When it comes to generating traffic for your website, directories are the ultimate unsung heroes. A bustling directory can be a huge boost to search engine rankings, as well as, a great networking resource to offer clients and fellow business owners. Of course, the key to having a successful directory is knowing how to properly promote it.
While a small directory will still improve your overall traffic volume, a prominent directory can be a great source of revenue and will help set your site apart from the competition. Good directories are almost always in demand, but maintaining and marketing them can be time consuming. So, how should you go about promoting your directory without wasting countless hours? Here are few great ways to get your directory out there without spending too much of your time.
Boost your SEO stats through links
Creating a popular directory from scratch can be a bit daunting. The best way to make sure the right people are seeing your directory is to have it show up in the search engines (preferably near the top). But getting your directory to rank high enough on sites like Google and Bing can be a bit of a vicious cycle: You’ll need rankings to build a popular directory, but you’ll need a popular directory to get rankings.
One way around this cycle is to tip the rankings in your favor by using SEO tools like Google PageRank and by making sure other sites are linking to your directory (not just your directory linking to other sites).
This is how it works: When Google measures the importance of your site they give it a number between 0 and 10, also called a PageRank. The higher your PageRank, the more important your site (and the better chance you’ll have to list higher in search results). The way Google assigns your PageRank is by examining how many other sites link to you and the overall quality of those sites.
It should be noted that there are two different versions of PageRank, and only one is applicable to boosting SEO. There’s Real PageRank – which Google still uses as a major part of their algorithm – and Toolbar PageRank, which is an outdated form that many SEO gurus are ditching in favor of other tools. While just monitoring your site using Toolbar PageRank won’t help in terms of rankings, Real PageRank is still a vital part of building up your rankings, especially for directories that include dozens of links to other sites on their landing pages.
Ultimately, the best way to promote your site is by having other people promote it for you on their sites. Of course, that’s easier said than done, which leads to the next point…
Put your directory in another directory
A great strategy for getting other sites to link to yours is to put your directory within a bigger directory. Taking advantage of search engine directories in particular will help to improve your SEO stats while also getting your name out there. Directories like Google’s My Business Directory, Bing’s Places for Business, and Yahoo’s Small Business Directory are all great resources that require minimal effort to use.
Using other local directories is another great way to promote your own. Hubspot put together a list of 50 local business directories where you can easily get listed. Clambr also has a list of free web directories for building links to your site, which can be found here.
The only thing you’ll need to be careful of when it comes to linking, however, is listing your directory in another directory that’s owned by you. If you’re running multiple directories, interlinking can actually backfire as some search engines will see it as one big network and rank it as such (as in, you won’t get any ranking bonus by linking back and forth between sites, and you run the risk of both sites being shut down if one is shut down for any reason). When you’re trying to find directories to list your site, make sure they’re completely unique and independent of your own.
Collaborate with your competition
While you’re reaching out to larger local directories, consider contacting smaller business directories that are similar to yours to see if they might be willing to share traffic. Even if you’re “technically” in competition with them, it doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate.
If you have places on your site (other than your main directory page) that talk about your directory, such as a confirmation page or email, consider offering links to other directories there. You can reach out to directory owners to see if they would be willing to list your directory on their site for a spot on yours. This trade not only has the benefit of creating links to your site (and improving your PageRank) but it also creates networking opportunities between businesses.
Use social media to your advantage
Another easy way to promote your directory is to contact local businesses directly to see if they might want to be listed. If you need a quick and easy way to find businesses in your industry, try using social media instead of search engines. Sites like Fan Page List search social media fan pages and brand sites for you. Simply search for businesses in your desired category to find ones that might want to be listed in your directory.
Facebook also has its own directory of pages and places that can be searched for other businesses. This is a great resource for contacting businesses about listing on your site and also for getting your directory linked. Using your own company Facebook page to announce that listings are available can be an effective marketing tool as well.
After you’ve found businesses you’d like to contact you can draft a short promotional message to send via social media. While it won’t necessarily be the most fun activity in the world, sending a Facebook message or Tweet is a cost-effective and relatively easy way to promote your directory.
Use web banners to advertise on multiple sites
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and when it comes to advertising your directory this is especially true. Consider taking a visual approach by creating web banners and small picture ads for your directory. (If you need help making banners and don’t have access to a graphic designer, try Fotor).
Once you have a basic web banner created, you can submit it to sites like Google AdWords or The Banner Exchange, which will feature your image on hundreds or more sites, giving you access to potentially thousands of new visitors that would never have seen it otherwise. Google AdWords also allows you to specify which category your ads would best fit, giving you the chance to target specific businesses that might want to be listed with you.
Email your subscribers
If you want to go the personal route, one of the fastest ways to promote your directory is to send a promotional email to your current customers. Emails generally have higher open rates (and clickthrough rates) than social media posts. According to Campaign Monitor, open rates for marketing emails are around 20-30%, with a 3% clickthrough rate (compared to social media’s 0.5% clickthrough rate). This means emails are one of your best weapons when it comes to marketing.
And if you already have people invested in your business, you have ready-made email subscriber lists. Take advantage of your email promotions by offering promo codes or special offers to your current customers (like a free listing in your directory). Encouraging those subscribers to share and forward your email will also reach more people and promote your site without much work on your end.
If you don’t want to spend the time putting together an entire email campaign, try using marketing templates for your emails.
While marketing your directory may still take some time, you can simplify the process by utilizing other directories, taking advantage of social media tools, and making personal connections with other businesses (and your own customers).
Finding the right way to market your site will ultimately come from trial and error, but with a small amount of effort you can promote your directory and get the listings you need.