Running an online business directory is tough and requires a lot of effort to be a successful endeavour. Not only does the directory have to have a large amount of local value when it comes to search results so it can be found, but it needs to provide some other visible benefits to businesses.
Firstly, I will talk a bit about local value.
A directory that cannot be found by businesses is not going to be found by customers. What this means is that you need some understanding of how SEO works. We recommend writing locally based blogs including information on your directory and the services you provide, so that when people actually look for a directory to put their business on, they will be able to find you.
For more information on blog writing, I recommend these two articles:
Blogs are useful because the more you write about your company and your services and the people you work with, the more you will show up on search results. Good blogs will be useful to people and pick up backlinks which will help your business over time.
With backlinks in mind, it’s always a good idea to make backlinks point to your website. If you want to stand out online, good backlinks are extremely helpful in assisting with this. Backlinks will naturally appear if you are writing good blogs, but you can also make them by making YouTube videos of your directory and the local area, and putting the URL of your directory in the video description along with some information and text. Tag these videos locally. You can also get backlinks from other sources, but we thoroughly recommend against buying them.
Linking back from your Facebook page, or even Soundcloud if you release podcasts can be beneficial. Soundcloud you can just strip the audio from your videos and upload it there attaching your URL with information and pointing people to your site. Facebook and other social media sites don’t have as much value in their backlinks because they are usually classified as nofollow links however you can get some natural traffic with them so don’t count them out!
Your website domain has an authority which is based on many factors in search engine algorithms. This will increase as your website gets more and more users, more pages and as your domain ages. The more you blog, work, build backlinks and network for your business the more powerful you will inevitably become. This means that you will also have more value as a backlink to the businesses who sign up with you.
There are several strategies you can use to increase your backlinks but one of the most common and effective for directories is to have a clause in your contract with businesses that if they link back to you, you will link to them when it comes to their signing up with you. If you are a good coder or have a competent web designer, it’s not hard to make a distinction between nofollow and dofollow links when setting this up. So people who add your link you can always send some value their way if it’s custom setup is to nofollow. This way when a customer gives you a good backlink, you can give them one back!
Secondly, you will want to build services.
The most successful independent directory I have seen is the csbn connect directory based in Chattanooga TN. This directory was set up using Brilliant Directories and is successful mainly due to the power of social media.
The owner, Cory Barnes, created the Chattanooga Small Business Networking Group on Facebook. This group is fantastic because not only is it constantly filling with business owners, but many people join the group to find local businesses and services that they need. He keeps the engagement high by putting up excellent posts in his Facebook group constantly and provides some great services for people who register.
He offers some excellent plans which cater for the needs of the businesses that join and has taken many businesses on board as preferred vendors, which has proven to be a great benefit to many of the people who have joined his group. Due to the way he pushes the services they have a genuine benefit to their users, making csbn connect more than just a plain directory.
By adding additional services, shoutouts and other information and actively supporting businesses and promoting them, he is providing an exceptional level of value to his customers. He has many solid testimonials because of the work he has done.
Another fantastic directory based in the UK is LocallyApproved. This directory shines because they vet every single one of the people joining their directory using a special system that decides whether or not people will be suitable and provide good, honest services for a fair price. They investigate any issues thoroughly and always work hard to ensure that the customers of people who use their directory maintain an honest work ethic. Being classified as LocallyApproved is a badge of honour and should be worn as such as it’s a clear sign of excellence.
The key with running a quality directory is to stand out. Offer extra services, work to get businesses to network together, and help them build their strength. By working with your customers in a positive light and helping them improve their business strategies, you will ensure that your customers will recommend you to friends and value the service you provide.
So is it easy to run a business directory?
Running a directory is hard work. In every case, for each successful directory, I have seen people struggling like mad to succeed and to achieve results. Cold calling businesses can be really hard, so the best way to get found is to start off by improving your SEO by writing localised blogs. If you write two blogs a day of 750 words or more, you will begin achieving much higher results within a few months as people find your blog faster.
Blog about local companies you like and talk about what makes them great companies and you will start appearing in the results when people have an interest in their business. Two blogs of 750 words written per day for one month will give you around 60 blogs, averaging around 45,000 plus words. With this amount of words, you are going to stand out wonderfully!
I recommend writing restaurant and takeaway reviews and reviews of all the services you use and have used in the areas. Only ever focus on positive things to say, as you want to avoid losing a customer before you begin. People may even give you free meals to review their restaurants. That’s how I started in restaurant marketing!
Blogging has earned me about 90% of my customers, and I really rate it! Usually my blogs have at least 1000 words and I recommend going for 2-3000 if you really want to crush local competition. Write about the local area and go into depth. Contact local marketing companies and offer them affiliate value and they will persuade their customers to join your directory.
Build a group like csbn and promote business interaction and support. Write informative blogs and articles on how people can improve business, much like my work here and send them to local companies to help them. Giving someone advice and help for free is a great way to make great new connections!
The key to being successful is to add services. If you own a good camera, go and take pictures of people’s businesses and say you want to write about them, it’s a good way to get to know people. If you know a good writer who can cover the local area, invest in hiring them. I have a small team of people who help write my blogs and source me information making my job easier.
If you manage to write a few successful blogs that get a lot of views, you can even get Google ads on them and earn passive income. The main focus will be getting customers though, and the best way to start is to start writing. You won’t see results for a while, maybe 2 to 3 months at first, but keep at it and you will eventually start appearing everywhere.
I definitely recommend getting affiliate services set up with any and all local marketing services, as they will understand the value of backlinks from your directory, as well as understanding the value of making a little on the side as an affiliate bonus.
The key to success is persistence!