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Create your own directory website with WordPress in a few simple steps.
Nowadays, millions of people around the world are devoting their time to building and developing their own projects on the internet, and many of them create their own websites. Moreover, thanks to the rapid growth of the peer-to-peer economy – directory websites have gone viral due to their versatility.
In this walkthrough, we’ll explain how to create a WordPress directory website, set it up and successfully monetize it. However, before we move to the tutorial part of this article, we’d like to explain in detail what exactly a directory website is, how it works, what types of directory listing websites are there and so on.
To be more precise, we’ll cover the following topics:
So, let’s dive in!
Simply put, a directory website is a searchable catalog of different items like companies, events, real estate properties, classified ads, and so on. The main purpose of such websites is to help people find services, properties, places, etc., that they are looking for.
For example, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and Foursquare are some of the most popular directory websites you might have heard of. However, there are millions of other niche or local business directories around the internet. Such websites are extremely popular since they allow you easily find a restaurant in your area, check out upcoming concerts or simply contact a plumber if you have a leaky faucet.
There are at least two reasons for launching your own directory website:
First of all, a unique directory website could be a great source of revenue. Nowadays, almost everyone is looking for a passive income. Some people even consider ditching the 9-5 by starting their online business.
If your site is really valuable for users and it drives traffic, then you can monetize a directory website in many different ways, like:
Keep in mind that the sky truly is the limit here, and with some useful content and decent traffic, you can make a pretty penny.
Directory websites are versatile and can be tailored to many different niches and purposes. For example, you can create a member directory and list your company employees or teachers of your school or build a website that displays all the instructors of your fitness center, etc.
Running such websites will allow you to share important news or events among the staff. Additionally, it’s an easy way to facilitate collaboration among fellow workers and show potential clients your whole team with contact info, personal achievements, and the professional experience of each member.
However, bear in mind that you can create a directory website just for fun as well. For example, if you are a passionate lover of tacos, why not share with others some of the best taco places in your town?
When building a directory website, you are not limited to one or two types. Instead, there’s a variety of different niches, and you can choose any of them. For example, you can launch one of the following websites:
We mentioned only 5 types, but there are many other niches that you can choose for your future website, like travel directory websites, member lists, car dealership directories, city directory websites, etc. In order to get a better idea of the available directory types, feel free to check our post on WordPress directory niches.
Still not sure what type of directory website to build? Then the next section is right here for you.
You should keep in mind that identifying your market can either make your business or break it. If you choose a unique or low-competition niche, your website can become a rising star if not – another failed project on the web.
We’ve mentioned several of the possible niches for your future website, but some of you may face some issues in determining the right one for your project. So here are some steps you can take to find a niche for your directory.
It may sound like a tip from a “How to become a billionaire in 7 days” type of book, but it’s really the most crucial component of any successful business. First and foremost, you have to define what you are interested in since working on a project that you are passionate about prevents “burning out”.
For example, if you are a true gourmet and you have a good idea about national and international cuisine or simply know every good pub in your town, it won’t be a tough deal for you to launch a restaurant directory. With such knowledge, you can launch a great website that may be especially useful for tourists and other food lovers. What is most important – it won’t be boring for you to run this website and keep it up to date.
Once you decide what you are interested in, you need to get a better sense of what people are looking for in your area. For example, if you decide to launch a restaurant directory, it’s useful to know people’s preferences. Are they mostly looking for Chinese cuisine or cafes with delivery, or maybe they choose rather vegetarian restaurants?
To get all those insights, you can use the Google Keyword Planner. It’s a free tool that can provide you with tons of ideas and show what people are searching for. It can show you how often people search for “Italian food near me”, “best sports pub”, “vegetarian restaurant in NYC” and so on.
Keep in mind that doing deep research can help you properly structure your website and provide relevant and valuable content to your website visitors. Also, you can get a better understanding of your niche and its relevance to your region.
They say forewarned is forearmed. That’s why it’s crucial to check out what websites are already serving your niche. You can use a free SEMrush Keyword Overview tool to get an idea about your competitors. For example, we searched for “best restaurants in NYC” and got many insights like search volume (i.e., how many people search for it every month), trending, possible questions, etc.
Besides that, we got a list of websites that answer this question, including TimeOut, Eater, Travel+Leisure and many others. So you can take a look at those websites and find out what you can improve on your own site to provide users with better information and ensure better usability than your competitors.
Depending on your niche, there may be dozens of competitors or just a few of them. But, in any case, with a good knowledge of your business, valuable content and smart SEO, you always have chances to outrank them.
Alright, we’ve covered the essential topics about listing directory websites and now we can take a look at some technical prerequisites you’ll need before building a directory website.
Before moving to the tutorial part of this article, make sure that you have the following prerequisites:
Firstly, you need to choose a domain name and a hosting provider for your future directory website. Try to choose a short and sweet domain name and look for some reliable hosting providers to avoid trouble in the future. There are some web hosts that are recommended directly by WordPress, so you can try one of them.
The easiest way to create a directory website is by using WordPress. It’s the most widely-used content management system (CMS) in the world and is used by over 41% of all websites online because it’s a perfect website platform for small and medium businesses.
Even if you haven’t used WordPress before, it’s not a problem. You don’t need to know anything about code or web design to work with WordPress because its settings are highly intuitive, and there’s an easy-to-navigate interface. So you’ll be able to create a directory website with WordPress in next to no time, even with basic tech skills.
Keep in mind that many managed WordPress hosting providers offer 1-click WordPress installation, so you can do it within minutes, but if you are a more advanced user, you might prefer to install it manually. The installation process requires you to provide some basic details, like the name of your site and the login credentials for accessing the WordPress dashboard.
However, installing WordPress alone is not enough to build a fully functional directory website. That’s why you need to complement it with a directory plugin and a theme.
There are dozens of WordPress directory plugins and themes here and there, but many of them are outdated or completely abandoned by their developers. So here are some common recommendations on how to choose a reliable theme and a plugin for your directory website.
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a directory plugin for your website:
If you still don’t know what WP directory plugin to choose, you can take a look at our article on the best WordPress directory plugins, where we compared the most popular options.
If you haven’t decided yet, we recommend using HivePress. It’s a free open-source WordPress directory plugin that is already packed with all the necessary features for building a directory website and is trusted by 10,000+ website owners worldwide.
Once you choose a directory plugin, the next step is to pick a WordPress directory theme for your future websites. You can’t go wrong with the following recommendations:
If you find it challenging to choose a theme for your project, feel free to check our list of the top free WordPress directory themes for building a directory website of any type.
We highly recommend using ListingHive. It’s the most popular free WordPress directory theme in the WordPress.org repository that allows you to build a directory website of any type. Moreover, it’s fully compatible with HivePress, so you can rest assured that no integration issues occur.
Okay, now we can move on and try to create a directory website with WordPress.
In the next 7 steps, we’ll show you how to create a directory website using WordPress and the ListingHive theme along with the HivePress plugin.
Since ListingHive is a free theme, it’s available in the WordPress repository, and you can install it directly from your WP Dashboard by going to the Appearance > Themes > Add New section. Then use the search box to find it and proceed by installing and activating the theme.
Please check out the screencast below if there are some troubles with installing ListingHive.
After the ListingHive installation, you’ll get a suggestion to install HivePress. It’s crucial to install and activate it since HivePress will power most of the directory features on your website. So simply click on the recommended link and install HivePress.
While HivePress offers the core functionality for building a directory website, you may want to install some extensions depending on the type of directory website you wish to build.
There are 15+ HivePress extensions that are fully optimized to work hand in hand with the ListingHive theme, so you can install any of them by going to the WP Dashboard > HivePress > Extensions section.
If you want to create a sought-after directory website, you should take care of the user experience and find ways to make it better by providing all the possible features. For example, you may consider installing the following add-ons:
There are many other different extensions that can help your directory website stand out from the crowd. Just keep in mind that there’s always room for improvement, and there are many opportunities to deliver a better experience to your website visitors.
The next step is to split your WordPress directory website into different listing categories to make your site easier to navigate. Since ListingHive goes without any predetermined categories, you can create custom ones in the WP Dashboard > Listings > Categories section.
First of all, name your category and describe it if necessary. Then there’s an option to upload the category image. Also, you can build a hierarchy of categories by setting a parent category. It may be helpful if you want to have subcategories and make your directory more specific.
Once you are done with categories, you can go ahead and create custom listing fields. Thanks to the HivePress plugin, you can create custom listing fields and search filters for various uses. Simply navigate to the WP Dashboard > Listings > Attributes > Add New section to create your first custom field.
Keep in mind that each custom field can be customized in several different contexts, so let’s briefly cover each of them on the example of a “Price” custom field:
Once you set up your custom field, simply click on the Publish button.
Now you can create a front page for your WordPress directory website. Since the ListingHive theme is compatible with the Gutenberg page builder, creating a stunning layout won’t be an issue because you can use blocks. To create a new page, go to the WP Dashboard > Pages > Add New section.
Firstly, enter the page title, e.g., “Homepage”. Then you can start adding layout blocks by clicking on the ➕ sign and selecting a block you want to add. For example, you can add the Listing Search form, Categories block, Recent Listings block and so on.
Once you are done with layout blocks, click on the Publish button.
If you want to use this page as a homepage of your directory website, navigate to the WP Dashboard > Settings > Reading section and select your newly created page from the drop-down list.
At this point, we recommend going through all the HivePress settings in the WP Dashboard > HivePress > Settings section to ensure your site works in the way you want.
Also, navigate to the WP Dashboard > Appearance > Customize section and go through the appearance settings, such as primary and secondary colors, heading and body fonts, logo, and background images, etc., to customize the look and feel of your site. If you want to create a directory website that drives traffic, then the nice appearance of your website is a must.
Congrats, you’ve reached the last step of our tutorial. Finally, we’d like to show you the whole workflow of adding new listings to your WordPress directory. With ListingHive, you can do this both via the front-end as a user and via the back-end as an admin, so we’ll briefly cover both ways:
To add a new listing, users have to navigate to your website, click on the Add Listing button and select one of the categories. After that, they’ll be taken to the listing submission form, where they need to fill out all the details like title, description, add images, etc.
Keep in mind that as a website owner, you can customize the listing submission form by adding or removing any fields. For example, if you added the “Price” field in the 4th step of this guide, it will appear in the listing submission form, and users will have to fill it out.
Once a user clicks on the Submit Listing button, the site admin has to approve it in the WP Dashboard > Listings section and only after that, a new listing will appear on your directory website.
If you don’t want to allow users to submit listings, you can disable the Listing Submission feature in the WP Dashboard > HivePress > Settings > Listings section. Then, only website admins will be able to add new listings in the WP Dashboard > Listings > Add New section.
This section is optional since not everyone uses their site to make money. However, if you want to turn your directory website into a profitable business, this chapter may be useful for you.
In the beginning, we mentioned different monetization models for directory websites, but now we’d like to briefly explain how those models can be applied to HivePress-powered directories:
So, once your directory website starts getting some decent traffic, you can start monetizing it, using any of the mentioned models or several at once.
Now you might be thinking, how to get traffic to my new website? We prepared some advice on that matter, so let’s move on to the next section.
In order to bring traffic to your website and entice new visitors, you have to promote it in a proper way. Keep in mind that you have to attract two types of users: those looking for listings and those looking to list something. That’s why you should think about what works for both audiences when creating your marketing plan. Here are some common tips on promoting your WordPress directory website:
You can’t go wrong if you launch a blog on your directory website and start delivering great content to your website visitors. You can write tutorials, overviews, lists, interviews, and so on. It all depends on the niche and the audience that you want to attract.
If you lack ideas for your blog, check out what people are searching for, what questions they ask, what problems they face in your industry. For example, you can use the Google Keyword Planner to get a better understanding of the most popular searches in your niche.
Also, you can try using Soovle, which is an absolutely incredible tool. It unites the autocomplete suggestions from all the major providers like Google, YouTube and Yahoo in one place. Just type a word from your niche, and it will show you dozens of suggestions (some of them can be great topics for your future posts).
Additionally, there’s an excellent tool called AnswerThePublic that shows you the most popular questions with provided words or a phrase. For example, if you type “restaurant”, it’ll show 80+ questions that people ask about restaurants, and you can answer those questions in your blog posts.
One more way of attracting website visitors to your directory is by running an advertisement campaign. If you are not selling anything yet, you can run promotional campaigns to get lots of traffic. If you have a budget to run ads, it may be a highly effective way to promote your newly-created website.
It’s often an undervalued way of attracting new customers that may be effective for many niches. You can start making short videos about your products or some kind of overviews, etc. If your channel brings value to users, you can rest assured that sooner or later, it will drive some decent traffic to your directory website.
There are many other ways of promoting your website, like partnerships, affiliates, Facebook ads. However, you can start with the above-mentioned ones and complement them later with new ideas.
Finally, after you create a directory website, you should take care of the user experience. You can find dozens of ideas for improving UX on your website, but we’ll give you two recommendations to start with:
That’s it! It often seems impossible until it’s done, isn’t it? We hope it was a helpful article, and some of the tips outlined above will help get your site up and running.
Bear in mind that you can easily create a directory website with WordPress, using the ListingHive theme and the HivePress plugin. They are both free, easy-to-use, and allow you to build directory websites for any niche.
You can take a look at the ListingHive demo to decide whether it’s suitable for your next directory website. Also, feel free to check a detailed ListingHive overview to get a better idea of the available features.
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