simple and easy to understand.

It won’t take you more than 30 minutes to learn in and out about it. When you log in for the first time, you’ll see a dashboard or admin panel there.

Let’s break down some of the most important ones for new bloggers to know:

    • “Dashboard” shows you an overview of your recent activity. This includes how many posts, comments, and pages you have. You can also write up a quick draft blog post here – but don’t. Because I’ll show you a better way a little later in the guide.
    • “Posts” is where you’ll click if you want to add a new blog post or edit an existing one.
    • “Media” is the library of all the pictures, videos, and audio files you’ve uploaded to the site. And you can manage all those items here.
    • “Pages” is where you can add a new permanent page – like a service or contact me page (not a blog post!) and manage the pages you’ve already created.
    • “Comments” is the place you’ll want to go to manage comments. You can see which comments are waiting for your approval. You can review comments you’ve approved and see comments labeled as spam, and delete comments you don’t want.
    • “Appearance” is where you can manage the appearance of your website. Here, you can install new themes I show you exactly how to do this a little later on the page
    • “Plugins” is where you’d click if you wanted to install a new plugin, like a photo gallery or SEO tool. I’ll show you how to do this in a moment.
    • “Settings” is the last section you need to know about. Here, you can change your site’s title and tagline, edit your email address and manage all your site’s settings.

Tip: Here’s an in-depth guide on Blogging for Beginners: How To Start a Blog, Promote, Maintain & Sustain It?

Our aim is to help you avoid all the expensive mistakes that most people make while creating an online directory website. After all, it’s not just a website but a business that you develop. You could reach out to experts to discuss digital strategy and make sure it’s reliable.

Installing a New Plugin (add some cool features to your blog)

Plugins” are little software modules that you can install to add features and tools to your blog. Perhaps, they can do all sorts of things, like:

  • Adding contact forms
  • Reducing comment spam
  • Making your blog SEO-friendly
  • Creating newsletter sign-up forms
  • Adding photo galleries

And lots, LOTS more.

Installing them is easy. First, Mouse-over “Plugins” in the sidebar, then click “Add New”. And now, you can search by keyword to find plugins for almost anything!

When you find a plugin you like, just click “Install Now” and then “Activate Plugin” on the page that follows.


Before you install any plugin, it’s a smart idea to Google its name and read reviews.

Because some unreliable plugins can break your theme, cause problems with security, or work poorly. So always get a second opinion first. Here are a few tips to enhance the security of your WordPress website.

Also, make sure your plugins (and themes) are always up-to-date.

Don’t worry though;

WordPress usually lets you know when some of them are out of date.

With the completion of point (3), we have the WordPress Directory theme installed. You must make sure that you promote your website content well. Once done, let’s get to drive this Directory theme make us some real money.

4. Content, Traffic & Get Paid For Listings

Now, a directory with no listings at all will not serve its purpose.

Furthermore, you won’t attract customers (paid listings and advertisers) if there are no other listings there. So we take about enough businesses from town and list them on the site for free.

You might also like:

Write Content & Bring Traffic

There are so many ways to promote your website and bring traffic. Start a blog and write content that is relevant to the directory website & the businesses you have listed.

Because fresh and unique content can help you rank well on Google and attract relevant traffic. And this traffic could be potential business inquiries for the listed businesses.

You could also use great tools available today like Social Media platforms.

Here, you can read what are the 10 ways to double business directory website traffic through social media.

As the listed business start getting calls for such inquiries, chances are you have them back contacting you.

Listing - Categories

Be it anyone…

  • Wall Paint business
  • Mechanic
  • Car Broker
  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Real Estate Agent,
  • Hardware Business,
  • Furniture Business,
  • Bands,
  • Books,
  • Entertainment…

After all who doesn’t want extra business? ;-)

Reach out to your potential clients

So alternatively, you can contact the business owners in a month with some kind of proof. And for this, you can use the visitor statistics with help of your google analytic tool.

Let’s say, a sale value is $22 If you are generating 5 leads for them a month. Therefore, you are giving them $110 worth business BECAUSE they are listed on your directory website.

Hence any business owner seeing value created would be willing to remain listed for an affordable price. And you could define the charge based on the business type, demand, value that your directory website is capable of generating.

Initially, you can start with small. But as the popularity of your WordPress Directory site increases, you can gradually increase the rentals.

How paid directory listing works?

Most people start with $24.99 to 29.99 – again it depends based on country/state your directory is for.

An online directory website can hold about 10 to 1000 business listings on a single directory website. So let’s say you charge 24.99 per month and gave away a minimum of 3 listings per day as you get bit older.

In facts lets round it up by 5 cents and say $25 per month just to make this easy to

By giving away 3 listings per day you are adding $75 per day to your monthly
residual income.

In 20 working days per month, you are adding $1500 per month to your residual income:

  • Month One = $1500 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Two = $3000 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Three = $4500 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Four = $6000 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Five = $7500 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Six = $9000 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Seven = $10,500 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Eight = $12,000 In passive monthly residual income
  • Month Nine = $13,500 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Ten = $15,000 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Eleven = $16,500 in passive monthly residual income
  • Month Twelve = $15,000 in passive monthly residual income

And, that’s it. There you have created an Online Business out of WordPress Online Directory.

Still doubtful, if you think that is a slow process? Luckily there is a highway to drawn by John Durham.

So, this time you pick up the phone and talk to your potential business from town. Don’t know what to talk? Here’s the Golden Pitch.

The Golden Sales Pitch

I believe you have gone through the Golden pitch and you know the crux of closing sales & creating a profitable business.

But that’s not it;

Besides the primary income from business listings, you can also make a lot of money through paid advertisements that are relevant to your business listings.

5. Get Paid For Advertisments

Now you have an online directory with content and targeted traffic.

Making money through paid advertising is easy if you know the real deal.

The traffic on your directory website has arrived on your site searching certain keywords on a search engine. Or through one of your marketing platforms.

Let’s say you have WordPress theme companies listed on your directory website. And a visitor on the site is interested in buying a WordPress Theme.

Probably, a visitor looking for a WordPress theme also might be interested in services like hosting service, domain service, SEO service, freelance developer, etc.

In this case, if you place one of these paid advertise banners on that page, it’s likely that he’ll click it!!

And, this is how you can make a buck on it (if it’s Google AdSense). Because relevant and meaningful advertises will bring conversion and increase your monthly revenue.

Most users fail on this part – they place casino ads on a freelance content writing listing page. So, it’s a simple theory but it happens that beginners fall for it. That’s the sole purpose I decided to write this guide is to help you recognize it and have a productive and successful endeavor.

Take a look how Realtor does in the below screenshot in the sidebar.

Sidebar Paid Ads

Start by contacting the companies/individuals that are already in your directory. Also, ask if they want to advertise on your site.

And See how Yelp does this. It is one of the best Yellow Pages Directory out there. You’ll see that the Popular Events are paid advertisements.

Popular Listing

Another great way to get advertisers is to create a section on your website where you write about the benefits of advertising in your directory.

10-30-2015 12-36-03 PM

6. Branding

Branding creates emotion, credibility and motivates the buyer. By branding your website you are generating a clear message about your business. It also creates loyalty among customers.

Once your WordPress Directory site is established in a couple of months or years. And if for any reason, you are not able to continue, you can always sell it.

One of the greatest benefits you can achieve from branding your online directory is if some other company is willing to purchase and take over your directory website. And this could instantly make you a millionaire. This has happened in more than dozens of cases in recent months.

To learn about branding, there is a great resource and many other articles online.

7. Sustain the business & Grow

What do I mean by sustain and growth?


Once you’ve made your first $1000 on average per day for a month, then make sure it never drops below this again. This way, you can sustain your income.

Consequently, if you’ve got a certain number of unique targeted visitors, you need to work on user engagement.

Make sure you keep them interested, by writing content, recognizing what they are looking for and providing it to them.

And once you’ve reached the top position for relevant keywords in the search engines, make sure you stay there.


Now, you’ve taken care of sustainability what you already go, the next thing to do is to try to improve things, make it better.

So, expand all there is to expand.

If the first $1000 per month is tough, then you simply look for the scope of improvement in the process. You should always focus on the overall user quality experience and take it ahead from there.

Once you’ve got your online directory business running, make sure to defend what you got. Then, make efforts to improve your position.

Recommended: Use Google Analytics reports to optimize your website

Creating a Directory website with WordPress is really easy with the Directory WordPress theme. But how will you track the performance of your Directory pages and listings?

This is possible using the FREE, reliable and easy to use Google Analytics tool. Here’s a complete guide on how you can use Google Analytics for WordPress websites.

What’s NEXT?

I bet you have tons of questions on what to do next. . .

  1. We have brought you great pre-sales and post-sales support team to help via email. So if you get stuck (for some reason), you can get in touch with me.
  2. If you’ve set up your Directory site and want to know MORE, then go check our customer showcase sites for ideas.
  3. If you found this guide helpful, you can share this page with your friends on social media.
  4. And finally, once you are ready, go check our Best Directory Themes to launch your dream directory website.

Wishing you the best of the success.

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