Building A Directory Site: Three Platforms I Recommend

There are a number of ways you can add features to a site that allow you to add more content, revenue, and most-importantly, create a resource that is more valuable to visitors. I built my first directory about two years ago and ever since then have been very impressed with the value these provide and the flexibility they offer.

When I built my first directory I only knew of one way to do it, a PHP solution called PHPMyDirectory. I still definitely recommend PHPMyDirectory but recently have found another solution that seems pretty slick and know of a third that is coming-out soon that I am really excited about!

This is only the first in a series of posts I’ll be doing about building a directory so don’t expect to learn it all right here. What I want to cover in this post is the different platforms you can choose from. Of course there are more than three however these are my top picks and what I think represent some of he easiest directory platforms to get started with.


It’s important to remember that putting a directory on your site does not mean you suddenly have a directory business. You have to build-out the business, make assumptions, test them, and most importantly reach-out to businesses in your niche and make connections. If you’re afraid to pick-up the phone or send an email don’t expect your directory to be an overnight success. Below are the three platforms I recommend with a few details that will hopefully steer you towards the right solution for you:

  1. PHPMyDirectory – this is probably the most feature-rich, customizable, and robust directory platform out there. They have everything you could ever want and for those features you think they don’t have, there’s usually an add-on available. It’s easy to setup different pricing models, payment gateways, etc. You can also quickly email everyone in your directory and assign unique login/password information so businesses in your directory can update their listings themselves. It does take some technical prowess to get this running but once operational it really is the most complete solution out there.
  2. WooThemes Listings Theme – WooThemes has been one of my favorite WordPress Theme developers of all time. The listings theme is a great way to turn any WordPress site into a sophisticated directory with awesome Google Maps integration. I find that the Listings Theme looks much nicer than PHPMyDirectory however it does lack some of the power user features which you may or may not need. If you’re a member of the theme club this is included in your subscription as well which is pretty nice!
  3. Vantage by AppThemes – AppThemes designs some of the most powerful themes out there since they really are online apps. Vantage is a new theme that hasn’t been released yet but looks like it will be the slickest directory solution for WordPress I’ve seen yet. You can sign-up to be notified when it is released, I can’t wait and will definitely be using it once it comes out.
Feel free to share some of your favorite directory platforms in the comment section below. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing how to setup a directory using PHPMyDirectory and Listings and then delving-into developing the business model behind a directory. Stay-tuned, as usual much more to come!

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • RH August 4, 2011, 4:37 pm

    Morgan any thoughts on Directory Press, I need to get on two sites that I want to build directories for. Maybe should wait for Vantage if its a better theme.

  • Mauro August 4, 2011, 7:40 pm

    Today i launched my recentely revamped directory:

    I’m using Joomla with a paid component called JReviews, which i recommend.
    Take a look on my directory a let me know ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Poor uncle August 4, 2011, 8:21 pm

    I use directory press for my airport directories. It I’d not flexible. I guess most out of the box solutions are like that. I would go with something else if I have a choice.

  • Poor uncle August 4, 2011, 9:12 pm

    Response time really slow. Maybe I am on my iPhone. oh well good luck.

  • Scott August 4, 2011, 9:17 pm

    I’m sure PHPMyDirectory has a great code base and admin interface. I just can’t get past how ugly the sites are. I looked at 10 pages of their customer sites and found only 1 that was even passable – – but that’s just my opinion. I’m guessing that means it’s pretty tough to make major changes to the layout.

    I really like WooThemes working with their Listings theme feels like putting square pegs into round holes.

  • Mauro August 5, 2011, 3:07 am

    @Poor uncle

    Thanks for letting me know ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Doc August 5, 2011, 7:53 am

    PHP My Directory: terrible wording for things it does in the backend, does not use the correct terminology for people just starting with it. It is however the most cost effective. If you like cool looking but pricey directory, they combine all the components you need in one instead of adding them after the fact.

  • Charlie August 5, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I think a better content management platform for a deep developed domain would be Joomla. I like directory press for something “fast and dirty”. keep in mind Joomla is different than wordpress but immerse yourself for a day and I guarantee you will be surprised at how efficient it is, how well you will adapt to Joomla’s functionality, and how much more professional in appearance your directory will appear.
    not everyone will agree with me, but I thought I would throw it out there..
    Here is a link to what you may be looking for.

  • Kevin Kim September 15, 2011, 4:53 am

    I go for Vintage that it’s built with Wordpress platform.

  • Jose Alberto Apezteguia December 2, 2011, 3:31 pm

    hi im from Mexico and iยดm using phpmydirectory for my websites. I recommend a lot this script it help me to rank better my sites on Google..

  • John Neetz December 8, 2011, 2:04 pm

    I own close to 30 PhpMyDirectory licenses and find it to be a great script for directories. It does take a little getting used to, but with some basic php knowledge you an have the script do just about anything. The user support forums are a fantastic information portal. Many people think that these directories are like toasters and you plug them in and then they work. They key is that you are going to get out of it what you put into it. There is some small setup work you need to do, and there are also some template developers that offer some really nice templates (the default template is kind of ugly).

    But the most important thing is that I have made many times my initial investment.

    • Morgan December 8, 2011, 2:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing @John and all very good points! Could you recommend a few theme companies you recommend?

  • Mark Murphy March 16, 2014, 3:57 am


    I also use phpMyDirectory and currently running one site that has earned me at least 200x my initial investment already. Have just purchased another two licences for new projects I am working on.

    Have developed my own template and agree with John, that the template included in the script is a poor but you can do just about anything you want with some html, php and css know-how – or ask someone in the forums that does know how to, to help you.

    There are some excellent template developers for phpMyDirectory if you really want to get up and running as quickly as possible.

    Some of the site examples look poor as people with very little coding/design experience launch sites without spending that little extra to get a better looking site.

    A new version of phpMyDirectory is in BETA testing right now and looks really impressive with a new basic template using Bootstrap.

    Have also tried many other directory scripts but for customisation and expert help from the script writers and forum members, I’d always back phpMyDirectory (and I’m not being biased here either, that is my honest opinion).

    Printing Focus.

    • Morgan March 16, 2014, 10:05 am

      Thanks for sharing @Mark – great feedback and thanks for sharing! Could you share what you used to get your directory off the ground? I know a lot of people have trouble getting their first 5,000 – 10,000 visitors.

  • John Neetz March 16, 2014, 11:53 am

    Hello Morgan – I totally forgot that this blog existed until I got an email that Mark responded. Just an update, I am now up to 62 phpMyDirectory licenses with wedding sites, bar mitzvah sites, sweet 16 sites, quinceanera sites, and same sex wedding site throughout the United States. I still say PMD is by far the best directory script on the market. I also own a copy of WP version DirectoryPress (that I bought for kicks and giggles) and there is no comparison. Especially when it comes to features.

    In the PMD user forums there is a list of template developers for great looking templates. I use these developers myself for my sites as I am not a “pretty” person. Some of those developers include Presskey Web Templates,,, and Ricky’s web templates.

    I don’t want to spam up your blog, but here are a few of the directories that I run and the various templates that I use:

    Getting a directory off the ground can be a daunting task. My suggestion is that you keep your directory niche and regional. Otherwise you are going to spend a ton on money advertising. When people start building global or national directories, you are competing with some big boys out there for search engine placement.

    Some other suggestions:
    Don’t build a directory to think you are going to get rich overnight.
    Build a directory because it is your passion and you love what you do.
    Build the directory to your visitors, not your paying advertisers.
    Make your directory a great source of information for visitors.
    Get heavily involved with Social Media by promoting your site to VISITORS, not to potential paid advertisers for your site.

    Building a directory is hard work and a lot of networking but is very rewarding if you take the time and energy to care about what you are doing.

    I hope this information helps.

    • Morgan March 17, 2014, 11:02 am

      @john – This is great info, do you mind if I publish this directly on my blog as a post? Happy to give a link to your site as well, I think this is something that many of my readers would enjoy!

    • Kelly December 14, 2016, 11:12 am

      Thanks for the info, how much of your own coding did you have to do?


  • Mark Murphy March 16, 2014, 1:08 pm

    Hi Morgan,

    I am no marketing expert but your question: ‘Could you share what you used to get your directory off the ground?’, is a hot topic on the phpMyDirectory forums.

    I’d say the most important thing is to have a niche, don’t expect to start a copycat directory like Yell (for example) that can afford the huge databases, servers and other massive running costs associated with these well established sites.

    Finding something that you have a passion about. Something unique to you but big enough to generate a revenue.

    Whatever script a person chooses and in whichever niche market, it is going to be hard. You have to be dedicated and put in the effort otherwise you will fail.

    The ones that get up one morning and think – ‘I know, I’ll buy some money making script today and upload a cheap database and watch the money come in’, won’t make it!

    The people that say- ‘I have thought long and hard about this, It will take a lot of my time but I’m passionate about it and want to give it my best shot’, have a far better chance.

    Running an online directory is a serious business and needs to be treated as such.


  • Mark Murphy March 17, 2014, 11:25 am

    Yes, John is the master at running directory sites.

    The licence fee alone is worth the access to the phpMyDirectory forums simply to read John’s marketing tips and advice!

    I know that John has created his own plugin system to quicken the process of creating new sites, so whilst having so many websites, he’s not neglecting any.

    I’d like to share the link to my site also, if that’s ok Morgan?

    In the process of setting up several new sections on the site, including;

    Jobs Board
    Printing Quotes Section
    Articles related to the Printing Industry

    Thanks again,

  • John Neetz March 17, 2014, 2:55 pm

    Feel free to post it. Although it is probably an abbreviated version of one of my PMD support forum rants (as Mark can attest to). I do not consider myself a master by far in running a directory script (as Mark suggests), but I do LOVE what I do. I could probably write more on what NOT to do than what I could on what to do. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • KMertigo September 5, 2014, 11:52 am

    PHPMyDirectory is very worthy CMS for directories – I know it because I’ve been using it for many years. Now there are lots of proffesional wordpress theme for directories. I use one of such – it’s much better than using some soft/CMS. – here I took the theme for my directory.


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