Previously, we have published a tutorial on how to create a directory website with WordPress. Now we would like to describe the most popular ways of how you can monetize a directory website and help you choose the best way according to the type of directory you’re building.

In this article, we’ll use the HivePress, a free WordPress directory plugin as an example since it’s an extensible, highly customizable solution that allows you to build any type of directory. Also, we’ll use a bunch of its free and premium extensions to show you how you can make money with a directory website and use any of the 6 ways of monetization described in this article.

Charge Users for Adding Listings

The first and the most straightforward way to monetize a directory website is by charging users for adding listings. It can be an effective way to generate recurring revenue, e.g. you can do it as a monthly subscription or you can charge a one-time fee to display a listing for a certain period of time.

We recommend choosing this way of monetization only if you believe that users are willing to pay to have their listings on your site, e.g. if your site gets a lot of traffic or it’s a specific niche directory with some unique listings. In other words, you have to demonstrate that it’s beneficial for business owners to pay for listings on your online directory.

You can create different listing packages and sell them, so users will have to pay in order to display their listings on your directory. With HivePress, you can do this using Paid Listings extension to create packages, it allows you to limit the number of submitted listings and assign listing packages to different categories.

Monetize a directory website by selling listing packages.

Promote Listings for a Fee

Another great way of monetizing your directory website is charging users for promoting their listings. If you have a highly popular website, then most likely many users are prepared to part with their money for an opportunity to have their listings on the top of the search results.

Using the same Paid Listings extension, you can allow users to pay a fee to have their listings promoted for some limited time. Promoted listings are highlighted and displayed at the top of the search and category pages.

Let Users Claim Their Listings

If your directory website is somewhat similar to Zomato, Yelp or TripAdvisor, then the best way to monetize it is to let businesses claim their listings. For example, you can list other companies by yourself and then get in touch with them to offer an opportunity to edit their listing details, view listing statistics, reply to customer messages and reviews, etc.

Also, there’s one more benefit you can get. If you allow claiming listings then your website will display the correct and relevant information for your audience since business owners will be updating it by themselves. In this case, both the directory and business owners are interested to keep the information up-to-date.

In case if you use HivePress, it’s possible with the Claim Listings extension to allow users to submit listing claims for a fee, and once the claim is approved, the user will automatically get access to the claimed listing.

The following screencast shows how to monetize listing claims with HivePress.

Charge Users for Viewing Listings

If your directory listings contain some valuable information that is hard to find or collect elsewhere, then you can choose to charge users for viewing listings. For example, this way of monetization is often used by job boards, to charge companies for searching and viewing CVs.

You can allow viewing listings for a monthly subscription or it could be a one-off fee. However, bear in mind that you should regularly update your directory with the content that your target audience needs, e.g. some important information or useful videos and podcasts about your niche and many more. It’s the only recipe for success if you want to try this way of monetization.

There’s one more killer extension from HivePress – Memberships. It allows you to create a members-only directory site by charging users for viewing all listing pages (including search and category pages), single listing pages, or certain listing attributes (e.g. phone number or email address). Also, you can restrict access to certain features, such as sending messages or submitting reviews.

Allow Users to Sell Listings

You can also consider turning your site into a marketplace of services or digital downloads, such as Fiverr or Creative Market. By allowing users to sell their listings on your site, you can earn money via commissions. We recommend choosing this way of monetization only if the services or digital downloads you plan to sell are unique enough since it would be hard to compete with existing major marketplaces.

If you use HivePress and have chosen this way of monetization, you may want to consider the Marketplace extension that allows you to build a marketplace of fixed-price services or digital downloads. It integrates HivePress with WooCommerce, the most popular e-commerce plugin, by creating a hidden product for each listing and calculating the vendor’s earnings on sales. It’s also integrated with other HivePress extensions. For example, you can install the Messages extension to allow vendors and buyers to communicate via the order page.

Sell Advertising Space

Probably the most popular, but less profitable way of monetizing a directory website is selling advertising space. If your site already gets decent traffic, you can integrate it with Google AdSense or another advertising platform and earn money by displaying ads in different areas of your site.

However, beware of displaying too many ads on your directory. The user experience should be your first priority and plenty of ads could lead to negative consequences, such as a high bounce rate. Try to find a balance between making money from the website and keeping your directory useful for your visitors.

Here are simple instructions from Google that you can follow in order to easily integrate your WordPress directory with Google AdSense and automatically display ads on your site.

Final Thoughts

As you see there are at least 6 different ways to monetize a directory website, but it’s important to choose the best way of monetization according to the type of directory you’re building. If your site gets a lot of traffic, then the easiest way to monetize it is by selling advertising space. Depending on the type of listings, you may choose to charge users for adding, promoting, or claiming listings. You can also build a niche marketplace of services or digital downloads, and earn money via commissions.

Also, keep in mind that you should start monetizing your directory only after your website has become useful to the visitors. Don’t try to look for ways to monetize it immediately, it’s better to focus on the needs of users in order to drive a lot of traffic.

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