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How to Make Money From an Online Directory:

Q: What is the easiest way to make money from an online directory? Which marketing strategies are the most effective for getting new users to my site? How important is a domain name to the value of this sort of site, and will that help me when trying to get new members to join?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve started to get a lot of questions about building online directories and authority sites, mostly because THIS post on picking a WordPress directory theme was shared in a bunch of places, and has generated a whole bunch of new eyeballs on a pretty old post. (and I post I literally wrote at 3am after one drink too many, complete with a few references to peeing in my pants, which most people find very sexy)

With that in mind, I’ve been sharing a few strategies with a few of you privately, for expediting the process of launching a directory that I have found very helpful in my own experience, and think you’ll find them equally as effective for yours.  Remember, a directory, or any kind of authority site is an amazing way to build an online agency, or to sell back end services that is the REAL driver for creating the community in the first place.  So getting a lot of initial users to “seed” the site is very important for creating credibility, and these 3 hacks will definitely help.

1 – Offer Interviews.

Tell people you want to INTERVIEW them in the initial email, and the curiosity factor (and your open and clickthrough rate) will go through the roof.  Everyone wants to feel like a rock star in their niche, market or industry, and an interview is a gret way of appealing to the ego of your ideal audience, in a very intimate and engaging way.

I get emails all the time that say – “hey, you’ve been invited to be listed on xy or z site – submit your profile here.”

That’s really not all that engaging anymore, and I rarely read (or click) the offer, simply because i’m jaded, lazy and watching Rick Perry on Dancing with the Stars like you.

But if I got an email that said – “hey, we want to INTERVIEW you” and linked to a web directory or authority site in my niche, market, industry or local geography?  Of course I’d be interested.  I have a lot to say and while I’m well past 40 at this point,  it’s never too late to make my parents proud.

(Quick hint:  Make your interviews PRETTY.  Use a super cool FREE tool like to make beautiful interviews and then brainstorm cool and creative ways to use those interviews to help build “buzz” for your clients, your community or a combination of each)

2 – Choose wisely when it comes to the Domain Name

As those of you who have worked with me privately already know, I’m not very emotionally stable.  On top of that, i’m also not a huge fan of wasting a ton of time picking the perfect domain name for a new project or community, simply because it really is a huge time suck and quite often, an easy way to procrastinate to the point of never getting out of the gate.  That said, a directory or authority site is a bit different.

I’ve found that the more closely you can match the NAME of your community to match how your audience perceives themselves, the better the response rate is going to be to everything you do thereafter.  So while it sounds super cheesy and a bit lowbrow – if you add superlatives to the name of your directory that appeals to the ego of your audience, they are going to be far more likely to go all hands in when it comes to wanting to be part of the club 🙂  Using words like “best”, “famous” etc… a cheap cheat that in my experience, always pays super high dividends on response rates, AND later…..on social sharing thereafter.  (there is always something so funny to me watching someone just sign up for a directory I launched with a “best” in the URL, and then telling all of their social media friends and family – “hey…..I just got invited to join BESTOF “MYNICHE.COM” – check it out here!”)

So funny, and so predictable, and more reasons why I prefer pets over other humans.

3 – Use a lot of social media embeds to “Seed” your site.

This is so easy, and really offers a lot of value to your members, AND is a great way to “seed” a site when you first launch it.  You can quickly and easily embed twitter posts, instagram, FB updates, youtube, etc – and this really solves having to add content “about” the business if you are adding listings by hand at launch.  (and you really SHOULD add some listings by hand at launch, otherwise you’ll be using some sort of shady “scraper” to seed the site – or you’ll never get the mojo to build momentum or the appearance of exclusivity or appeal when approaching your audience by email or otherwise.

You can literally add 50 businesses in a short afternoon by embedding their social media updates, they love it when they see it (because it looks good, is hyper relevant to what they care about most – and offers an easy way for site visitors to follow them as well) – and if you do this for a few days, and use a really killer WordPress directory theme, you can literally have an awesome looking site with a lot of listings, before you “officially” invite your first listing.  (and of course, folks will THINK all of those previous businesses all signed up on their own – rather than you having added them yourself – which is totally kosher to do – even if you don’t keep kosher like me)

Make sense?

If you want to build your own web directory or online authority site – get in touch!  I have a great coaching program (and short course) on building authority sites from scratch, especially for those of you who would like to own/develop an online agency with web marketing offers of your own.  I’ve spent a few days chatting with some folks who would love to build these style sites for clients as well – so if that feels like something you’d be interested in, give me a shout.







5 Comments on "How to Make Money From an Online Directory:"

  • Juan says

    Can you elaborate a little about this ?

    Use a lot of social media embeds to “Seed” your site. Any examples ?


    • ian says

      Hi there – Sure – you are “seeding” your site (e.g. – populating the professional profiles) with social media stream based content, rather than more conventional content we may grab from traditional sources (e.g. – the blog/site or service owned by the professional in question – or the restaurant in question – or the service site in question – all predicated above, obviously, on the type of niche/market/industry or vertical you are competing/building in) – so you are expediting the content creation piece of the puzzle, by dint of including carefully curated (or currently curated) social media embeds – that your ideal audience (the folks who are going to be featured/listed on the directory) will see + appreciate on their profiles – builds a bridge between your public audience (folks browsing the directory) and your professional profiles/peers (folks listed) to the places and spaces (social media updates) that matters to them. Obviously and most important- it also expedites and simplifies the process of content creation for you – which makes “Seeding” the site manually a much easier process to facilitate as well. (plus it adds a novelty component that most of your competition won’t be doing, too)

  • Juan says

    Using podcast interviews is also a great way to create buzz.

  • Asad says

    Thank you, very useful information


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