The 6 rules to monetize a directory website

and start make a living online.
monetize wordpress directory website
Last Updated on: Posted inBlog, News

How to Monetize a Directory Website?

To monetize a Directory Website, you must follow the following steps:

  1. Find an unexploited market niche.
  2. Create high-quality content for your database.
  3. Incentivize and gather user-generated content through reviews.
  4. Master marketing and SEO to generate high traffic.
  5. Monetize your directory by:
    • selling listings
    • selling ads
    • allowing business owners to claim and upgrade their listings
    • using affiliate marketing
    • selling extra services to business owners.(the most underused technique)
  6. Improve your conversion rates.

Let’s see how we can do that in detail. But first, let’s see why you should build a directory website in the first place.

Why you should build an online directory?

When Blogs still didn’t exist, directories were already making money online.

Directory websites appeared online to try and organize the internet itself before search engines came to be.

They evolved from collections of links like the DMOZ to today’s business listings directories, with user reviews and specialized forums like Trip Advisor and Yelp, to name the most popular two.

One of the biggest initial hurdles for Directory publishers is finding a way to monetize their directory websites.

Now let’s see in detail how to :

1) Find the right niche.
2) Build the database.
3) Incentivize reviews.
4) Be visible.
5) Monetize your directory.
6) Improve your conversion rates.

7) We’ll also provide an Extra Tip on how to make money with a business directory website.

1 Find the right niche

find the niche

As for any other internet business model, the best way to make money online by building a directory website is to find a profitable niche and exploit it.

The three fundamental qualities of a profitable niche are:

1) Good traffic.
2) Low or moderate competition.
3) High-suggested bid for ads.

There is a tool to find possible keywords, their estimated monthly search numbers, the level of competition, and the suggested ad bid.

It is called “Google Adwords Keyword Planner” it is free, and you must learn how to use it to make money online.

You can search for new keywords using phrases, websites, or categories, which will return suggestions for similar keywords.

Whenever you find a niche with all three qualities, you are on the right track to start making money online.

First of all, you must be able to create value for that niche. It’s better to think big, start small, and move fast.

A generic directory with many keywords (categories) or a high competition level should cover a minimal geographic area of great interest.

Possibly an area you know like no one else, for which you can even offer concierge services.

It can be global, but in that case, it should cover an extremely specialized sector with a growing market and very few keywords.

Possibly forget about Hotels, Restaurants, Doctors, Real Estate, and Lawyers (probably the five most competitive keywords).

When these are the only options you can think of, try to be creative and pursue niches like :

– Luxury Hotels with breathtaking views.

– Restaurants that only serve raw food.

– Doctors who prescribe a specific drug or cure

– Medical marijuana-friendly rentals (sounds crazy? It could be, but it may soon be a thing in some U.S. states)

– Lawyers specializing in a particular law practice like Gay Divorce (sounds discriminating? Well, it is a thing…).

gay divorece lawyer

If, instead, you try to build a global directory with thousands of locations, categories, and custom fields, you will find yourself working on something more significant than can be possibly handled without a large team and most likely fail.

2 Build the database

quality over quantity

Should I build my database or wait for users to do it?

Is scraping an option?

These are the most common questions asked by our customers.

Don’t wait for visitors to build your database with user-generated content.

Your directory will never grow fast enough.

Start by adding listings and ask friends and colleagues to help you with this task.

Avoid scraping.

The only data that can be scraped are detailed info such as business names, addresses, geo coordinates, telephone numbers, website addresses, email addresses, and so on.

Everything else is most likely used on other websites too, so it is useless.

Do you want Google to rank your listings?

They must have better content than other pages currently ranking for the subject of your listings.

Better images, a thorough business description, services provided, ongoing offers, and many reviews.

Every piece of content must be original.

3 Incentivize User’s Reviews

get user reviews

A lot of reviews means having a lot of original content that your visitors and Google will love.

Getting the first user-generated reviews is the hardest part.

You should honestly review every listing you know of in your directory.

Involving people in your network would help you review as many listings as possible.

Users are more prone to submit their reviews in directories where they feel part of a community.

A forum can help a lot, but you need to be present in your forum and build the community or delegate the task to someone that can do it for you.

4 Be visible

be visible

This is probably the most critical point.

The recipe is always the same when making money on the web.

It would be best if you had good SEO and Social media marketing.

Suppose your directory website isn’t ranking high on Google for your niche, or you don’t have enough followers to appear attractive to your potential customers.

In that case, they won’t be willing to pay to submit a listing on your directory website.

If you can’t bring them traffic and possibly sales, you are worthless to them. It is as simple as that.

You must become an SEO expert and dominate your niche.

Bring traffic to your website, and you will have success.

The higher the traffic, the easier it will become to monetize your Business Directory Website or any online business.

Learn everything about SEO, specifically content creation and white hat link-building techniques.

Backlinks and great content are still the two most important factors to dominate Google search results pages.

Installing an SEO plugin isn’t enough. It is just one step.

There are plenty of excellent blogs where you can learn SEO techniques, with lots of concepts and real-life examples.

My current favorite is: by Glen Allsopp

But there are many others out there. 

The Search Engine Journal,, and Backlinko are other examples.

Some niches allow you to publish sharable content, such as incredible pictures and videos.

Please take advantage of them to grow a community in social networks too.

5 Monetize your directory


There are several ways to monetize a directory website. The most common are:

  1. Sell featured listings.
  2. Sell Ads space.
  3. Allow business owners to Claim their listings and buy featured rankings
  4. Sell extra services.

Listings can be anything: Business Listings, Events Listings, Jobs Listings, Classified Listings, Real Estate listings, and anything else that comes to your mind.

The only difference is a few custom fields and search fields.

Sell premium listings allowing extra features compared to free listings.

The premium listings could have more pictures, a website link, telephone number, social media links, inclusion in more categories, a longer description, more custom fields, and so on.

Sell higher visibility for the most expensive premium listings, featuring them at the top of category archives, search pages, and in different sidebar areas.

Premium listings can also be ads-free as an additional value.

You can also create free listings for your target customers and allow them to claim their listings for a fee and provide them with the added value of a premium listing.

Sell listings for a one-time fee for limited-time publishing or a recurring fee that expires only if the publisher stops it (basically start a subscription business online that sells listings).

Premium listings can also include extra services beyond the directory.

Use the directory as a lead generator to increase your marketing, web design, and development revenues.

Many businesses listed in the directory could require help with easy tasks like creating and maintaining a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account.

They could be looking for design, photography, or marketing services. They could even need a complete website.

By including these services in your listing packages, you could find a new stream of revenues.

Selling ads can be another great source of revenue.

Use popular ad networks like Google Adsense (PPC), and (impressions-based) or sell ad space directly through your website.

A directory should have a blog too. In many cases, the blog comes first, and the directory follows.

It will make it much easier to attract traffic.

Blog posts allow you to sell extra ad space and affiliate products for extra revenue.

6 Improve your conversion rates


Learn how to convert free into paid listings.

When you don’t have featured listings yet on your directory, selling the first few is the hardest.

Don’t be greedy at first, and consider setting reasonable prices.

According to our statistics, the technique with the highest conversion rate is still telemarketing.

Create a script of the telephone pitch, and try to speak with the owner or the highest manager on duty only.

Introduce the directory and inform him that his business has already been listed for free.

Very important, if the business has already been reviewed, don’t forget to mention it.

Explain what the premium listing can bring to his business (extra visibility, a backlink, more traffic to his website, and ultimately real clients).

Close the sale by asking if they are interested in purchasing a premium listing.

You will be lucky to get a yes out of ten, especially at the beginning.

Take this into account, be persistent, and don’t get discouraged.

Giving away a few free featured listings to market leaders can also be a good idea.

Some of their competitors will believe it’s worth paying to be listed on your website.

In our experience, you get two questions repeatedly from potential customers when starting:

1) Who are you?

if you don’t find some way to relate to the customer, then a lot of the time, they will either hang up or say they are too busy to talk.

The reason could be anything from “Do you know XYZ, he’s my uncle” or “My cousin XYZ bought an ABC from you last year, and he thought you guys were great.”

Don’t make things up but even the slightest relation to the potential customer helps get a sale.

2) Who else has signed up?

This is one of the times it’s good to give the market leaders a free premium listing for a few months so you can answer, “All the big XYZ[hotels] are listed already.”

Extra Tip on how to make money with a business directory website

NAP citation for local SEO

If you don’t have a network that can help you influence business owners into buying your premium listings or you can’t think of any niche where you can offer value, consider selling NAP Citations submissions for local SEO.

NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone, and these citations are essential for local SEO, like links are for Organic SEO.

NAP citations are exactly what business directory websites provide.

A listing on Yelp, Trip Advisor, or a Facebook page counts each as 1 NAP citation.

The most important thing is that the address and phone number are formatted exactly as they are formatted on the Google My Business page.

When you have a similar number of reviews, and a Google My Business page of similar quality (description, pictures, videos, offers, and so on), the number and quality of NAP Citations make the difference in appearing on the Google Map Pack.

Appearing or not on the Google Map Pack today can make or break any local business, so NAP citations are precious.

How to sell NAP citations

First, you’ll need to create a few local directories. I’d say at least 20.

They must be of outstanding quality and possibly not all hosted on the same server.

Ensure your directory websites have enough backlinks and content to have a decent DA (Domain Authority).

Let’s say DA 20 and up, and they load fast enough.

You can check the DA of a website on One other metric people look at is Domain Rating.

Once you are ready with your network of directories, make a list of the 10/15 most valuable Directories for the area you want to target. (Yelp, Trip Advisor, Yellow Pages, and Hot Frog, to name a few, both big and medium)

Create a page where you offer to submit business listings into your list of Directories and provide up to 40 NAP citations.

You can easily do that with our GetPaid plugin.

You can quickly charge between 50 and $99/year for something like that, and with one sale per day, you could be making 18k and 35k USD per year with 10 minutes of work per day.

If you need an example:


Making a living with an online directory website requires research, dedication, and patience.

It can be a bit hard at first, especially if you are building a brand-new website, but it can become gratifying too.

We hope you found this article interesting. If you did, don’t forget to share it.

If you have any questions about the subject or suggestions to improve this post, don’t hesitate to let me know by leaving a comment below!

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Published by Paolo

Paolo Tajani, co-founder and marketing lead at AyeCode LTD, works alongside his business partner Stiofan to develop key WordPress plugins such as GeoDirectory, UsersWP, and GetPaid. Starting his journey with WordPress in 2008, Paolo joined forces with Stiofan O'Connor in 2011. Together, they have been instrumental in creating and marketing a range of successful themes and plugins, now actively used by over 100,000 websites.