10 Tips to Creating Successful, Revenue-Generating Online Directories

Revenue-Generating Online Directories

Whether you have recently purchased an eDirectory license or are thinking about creating online directories, it’s very important to understand what is involved in developing, building, launching and marketing your site in the first year and beyond.

There are two main areas to focus on when starting an online directory:

  • Developing the business plan or idea behind the directory
  • Getting the word out and promoting your directory

First is the development of the directory as a business itself, which will be covered in the first 5 steps. This aspect focuses on what you are providing to people and how effectively you are providing it. It’s all about your business model and how well you are executing it.

The next group of 5 steps will touch on the promotion of the site and growing its readership. Even the best and most original of ideas and businesses need to get noticed and must constantly work to find new ways to spread the word about their idea or product.

If you put the work in to develop a solid business plan, bring more awareness to your site, develop the right network to increase your visibility and continually develop rich, relevant content, you can start to see financial success within 6-8 months of your launch.

1. Patience

Any business, even an online business, is rarely an overnight success story. Honing vision for a site, developing content, getting indexed by Google and building lucrative business partnerships are all critical elements to building a successful online directory, and each of those steps take time. There’s a very good chance you likely won’t see ROI in the first few months, but if you invest your time wisely, and treat your venture as a business, not just a side venture, you have the opportunity to generate significant recurring revenue.

If you throw in the towel after three months, however, you’ll likely never know what potential your vision had, and in that short span of time, you’ve never really given your business a chance. Every good thing takes time to blossom and flourish, and your directory site is no exception.

 2. Do Your Homework

It’s important to do some online research on the line of business, industry or theme that pertains to your directory. Take the time to research a large amount of keywords and topics throughout the web that are related to the same type of subject matter that you will be presenting.

Learn from what you find. Take note of what and how much is out there. Is it a very competitive landscape? What are they providing their audiences? Are there gaps or opportunities in the marketplace?

Think long and hard about what you will be able to offer and how you can use your directory site to offer it better than anyone else. Look for the things you like and can implement in your own site. Also take note of the things you saw that didn’t quite work and make sure you know how to avoid them yourself.

 3. Develop a Strong Value Proposition

Based on the homework you’ve done, you should develop a very poignant value proposition. This should include the strengths and attributes that your site offers that others don’t. You should continue to develop your site with this value proposition in mind. Build to your advantages and apply what you have learned from your research.

This proposition will be the answer to the question “Why should I come to your site?” or “Why would I want to list on your site?” Having a definitive and persuasive answer to questions of this kind will be an important tool when lobbying for your initial sponsors.

4. Establish a Brand

As you start to develop your directory, you should make it your goal to make a name for yourself, and establish your site as the leading media vehicle for your area of interest. If you’re developing a Ski Resort Directory, you should be known as the “go-to source” for skiing information. If you are creating a local search site, you should make a name for yourself locally and be the voice of your town, someone who has the finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the area, day in and day out.

Developing a brand is similar to putting a personality on your business or project. Align your brand with the things you learned from your research and your value proposition.

What do you want people to think of when they see your logo or your site? Do you want to be seen as informative, discerning and serious or open, knowledgeable and friendly? Make these decisions first and keep them in mind when decided on a brand name, logo, color scheme, typeface, catchphrase (if you have one) and overall writing style. You want all of the visual elements of your site and your brand to convey the symbol of the brand that you are creating.

5. Listings

Listings are the building blocks of your directory and the bulk of the data that will drive future visitors and sponsors. You should heavily, but honestly populate your directory as best you can. Fill your site with the type of listings that you want your site to be the main resource for. eDirectory’s “Claim this Listing” feature will allow these listing/business owner’s to claim them at any time and become paying members of your site if they want to edit or promote their information.

Because each page has its own mini ‘website’ with a unique, SEO-optimized URL, it’s important to have listings in your directory, so these URLs can be crawled and indexed by Google even before your site is launched.

Speaking of SEO, its now time to move away from the planning and setup phase of your directory and onto the marketing and promotional aspects that will drive traffic and help you start generating revenue.

6. SEO

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it is more commonly called, can be a daunting task and confuse even the most tech savvy of business owners. SEO can be made simpler if you focus on just a few key factors for optimizing your site.

a. General Setup

First, there are a few things to set up for your site:

  • Install Google Analytics and set up Google Webmaster Tools and link the Analytics account to your eDirectory site. This will help you to track your site traffic, indexed pages and more so you can see your site’s progress.
  • Create a robots.txt file and upload it to the root directory of your site.
  • Create a sitemap.xml file and submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools for indexing. Your sitemap can be found in the SEO Center of your eDirectory under the Sitemap tool.

b. Keywords

To be most effective in being found by your customers in search engines its vital to optimize your website with keywords and phrases that are most important to your business. Drawing on the homework and research you did earlier, gather the keywords you will want to be related with and use these tips to optimize them throughout your site:

  • Include keywords in the description fields and headings on the Basic Information area of your site in the Configuration section of eDirectory
  • Include keywords within the content itself especially the Listings, Article and Blog posts. Use the “SEO” tab for each item in eDirectory to include relevant keywords in the Title, Page Name, Keywords and Description fields.
  • Include keywords when adding images: keywords in the Image Title and Image Description.
  • Link keywords in your content to other pages on your site: creating internal links by attaching URL’s to a keyword on one page to other pages on your site such as blog posts and articles is a great SEO tactic
  • Include links to your site on social media posts, email signatures and newsletters whenever possible (but not spammy!)

7. Content

If you run a business or website then you have a certain expertise that can be shared with your prospects. You can show you are knowledgeable and have a chance to build up trust in your ability as a potential product or service provider. Content provides a great opportunity to become the first stop for any kind of information in your market.

Articles & Blogging

The simplest, yet most effective, way to leverage this expertise is through business articles and blogging. It allows you to demonstrate your know-how and become your own micro media company, able to publish your knowledge for others to see. Educating your readers is key, it will be easier to sell your site’s benefits when people trust your authority and see you as a thought leader.

This type of content will help you to build up your inbound links and also help to raise your website’s rank for main keywords and phrases, which are crucial for SEO and growing your site’s organic traffic.

 High Quality Content

High quality content is meant to go a step deeper than articles and blogging and really drill down into some topics for your visitors. The goal of this content is to convert a lead to a customer.

An example of this is that your blog may have brought in a visitor to your site and helped them to understand what your business is about. Now you can introduce them to a case study that shows them direct benefits of your services and provides them with a clear success story that they can relate to. Sharing a real-life success story will help them feel more comfortable with becoming a customer themselves.

Besides case studies some other examples of high quality content that can be highly affective includes webinars, white papers, eBooks, tutorials, slide decks, demos, videos and infographics.

8. Invest wisely

It’s important to understand what your budget will be and how much you will be able to spend. If you want to help get the word out about your website in person, it might require making an investment in marketing collateral, promotional materials, or your business may benefit more from online advertising in order to gain significant traction to your site. Plan your spends accordingly and stretch your budget as much as possible.

Some of the lower cost options for physical marketing collateral would include business cards, fliers, napkins, buttons, window stickers and more. Resources like Vistaprint and Fedex Office can be great places to find professional yet affordable materials.

For online advertising Google Adwords is the standard on the web. With an account, you can pay Google to have your site’s advertisement show up whenever someone searches for keywords that you are interested in. You can choose the specific keywords and phrases you want, how much you are willing to spend, the location of the searcher, the time of day searched and more to ensure you optimize to reach your ideal customers.

Local Search site owners also have the luxury of advertising relatively cheaply through Google Adwords. With keywords and phrases as low as 5-10 cents per click, and Google periodically offering $100 credits to start, this can be a great way to drive traffic to your site and build repeat visitors at a lower cost.

9. Shake Hands

Many people often ask the best way to make a sale to a business in their directory. The important thing to remember is that before you make a sale, you need to build a solid relationship with potential advertisers. Rather than walking into a business, slides in hand, trying to pitch them on a sponsorship opportunity, it’s better to form business relationships first and foremost. Introduce yourself as THE person who has started a directory where
people come to find businesses like theirs and explain to them the opportunities that they can take advantage of (free listings, guest blog posts, etc).

In making a name for yourself and getting the word out about your directory, it’s important to get in front of most, if not all decision makers in your industry. The best way to get yourself introduced to businesses that are populating your directory, or other potential advertisers, is to take a journalistic angle. Rather than go in to pitch them advertising or talk up your directory, try asking them to do a feature story, article, or interview. These are
things that add value to your site and also make for a great ‘in’ to any business you’re pursuing.

10. Never Stop Working

The success of your site is directly correlated with how much work you put into that site. Our most successful clients have been on board with us for a few years, and they constantly work at improving their site on a daily basis, and they’ve all at one point or another, followed most, if not all of steps 1-9.

Even after your site becomes profitable, you shouldn’t be putting your site on cruise control. The only way to maintain the success and exceed it is to strive for continuous improvements and to always be on the look out for new market trends and opportunities.

You should be meeting new businesses, updating your listings, posting news stories or writing whitepapers in addition to finding new markets, creating new marketing campaigns and finding innovative ways to strengthen your brand.

eDirectory has provided you with the tools, now its up to you to build your idea into a success!

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The American Ceramic Society – Case Study

The American Ceramic Society - Case Study

Executive Summary

This case study focuses on the use of an online directory to increase engagement in a member driven association or not for profit. The directory is not only helpful for those in the industry to reach out to colleagues in other organizations, but it also is a critical component to further marketing the listings (companies) that make up the site.

About our client

The American Ceramic Society

Location: Westerville, Ohio

Industry: Non Profit (member based organization)

Year: 2012

Introduction

The American Ceramic Society is a member based non-profit organization designed to bring together a community involved in both the arts and science of ceramic materials. ACerS is comprised of over 9,500 members, including scientists, researchers, engineers, manufacturers, plant personnel, educations, students and marketing professionals alike from more than 70 different countries.

Their members vary in background, some working at universities, government agencies or small businesses, while others represent large global corporations like Toyota.

Challenge

After having used both an inhouse solution as well as eSyndicat in the past, their goal was to create a system that was more user friendly, both to their staff as well as their end users. They also needed a solution that would seamlessly export their data and import that data it into graphic layout applications like InDesign or Illustrator in order to take the entire directory from online to print for their yearly Ceramic Source publication.

Approach

After developing an in house solution developed in SAP, which quickly became outdated and difficult to manage, the American Ceramic Society moved to a formal directory solution, eSyndicat where they hoped to make the content more manageable and develop a robust directory site to showcase their members, educational organizations or any other member of the ceramic community.

“eSyndicat wasn’t as robust as we had expected, the back end was a bit confusing and we had trouble organizing the data the way we wanted to — we have hundreds of categories we use to organize each business,” said Scott Freshour, Web Manager.

After two iterations of directory solutions that didn’t meet their requirements or expectations, The ACeRs moved to eDirectory to manage their directory publication.

Results

Upon migrating to eDirectory The American Ceramic Society was able to reach out to their members and other members within their industry in an effort to engage them more in the directory. They used eDirectory’s multi-level listing feature to offer corporate members higher level listings in the system, thus giving the more exposure in the directory. They emailed members to send emails to listing holders encouraging them to update their information.

“eDirectory was easy to use and much more modern. We took what the solution offered out of the box and developed a quality product. We were able to make modifications with ease and make the site our own,” Freshour added.

With the export feature, the American Ceramic Society was able to better format the directory listings to be more compatible with graphical applications like InDesign or Illustrator.

Conclusion

The American Ceramic Society found success in using eDirectory having used both an internal proprietary solution as well as one of eDirectory’s competitors, eSyndicat. With an easy to use interface, robust feature and a customizable look and feel, ACeRs were able to leverage their online directory to not only further engage with their members and offer an advertising platform to increase their exposure, but work within an easy to use, manageable systems both for their internal staff, as well as those that held listings on their site.

If you’re a non profit organization and want to learn how an online directory can increase membership, advertising funds and overall engagement, please send us an email to sales@edirectory.com or call us at (703) 914-0770.

Gleames Creative Design – Case Study

Summary

Who: Gleames Design (on behalf of Ohio Bridal)
Where: Pierce, Nebraska & Springboro, Ohio
When: 2009
What: Create a highly customized, interactive directory driven site for Ohio Bridal.

Abstract

While Ohio Bridal has become one of the most dominant companies in the bridal market, the biggest hurdle they’ve had to overcome in the last few years is establishing the same dominance in an online arena. With the help of Gleames Creative Design, Ohio Bridal was able to streamline all of their online efforts and help accentuate their presence in the wedding world.

Introduction

As a small agency that opened its doors in 2000, Gleames Creative Design has served a variety of clients throughout the country, having most their business gained through word of mouth referrals.

While Gleames’ owner, Jennifer Gleason, concentrates mostly on web design, the project that brought her to workwith Ohio Bridal was mostly print based. While the earlier projects called for print design, it wasn’t longbefore Jennifer and her team were tasked with honing and maturing Ohio Bridal’s online presence. As the projects grew, so did their working relationship and to date, Ohio Bridal is one of Gleames’ biggest clients.

Challenge

While Ohio Bridal has experienced a high rate of growth over the past few years, organizing the websites that were developed along side of that growth became difficult and somewhat of a headache. Ohio Bridal had developed a few sites, one of which included a list of all the vendors they either worked with in the past. Each time they worked with a new vendor, or had to edit the information of an existing one, the process required manual entry in the back-end of the site.

They had also developed an entirely separate site where vendors could publish coupons and other promotional offers. In addition to these two resource sites, they had a corporate website and a site for each bridal show. The challenge was streamlining these websites all of these websites into, thus reducing the redundancy between them and even more importantly, taking the manual work out of updating them all of the time.

Approach

With their list of vendors and industry partners growing, Ohio Bridal needed a way for vendors to be able to update their listing information and publish coupons without the strain of going in the back end system and manually entering it all. With their concentration rooted mostly in managing vendor data, Jennifer Gleason felt that a directory – driven site would encapsulate all of Ohio Bridal’s data management needs.

She had familiarized herself with directory software in the past, and knew that she needed to incorporate a solution that would grow with them as they incorporated all of their sites into one. “ I knew directories could be profitable,” Gleason said. “The fact they seem to rank so well on search engines drove me to suggesting a directory-style site. Ohio Bridal had all of these vendors and so the big thing for them was getting web traffic to their site and to the vendors sites as well,” Gleason added.

From there, Gleames went shopping for the most intuitive and feature-rich solution that could manage their vendor listings with ease. After doing some internet window shopping, Gleason was unable to find any solution that would help in automating their SEO efforts, give vendors the ability to edit and upgrade their listings, as well as bring ease to promoting some of their vendors service offerings like eDirectory could.

“It (eDirectory) was a little pricier than other solutions out there, but it had everything I knew they needed to succeed. If they wanted to get to the growth point they were striving for, they needed to go with eDirectory. There was little other options for them, but at the same time it was the best option because it offered a platform where all of their vendors could manage their own data,” said Gleason regarding the purchase of eDirectory.

Results

eDirectory software helped Gleames create a central depository for their bridal events, vendor listings and promotional materials. Not only did eDirectory provide a platform to help attract bridal businesses to advertise on their site, it allowed their existing vendors to create photo galleries, create and edit listings and also promote them more vigorously at an additional cost. Finally, their new site, driven by eDirectory, allowed Ohio Bridal to showcase all of their local events and most importantly of all, drive powerful search traffic to their site.

While much of the new site is still being integrated from all angles, Ohio Bridal was slightly skeptical at transitioning their websites at first. “At first they didn’t understand the scope and didn’t realize what they were getting but they are turning on to it now. Galleries, Coupons, Banner ads and so much more that they can offer vendors with the new site,” said Gleason on the integration process.

As web developer & designer, Gleames was able to appreciate what the eDirectory solution could offer when developing a directory-driven site. “As a developer, this makes constructing a directory site much easier to do. I would recommend it to other agencies or web design shops, not only for the software itself, but the support you get after the fact. It’s been tremendous.”

Conclusion

While eDirectory helped Gleames Design put a directory-based structure into place for Ohio Bridal, it also offered them the ability to aggregate several websites together to better organize and present their content. On top of making the content more cohesive and centralized, it offered more valuable resources to their vendors and prospective clients, all while driving heavy search traffic to their site.

The Google Long Tail: Opportunities to generate unparalleled search traffic through online directories

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The Google Long Tail: Opportunities to generate unparalleled search traffic through online directories

If you’re already familiar with the Google Long Tail, the first part of this document will serve as a refresher, and perhaps open your eyes to a few examples the Long Tail model has played into the success of many businesses.

The Long Tail is a concept describing how selling a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities can generate more total revenue than the blockbuster. This is largely made possible by advances in technology that have lowered distribution costs. This white paper details how a Long Tail strategy can be applied to raking in search traffic by targeting niche keywords using an online directory.

chart

The Y axis in this chart shows popularity of any particular item. This could relate to amount of downloads, sales, units, or any measurable standard of success in today’s market. In music, the ‘Popularity’ column could be replaced with number of CD Sales, downloads or plays. In Google’s case, this axis represents the number of dollars in ad sales. We see the head, or red portion of the graph accounts for the highest CPC (Cost Per Click) rate that advertisers spend on desirable popular keywords like “Insurance,” “Mortgage,” “Cars,” or ”Hotels.”

In his book entitled “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More,” Chris Anderson sheds light on an example of how Rhapsody capitalized on the opportunity they saw in the Long Tail. In terms of music, the ‘head’ or red shaded part of the graph would represent those artists or groups who have the most sales, downloads or plays. These are more popular artists with multiple billboard topping, platinum or gold selling hits. These are what record stores or stores that sell records/CDs are selling. In the orange portion of the graph, we have the tail, which includes an abundance of less popular artists. These are bands whom you’ve likely never heard of, who are on small time record labels and tour small clubs throughout the country but have avid, cult like followings of small groups of people.

Most record stores won’t carry these artists because, well, they aren’t high in demand and their records aren’t flying off the shelves, so how cost effective could it really be carry their CDs? Think of it this way: If bands represented keywords in the graph above, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bon Jovi & Pink Floyd are in the head of the graph, and Hot Rod Circuit, The Victory Year and Sir Salvatore are bands in the Long Tail.

 The point being there aren’t thousands of Bon Jovi’s or Pink Floyds, there are, however millions of bands like Hot Rod Circuit, Victory Year and Sir Salvatore that you’ve likely never heard of before. The secret of the Long Tail is in what isn’t shown on this graph, specifically on the far right side. This model doesn’t rapidly take a nose dive into the ground as it moves more toward the right as one might expect. In fact, it takes a very gradual, slow decline and spans out for quite a distance. Why? Because there are millions of bands in this world with smaller record labels going on local tours than there are bands major record deals performing in stadiums around the world.

What Google saw was big spending advertisers on prime keywords and phrases in the red, or head of the graph, on words like ”Insurance,” “Mortgage,” “Cars,” or ”Hotels.” But what Google realized was there were millions of potential advertisers in the Orange. So what did they do? They provided a platform that would allow smaller advertisers to buy more niche CPC phrases, piped them through thousands of ad networks (think small
publishers) and accordingly, advertisers are able to pay 10 cents or 25 cents a click, which becomes affordable to a business of nearly any size.

Google made advertisers of nearly every business in the world that has an online presence and today, this accounts for over 30% of Google’s business. What did Rhapsody do? They took all the music that record stores and Walmarts wouldn’t carry, and hosted it online. Currently, these ‘Long Tail’ artists on Rhapsody’s music application account for 25% of its’ business.

So what does this mean? Well if the key to success in online business is selling less of more, there’s something to be said about what these Long Tail search keywords can do for generating search traffic to a website. Many businesses concentrate on the SEO quality of their site and often overlook at what quantity can do for your search traffic.

If there are as much, if not more opportunities in the tail, and content is king, why not create Long Tail keyword-driven content to rake in search traffic? Let’s take all the content in the tail, centralize it, organize it and create a valuable resource to website visitors. Online Directories produce thousands of pages of unique, Long Tail-driven content and consequently rank very well on search engines.

You can spend time with SEO experts modifying your content, adjusting your page titles or URLS in order to rank higher on search engines, but developing unique content through directory listings can do as much, if not more to drive search traffic to your site. While directories may not rank #1 in “New York Restaurant” they do rank very high on more niche, specific terms like “French Provincial Restaurant Upper East Side.”

Where there is search traffic, there are ad dollars to be made. What makes the opportunities at hand even more lucrative is the fast pace transition media is taking from print to online. Print is dying. It’s not dead, and it’s not right to say People, Time, or the New York Times are going under anytime soon, but print media is on its way out. It’s not cost effective, it’s not as easily accessible and for marketers, it’s simply not measurable enough.

Web 2.0 guru Gary Vaynerchuk said, regarding the opportunities with print money moving online that there is “a trillion dollars in ad revenue that is going to leak down to all the hyper, local, super nichey-niche-niche opportunities.”

During a seminar he conducted while promoting his book, “Crush It,” Vaynerchuk mentions the site midtownlunch.com. Owner Zach Brooks covers 6 blocks of street food (vendors, etc) in New York…6 blocks and generates $70,000+ a year from this site. Why?

It’s a niche site that offers its visitors a resource of valuable information. It’s an online directory for food selections in Midtown Manhattan and Zach is crushing it.

Internet users are lazy. No one wants to search the menus of eight different restaurants to find a good restaurant in New York. They want to find a local search directory that will house all of the menus under one roof. They way we search and find information is changing, thus the mediums to which we access that information is changing and savvy advertisers are taking the money they spent in print and putting it strategically into online portals, directories and sites that cater to the way we search.

Think about this:

When they first came out, Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire and Travelocity were great sites because they aggregate flights, hotels and car rentals. Each of these sites made it considerably easier to make travel reservations without having to go to the websites of Southwest, United, US Airways, Hilton, Sheraton, Best Western, Hertz, Budget or Thrifty to evaluate costs side by side.

Then Kayak came along and became an even better alternative. Why? They aggregated all of the travel aggregators listed above. They made searching and booking travel easier by centralizing he information that Priceline, Hotwire and others had aggregated in their booking portals. This is the trend technology in media is taking and this is where online directories become a valuable arena of consolidated, information packed content.

Similarly, directories help make finding information easy for those browsing. From newspapers developing local search sites or dining guides, magazine publishers developing supplier, vendor or industry directories to a directory of Certified Mold Inspectors, online directories create niche focused sites full of rich information.

About eDirectory

Designed to increase web traffic and provide systematic organization, eDirectory’s platform offers a low-cost, easy-to-use online directory solution. Our software empowers its’ users to publish a variety of directory-based websites that help maximize advertising revenue. With elaborate search functionality, advanced SEO reporting, and mobile access–as well as a fully customized platform–eDirectory is the performance leader in its market.

eDirectory also allows your advertisers to track and adjust their marketing efforts in an age where ROI in advertising has never been so critical.

Grow Your Directory Site’s Traffic with Curated Content

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Grow Your Directory Site’s Traffic with Curated Content

Content curation is one of the fastest was to achieve growth in web traffic for publishing, directory, business and media sites. With the rise of social media and growth of mobile devices, content can now be viewed and shared more quickly and easily than ever before.

Mainstream sites like Buzzfeed, HuffingtonPost, Distractify as well as more niche properties like Colossal (www.thisiscolossal.com – Art & Design blog) use curation at their core to drive visits to their site.

What is Content Curation?

Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, organizing, and displaying information. It is increasingly becoming an effective tool for companies to increase their online presence and it’s easy to see why.

Why is it so valuable?

Curated content puts you at the front, as the gatekeeper or tastemaker for which of this content is used on your site. You will have control over amassing it from a variety of sources and delivering it in an organized and unique fashion.

Sites using content curation also tend to be highly efficient in increasing their natural Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which in part increases traffic to their site. Sites with curated content are updated rather frequently, and search engines will reward these up-to-date sites by indexing them more often.

  • Grows Your Site’s Traffic

Content curation websites attract vast amounts of traffic. We live in an age of abundant content and these sites are drawing in huge amounts of visitors all across the web.

  • Quicker Way to Create Content

It can be pretty difficult to create great content on a regular basis. Compared to that curating can be easier, quicker and cheaper than producing all of your content on your own. It’s a leveraged value-add for your readers, and thus can potentially be more profitable for your site.

  • Builds an Identity

By curating content for a specific subject matter, you can start to build and cultivate an identity for you site. You can use this identity to give your site a personality for visitors to relate to within your topic’s niche.

  • Develops a Following

As you start curating content of a particular type, you will eventually start attracting an audience that favors content of that type. If you’re the person your readers come to when they need new information on a given topic, then you’re doing your job effectively.

Sounds great, so how do I do it?

Having topically relevant keywords and phrases throughout your site is very important to your site’s SEO. Yes, I said keywords AND phrases. A common mistake people make is focusing too much on individual keywords.

Most of these will be far too limiting and competitive to gain much ground in the search ranks. Instead, it’s much smarter and efficient to focus on a common idea or subject matter and find phrases and long tail keywords that fit into that set.

  • Pick your Subject Matter or Theme

Choose a specific and relevant area that fits your website. Keep your topics as specific and niche as possible.

  • Find a List of Sources

Comb the web for sources of content. Not all of the best sources can be found on search engines and can require a bit more digging. Try these areas and you’ll always have an amazing link to share:

    • Use Social sharing websites like Reddit, Imgur and Digg
    • Find a blog or website you like and follow the trail of links that you can find on their content, also be sure to set up an RSS reader
    • Try this Chrome extension called Pin Search, it “leverages the power of Google Search by Image to give you a wealth of information about any picture you find on Pinterest. Find similar pictures. Find all the websites where the picture appears…”
    • Publishing platforms such as Tumblr and WordPress
    • Social bookmarking tools like Delicious.com
    • Social Q&A websites such as Quora.com
    • Other websites and resources for finding useful content: Inbound.org Digest, Medium, Panda, BuzzSumo, and Swayy
  • Collect and Publish the Best, Most Relevant Content Possible

This is now where you sift through the content that you have been able to find and pick out the highest quality content and what you think will be most appealing to your visitors. Which are the most attractive? Which ones will draw people in? Which ones best fit the subject matter of my site? These and more are the questions you must be asking when looking for content to curate.

  • Provide Context

Use an annotation method to add your own comments and insight. This will provide some context for your audience on why the content is important and why you are sharing it with them. This puts a personal touch and some ownership on the content even though it is from another source.

  • Curate Consistently

Establish a publishing schedule and make sure to stick with it. No need to overwhelm yourself or make it too demanding, just decide on a cycle that is reasonable and can be met consistently.

  • Share and Promote

Make sure you always attribute the original sources of content you curate and link to them. Be sure to always give credit.

  • Track, Analyze, Optimize

Keep close tabs on the how your content is performing and use this knowledge to guide future curation. Constantly look for ways to optimize your content and make sure you are focusing on the topics your audience is most interested in.

So are there any negatives?

Good question, there are a few things to keep in mind when using curated content:

  • Copyright Issues

With the majority of the content coming from another source you must be careful in making sure you are citing and providing links to the original source when you show it on your own site to avoid any copyright infringements.

  • Quantity Over Quality

Focusing on getting the most content up instead of the best content can have an adverse affect on your site and its incoming traffic. Having high quality content is one of the best and easiest tools a site owner can use to grow and keep visitors. Take your time and be selective when choosing your content, it pays off in the long run.

  • Don’t Forget About Original Content

Relying too much on curated content can leave your site without its own voice and style. Google and other search engines will consider a site with only curated content to be “thin”. This can hurt your site’s SEO efforts. To combat this your goal should be to have a good blend of curated content and original content. Create content that fits your site’s identity and your target audience will be interested in.

Have any questions about eDirectory and how it can improve your directory site? Call or email us.

How Inbound Marketing Can Grow Your Niche Business or Online Directory

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How Inbound Marketing Can Grow Your Niche Business or Online Directory

Inbound marketing – for online directory and other businesses models – is defined as the marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than having to go out to get a prospect’s attention. Inbound marketing gets the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content. Best of all it’s usually free or comes at a very low price.

For smaller or “niche” businesses the larger-scale outbound marketing initiatives (newspaper ads, TV spots, billboards, etc.) would cost a larger sum of money and end up reaching an audience that is around 99% irrelevant to your business. However, inbound marketing lets you appeal to the most qualified prospects to your business or niche industry by using highly targeted subject matter.

Our goal here is to maximize your growth from inbound marketing while keeping your time and costs to a minimum. To do this we are going to focus on the “Big 3” for inbound  marketing to get the most out of your efforts: SEO, Content and Social Media.

SEO: Simple Tips for Big Results

SEO can be made simpler if you focus on just a few key factors for optimizing your site. To be most affective in being found by your customers in search engines its vital to optimize every page that is on your website with keywords and phrases that are most important to your business. For niche industries, the more specific the keywords and phrase the better.

Here are some simple ways to optimize:

  • Include keywords in the page properties: URL’s, meta descriptions
  • Include keywords within the content itself: headers, page text, captions
  • Include keywords when adding images: keywords in the name of the image, using an alt tag with the keyword in it
  • Link keywords in your content to other pages on your site: create internal links by attaching URL’s to a keyword on one page to other pages on your site such as blog posts and articles
  • Include links to your site on social media posts and newsletters

For a more in-depth look at SEO check out our white paper titled “SEO Toolkit for Directory Sites” by visiting our website or shooting us an email.

 Content: To Educate is the Best Way to Sell

If you run a business or website in your niche industry then you have a certain expertise that can be shared with your prospects. You can show you are knowledgeable and have a chance to build up trust in your ability as a potential product or service provider. In niche industries the availability of useful content is fairly minimal and it provides a great opportunity to become the first stop for any kind of information in your market.

Blogging

The simplest, yet most affective, way to leverage this expertise is through a business blog. It allows you to demonstrate your know-how and become your own micro media company, able to publish your knowledge for others to see. Educating your readers is key, as it is established thinking that in any industry it is easier to sell when people see you as an authority and a thought leader.

Blogging will help you to build up your inbound links and also help to raise your website’s rank for main keywords and phrases, which are crucial for SEO and growing your site’s inbound traffic.

High Quality Content

High quality content is meant to go a step deeper than blogging and really drill down into some topics for your visitors. The goal of this content is to convert a lead to a customer.

An example of this is that your blog may have brought in a visitors to your site and helped them to understand what your business is about, now you can introduce them to a case study that shows them direct benefits of your services and provides them with a clear incentive to join as a customer.

Besides case studies here are some other examples of high quality content that can be highly affective:

  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • Tutorials
  • Slide decks
  • Demos
  • Videos
  • Infographics

Social Media: Reach Your Specific Audience

The social media tools available to you from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or an industry-specific social network allow you to directly connect with your target audience. The more narrow you focus, the easier it is to pinpoint the specific people and businesses interacting on these social networks about your niche industry. Utilize these platforms to engage with your prospects outside of your website and outside of an in-person or over-the-phone interaction.

Use these tips to get the most out of your social media efforts:

Research

  • Determine how much time and resources are needed to participate affectively in each social network and participate in the ones that make the most sense for your business. Some may be useful for you and others may be too time consuming and wasteful.
  • See who is using social media and determine why they look there and what they are looking for.
  • Identify if these users are potential customers or if they carry influence over those who may be your potential customers.
  • Find out what types of content these people are most interested in and are likely to link to and share.

Promote

  • Leverage your online profiles and make sure to provide information about your business and most importantly link back to your company’s site. Use this area or the “About” section to provide a short elevator pitch about who you are and why people should use your business.
  • Promote your original content and provide links back to your website. Create enticing headlines and tags to grab the attention of potential readers and bring in more visits.
  • Share links and content from others. This can be a useful practice to build relationships and goodwill between yourself and other influencers in your industry.

With built-in tools for SEO, content management and social media integration eDirectory can help you grow your business directory.

Learn more by visiting www.edirectory.com

Marketing an Online Directory

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Marketing an Online Directory

Whether you have an existing directory you’re working from, or you’re using eDirectory to get your business off the ground, there are many ways to better position your site for success. While we provide our customers with a robust platform to develop an information packed, highly interactive directory, there are many steps that need to be taken to help make your site a valuable advertising or promotional vehicle.

Think Niche

When they hear the word ‘niche’ many people often think it means restricted or constrained, but niche directories are almost always the most successful. Just because your focus or scope may be narrow, it doesn’t mean your audience, or pool of potential advertisers is at all limited. Let’s say I want to develop a business directory for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I want to include a list of a variety of types of business, shops, stores, business services, restaurants, happy hours, drink specials, events and more. Keep in mind this will likely include tens of thousands of listings and with something this broad, I’m bound to rub up against competitors with similar directories. With a broader focus and other competitors in a similar space, my value proposition loses quite a bit steam.

That is, I can’t offer a poignantly focused arena for advertisers to promote their business. As we’ll learn later, nearly all advertisers have a very specific type of visitor they’re hoping to attract and your value proposition should reflect that.

If we narrow this down to something in a little smaller scale, it becomes exponentially easier to compile information and I can profile my audience in a much simpler way. By changing the focus of my directory from the city of Pittsburgh to a sub section like North Huntingdon Township, I offer a more niche, personalized resource where I stand a less of a chance to go up against bigger sites like Yelp, City Search and About.com. At the same time, however, the site still offers thousands of companies in the region a highly targeted advertising vehicle for their business or services.

The same concept applies to product directories, or services guides as well. One could try and develop a physician directory, or a wholesale manufacturer directory, but a simple search in Google for similar sites shows we’re up against many existing platforms with the same business model.

If, however, we are able to hone the focus to something more specific, like Nephrologists Directory or Beer wholesale Manufacturers Directory, we have a more personalized product to offer our potential advertisers.

After all, Bob’s Wholesale Beer Distributor is much more apt to advertise on your website than something more broad, like the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. In the next document of this two-part series entitled “Selling a Directory,” we’ll cover how this becomes a very powerful selling point.

Listings, Listings, Listings

It’s difficult to sell ideas or concepts; people have more faith and confidence in tangible products or solutions. It’s not easy to sell web design services if you don’t have a portfolio of site’s you’ve done in the past.

Similarly, it’s difficult to sell advertisers on your product (directory) before it’s fully developed. Some of our clients, after purchasing a license, immediately pursue advertisers for an immediate ROI, before ever having developed any content on their site. While we understand our clients want to justify their spend, it’s always best to show them a fully functional, populated directory. It’s important that when you approach potential advertisers, you tell a story and physically show them how your site can help bring more visibility to their business. There’s no question that populating your listings takes work, but our industry partners such as datadepot.com provide data and listings to help fill your directory with information your visitors are looking for.

From barbershops in Santa Barbra to Nephrologists in Nebraska, Data Depot is a great resource to help get information your directory. Content, or listings are the heart of your site and without them you make it impossible to achieve organic (natural) growth on search engines. Without organic search rankings, your website traffic from these search engines is extremely limited. Without website traffic, your directory has no value to the advertisers. Your user will likely search in two different ways, but regardless of how they search, it’s vital that we have the content in place to make sure our organic search rankings rise for searches that match our site. Let’s go back to the example of having a directory of Nephrologists. Someone looking for such a physician will search one of two ways:

“Washington DC Nephrologists”

“Nephrologist Dr. Zimmerman”

In the first search scenario, the user isn’t certain of which doctor they want to go to, but rely on a directory that we’ve developed to help them fi nd that doctor. In the other instance, we know the name and location of the doctor that we’re looking for, but we’re not quite sure of his or her contact information.

If we have a list of Nephrologists in Washington DC or in the second case, Dr. Zimmerman in our directory, we’ll most definitely be a match on both of these searches. As we continue to be matched with these search terms, our search rankings will continue to increase. If we don’t have the directory properly populated with all of the data to support search terms like this, we can’t achieve the web traffic we need to gain the business of advertisers.

If you have any questions, or would like to further discuss how to improve the way you’re marketing or selling your directory, we would welcome a phone call or e-mail anytime.

Tips on running the sales team

Tips on running the sales team

By James Chubb, CEO

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Do you really need a sales force?

Online directories are a great business model. They are easy to get started, overhead costs are low, and they can generate the best type of revenue – recurring revenue. The business scales naturally with how much time and money you are willing to invest – a small investment can generate as great a return on investment (ROI) as a large investment if compared on a percentage basis.

You can absolutely run a directory without a sales force, and many people do it successfully. If you have a dominant online brand, great email marketing or PR, you may be able to get business in the door without making personal contacts. A number of eDirectory customers just put Google AdWords and some affiliate program links on the pages, do a little Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and watch the dollars deposited in their bank accounts with virtually no effort.

While it won’t generate enough money to get your face on the cover of Business Week, the investment is so low that the returns are excellent. In order to create a bigger directory business, a sales team is an essential element.

Doing sales yourself or running a sales force takes more effort, but it is a component of virtually all the success stories. If you are looking to create a lasting brand, and become well known in the directory subject matter, successful sales management is often the core to making it happen. This document will give a few tips on setting up, training and managing the team.

Differences in Local vs. National sales

Nearly all financial successful directories (and business startups in general) focus on some type of niche. The person that says “we’re going to be the next Yahoo” generally doesn’t have the resources to get it done, and they get spread too thin to do anything significant.

A focus area is critical. In the directory space, people often focus on either a local area (city, state, country, area, etc), or they focus on a vertical (“welding equipment suppliers”, “asbestos attorneys”, etc). Sometimes to further reduce the size of the playing field a local area + a vertical is a great idea – “weddings in Houston”. After finding success and proving the model, you can always expand the niche.

From a sales standpoint the differences are:

• Local areas generally are small enough where you can get people on the ground for face to face meetings.
• Verticals are often national or internal, and face to face meetings with potential customers infrequent and most sales rely on calls.

Commission Schedules and Base Salary

Traditionally the sales staff is compensated with a commission on each sale to incentivize them to close the deals. Some companies do “commission only” where sales people make nothing if they do not generate sales, and others offer a base salary, and give a commission on top of that.

Depending on the type of directory business you are running, this mix between base salary and commission will vary. More professional media companies often have a higher base salary and offer benefits. Startup local search companies often try a commission only plan (often with questionable success). Good people are expensive, so look at your competitors in the space and see what they are doing.

From our experience, it is good to offer some type of a base salary, even for outside reps that never come to your office. The reason is the sales team can help you build out content, and even if they are not making sales, they can get information to help you build out your database.

A good rule of thumb on how much base salary to give may be the value of 1 or 2 listing sales a week, which is easy enough that a mediocre sales rep can break even. Having this base will motivate them to keep making visits, and at least getting unpaid signups to build out your mailing list, and you can up sell them later.

For the commission schedule, we usually recommend a tiered approach; where after they make X sales a month, the commission percentage goes higher for additional sales that month.

Also it is important to set the commission such that there is an aspiration reward that would put them in an income bracket higher than their pears if they do well. An example of such a commission schedule is “First X sales per month get 30% commission, and after 10k is reached commission goes to 50% for any remaining sales”.

Actual commission amounts highly depend on the directory site. If you have a well known brand, and the site gets significant traffic and already generates solid revenue, you can pay the sales reps a small percentage of the dollar value of each sale. A new site with an unknown brand and relatively little traffic will probably require you to pay a very high commission percentage. We have seen some directory sites that pay their reps a nominal
base, and then 60 or 70% commission on each sale.

A big reason why directories can be such a great business model is attributed to “recurring revenue”, wherea customer just renews and you don’t need to do any additional work. We recommend you do not pay sales people commission the recurring, but instead just pay them a higher percentage of the initial sale. This makes the bookkeeping simpler, and keeps them motivated to bring in new business, instead of coasting off past sales.

Hiring

Hiring the right people is probably the most important part of any business. Your sales team is the public face of your company, and it is critical you get the right types of people. For small directory businesses, we recommend you hire multiple sales people so there is a sense of competition and you gain perspective on a good vs bad sales person. Avoid the temptation to start thinking about “advantages of economies of scale” hire a large team and let them run.

Before doing any hiring, put together the profile of the idea rep. This should have education and experience levels, salary, etc. This way you know what you are looking for.

Collect a lot of resumes! The more people you bring in the door, the more likely you are able to find the right candidate. When hiring, here are the traits to look for:

1. Positive, upbeat, attitude.

2. Relevant sales experience. If you are a national media company, you need a polished rep that can confidently close a substantial deal with an executive. A small local directory company may look for someone that has had success selling knives door to door. You can try to farm a large team of people that have never sold anything before, but your cost savings on the labor will likely be less than you lose from the high turnover.

3. Comfortable talking about money. Some people that are just not comfortable talking about money – they were often raised to be polite and not discuss such things openly. They will dodge around when you ask them about past salaries or earnings. The best sales reps are financially motivated, and have no problem discussing pricing, salaries or anything else with a dollar figure on it.

4. Competitive – Look for that type of person is that is aggressive about coming out on top.
There is an excellent book on sales hiring called “Great Salespeople Aren’t Born, They’re Hired: The Secrets To Hiring Top Sales Professionals” by Joseph Miller.

Training

Training is essential. Consider the following at a minimum:

1. Map out the sales process and train the reps on eDirectory, benefits of what they are buying etc.

2. Prepare a sample sales scripts to be used on the phone and door to door visits.

3. Prepare a comprehensive list of questions an advertiser may have and responses.

4. Practice sample pitches with the reps.

5. Follow up with the reps weekly and adjust the training to fill gaps.

Goals, Metrics and Day to Day Management

A set of goals is absolutely critical to move the business forward. We recommend you set either weekly or monthly goals for the reps, and longer term goals that management keeps internal.

Remember, each “customer relationship” has value, so even if you just signup free listings, there is some value there because you may convert them later. Use your sales team to help build content.

For local, we recommend a quota of with a minimum number of visits per week and for national, a quota of a set number of calls. Each visit should attempt to get some names and email addresses, and additional content for the listing even if the sale isn’t closed. A prospect list is also essential – you can use your listing database to pull listings by zip code, and give each rep a list dividing up the territory. When going door to door, send the reps out with a laptop and a digital camera to take photos of the business.

Sample goals for a local directory:

• 30 customer visits per week minimum.

• 85% of the visits should results in a name, email address, a 2 sentence description, and 2 photos.

• 6 listing sales per week.

It may take a couple visits to get a paid listing, so after one rep completes a territory, consider having a second rep double back and talk to them again.

For overall sales metrics, we suggest you keep it simple, and just record 3 or 4 at most. Consider tracking number of signups and number of sales each week.

Tip: To keep things interesting, do a special bonus for your sales team from time to time. Weekly or even daily meetings, and publicized statistics are essential to a well run team. If the team is geographically dispersed, you might have everyone dial in for a conference call. During the meeting try to get feedback on barriers the team is encountering and see what you can do to remove those obstacles.

Making the numbers public will create a sense of competition on the team. Expect turnover. Unfortunately the nature of sales, especially in this business is there will be significant turnover of the sales staff. By having an efficient hiring and training process you can mitigate this aspect.

Equipping the sales force

It is essential you send your sales people in with the right equipment to win.

We recommend the following:

1. Content on the website – don’t send the sales team out without making sure the directory is full of data and looking good. Create a couple premium listings in each category with nice photos and reviews – give free listings to the market leaders – if you are trying to sell to “mom & pop steak house”, you’ll have a lot more success if there is already a beautiful listing in the system for “Ruth Chris Steakhouse”.

2. Marketing collateral – a brochure on the benefits of joining the directory.

3. Sales script they have memorized.

4. Sample question and answer list you have tested them on.

5. Laptop with wireless internet for the demos – minis can be had for under $400. If wireless is spotty in your area, send them out with a recorded demo of some screenshots.

6. Territory walk list – list of businesses to visit, with boxes so they can fill in who they talked to. Be sure to leave a blank page at the end they can fill in with who else they may have came across on the way. This list should have exact time and date, and name of person they talked to so you can keep them honest.

7. If local, send them out with a Camera so they can take a few pictures and build some unique content.

Sales Team Setup Checklist:

1. Write profile of successful sales person.

2. Design salary and commission structure.

3. Post job ads for candidate.

4. Filter candidates by phone interviews.

5. Meet candidates in person and hire the best.

6. Train sales people on the system, benefits of the products, and the sales process.

7. Decide sales territories.

8. Write up sales script.

9. Write up list of questions and responses that may come up during the sale.

10. Do a training session where the reps can practice.

11. Design weekly goals.

12. Do weekly meetings to review goals, and adjust sales script and sample question list.

Selling Advertisers in Your Directory

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Selling Advertisers in Your Directory

In “Marketing a Directory” we talked about the value of maintaining a strong, narrow focus when it comes to the content of your site. Often times, this becomes one of the best selling points you can provide your potential clients. A narrow focus means a narrow audience and nearly all advertisers want nothing more than to know your visitors are their target audience. The better you are able to demonstrate that, the easier selling them on sponsorships will be.

Understand your audience

At this point, you probably have an idea who the visitors to your website are, or may be. After all, you probably wouldn’t be developing a directory if you didn’t feel there would be an audience that will be engaging with your site. For example, if I’m browsing Branson.com, I’m likely either living, visiting, or planning to visit Branson,

Missouri. Many businesses or establishments in Branson recognize that your audience is composed of these types of visitors, and will likely agree that you are reaching their target audience.

There are other times, however, that advertisers want more concrete information on who is visiting your site. Google Analytics, a free service that offers detailed reporting on your web traffic, will show where your visitors are located (geographically), what kind of network they are on, how they arrive at your site, words they’re searching for when they found your site, and much more.

This is extremely powerful and concrete data from a third party that will give your advertisers confi dence that they’re reaching the right audience through your solution.

The best way to compile the most accurate data on your audience demographics is through reader/visitor surveys. There are several survey tools that can be embedded through your website, or free survey applications like surveymonkey.com. Offer free advertising, or a drawing for a free gift certificate to incentivize your visitors to complete the questionnaire.

Know your competitors

It’s safe to say that in one way or another, there is another website, or publication that has a focus and/or audience, or section of an audience that is very similar to what you have, or may develop.

Whether it’s a local paper, the New York Times or a similar niche directory, your prospective advertisers have advertised, or may be looking to advertise in another media outlet. Being able to highlight how you are different from other sites or publications will be the key to winning business.

Many businesses have limited budgets and can only afford to advertise in one or two sites or publications, so having a game plan ready when you’re going up against a competitor will be crucial.

Here are a few guidelines to follow:

Never bash a competitor

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get defensive when you know who you are going up against. If one of your prospects is talking about advertising in a competitor, ABC.com, start out with kind words by saying “It’s good that you’re doing your due diligence and seeing what publications would best serve your advertising need. I’m very familiar with ABC.com. It’s a great website/publication, I take a look at it every now and then. From what I’ve seen, here’s how were different.” Understand what they’re looking for that you might offer. “So, you said you’re thinking about ABC.com, and you mentioned you like XYZ about their site. As an advertiser, what do you wish they had that they currently do not”.

Pitch ROI (Return on Investment)

In some cases, you may go up against a print directory or publication. With the development of social and online media, savvy advertisers are utilizing outlets that can show them an affective ROI. Unless someone mentions seeing their ad in XYZ magazine or ABC Newspaper, it’s difficult for advertisers to know how affective their message was. In print publications, it’s impossible to know how many people saw your ad (in online media, these are called impressions) or furthermore, how much business you gained because of the ad you placed (ROI).

Online tracking methods like those embedded in eDirectory and Google Analytics empower you, as a publisher, to let your users know how many impressions their ad received, how many people clicked on the ad, how much traffic you pushed to their website and in some cases, how much business they gained from their sponsorship.

All of these numbers can help show your clients how affective your site is to earning more business.This is something you should continuously go back to if you are competing for business against print publications.

Pitch Niche

In “Marketing your Directory” we talked about the value of establishing a niche, targeted publication. Not only does it make developing and marketing your website much easier, but it can also make selling sponsorship opportunities (ads) much easier too. Elicit the value of something with a focus that is much more in line with that of their business, and not something broad where their message can get lost, or perhaps, put in front of the wrong audience entirely.

If you are the owner of “FindaNephralogist.com” and you are trying to sell ad space to Dr. Zimmerman, he may indicate he’s already advertising on other sites such as doctordirectory.com. It’s important to let him know that your directory attracts his target audience to an exact match; people looking for a Nephralogist in his region. On DoctorDirectory, his ad gets lost in the shuffle of someone searching for hundreds of other types of doctors.

“It’s a Numbers Game”

Perhaps the most overused cliché in the sales world, but it holds true. I’m sure you’ve heard a sales person run through a glossary of terms like “Funnels,” “Pipelines,” “Prospecting,” and “Qualifying.” Many of these terms do have a great deal of value to the revenue you bring in at the end of the day. Chances are good on your first call or email, you won’t make a sale. Perhaps in the first ten or twenty, you may not either, but in sales, the key is casting a wide net, and making your follow-ups personalized.

In the first section, we talked about the importance of knowing your audience, and that includes knowing the size of your audience. If your audience is hundreds or even thousands of potential advertisers, calling them one by one or going door to door will be very tedious, and potentially a waste of time. Here are some tips to best play the numbers game:

Cast a wide net

If you are developing a local search guide, utilize resources that your local chamber of commerce has such as a database of local businesses and their contact information. Alternatively you can buy lists of the specific market segments you are targeting and send out narrow-casted, targeted messages to dozens or hundreds of contacts at a time using e-mail marketing software like Constant Contact or iContact.

Be sure to personalize this message and reference what you know about their business, or where they’ve advertised in the past. Hand out flyers or brochures to businesses in your area, or utilize local coupon/advertising services to let people know about your website and the opportunities in conjunction with it. Remember, the more people you contact, the more sales you will make. This seems incredibly intuitive but many site owners get frustrated easily and throw in the towel early.

Personalize your follow ups

When you have something powerful like a database with e-mail addresses or slick flyers, it’s easy to try to keep casting a wide net and hope you’ll bring in enough business to keep your site sustainable, or profi table. Be very careful in the way you use mass marketing approaches, they are best used only a 4-6 times a year and are best accompanied with special promotions or offers.

Once you execute a mass marketing campaign, you’ve just set yourself up with “luke warm” leads. From this effort, you’ll likely get a few phone calls or emails back from business that are interested in your product, but for the ones who aren’t, you have a reference point to contact them over the phone

“Hi James, this is Jared, the founder of mynorthhuntingdon.com. If you recall, I sent you an e-mail last week about mynorthhuntingdon.com and how it can help promote Arca Computers & Services, did you get that by chance”

Chances are good at this point, they did receive the email and know who you are, so the sales conversations to follow become much easier, and less awkward.

In each of these calls, write down as much feedback as you can, this will help better shape your directory and its content moving forward.

“Marketing Your Directory” and “Selling Your Directory” will give you the foundation to both honing the focus of your site, as well as preparing you for right approach in selling sponsorship opportunities. Always remember, keep your ears open when you speak to visitors of your site, or advertisers. Often times they provide the best feedback to help your site mature and improve.

If you have any questions, or would like to further discuss how to improve the way you’re marketing or selling your directory, we would welcome a phone call or e-mail anytime.

SEO Toolkit for Directory Sites

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SEO Toolkit for Directory Sites

Most people understand that they want to increase their SEO and that it can be important to growing their site and business, yet few actually know the steps and tools to go about doing it. Sound familiar? If so, don’t worry. We are here to help.

Our eDirectory software platform has many tools and design features that enhance SEO and make it friendly for search engines. And although we’ve made it easy for you to climb the search ranks without lifting a finger, there is always room for improvement. To help you out we put together some tips and ideas to fill your SEO toolkit with. Let’s dig in!

1. Know Where You Stand

Your first step in improving your SEO should be to look at what your website currently looks like to search engines. There are two main ways to get a view of your site and its contents from the perspective of a search engine. The first way is to view the source code of your site in the same manner that say a Googlebot would. The second way is to crawl you site with a spider tool in the same way a search engine would crawl your site.
Here are some tools to get these two done.

• Viewing the Source Code

Now you can do this by simply choosing to “view source” to look at the HTML code from any browser but we suggest downloading a couple of plugins for the Firefox browser that will make this easier and provide much greater detail for optimizing your SEO.

Here are the plugins:

Web Developer

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/web-developer/

User Agent Switcher

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/user-agent-switcher/

After installing these plugins you will need to disable JavaScript and CSS with the Web Developer Plugin*.

*To disable JavaScript go to the “Disable” section on the Web Developer toolbar that was just added to the browser and click on the “Disable JavaScript” and “Disable All JavaScript” options. This will allow Google to crawl the menus, links and drop down for you site.

*To disable the CSS you will need to go to the “CSS” tab on the Web Developer Toolbar and click on the “Disable Styles” and “Disable All Styles” options. This will make sure that nothing obscures the order of your content.

After configuring these settings go ahead and pull up your website and take a look around. This is how Googlebot views your site, very different isn’t it?

Take note of your site’s contents and look to see if your menu items and links are there, if they are in plain text (as opposed to showing up as images which provides no anchor text for the Googlebot), if they are all clickable, and if there is any hidden text that you were previously unable to see.

This view will give you a better understanding of where your keywords are on your site and which information is showing up at the top of your pages. Remember, your most important links and content should be at the top of the HTML.

Listings are the fuel behind driving your directory into getting indexed and ranked. You should heavily, but honestly populate your directory, even before a set ‘launch’ date so you can gain traction on search engines.

Because each page has its’ own mini ‘website’ with a unique, SEO-optimized URL, it’s important to have listings in your directory, so these URLs can be crawled and indexed by Google. It’s important to populate your directory with as many relevant listings as possible, so as to gain better search traffic through long tail search terms.

• Crawl Your Site with a Web Spider

Now you’re ready to gain some insight by crawling your site with a web spider. The top spider tool is called Screaming Frog SEO Spider (found here: http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/), and it’s free for you to crawl up to 500 pages at a time on your own. There are also other free SEO Spiders out there that will work just
as well.

Go ahead and crawl your site after you have installed a spider tool and make sure to save your results so you won’t have to re-run it every time. Now start looking through your results and take note of your page levels to make sure there aren’t any pages buried too deep within your site (note: anything at 4 levels or higher is considered too deep and won’t be found very easier). Take note of these pages and work on adding more back links to them throughout your site to increase their page levels and make them more easily accessible (for the Googlebot AND your visitors).

This crawl should also help you identify any long page titles and descriptions you may on your site. Title tags and meta descriptions have recommended lengths (70 characters or less for titles and 156 or less for descriptions) so make sure you find any that are too long and work to shorten them as soon as you can.

You will also be able to check for any crawling errors such as broken links and have the opportunity to fix or remove them from your site.

2. Finding the Right Keywords

Having topically relevant keywords and phrases throughout your site is very important to your site’s SEO. Yes, I said keywords AND phrases. A common mistake people make is focusing too much on individual keywords.

Most of these will be far too limiting and competitive to gain much ground in the search ranks. Instead, it’s much smarter and efficient to focus on a common idea or subject matter and find phrases and long tail keywords that fit into that set.

• Long-Tail: Get Specific

Instead of trying to outbid and outrank the most competitive keywords you need to shift your focus to a wide variety of 10’s to 100’s of keywords and phrases that are less broad and more specific. An example of this would be to stay away from a keyword like clothing” and instead trying ones like “men’s fitted black dress pants”.

• Keyword Tools

There are some great keyword tools online to help with this process as well. Wordpot (www.wordpot.com) and Übersuggest (http://ubersuggest.org/) are two of the top free keyword tools and make it very easy to run a simple query and export a full list of suggested keywords based on real Google searches.

Now pair this with Google Adwords Keyword Planner (https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/?zd=1) and you can start to develop a list of specific and optimized keywords that fit your needs.

3. Quality Content

To improve the rankings and popularity of your site it all starts with having quality content. Search engines are becoming more and more adept everyday at analyzing the relevance of text on a webpage and it is increasingly important to stay on topic and provide something of value to your readers. The difference that separates quality content is that it creates value for your visitors.

The best way to accomplish this is to establish thought leadership in your niche and actively participate in the blogs, forums, and other social communities that are specific to your industry or segment. Your goal will be to provide a utility, emotional response or clear point of view that your visitors will find value in.

• Your Titles Are Important

Having a good title for your content is just as important as the quality of content that follows it. Titles are the gateways that bring people in to the content you’ve worked so hard on. This means you should be working just as hard on making sure your title is appealing and attention grabbing, it needs to provoke curiosity, excitement or emotion from your readers in order to bring them in.

• Long-Tail, It’s Not Just for Keywords

Similar to keywords the long-tail concept can be very important for you content. The more specific and in-depth you make the information you provide the more unique and valuable it becomes.

• How Google Evaluates Quality

One of the best tools you can use to see what counts as high quality to Google is to see what a set of questions they published themselves about the topic. You can see the questions here: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

Some of these questions include:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic or factual errors?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

These are just a few of the things to remember when creating your content but it provides a good peak into Google‘s mindset when it comes to determining quality.

4. Building Quality Links

Quality wins out over quantity when it comes to successful backlink building for SEO. In the old days, you could build a thousand random links back to your website and see it shoot up to the top of the search ranks, but that is no longer the case. Today having fewer and higher quality links has been determined as the better practice for achieving SEO results.

• Link Building Tools

So how do you get quality backlinks to your site? Well, there are several different ways to go about it. Here are a few examples:

• Create a blog – this will give you an easy way to create content on a consistent basis that not only builds links internally (by linking out form your posts), but also gives you the ability to naturally attract links to your content.

• Create an RSS feed – once you have one burn it at Feedburner.com so you can get statitics on your subscribers. For link building, there are sites out there that will scrape your content (stealing it without permission). When they do, make sure you get a link back by 1) including links to other pages on your site in your posts and 2) installing the RSS footer plugin for WordPress (adds a link to your blog after every post. Find the RSS footer plugin here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/rss-footer/

• Interlinking – Internal links are huge for link building because you can use the pages and posts you already have on your website. Go through all of your content that’s been previously published, and if you’ve got more detailed content written on subjects that you briefly go over in your posts, then link in that context where it makes sense. For future/new content, as you’re writing it, try and steer your way into certain topics that you’ve already written on so you can link to it & so it makes sense from a user’s perspective.

Some additional examples are to guest blog/post to other popular sites that are in your relevant field, submit your site to other directories or listings online (sites like www.ezinearticles.com and www.squidoo.com) press release submissions (www.PRNewsWire.com), creating infographics to be shared online (www.coolinfographics.com), posting content and links to social media, offering free giveaways and much more. The gist of all of these is to get your links out in the open and in ways that they can catch fire and grow through exposure and sharing around the web.

5. Search and Social

Speaking of catching fire on the web, lets talk about social media. In today’s SEO landscape, search and social go hand in hand. Social identifiers such as Facebook likes and Twitter shares carry heavy influence on search rankings and can bring dramatic increases in a short period of time. Because of this, search results are becoming more personalized to each individual.

That is why it is important to keep social media in mind with any SEO efforts. Make sure to post and provide updates via your social media outlets when providing new content or making any new changes to your website.

It is also a good idea to post and comment on industry/niche specific trends and topics along with sharing links to other popular sites to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

• Underrated Social Media Tools

Everyone knows about using facebook and Twitter, but there are some popular yet under utilized social media channels that I’m sure you are already familiar with.

  • LinkedIn – a LinkedIn profile, company page or group will land you on the first or second page of Google results pretty much automatically. It also positions you as a thought leader, and reposting your blog posts to your LinkedIn interest group can bring in a lot of quality click traffic.
  • Pinterest – Pinterest is a catalyst for ecommerce in the social media landscape. Users find products and services and “pin” them, and that visual content pulls much quicker conversions.
  • Google+ – With hangouts, local optimization and online communities, Google+ is poised to be a big player in the future of SEO.

6. The Importance of Schema

Schema guidelines are used to help search engines understand structured data that is on the web. Google, Yahoo and Bing have all worked together to develop Schema.org and make it easier to read a site’s data and index accordingly. That is why it is so important to follow the guidelines of Schema.org in your site’s coding and make sure everything is in a language that the search engines understand.

Having this structured form of data helps the search engines to quickly and easily understand the contents of pages whether it be articles, events or addresses. Check out the Schema.org website for tips and additional information.

7. Keeping it All in Perspective

Although important, it’s wise to keep in mind that SEO is not the only way to grow your business or increase your online traffic. Getting too caught up on improving SEO can be a painstaking process and take up a lot of your valuable time before seeing results. It’s important to remember to promote your business both online and offline and that implementing a well-rounded marketing plan that doesn’t focus too much on any one area will provide the most benefits in the long run.

8. How Can eDirectory Help My SEO?

We know how important SEO is for any business or directory website. That is why our latest version of eDirectory software has so many SEO friendly features and tools to give our customers an edge online.

• eDirectory SEO Tools

Many of these features are built right into the software and don’t require any action from you to enhance the SEO. For starters, eDirectory automatically produces SEO-friendly URL’s for all of your site’s pages. Plus, our software is developed with a responsive
design. With the greatest SEO gatekeeper of them all, Google, highly favoring this
mobile-optimized method of site design you can see how it can be a big advantage on the search results battlefield. Google not only recommends responsive design, but also prefers sites that have it when presenting search results (SEO gold!).

And what about Schema? Our eDirectory software has this highly SEO friendly structure already built into the platform. Every site we power implements structured data markups, which allow Google and other search engines to display ratings, price ranges or dates for listings or events which means higher results for you.

Every eDirectory site will also have an SEO Center in the Site Manager view that is accessible for any administrators. The SEO Center helps you edit and manage your search engine verification (meta tags), sitemap information, as well as content and page optimization.

Have any questions about eDirectory and how it can improve your directory site?
Call or email us!