7 Little-Known and Unique Ways to Monetize Your Online Directory

unique ways to monetize your online directory
Last Updated on: Posted inBlog

When you learn how to make a directory website with your chosen directory listing software and you get set up, it can be frustrating to realize that’s only about half the battle.

You also need to know how to make money with your WordPress website.

What can make matters worse is creating a plan to monetize your website only to learn that the directory listing software you’re using doesn’t support the features you need.

Building and monetizing your online directory can seem like an uphill battle, but it doesn’t have to be with the proven strategies outlined below.

How to Make a Directory Website with WordPress

Before you can start monetizing your online directory, you need to build one.

One of the best ways to create an online directory website is to build it on top of a self-hosted WordPress site.

WordPress is well-maintained and frequently updated with security patches. It’s also infinitely scalable if your hosting plan includes enough resources.

Regular (automatic) maintenance on your site with plugins such as for database and image optimization, caching, and Domain Name System (DNS) also help further boost the performance of your website.

It’s also essential that your website’s theme and any plugins you install are cleanly coded and built for efficiency. Otherwise, your site can become bloated and slow to load.

After installing WordPress, you can add a plugin for creating an online directory.

The Best WordPress Directory Plugin to Use

When looking for directory listing software for your WordPress site, you must pick an option with all the features you need.

Not only that, but the directory plugin you choose also needs to be secure, fast, highly customizable, and straightforward.

Our GeoDirectory plugin covers all these areas. It also includes:

  • Automation
  • Supports millions of listings
  • Great search functionality
  • Importing from CSV
  • No coding required
  • Each listing can have its page
  • Unlimited custom fields
  • Add-ons to extend the core plugin,
  • And the list goes on

GeoDirectory covers the features that other options don’t support. We also have a premium version with extensive features.

If you need to convert your existing directory listing software to GeoDirectory, such as switching from phpMyDirectory, use the Directory Converter add-on.

Online Directories: How to Make Money with Your Website

Now that you know how to make a directory site, it’s time to learn how to make money with your website. There are so many ways to do this, and you’re only limited by your level of creativity.

Check out 8+ Ways to Monetize a Directory Website for several proven strategies. 

Little-Known and Unique Ways to Monetize Your Online Directory

Below are even more strategies to monetize your online directory.

These suggestions are often overlooked but are quick to implement with minimal effort for the maximum possible Return on Investment (ROI) and revenue.

1. Create Related Product Add-Ons

Depending on the type of online directory you have set up, you can sell complimentary products or services.

An excellent place to add these related products and services is as upsells during the checkout process.

By that point, your visitors are sure they’re purchasing to become customers, so it’s a great time to show them more items they may be interested in.

You can also add a sidebar to your site and place related products and services there.

Print-on-demand merchandise services like RedBubble, Spring (formerly TeeSpring), and VistaPrint can help you create these products that are made to order.

Then, you can sell them with WooCommerce, or if you don’t want to develop an entire e-commerce storefront, you can use our Payments Plugin GetPaid. Both are fully compatible with GeoDirectory.

Below are examples of products and services you could offer your customers for different directories.

Feel free to use them as suggestions and for inspiration.

Some suggestions offer businesses space in a listing, to sell their products for a commission.

For such use cases and similar ones, use the GeoMarketplace add-on.

Hotel Directory

Consider what travelers need up to and including during their stay at a hotel they selected through your directory.

This also includes what they would need to sightsee or conduct business.

You could sell travel-sized personal care products, souvenirs, travel mugs, travel insurance, and anything else you think will be relevant.

On the other hand, as a directory developer, your actual client here is the Hotels, not the traveler.

So think about what you can upsell to the hotel too.

Social media management, reputation management, professional photography (not a photographer? You can always outsource and take a commission), and website development.

Those are just a few options you can consider as upsells for many businesses.

Every business that added itself to your directory is actively investing in Marketing.

Be creative and sell them something else.

Travel Directory

Similarly, you can consider your customers’ travel requirements and tailor some products or services based on those needs.

You could offer the same options as the above, as well as luggage and luggage accessories, passport holders, eye masks, neck pillows, travel agent services, and the like.

You can partner with Tour Organizers in all destinations covered by your directory, sell their tours, and get paid a commission for every guest referred.

Restaurant Directory

Customers of a restaurant directory can often use gift cards, but you can also get creative with your extra services.

For example, you could use the same concept as Uber Eats and offer premium priority pick-up and delivery for a fee.

This could be a good business plan for a directory serving small cities where this kind of service is not offered by the more prominent apps.

Nevertheless, your clients are the Restaurants in your directory, not just the website visitors.

What could you sell to the restaurants?

Any service mentioned above for Hotels is valid here, too.

However, with a bit of creativity, you can find plenty more.

Restaurants today need Digital Menus with QR codes, but many restauranteurs still don’t know how to operate a computer, so they might need someone to edit it.

You can charge an annual fee to take care of that and more.

Business Directory

There are other options beyond letting business owners claim their pre-populated listing with the Pricing Manager, and Claim Listings GeoDirectory add-ons.

Businesses willing to pay to be listed on your directory could be willing to pay for someone to manage their AdWords account or to help them create sponsored posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Owners of small businesses don’t have time to become online marketers.

They might not even know they need to do online marketing. You can sell them a service and create win-win opportunities and long-lasting business relationships.

Real Estate Directory

If your target audience consists of real estate agents, you could offer templates for presentations and open-house marketing material.

On the same note, offering branding design or marketing services is another option.

If your target audience is focused more on home sellers, you could sell ad space for cleaning companies to promote their products and services.

That way, your customers can prepare their homes for showings at open house events.

The Advertising add-on can enable this functionality in your online directory.

Offering home staging services is another option.

If your target audience revolves around home buyers, you could similarly offer space on your site to contractors.

They can sell their services as products on a listing.

Last, you can refer leads to RE agents and claim a portion of the commission for each home transaction facilitated by your directory.

Marketplace Directory

If you own an online marketplace directory, you could create your line of signature products and sell them similar to Costco with their Kirkland brand.

Amazon does the same thing.

Beyond that, you could sell ad space and let companies advertise items they want to promote or newly launched products.

Job Board

For job boards, you could offer professional résumé templates and coaching.

If you want to target businesses, they could sell related products in your directory on job listings.

For example, if you build a job board for restaurant personnel, you can be sure a good portion of your visitors will be Chefs.

Selling professional knives could be an idea.

No need to create an inventory. You can use the dropshipping method to avoid that and only get paid every time a sale is closed.

Other products could include business casual wear, printing services for business cards, steel-toed boots for construction workers, and other similar items that prospective candidates may need if they get the job.

Events Directory

Apart from selling tickets with the Event Ticket Marketplace add-on, and depending on the type of event, you could let companies sell their products on a listing for a commission, such as quality headphones for silent discos.

You can have businesses sell the products they would have at the events directly on the listing.

For example, suppose your Events Directory promotes wine tastings. In that case, you could invite the wine-tasting organizer to sell the wine online so visitors who could not participate in the tasting can still buy the wine.

Similarly, event-goers could pre-pay for any merchandising, like a t-shirt for a concert and other similar items.

2. Sponsored Blog Posts

Another option is to write content for your blog that’s informative and helpful.

Then, once you have established a following, you could invite brands to sponsor single blog posts.

You could display the business’ logo with a caption or label that reads, “This article is sponsored by” or something similar.

When visitors see that such valuable content was provided (in part) by a specific company, it helps build a sense of trust and loyalty to the brand because of their perceived generosity.

This strategy helps combat “advertising blindness,” a phrase used in marketing to describe visitors who are so used to seeing ads that they ignore them completely.

You can use the Advertising add-on to set this up for your online directory.

3.  Sponsors for Your Newsletter

Similarly, you could also have businesses sponsor your newsletters.

Instead of just placing the company’s logo in the email, you could also arrange to offer a coupon code that’s entered in during checkout on the business’ website.

Offering deals that can only be accessed through the newsletter is a great way to entice readers to sign up as well as accept the offer.

This type of lead generation requires users to double opt-in, which means they must agree to sign up for your newsletter, then decide to pass on their information again to the third party when they checkout.

This means that it’s a strategy that’s potentially GDPR-compliant as long as the rest of the site requirements are met.

4. Offer Exclusive Listings or Memberships

Offering exclusive listings or membership to your directory can increase its value, which means you can charge more.

Not only that, but you can use our Embeddable Ratings Badge add-on to let members display their status in your directory on their website as social proof that they’re an ideal business to patronize.

This strategy works well for SuperLawyers.com where only the top 5% of lawyers can be listed in the directory. They’re given an embeddable badge to easily add to their site to show that they’re an exclusive, trusted member.

With the Embeddable Ratings Badge add-on, you can choose who gets access to the badge and if you want to let users customize the design of their badge. That way, it’s styled in a way that’s best suited for their site.

Not only does that help with brand awareness for your directory, but it’s also a strategy that gets your site backlinks to drive more visitors to your directory and improve your domain score for better Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

5. Publish Paid and Honest Blog Reviews 

Another option is to publish honest reviews on the blog of your directory.

These can be paid reviews regardless of the star rating.

You could also include a coupon or offer from the business to add value for the reader and to the company advertising on your directory.

Reviews can be public but also private only for the business owner.

These are called mystery shopper reviews and are very useful for business owners (especially for those with a standardized service), to evaluate the quality of work provided by their teams.

You can use GetPaid to handle the payment for the review.

6. Premium Listing Upgrades for Added features 

Letting your visitors sign up to publish a premium listing is a great way to monetize your site.

You can increase the overall value by letting your customers access many more custom fields that offer greater details.

Using the Pricing Manager add-on, you can accomplish this and offer custom fields and options like adding more images, categories, tags, a longer descriptions, telephone numbers, and more.

You can create whatever custom field you want, then offer it as a premium listing upgrade.

For example, if you have a business directory, users can publish free listings with basic details such as the company’s name and a brief description. Still, they can get more value if they upgrade since they can also include contact details for lead generation.

7. Create Services Based On Customer Feedback

One of the most overlooked ways to monetize your online directory is to find the best methods by listening to customer feedback.

You can also search social media to do some market research.

You can search for what customers want in the online directory you created.

Reddit and Quora are great places to find what questions people are asking and what objections they may have that keep them from upgrading.

Once you have these details, you can tailor your monetization strategy to your target audience’s specific needs to increase sales.

You can also use what you find to point out gaps in your niche and fill them with a product, service, or automation.

It’s also a great idea to research statistics that may be available and relevant to your directory.

So much data is available online, so it’s worth the effort.

For more data, you can use Google Analytics or a similar tool to see details about your current audience to help you better understand your users and what they may need.

Using a heatmap tool such as CrazyEgg or Hotjar can help you collect data on how your audience is interacting with your directory website.

You’ll find out where users hover their mouse, what they’re selecting, where they spend most of their time browsing on each page, and more.

Heatmaps help you see where customers expect to go on your site but where they may have run into issues along the way, such as when people hesitate, then abandon the page, for example.

Adjusting your current services to make them easier for users, based on the data you collect and find, can help increase user retention and satisfaction.

When users see the improvements they’ve been wanting without having to put in any effort to offer feedback or complain. It sends a message that you understand them so well that you can anticipate their needs.

This can help build trust and loyalty between your customers, visitors, and your online directory website.

When this happens, they’re more likely to make future purchases and remain customers.

Wrapping Up

You now know how to make a directory online and make money with your website.

You also understand what directory listing software is best to use.

Setting up an online directory and monetizing it doesn’t have to be complicated.

GeoDirectory is a no-code option that’s robust, secure, user-friendly, fast, and reliable, and it also scales well.

Over to you: Were you able to set up your online directory? Do you have any questions or features you’re looking for but aren’t sure how to create? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

You can get GeoDirectory here today:


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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.