Launching a directory in 2017?

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NEW:  Download the Audio below (I added this 50 minute audio to this post which covers a variety of unique ways to build and monetize a web directory, authority site and online agency…..predicated on reader questions. Feel free to listen or download below


One of my favorite online marketing strategies is building authority sites in niches, markets, or industries that align with my own sense of passion and purpose.

An authority site can be a web directory. It can be a marketplace where your professional peers come together to sell products and services around a general or complimentary theme. (like Yoga and mediation, or life coaching, nutrition, wellness and health)
It can be a job board. It can be a social networking community using Buddypress. It can be a hyper local site that attracts a captive community or ideal audience where you live, work or play right now.

There are tons of great authority site ideas, and many monetization strategies that make these style sites a great way to “own” eyeballs and establish an appearance of instant expertise with your peers. (after all, if you own a site that is considered an authority in your niche, and the public are frequenting that site, it’s a good bet you’ll have lots of value to offer people in your niche, market or industry who would LOVE to connect to your community of readers, subscribers, fans, friends, followers, and so forth.

A directory, is a great way of creating a community out of thin air, and attracting an audience of both the public who are looking for help, and the professionals who would love to work with them.

I have built many directories, around topics that I really love and they have been an amazing way to connect with a community of clients that I would have never had access to otherwise. (as when you own a directory that is getting traffic, and you know the type of people you’d love to work with as clients – your ideal audience will literally come to YOU as they discover your directory, and realize that they’d like to be included in your content, campaign and community as well)

I get a fair amount of questions about which directory themes/frameworks are best, and I’ll share a few of the ones I like and use most confidently below.

Vantage theme. (appthemes)

Probably the best value out of the box. Looks are a bit dated. Performs well. Support from Appthemes is so/so – not always reliable. Decent child themes allow some modernization options that improve the basic design. If you have $150 to spend and want to launch quickly, I recommend Vantage, and the Directory child theme and you have everything you need to build a profitable directory from scratch.

Update March 2017!  Vantage 4.0 is now available.

It’s a huge aesthetic improvement over the  previous version(s) of the theme (the 3.xx series) and in general, is probably the absolute best choice for folks who want a directory that is 100% ready to build, without mess or stress, in one short afternoon.  I’ve written a more detailed Vantage 4 review HERE after purchasing and playing with it on a test site, and another post, where you can watch a video where I share what I like, and what I wished they’d done a tad differently as well.  (some of those suggestions will no doubt be improved within the appthemes marketplace of 3rd party themes, plugins + extensions, which will be exciting to see grow for this version of the theme)

Listify (themeforest)

Listify started with a lot of promise, but really has become a bit of a disappointment. Adam Pickering, the public “face” of Astoundify (the company behind Listify) looks like he eats a lot of donuts and stays out of the sun whenever possible, which I respect – but is pretty bad at responding to emails, or being a decent human being with legitimate questions coming from customers/clients, which I sort of don’t.


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I say that only because I’ve had about 50 people buy Listify on my recommendation, without any financial incentive (no affiliate link) – purely predicated on public promises they’ve made about upcoming features that have yet to arrive months later….and most are not only disappointed with the theme – they also feel a bit deceived and ignored as well – and that makes me feel silly and a bit responsible for having made the recommendation.

Considering I’m already in therapy for feeling silly far too often to be healthy, I’ve become less of a fan of Astoundify’s slipperly grip on keeping it real – or being transparent with plans, progress and other important insights that are critical when clients put their trust – and invest their project – in your product.

More importantly, and this is pretty universal when it comes to most directory style themes out there…….having a good grasp on what it takes to build a real directory from a content marketing standpoint – what your clients are going to REALLY need to arm themselves well in the battle of building a real business – rather than just arranging the pixels in a pretty way around the page, should be a basic driver behind designing one – and evidenced by the progress and priorities , I simply don’t think the Listify team have a clue on what really matters most.

(i’ve tried to make recommendations with my typical tact and obviously outstanding manners, but they seem to fall on deaf ears 🙂
That said – Listify looks pretty good still – plays well with a whole host of plugins that (theoretically) allow you to do some pretty cool things to and for your community – and donuts, as we all know, ain’t free. (and I wouldn’t want a really pasty white looking brother to starve)

Do also note that I have been drinking heavily since about 10pm (it’s now 118) and if you’ve ever read “how to win frirends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie, you know it’s never a good idea to write product (or people) reviews after you may have peed (just a little) in your pajamas, which I think I may have just done.
So if you are planning on taking my advice on anything beyond the 3rd paragraph on this page, you’ve been warned.

Listable (themeforest)

Very similar to Listify – better looks, similar style integrations (Woo Commerce and WP manager based system allows for some very cool possibilities) much better support system than the other directory themes on Themeforest (in my experience) and the theme authors (Pixelgrade) do world class work across the board. Highly recommend, and while early (it’s only been available for a month) this is the theme I’m using now – and most apt to use going forward, for small communities that need great looks, woo commerce functionality, and creative UI/UX that keep the community coming back for more.

Superlist (themeforest)

A great directory theme/framework that is a steal of a deal – very powerful options, a bit complicated and even overly complex for the basic WP user (which believe it or not, even after years in this biz, I sort of kinda am) – BUT, has tremendous potential to be used on a “real” directory project that transcends the limitations of the other themes above. I got a copy of the theme before it was released, and was able to make some suggestions/recommendations that made it into the first release – and have found Lukas and the “Aviators” development team to be gifted and receptive to feedback and suggestions that have made working with the theme and planning for the future of a project using it – a really enjoyable and educational experience.

Superlist looks GOOD (maybe not great in some spots) but is the closest WP directory theme I’ve used that emulates a true SAAS directory building experience. (something you’d find with Brilliantdirectories.com, for example – which is much more powerful than wordpress and works great – but sort of looks like poop, and has some other “walled garden” issues as well)

Lastly, “Directory” by Templatic is a very powerful framework as well that can help you create the foundation of a true world class directory in a weekend.

While I like Templatic’s offerings (plugins/parent themes and child themes that drive their directory offerings) they DO do some things in a very unique way, which means that you can’t easily “switch” themes if it turns out that you find a framework that you prefer better. I’m tempted to recommend Templatic’s directory offerings just because they look pretty good AND have some genuine high end functioning that you won’t find elsewhere as easily – I just hesitate because you have to really “buy in” to their products long term if you do. Well worth checking out – they are a tad expensive as well relative to the options above, but in general, my experiences with Templatic have been good and I know people who have done very well with their products on live sites that rock.

 

NEW for April 2017.  LISTINGPRO.  This may be the most advanced and powerful WP theme on the market right now…..simply due to the innovative “back end” functionality that you can now offer your users (folks who are listed on your site AND the public, too) – see a complete video breakdown of Listingpro HERE, and see all the cool, creative and unique ways you can monetize your directory as a result.

In closing – I have bought all of the themes above – and have used them on live projects – and have countless clients who have used them as well (specificlaly Listify. Templatic and Vantage theme) – feel free to drop me a line if you’d like some extra insights on my experiences with each. I also didn’t really pee in my pants. And if I did, it was just a little….and it sort of feels good to not have broken my concentration to get up and check.

That is what it takes to succeed – fierce focus and extra thick padded boxers that block out the world when you work. Look for that in an ebook sometime in early 2016.
Thanks for reading, and see you soon.

UPDATE for November 2016. A new course (and personal coaching) on how to monetize a web directory and use authority sites as the firm foundation for building a fun, purposeful and PROFITABLE online agency style business. Learn how to turn your directory into a cash generating community in under 30 days. Details are here.

More updates! Do the updates never end? Who knows? The apprentice is in the white house, and the lead singer of poison may be our next secretary of state. Let’s just keep talking about directories, as the world is pretty much about to explode. Keep reading below.

Quick update: 10 ways to monetize an online directory Download the Audio below (I added this 50 minute audio to this post which covers a variety of unique ways to build and monetize a web directory, authority site and online agency…..predicated on reader questions. Feel free to listen or download below

NOTE: For those of you who have asked, here is a quick update on 3 ways to enhance, expedite and improve launching your next directory site, regardless of which WP theme you plan on using

BRAND NEW: A private online community for authority site marketers, online agencies and web consultants using the DIRECTORY marketing model. Join us HERE!

View all posts by ian

I am an author, artist and entrepreneur. My 2 passions are writing about, and teaching Marketing and Meditation. I like to think I'm a lot like Eckhart Tolle, if only he was taller, and a much better tennis player. (it turns out in person, he's super short, has a terrible backhand and wears this weird scottish hat thingy that makes it really difficult to concentrate while serving) Plus he refuses to keep score and says " it's always NOW" when you ask who is up. Enough about me. We barely know each other. Stop staring. You're making me nervous.