More threads by Tim Sweeney

May 21, 2015
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Looking for feedback concerning whether creating a directory type site in 2016 and beyond still has value and if so, whether the indicated approach is logical.


I have a proposed project that consists of cleaning up and managing the NAP, citations and social media presence for a niche business sector. This niche consists of brick and mortar type businesses in which people visit them in person. The niche can be sub-divided into logical different subcategories. Initially, the project focuses on a nine county region of a state. Then it would expand to the entire state but not beyond. The businesses in this sector struggle with managing their online presence for even the most basic of items.

To support this project, we proposed creating a website that would allow the businesses to submit their info and answer related questions such as have you ever moved, is there another business at your address, etc.... This would be backed up by in-person workshops and phone support.

The data collection part of the website is very easy to construct. But then I thought about whether setting up a section on the site that would be a directory of these businesses would make sense. Note, my initial reaction was to disregard this idea since the directory portion of the site would be content thin.

For example, each business would have their own page listing its business name, address, phone, hours, a two paragraph description, links to the businesses online touchpoints, perhaps a few pictures, maybe a video, etc... Proper schema would be used as well. The businesses would be logically segmented into subcategories.

On the other hand, since we'll have all this data collected anyways, outputting it to a specific page on the directory would be easy to do. Plus, this information would be vetted, of high quality and updated as needed rather than a directory simply scrapping data and using it.

I go back and forth on the directory aspect of this. From the sampling I've done, the prospective businesses are very receptive to having the "free" directory listing. I've explained to them that a directory listing can have pitfalls and isn't some silver bullet to their salvation.

This topic has been covered before on this forum and other places, see:

In general, what do you think of directory part of this project? And, what might you recommend concerning the CMS or platform for maintaining it? Note, on this last item I'm thinking of creating a customized page template using one of the Studiopress WordPress Genesis themes I am familiar with.

Given the obvious movements from Google toward more pay for placement SERPS free just isn't as viable as maybe it once was. Any business that thinks a free directory is a good idea will be disadvantaged by the more willing-to-pay competition.

My belief is that Google welcomes local directories over single business listings. A directory with a few well paying members is worth more to Google than a single business or a free directory. A well funded directory with a few paying members can outbid a single business or a free directory. Of course a funded directory must still meet Google quality guidelines as well as best SEO practices.
I think it's possible to create a new great directory that ranks well but the major issues are:

1. Data quality - without a ton of ongoing work the data will quickly become outdated and not reliable.
2. Uniqueness - the only way to make your directory different than the hundreds of other ones out there is to have unique content. This is extremely difficult to do without user input and customer-created data like reviews. This is why Yelp does so well on Google. Their users contribute a TON that gives them a lot of rich unique content that Google finds valuable to users.
Niche directory sites a few years ago were pretty over-powered (in SERPs). Now they're not nearly as prominent, a lot of the larger directories will beat you in most industries (Yelp, superpages, etc). However if you're in a niche that currently lacks a directory you may capture some traffic from general searches.

My advice would be to make the directory as simple as possible from a management perspective. I've used a wp-directory plugin when playing with niche directories, it's nothing fancy, but it gives me some simple administration tools (and an option to monetize if that's my goal).

Here's a crappy one I set up a few years back, I've not done much with it in the last year and a half -> Aquaponics Directory

I would say the biggest time-sink would be the administration though, so if you can automate it that is probably best (but may risk your data-quality). #tradeoffs
Thanks for everyone sharing their experiences. This has refined the idea further. Our main advantage is that we'll be managing their GMB and other local online touchpoints. This includes an agreement in which they are required to contact us with any hours and/or other changes. We'll focus on the primary mission first, and leave the directory for later consideration. (Once we know the participants actually contact us with any changes that occur!)
(Once we know the participants actually contact us with any changes that occur!)

If it helps, another directory I built 3+ years ago (for finding local food sources) had about a 15-20% rate of businesses contacting us with updates - Local Food Austin Texas | Restaurants, Growers, Farms, Markets ( but we spent a lot of time building relationships)

So yeah, just keep your thumb on the administration part of it. There are some decent plugins that allow for listing management.

But you're going down the right path IMO :)
Maybe you can consider making it a forum, but I think you already need an engaged community to make a forum successful. Linda would know more about it than me, but I think she already had a pretty engaged audience, consultants, students, etc when she created this forum.

Perhaps you could do a hybrid forum that also serves as a directory/review site. May be too much to bite off at this point, but just some thoughts. Best of luck, Tim!

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