Learn how to create an online directory.

Beginning a new enterprise can be confusing, but if your team needs help with starting an online directory, look no further. This post is the first in a four-part series on creating and optimizing an online directory.

First Steps in Creating an Online Directory

Last week, we talked about the traits of a high-quality online directory and what things people should avoid. Keep these traits in mind as we walk through the first steps in starting an online directory.

The first question that needs to be asked is, What kind of online directory does the business want to create? The following questions should help give an idea:

  1. What is the goal of the online directory?
  2. Will the directory target a specific industry or group of industries?
  3. Will the directory be specific to an individual city, region or country?
  4. Is this a directory that anyone can join or will your team choose who is included?
  5. What standards must businesses meet to be included in the directory?

Choosing a Geographic Location or Niche for the Online Directory

Once your company has decided to set up an online directory, the first step is to determine the directory’s “niche” — what type of directory website that will be launched and what types of businesses will be included.

While it’s possible to create a general business directory that covers all business categories — and some well-known directories like this exist — it’s probably better to focus the directory on a specific industry or theme.

For example, some specific service niches include:

  • Automotive services
  • Medical services
  • Home services
  • Legal services

There are countless niche type of directories one could set up. It’s important to pick one that makes sense for the business.

It’s also important to determine where the online directory will be focused. There are certainly successful national and international directories. However, it may be easier to begin with a localized directory. For example, if the target niche were party and event vendors, focusing the directory within a specific metroplex could make it easier to focus on recruiting business listings and marketing the directory.

If you’re not sure what niche to choose, look for local opportunities. Consider this:

  • Does your company already have relationships with businesses in a particular area or industry?
  • What is there not already a directory for in the geographic area the directory is targeting?

You definitely will want to do some online research on what people are searching for and see what popular industries in the area are lacking a convenient online directory.

How to Create a Website for an Online Directory

Your company doesn’t need to have experts at coding or designing websites to start an online directory. There are several options for online directory software platforms that can do most of the work.

Useful Software for Creating an Online Directory

  • Brilliant Directories — Brilliant Directories powers over 20,000 directory websites. They allow websites to be customized using their website editor which requires no expert knowledge (although the website’s source code can be accessed if your team needs). They also boast over 1,000 settings and features to manage the directory listings.
  • 360Directories — 360Directories is a local business directory software option. Their plans come with full hosting, a branded website design and SEO optimization, along with monetization and online payment tools.
  • eDirectory — eDirectory comes with many features for a yellow pages-style online directory, including price listings, user ratings and reviews of businesses and website automation. eDirectory also provides a mobile app builder so that a customized Android and iOS app can be designed for the directory.

WordPress Plugins to Create an Online Directory

If budget is more of a concern when setting up an online directory and your team knows knows how to use WordPress, there are many useful plugins that can be installed to customize the directory website even more and add more features for the website. Below is a list of just a few WordPress plugins that can help get an online directory started.

  • Business Directory Plugin — Business Directory Plugin is specifically targeted for yellow page-style and other online directories. Unlimited business listings can be created with fully customizable fields, and the directory can accept payments and use widgets to create featured or latest listings.
  • Directorist — Directorist is a business directory plugin that includes most of the basic features a directory needs like creating full business or event listings, categorized searched, basic monetization and more.
  • Connections Business Directory — Connections Business Directory is a simple-design plugin that is compatible with all WordPress themes which gives a lot of flexibility when designing an online directory website.

What’s Next for Your Online Directory?

Once the online directory has been planned out and the website has been created, don’t think everything is finished — the battle has just begun. From here, we need to start optimizing the online directory’s website and then begin attracting consumers.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to optimize the online directory to make sure it appears in online search results — stay tuned!