Can your directory be successful if it only lists businesses from certain categories? How about if it shows a variety of businesses that are only pertinent to specific locations, like a certain state or city?
There are plenty of niche directories that exist, like Angie’s List, for instance, which caters to those looking for a selection of local service providers. There are also broader directories, like those found on Google, Bing and Yahoo, which host any number of business types and locations from a variety of categories.
But which type of directory is the most beneficial? Or better yet, which niche will help your target audience find what they need? Which businesses can and should you list on your site? Which advertisers will you target based on those listings?
If you’re on the fence about which businesses should or shouldn’t be featured on your site, or whether or not you need a niche at all, here are a few things to consider.
Pros and Cons of Niching
While having many different businesses listed on your site may seem like the better deal, there are certain times when having a niche can improve your chances of being found online.
For instance, niching often means better brand recognition. Customers know that your directory exists specifically for them. Angie’s List is the top directory for consumers looking to hire a handyman, even over bigger directories like Google or the Yellow Pages, because it exists solely for that purpose (making it one of the first results to pop up for a number of searches).
Having a specific reason for your directory’s existence can help with SEO and point visitors (and those wanting to list on your site) to you faster. The businesses listing with you also know that they will reach the audience they want, making it more likely they will post on your directory.
Niching also makes it easier to entice advertisers to list on your site, since they know exactly what sort of consumer will be browsing your listings. There’s no guesswork involved.
The one downside to niching, however, is that you are working with a smaller market. If you were a restaurant directory that only targeted those in Dallas, Texas, for example, your audience will be much smaller than if you featured restaurants in every city, or even in a five-state area.
Because of the smaller market size, your directory may not grow as quickly as one with broader categories or locations. While that may not be a priority for all directories – especially if your directory is featured alongside other services or resources on your site – those that want to build a standalone, far-reaching directory may struggle if the niche is too narrow.
But if you do decide that you want to niche, you have a couple options that may help you overcome the challenges of having a smaller audience.
Types of Directory Niches
There are plenty of ways that you can niche your directory, but the two main strategies are listings by category or location.
Category or Industry Niches
Category niches would be directories like the aforementioned Angie’s List where businesses are only featured from certain categories or industries. People looking for car mechanics, for example, may want a directory that lists auto shops or individual mechanics near them.
You can create a highly targeted niche by paring down your offerings to a single category or industry, or you can broaden the field to feature related industries as well. For instance, those looking for car mechanics may also be interested in car dealerships, paint or welding shops, or auto part stores.
Keep in mind that the smaller your niche’s focus is, the more targeted your audience and marketing will be but the less audience you will have to reach.
You also have the option of listing businesses from many different categories but only featuring those from certain locations. For example, you may have categories for restaurants, hairdressers, mechanics and grocery stores, but only for businesses local to Los Angeles.
You could also combine a location niche with a category niche to feature local businesses from a specific category (car mechanics in New York).
The benefit of this method is an instant a leg-up on SEO, though depending on the businesses you list, your search volume may be lower than normal (many people may search for car mechanics in New York, but not as many will look for American car repair shops in Queens, for example).
Choosing the Right Niche
So which niche is right for your site? That depends on your goals.
If you already have a site where you’re adding a directory as an added feature (for example, you’re an auto blog that wants to add a directory for members), having a category niche with a broad location search may be a good option, as it gives your audience what they want (information about where to get car repairs) without limiting their location (they can find one in their city).
If you’re building a standalone directory site from scratch, the choice may be a little tougher. Having a small niche may be better for SEO traffic as long as the niche already has a high search volume. If you’re a restaurant directory, for example, your search volume will be better than a directory for, say, horseshoe repair.
Even though a directory for horseshoe repair would list higher in search results for those search terms, more people are probably looking for restaurants than they are for horseshoes.
If you want your directory to be found for high-volume search results, you could niche by category or location with some success, or, at the very least, feature businesses from similar categories (a directory for healthcare professionals, for example, could feature dentists, doctors, psychiatrists, acupuncturists, etc.).
If you want a chance to bring in broad traffic from a variety of sources, you may want to ditch the niche all together.
If you’re not sure which way you want to go, consider asking these questions:
- Is there a market that’s interested in finding my site?
- Will someone pay to be listed here?
If you can create a directory that someone is interested in and willing to pay for (either to list or advertise), then chances are you’ve found a successful site, niche or not.
There are benefits to niching if you know how to do it right. Niching allows you to target specific audiences (as well as SEO search terms) to bring in traffic that you know will be interesting in clicking your links.
On the other hand, keeping your listings too narrow could mean missing out on a broad array of traffic that may not fit into your niche. If this is a concern, consider creating a broader directory with a variety of categories and listings.
If you’re building a standalone site and you want to niche either with categories or location, be sure that there’s a demand for your niche before you build it. If you’re not sure whether or not your niche is too narrow, consider adding a few categories or locations to see if your traffic improves.