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Starting A Local/niche Directory Site


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#1 Walter

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 07:45 AM

Hello Everyone,

I'm thinking about putting up a local directory site. I'm hoping to get a few opinions on what makes a good directory site.

There is a wordpress plugin called "Directory Press;" I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with that.

I'm also curious about what sort of enhancements you could add to listings to make it listing in the directory more attractive to buisness's. Would something like a page of their own in the directory where they could give a little more description about their company help? (linked to from their listing in the directory I would imagine). How about the ability to include a small pic? I'm not sure how interested clients would be, but how about a blog where they could submit articles?

Any other things I should consider?

Thanks,

Walter

#2 A.N.Onym

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 11:59 AM

My foremost concern would be about how to:
- make the directory useful to the visitors
- make the site easy to use
- make the site persuasive and socially engaging

A few things I've had in my mind for a while:
- customers can leave reviews of businesses
- businesses can register and edit their entry or submit a new one, if they are absent on the site
- customers can easily contact the businesses
- plenty of top quality topical content for the visitors (hyperlocal news, reviews of local places to visit/eat out, best of the web quality articles on niche topics, etc)
- optimize your categories and actively promote them
- have a very high converting website for businesses (not just for registrations, but for your visitors to call/book/order things from the businesses). Make it very profitable to be on your site and buy ads there
- provide necessary, but not overwhelming, web analytics for businesses: where, who, what, when and why.

Once you have your visitors interested in you, you'll get businesses interested, because they are interested in your visitors, not just in your website.

An ability to post a photo to a business page, whether by a visitor or the owner, or submit an article for a business, are just tactics. You need something strategic to guide you first, IMHO. After that, you simply go by the entire list of online marketing and usability best practices and see what and how you can use to help your strategy.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 05 January 2012 - 11:59 AM.


#3 Walter

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 01:05 PM

Thanks A.N. Onym.

My thought is to list every buisness I can find in each category (as I add categories), and then sell enhanced listings. The template I'm looking at would allow me to give passwords and create accounts so that premium listings could edit their own details. I really like the idea of providing some sort of monthly or quarterly web analytics to the enhanced listings.

I pause a bit at the idea of letting customers post reviews. My concern is about posting negative reviews on a site where the plan is to charge buisness's for premium listings. I suppose, if the visitors are allowed to post reviews of all the listings, and the list is comprehensive enough, I could structure it so that the enhanced listings would have some advantage in that regard. . . maybe setting it up so that they recieve a copy of each review, and possibly reviewing each review myself prior to allowing it to post?

Content, beyond the listings is a real question mark for me, not in the sense that I doubt its value, but more in the sense of what type and how to keep that part of the project manageable for myself. Thats why I had considered allowing/encouraging some buisness related blog entries.

Lots to think about.

Thanks A.N. Onym

#4 A.N.Onym

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 02:58 PM

Alright, suppose you have listed every business.

But why would they come to you?
How have you promoted your directory?
What sales are businesses going to get and what have you done to improve that? Will they even break even, if they buy enhanced listings from you? How much ROI can you guarantee the businesses, if they work with you?
Why would businesses advertise on your site, rather than other sites or Google AdWords?

Answers to these questions would help you figure out what you need on your site, both in terms of functionality and content.

Review sites work. Just look at Amazon and Yelp. There have to be guidelines for them, but other than that, you can not block negative reviews on your site, because it'd damage your own and businesses' credibility.

Letting businesses write for you is a great idea, provided it's interlinked with their listing. You might as well educate them how to create better, persuasive and link-worthy articles and inspire them to promote the articles to get the word out about the site and their positive reviews.

As for your own content, it should be targeted at the active audience on your site. It can be either targeted at customers of the businesses or at the businesses themselves. Your businesses want to be seen by your visitors, so that's your content target audience. Find out what interests them in the businesses and write about it.

There's lots to think about and lots more to work on, really. As usual, starting a project requires lots of effort, there should be no illusions about it. Just read the "The Dip" book by Seth Godin, it'll tell you how to get through it.

#5 SEOigloo

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 03:56 PM

Hi Walter!
This is neat that you are considering going into this field. As a Local SEO, I can tell you what would make your directory most likely to be one I'd recommend inclusion in to my clients: if you become large and trusted enough to become a citation source for Google Places, your directory will become a must-ad!

#6 Walter

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 04:46 PM

Yura,

Alright, suppose you have listed every business.

But why would they come to you?
How have you promoted your directory?
What sales are businesses going to get and what have you done to improve that? Will they even break even, if they buy enhanced listings from you? How much ROI can you guarantee the businesses, if they work with you?
Why would businesses advertise on your site, rather than other sites or Google AdWords?


All great questions and certainly ones I'm looking for answers to.

Review sites work. Just look at Amazon and Yelp. There have to be guidelines for them, but other than that, you can not block negative reviews on your site, because it'd damage your own and businesses' credibility.


Alright, so I don't block negative reviews. What if I make sure that clients with enhanced listings recieve timely notification of all reviews? I'm not an expert on reputation management, but I suppose it wouldn't be too difficult to put together some solid and basic advice on how to handle these types of situations which I could provide to the enhanced listings? Does it make any sense to delay the posting of negative reviews, give the enhanced customers a chance to contact the poster and try to resolve the issue? Do other sites that allow reviews offer anything like this? Maybe if they don't, that would be a selling point.

As for what the vistor wants, I can only speak from my own experience with directories. I don't like a directory filled with adsense ads. I usually never make it to the actual listings. I want it simple and clean. I also want a sense that its "complete." If I know there are dozens of tire stores in my area, and the directory only has 5 of them listed, the value of the directory falls drastically for me, as does my trust. If there are other things that really turn people off of a directory I'd like to hear them.

Content. I'm really struggling with this one. The truth is that for me as a visitor, the content I want in a directory is very limited. In most cases, I want and expect them to move me along to what I want . . . quickly and cleanly. Beyond reviews and some description of the buisness, I really don't want much from them. Maybe I'm in the minority?

Thanks again, Yura, you've given me a lot to think about.

Seoigloo,

I'm excited about the idea too, Igloo. Any advice on how to become a citation source for Google Places?

Thanks everyone, this is really helping.

Walter

#7 SEOigloo

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 01:11 AM

Walter,
There used to be a form you could submit for consideration, but I can't seem to find it anymore. I have no idea of what the workings were behind it. Becoming a citation source appears to me to involve becoming quite large and trusted by Google. I've never seen the specifics discussed of how certain sources were chosen. I'd love to know about that myself, too.

#8 Walter

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 09:57 AM

Igloo,

I looked around for some sort of submission process/advice too and couldn't find any. I'll keep looking around, if I find anything I'll let you know.

Thanks,

Walter

#9 mrgoodfox

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 03:40 PM

Walter, I used to own few medium size directories (general directories) and sold them. The only ones that I have left are very niche ones.

I used to use phpLD script. It needs a bunch of modifications but there are a lot of good programmers out there providing services. I found that most people/businesses submitted their site (paid) mostly for SEO purposes. It was hard to get real visitors browsing for the businesses let ago getting them to leave reviews.

Also, forcing submitter to sign up for an account will greatly reduce the number of submissions. You might want to just use a captcha in the beginning to weed out most of the spammers and switch to requiring account creation later.

So for one of my directories (a hookah lounge directory) I paid people from different forums to post reviews on the lounges.

What niche are you trying to get into?

#10 tam

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 04:04 PM

I thought google had removed third-party citation sources for google places?

#11 Walter

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 04:46 PM

MrGoodfox,

I'm going to do a local directory of buisness's. After giving some thought to some of the things Yura said, I think allowing people to wirte reviews; and then getting them to do that, is going to be critical to getting things moving with the site. I think the reviews will be what really provides value for the visitor.

You mentioned making it easy for people to leave reviews, (no initial sign up requires), and paying people in forums to write reviews. Do you or does anyone else have any other ideas for getting people to the site and then getting them to leave reviews? I'm already making a list of people I know in the area and I'm hoping I can get them to take some interest in the site. I'm also thinking that this might require some offline marketing to sort of "prime the pump".

As far as spam posts goes, I was planning on dealing with those manually. I thought there was an option to have the posts approved before they actually showed up on the site? If that is possible, is it an unrealistic plan?

phpLD script has been reccomended by a few other people too. I'll have to do some research on that.

Thanks Mrgoodfox,

Walter

#12 mrgoodfox

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 02:58 PM

Anytime. If you end up going with phpLD and need customization let me know and I can introduce you to my coder (Rob). He does a great job (but at $35/hour)

#13 A.N.Onym

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 02:00 AM

Drupal could probably handle that and spam management, most likely.

It's flexible enough to accomodate most your desires and provide extensive functionality that you haven't yet thought about. Plus, it's spam protection module (Mollom) was built by the Drupal creator and analyzes not only IPs, but also the text to moderate any type of content.

Of course, there's a steep learning curve with Drupal, to get your head around how it's organized on the server and internally (it only has core modules with it by default, you need to research and find the necessary modules by yourself). Also, a directory can be built just with the Views module by creating a listing type, but you'd have to know that after having researched the View/CCK functionality. As I said...a steep learning curve ;)

#14 Walter

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 05:50 AM

Yura and Mr.Goodfox,

I wanted to keep the learning curve and the need for outside programming low on this project. In this case, for me I think its important to get the site up and functional as quickly as possible, so I can find out if my approach to directories is going to work. So I went ahead and went with wordpress and the directorypress theme. There is still a learning curve for me, but I think its going to be manageable. I installed them on the server this weekend and I'm hoping to be able to be able to finish setting everything up by the end of next weekend so I can begin entering the data the following week.

I think if my ideas work, I can look at some more advanced options like Drupal or Joomla down the line. I've got a project, but its more of a hobby type project, that I think drupal or joomla would be ideal for. That will give me a chance to play around with one of those and become a little more familiar with them in a situation where time isn't such a critial factor.

Thanks guys for the advice.

Walter

#15 mrgoodfox

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 11:36 AM

Walter, congrats on starting the site. Regardless of what platform you choose, what will matte the most is continuation of working/updating the site.

When you've done the primary configurations and setup post the site on the Website Hospital for review.

#16 AbleReach

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 01:00 PM

Walter, I recently bought DirectoryPress. It's not a plugin, it's a theme with a comprehensive set of built-in options.

I was unprepared for the degree to which DirectoryPress takes over. For instance, in a video tutorial I saw a demo showing where to see features in Posts. I went to open "Posts," and there was no "Posts" area to open. It took a bit to figure out that the demo was made using a different version of one of the PremiumPress themes, and DirectoryPress renames "Posts" to "Listings." Multiply that many times, for many different built-in options to hunt down. There will be a learning curve.

Also, normally, when I want to learn how to make something in WordPress, I hunt around or ask and eventually figure out some answers. You won't find that in DirectoryPress, because there are not a gazillion people posting about their DirectoryPress groking experiences like there are with WordPress. Ask how to accomplish something in their (nifty) live support chat and if they can't tell you to use one of the built in whatsit dialogs, their answer will be to hire a pro. Someone like me would be happier to hear, "Look for the whatchamacallit function. If you can understand how to call the whatsit before the whosit, you're in business. Otherwise, hire a pro." Then, I'd be hunting around for the callings and whatsits and whosits. Instead, may have to check in here. ;-)

I'm not unhappy with DirectoryPress. Not at all. I am flummoxed about the learning curve, but that's nothing new. With my personality I'll always be poking around to see how something works. A lot of the learning curve is because the majority of what I'd want it to do is already built in, and I haven't learned the best ways to get it all working together, yet.

One of the truly faboo things about DirectoryPress is that it's set up to import from a csv. You can instantly add hundreds of listings, categories, custom fields, draft or published status, tags, etc, by uploading a CSV.

#17 Walter

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 06:33 PM

Hey Ablereach,

It took a bit to figure out that the demo was made using a different version of one of the PremiumPress themes


Yes me too.


Ask how to accomplish something in their (nifty) live support chat and if they can't tell you to use one of the built in whatsit dialogs, their answer will be to hire a pro


Yes I've been told this more than once as well.

One of the truly faboo things about DirectoryPress is that it's set up to import from a csv



I think this is great too, and one of the reasons I purchased it. I'm going to watch the tutorial on that tonight and play with it a bit.


I'm not unhappy with the directorypress theme either, but I am a bit underwhelmed by the customer support. Available . . . yes . . . actually able to help . . . not so much.

I've never used wordpress or any other cms either, so Its definitely upping my learning curve. I'm guessing its going to take me awhile to configure everything the way I want it. For the moment I think I'll pick one of the standard child themes and keep any design mods to a minimum which should help.

All in all though, I'm excited about the theme and the project. I'm glad someone else is working there way through it, Ablereach. I'm hoping maybe we'll be able to compare notes.

Mrgoodfox, Thank you. Yes, I'll probably post it in the website hospital once I'm a little further along.

Regardless of what platform you choose, what will matter the most is continuation of working/updating the site


Agreed. I want the site itself to be "decent" regarding design and functionality. I think the directorypress theme is capable of delivering a lot of that "out of the box" so to speak. However, I'm counting on a lot of the work that comes after that point is reached to make the difference. Specifically, I'm counting heavily on the idea that a more intensive and "hands on" approach to managing the site coupled with an offline centered marketing effort will make the site successful.

Thanks again everyone,

Walter

Edited by Walter, 09 January 2012 - 06:36 PM.


#18 SEOigloo

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 10:11 PM

Tam,
You are 1/2 right. Google removed them from the public view...but not from the backend system. Citations remain critical to rankings.

#19 tam

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 10:38 PM

Thanks, so is there benefit to the directory in including reviews (and marking them up with microdata for google etc.) or only benefit to the individual local business in that they have another citation which helps their business rank better in local results?

I run a directory too, and I was just thinking about adding reviews when google removed them.

#20 AbleReach

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 01:47 AM

Walter, what would you think of us startung a DirectoryPress thread where we would list the problems we want to solve, and help out with solutions? I'd love having other brains to bounce off of.

And, even though DirectoryPress is not exclusively built around WordPress's familiar set of plug and play functions, I'll bet we can figure some things out, especially with community support.

#21 A.N.Onym

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 04:09 AM

To be honest, I'd think that it's worth starting on the platform that you want to keep afterwards, rather than bother with migration (speaking of which, it's doable with http://drupal.org/project/feeds). I'd take the Drupal learning curve, as rough as it might seem, instead of the DirectoryPress support attitude. Drupal, in this case, doesn't require additional programming at all, but it sounds like you might need need help with DP in the future. Besides, you save time of one learning curve, if you start with Drupal.

Maybe it's a fan of Drupal speaking in me, but I don't like half-done approaches as well.

#22 Walter

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 07:39 AM

Yura and Ablereach,

I've run into some issues with the directorypress theme and functionality that it provides, at least out of the box. There are a few that are really giving me pause.

As I've said before, I think the reviews that the visitors leave on the site about the listings are critical. I think star rating are are an important part of those reviews. However, while there is a plugin, (a free one not included with directorypress), that allows for star ratings, those ratings don't "stick" to the visitors reveiw, like they do on Amazon reveiws, they're simply used to calculate an overall average review. I think this is a problem. I was told this would require customized programing.

I think the search function for visitors is a bit weak. I'm not sure that they'll be able to limit their search results to the extent that they'll want to. For example, By a sub-category such as Dentists and a geographic location such as a city.

I was told that I'd be able to customize the way the listings appeared based on whether the listing was free or enhanced. This turns out to be only partly true, there are certain items that directorypress will allow you to turn off or on. However, if you turn off pictures for a category, you're still left with visible placeholder for that picture. Again, I was told that this would require custom programing.

Personally, I could live with the third one I suppose, but the first two would have been deal breakers for me in a directory theme had I known about them before I purchased.

So, Yura, I'm giving a lot of thought to what you've said.

I am looking into another wordpress theme from Woo, and I'm also looking at joomla with sobi2, possibly sobi2pro. I've done some google searches on Drupal, the information for it is a bit more obsure to me than the others. Yura, if you got a place for me to start with Drupal, where I can get an idea of exactly what I'd be getting into and whats involved in creating a directory site like I'm talking about with Drupal, I'd appreciate you letting me know.

Ablereach I'll keep you posted on what I find out.

Thanks, Everyone.

Walter

#23 vernessa

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:26 AM

Walter and Ablereach,

I'm in the mix with creating a local directory. First, I tested esyndicat (the free version) but couldn't test the feature set they left out so purchased esyndicat Pro as the script seemed to do much of what I wanted. Well, I'm trying to get a refund for that one because those features they left out of the freebie version that I couldn't test proved to be either less able than the hype, half-implemented, or sometimes useless.

Moving to DirectoryPress (and still hoping to recover the money for the other one), I'm just learning my way around the system. Maybe we can find a way around some of what you mention, Walter. For example, perhaps a plugin like "Search Everything" can be added to the install to get around the limitations of the built-in search features.


Walter, what would you think of us startung a DirectoryPress thread where we would list the problems we want to solve, and help out with solutions? I'd love having other brains to bounce off of.


It's helpful to have input from other users. The forums and documentation over at DirectoryPress (PremiumPress) are o.k., but on my first question to support, I've already gotten the dreaded "Send me your admin credentials." Umm, not! If you set up a thread here, I'm in!

#24 Walter

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 08:52 AM

Hello Vernessa,

I probably should have updated this sooner. I decided to go with Joomla and SobiPro.

Yura made a few commets:

To be honest, I'd think that it's worth starting on the platform that you want to keep


and:

Besides, you save time of one learning curve


While I didn't go with Drupal, I did decide to go with a platform I knew I'd want to use in the future. I've got several future projects on my mind that involve Moodle and Joomla, so it did make sense to use the joomla platform on this project.

There has been a steep learning curve, both with Joomal and Sobipro, but its also given me the flexibility to create the kind of site I want to. I should say too that the support over at SobiPro has made that learning curve a lot easier.

I don't know that its the right combination for everyone building a directory. But its turned out to be the right one for me. For myself, starting out from scratch, I don't think I was going to be able to avoid the learning curve in any case.

Good luck on your site Vernessa,

Walter



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