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!

What is a Directory Website?

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.

Why Should You Build a Directory Website?

There are at least two reasons for launching your own directory website:

Additional Stream of Income

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:

  • Paid Placements – The most straightforward way of making money with your directory website is by charging users for listing their services, contacts, items, places etc., on your website.
  • Promoting Listings – One more common monetization model is promoting certain listings for an additional fee. For example, you can allow users to use your directory for free but charge them for displaying listings at the top of the search results.
  • Claiming Listings – This model is especially popular among restaurant directories and review websites like Yelp. By listing businesses in your directory, you basically advertise them to their target audience. That’s why many business owners may be interested in paying a fee to claim their business listings and get access to them, so they can keep it up-to-date, add extra information, prices, deals, etc.
  • Membership Fees – You can turn your website into a members-only directory and charge users for getting access to specific details like contact info, prices, messages, etc. It’s a great monetization model if your directory has some unique information that is hard to collect or find elsewhere.
  • Advertisement – Finally, you can display ads in different areas of your directory and integrate your website with Google AdSense.

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.

Monetization models for WordPress directory websites.

Professional Needs

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.

Member directory.

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?

What Niches of Directory Websites Are There?

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:

  • Business Directory Website. You can list specialists or businesses from different industries, like lawyers, doctors, plumbers, car repair shops and more. Also, you can easily create different industry-specific categories or group all listings depending on location or use any other criteria;
  • Restaurant Directory. Create a list of different restaurants in your area or even in the whole region or country. Group restaurants by type of cuisine, price, location and allow users to submit reviews and rate them;
  • Real Estate Directory. This type of directory is just for you if you run a real estate business or simply want to start a website where people can list their properties for rent or sale;
  • Event Directory. If you know everything about upcoming events in your town, you can launch your own website and share this information with others, as well as sell tickets and make money on commissions;
  • Coupon Website. It’s another great niche for a directory website. You can list coupons and best deals on your website and earn money from affiliate partnerships;
  • Product Catalog Website. Also, you can create a product catalog website for your business to showcase your products and attract new customers.

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.

How to Pick a Niche for Your Directory Website?

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.

Think About Your Interests

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.

Check What People Are Searching For

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.

Results at Google Keyword Planner.

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.

Take a Look at Your Competitors

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.

SemRush results.

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.

Results at SemRush.

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.

Things to Do Before Launching a Directory Listing Website

Before moving to the tutorial part of this article, make sure that you have the following prerequisites:

Domain Name & Hosting Plan

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 popular WordPress web hosts, so you can try one of them.

Installed WordPress

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.

Share of WordPress-powered websites.

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.

What WordPress Directory Theme and Plugin to Use?

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.

How to Choose a WordPress Directory Plugin?

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a directory plugin for your website:

  • Customizability – A plugin should be highly customizable, so you can use it for any niche. For example, you should be able to add custom categories, listing fields, search filters, etc.
  • Extensibility – Look for a plugin that is extensible by design and not limited to its core functionality. At some point, you may need to add some extra features to your website, so it’s crucial to have a list of add-ons to choose from.
  • Support – Make sure that a plugin is well-supported by its developers. Otherwise, you can get stuck with some settings or bugs.
  • Active Installations – Check out whether it’s a popular plugin, how many active installations it has on and its last update date.
  • Reviews – Finally, check out the plugin reviews. It’s important to know what other users think about it.

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.

How to Choose a WordPress Directory Theme?

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:

  • Integrations – Some themes are based on plugins, so you need to carefully check which plugin powers your theme. For example, many themes are based on WP Job Manager, which went out with the ark and is no longer a reliable solution.
  • Hardcoding – It’s better to avoid themes with predefined fields, categories, filters, etc., since you won’t be able to tailor it to your niche without code changes.
  • Widely Used – Choose a theme that has at least several thousand active installations and some good reviews behind it.

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 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.

Also, we highly recommend checking our article on the most common mistakes people make when starting a new directory listing website with WordPress.

Building 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.

1. Installing ListingHive

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.

Installing HivePress plugins.

2. Installing Extensions

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.

Installing HivePress extensions.

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.

3. Adding Listing Categories

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.

Adding Listings Category.

4. Adding Custom Fields

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:

  • Editing – In this section, you can define whether your field can be edited via the front-end by marking it as editable (i.e., allow users to fill it in when adding new listings on your website). Also, here you can select the field type, like “Text”, “URL”, “Checkbox”, and so on. For example, for the “Price” field, we recommend marking it as editable and using the “Number” field type. 
  • Search – Within this section, you can turn your field into a search filter. For the “Price” field, you can mark it as filterable and sortable to allow website visitors to filter and sort listings depending on the price. Also, we’ll use the “Number Range” search field type to allow filtering results by price range instead of some specific value.
  • Display – In the last section, you can set up how your custom field will appear on listing pages. Meaning that you can select page template areas where it will appear, choose an icon and set its display format. For the “Price” field, we’ll use this display format $%value%.

Once you set up your custom field, simply click on the Publish button.

Adding custom listing fields.

5. Setting up a Front-page

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.

WordPress directory theme.

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.

6. Setting Things Up

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.

7. Adding Listings

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:

Front-end Listing Submission

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.

Submitting a new listing.

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.

Back-end Listing Submission

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.

Back-end listing submission.

Monetizing a Directory Website

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:

  • Selling Placements & Promoting Listings – With the Paid Listings extension, you can create several listing packages and sell them at different prices (e.g., “Standard” and “Premium”). Also, this extension allows you to mark certain listings as featured, and they will appear at the top of the search results page, so you can offer this service for an extra fee.
  • Claiming Listings – Using the Claim Listings extension, you’ll be able to charge business owners for claiming listings.
  • Membership Fees – If you want to create a members-only directory, then you can use the Memberships extension that allows you to charge users for viewing listings. Also, you’ll be able to restrict access to the whole categories, single listings, specific details, etc., so only members can view them.

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.

How to Promote Your Directory Listing Website?

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:

Launch a Blog

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).

Example results from Soovle.

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.

Example of results at AnswerThePublic.

Run a Google Ads Campaign

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.

Start a YouTube Channel

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.

Take Your WordPress Directory to the Next Level

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:

  • Make sure that your website loading speed is high. It’s one of the crucial ranking factors, so your directory should be optimized. If you have some loading issues, you can check our tutorial on how to speed up a WordPress website without any coding knowledge.
  • Remember about existing customers. Many website owners are so focused on attracting new visitors that they often forget about existing ones. Try adding some features that help users, like search alerts, notifications, mailing lists with useful topics, etc. All those minor things can increase user engagement on your website and keep loyal customers.

Final Words

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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