While Shakespeare didn’t say it exactly, “to niche or not to niche” is still the question… at least when it comes to your directory.
Whether you’re adding a directory to your website as a bonus for users or you’ve dedicated a whole site to a full-blown directory, you still want to make sure the right businesses are asking to be listed.
So if your business falls into a broad industry, do you still offer niche categories? Do you make your directory fully niche to attract certain desirable listings? Unfortunately, Shakespeare isn’t around to answer that question for us.
But we’re taking a look at it anyway. Here’s what you should know about creating a niche directory…
Pros and Cons
A niche directory – sometimes called a vertical directory – is one that focuses on a specific industry, region or subject, and while it may be helpful in some cases to narrow down the types of businesses or industries that can list with you, other times having a targeted directory can backfire.
Industry “expert” status. When users find listings in a niche directory, they place a certain level of value on those listings and are more inclined to believe that your site is the expert in that niche. While that puts more pressure on your directory to maintain a certain reputation of value, it can also boost confidence from users who click on site listings. So it’s beneficial in terms of boosting your own online profile and credibility.
Targeted traffic. Niche directories often attract more targeted traffic than general directories, since most users come with a certain expectation or need. In essence, your users are already sold on using your directory because you’re niche, which is great news for your conversion rates.
Quality backlinks. Search engine algorithms often place a higher value on links from niche categories, especially if those links are of high quality. If your links are generally connected to reputable sites with content and articles relating to your categories, those backlinks are given a higher status as well.
Online Community. Niche directories also have a habit of forming their own little communities depending on how they’re setup. So if you have members that can login to your site or directory, it can be helpful to cater to their specific industries to keep them around.
Advertising benefits. The goal of a directory is to make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for, which creates a great opportunity for targeted advertisers to list on your site. You can easily widen your customer base and improve revenue by tapping into lesser-known and more targeted markets.
Oversaturation. Some niches are larger than others, and if your directory is still technically niche but caters to a larger audience than most, you can run into the problem of oversaturation.
For example, having a directory that focuses on Italian Restaurants is still considered niche, but there are a lot of Italian places in the world. Your listings would still have a fair amount of competition for top spots, so you may face backlash from users who want prime locations for their listings.
Perceived limitations. Focusing on a single niche can be limiting in terms of businesses that want to list with you. Even though a business can be considered niche, they may want to place themselves into a broader market to find new customers, and using a niche directory like yours may not actually help them. This is especially true if you’re really niche.
Strategies for Niche Directories
Let’s say you decide that the pros of having a niche directory outweigh the cons… Where do you go from there?
Local vs. National Directories
The first thing you want to do is decide whether or not to focus your niche directory on local or national businesses.
For local businesses, having an opportunity to build a brand and enhance advertising on a local directory is a draw, especially for a niche market, but local directories can also add another level of targeting to your already narrow categories, which may not be desirable if your market is already small.
If you know your niche isn’t quite as popular as some (like Italian Restaurants), then you may have better luck using a national directory. However, if you do have a more popular niche market, local directories can serve as a great way to create even more targeting – such as listing Italian Restaurants by city.
Best Practices for Niche Directories
Once you’ve decided whether or not to choose a local or national market, there are a few things you should do to make sure your niche directory stands out from the crowd and is deemed reputable:
Make sure all of your links are valid. This means you probably can’t automatically list anyone who submits through your site, and it will require a little manual checking to make sure everyone on your site is on the up-and-up. But since search engines crawl sites for backlinks, it can be helpful to double-check your listings for validity.
Include general search terms in category names. Most people start searching general keywords before finding their way to niche ones, so even if you have niche industry listings, include more general category names and save the targeted stuff for your tags and meta data.
Include more than just your directory. Like we mentioned, niche directories are a great place to build a community, so including forums or comment sections or even related content and images can help make your directory more engaging and easier to market.
Marketing Your Niche
Speaking of marketing, it’s important to submit your own directory to other related niche directories. Not only will it provide you with on-topic backlinks, some may actually send your site some targeted visitors.
Consider sites like Directory Critic that allow you to list a more targeted directory within broader search categories.
Creating a niche directory can have many benefits, especially if you’re looking to drive targeted traffic to your site or be seen as an expert in a certain industry or field.
But running a niche directory also means being vigilant about the types of listings you receive, making sure any and all links are valid, and making sure your users can find what they’re looking for whether your niche industry has one hundred categories or just ten.
And don’t forget to list your directory with other niche directories to continuously drive desired traffic to your site.