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Starting an Online Directory [Throw some Advice]

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I have been working on a project, an online website directory focused in the area of the wedding industry. The goal of the directory is to list businesses that cater to the wedding industry in anyway, which users to the website can find contact information, reviews and other features to match what they are looking for to plan their wedding.

 

I am starting this project in my home state, targeting my area businesses and planning to get them listed on the site (most likely to start free of charge until traffic is built).

 

What I have done is figured out Categories (Photography, Dress Shops, Tux Shops, Catering, Transportation, & more). I have then placed Location based sections that focus on towns and cities within my state. The directory main page will have a search bar to select your category and location and find businesses within a ratius that the user will enter (fromm 10-200 miles from the selected location).

 

The website will also have the ability to promote certain businesses (that pay for more attention) to be listed first, and have special features.

 

I have 3 packages set up for businesses; Free Listing, Premium, Ultra package listings. The free would consist of only the business contact information, no pictures or reviews. The premium and ultra allow for pictures, descriptions of services, social media feeds, and more.

 

I am really trying to find individuals that have experience starting directory website and can give me some tips on how to market this project. I am intending to contact businesses, by phone, mail, or stop in their shop to present my services. I have also allotted a budget to advertise local listings on Google, Facebook and such to get viewers to the website.

 

I know that the website will take time to gain traffic, but how can I enhance the traffic, and encourage businesses to pay ($20 a month or so) to be listed on this website? This is a project that I have been working day in and out for the past couple months to prepare for the launch.

 

Any tips or advice would be a plus!

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Well, you need to get the traffic and rankings before anyone is likely to consider a price of $20/month. I would really focus on rankings and boosting those. If you can walk into a local photographer, do a search for 'wedding photographers in lancaster' and right there at the top or near the top is your directory or the category page, that will make it a much easier sell to them.

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Well, you need to get the traffic and rankings before anyone is likely to consider a price of $20/month.

 

Is this necessarily true? Every business wants (or should want) to be in the newest, latest, greatest directory lest they even lose ONE potential customer. If the site warrants it - is doing it's due diligence to be seen on and offline, and offers something more than a place on a list - then a monthly fee is appropriate.

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If nobody knows it exists, why would you pay to be there?

 

Hence my mention of "due diligence." Getting word out there, but not #1 rank diligence. Just enough to plant a seed of "what if...?" This can be accomplished through a few well-placed social media posts and offline oldschoolery.

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Here is the aspect I am looking at right now to market to businesses. In my city I live, I am close with many small business owners, that if I tell them they need to do something online, they do it. I have about a Dozen clients I could push this too, and they would think it is the coolest thing in the world. My goal is to not provide "just a list" I want to provide more. So, we do more- I have a few interns that attend marketing classes, and business administration majors. They need "real life experience" so I have a good boat of helpful employees to get the name out there.

 

As for search engine results, that will come with the places being listed, and with our contantly flowing blog that will write topics based on the industry and targeting them in the area we are searching. Each week, we want to promote 1 shop from a Regional area (Split the state into about 10 Regions). And we write a promotional blog post about them and share it on their social media, thier website, our website and our social media. This is placing their business, not only in 1 location, but multiple. For $20 a month to receive good content, and attention like this- I see it as a positive. If I were a business owner, and someone came into my shop promoting something like this, I would give it a shot and see what happens. $20 is nothing for many businesses.

 

In my area there is a little competition with a website that does something similar, but they focus in only one city, when mine will eventually hit the whole state. So we are looking to talk with the website directory and see if we can offer them a deal to list the businesses on their site, on ours as well. So we are helping both directories (this company will 98% take that offer).

 

I really feel I have a good idea how I am going to market it- I just wanted some feedback, so I appriciate all of the responses.

 

I am going to be offering businesses to try it for free, just to get listed and to make other businesses I present to see that there is an interest. Hints my objective; "If your friend thinks its cool, perhaps it is cool". I think if businesses see their compeition on this directory, they are going to want to be on there too, no matter if they get 1 sale from being listed on there, or 50 sales.

 

DarthSCULPT thank you for the support, and Mike, thank you for keeping my mind thinking ;)

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