Why Most Domainers Won’t Make a Dime with Directory Sites


Directory sites can be huge money-makers, those who do it right can generate tens of thousands of dollars a month. The problem is that while businesspeople understand the directory model, Domainers often don’t get it. Now since I personally know a handful of people making a small fortune with directories I think it’s important for Domainers to understand how they do it.

The problem comes down to a general line of thinking – if I build a website it will do all the work for me, just like parking. Sorry guys (and gals) today is the day that way of thinking dies…and if it’s just dying today then you’re a bit late to the party. However in reality the party hasn’t even started yet so you really aren’t that late.

Let me state this one more time in a little different way – a good business needs a website, but the website does not create the business. As you know I’m an analogy nut so here’s my analogy for this one. Building a website on a good domain name is a bit like building a physical storefront. To open for business you can’t just open the door, you need to have a business model. The problem Domainers are having now is that they are confusing a website with a business rather than seeing it as the front-end of their business.

So now let’s get to the topic of the post – why most Domainers aren’t making a dime with directory sites. Domainers expect that making money with a directory website just means building a directory website. The problem with that model is:

  • How do you get people to sign-up for your directory?
  • How do you get people to pay for listings?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “well I put up the directory, why aren’t people signing-up?” The answer is that nobody will sign-up unless you have a nice stream of traffic or a way to reach-out to people and let them know your directory exists. Even local plumbers and painters advertise their business to get clients, and as a business owner you’ll have to do the same. Initially unless you have a very high-level of traffic you’ll have to start-off by letting people list for free and then add in paid listings once you have the traffic to justify it.

If your directory site only gets 1,000 visitors/month people usually won’t pay anything to be listed in it, and if you can get people to pay it’s going to be under $50/month. If you want to charge more you’ll have to either focus on SEO and grow organically (slow process) or use Google Adwords and pay for your traffic (much quicker).  The fact of the matter is that people want to join your directory if it means more business for them. If you have a few hundred visitors each month do you really think you’ll send a meaningful number of clients to the people in your directory?

Ranking well in competitive niches like Insurance and Law is a lot of SEO work – in many cases you’ll be competing with people spending a fortune on SEO and 50K or more every month on Google Adwords – but hey, they’re running a business! If you want to compete with them you’ll have to run a business too. Now I’m not saying you have to spend a fortune marketing your business – it really depends on your niche. Every niche has different competitors and a different barrier to entry.

Now let’s get to the root of the problem. The reason most Domainers won’t make a dime with directory sites is because they think that making money with a directory site means just building a website. This is a problem! Building the website is only the beginning, putting-together a model to populate the directory, advertise it, up-sell, etc. is what it takes to run a profitable directory business. If you’re looking for a model where you sit back and the business builds itself a Directory is not the way to go. If you have a vision to create a real business on your domain you should have a basic business model, a starting budget, and a set of goals.

So take a look at that directory site you had built for $500 or $1,000 and then ask yourself, “what am I doing to run this business?” If the answer is, “nothing” then you know your problem. A directory business won’t run itself, it needs you to get it started and most importantly it needs traffic to entice people to pay for a listing. If you’re one of those lucky Domainers already getting 10,000+ unique visitors coming to their domain each month you already have the traffic…but too many Domainers are building a directory and expecting the traffic and revenue to just magically appear…and if that’s the situation you’re in it’s time to stop selling yourself and lie and start running a business.

{ 158 comments… add one }

  • Elliot February 18, 2011, 11:21 am

    Agree with you 100%. There’s lots of work to be done once your directory is built. It is actual work, but I prefer doing this work for myself than having a corporate job and doing it for someone else 🙂

  • Morgan February 18, 2011, 11:26 am

    Right on @Elliot! You’re one of the people I really look up to when it comes to doing this right. It’s always refreshing to read your blog and see you talking about your domains as actual businesses. Keep doing what you’re doing!!

  • TeenDomainer February 18, 2011, 11:32 am

    The two masters talking to each other. I just set up my first directory a few weeks ago and have not started promoting it yet because I am still working on the seo and content but I have already had a few people sign up which made me feel great. I really like the directory site model and plan on building more soon.

    Thanks for all of the great advice your helping me out build my site.

  • TeenDomainer February 18, 2011, 11:35 am

    Morgan I see you are using phpmydirectory how easy was it to integrate with wordpress?

  • Morgan February 18, 2011, 11:37 am

    Thanks for the positive feedback @TeenDomainer

    With regards to Wordpress I’ve never used PHPMyDirectory with Wordpress so I couldn’t tell you! Kayaking.org is the first site I’ve used this on and like most of my sites it’s all coded by hand.

    It was very easy to get PHPMyDirectory setup, but configuring and customizing it took a bit – but that’s the fun stuff!

  • Louise February 18, 2011, 11:56 am

    Nice article – keep up the good work! – L 🙂

  • Leonard Britt February 18, 2011, 1:33 pm

    My local geo site is not a directory site per se but I do hope to sell directory listings to local businesses. But it has been a year since I launched the site and only now have I started to reach out to local businesses (over 300 though more via email with visits to several local shopping centers). Even then I believe I’m a little early as the traffic probably isn’t where it needs to be. More importantly I still don’t rank on page one of Google or Yahoo for the primary keywords which would be a selling point and would generate significant traffic as well. Well, I am up to mid-page two on Google but still have to keep working…

  • RH February 18, 2011, 1:37 pm

    Good article, and I agree and that’s why I have not launched the one directory name I have. Its a business and you have to take the time to build it. Now the name just got an offer but I think the name can be a business making much more than the offering price for the domain. The name is Tshirtdirectory.com. Keep writing on directory sites Morgan.

  • Scott Bender February 18, 2011, 1:46 pm


    Even though you have not heard from me the past six or eight weeks, i’ve been busy watching all of your good work, blogs and emails.

    I’m in development right now of two directory sites. One should launch in early March and the other in mid to late April.

    They are both focused on the Orlando / Central Florida area.

    But you are so right about building the directory as a business. For one of my directories, I’ve been able to sell ten clients on it with an exclusive in a zip code with a total of about 50 listings paying me $100 – $125 per month with a three month minimum to lock in their zip code.

    Initially, I will be driving traffic through PPC while building the SEO and other traditional marketing as I build the brand.

    Down the road as the organic / natural SEO takes over, I will be able to reduce the PPC and take those dollars and put them into radio, television and billboard in the “local market” and continue building the brand.

    Since this directory only requires about 40 – 50 listings and banner / text link advertising, I am able to simultaneously work on the other site as well.

    Thanks for all you offer and provide to the domainer community.

    Best always,


    • Michelle Wiboltt July 5, 2017, 10:08 pm

      Here’s what I have come up with and yes, it takes an awful lot of work:)

  • Mars Davis February 18, 2011, 4:05 pm

    Morgan, thanks for the great post! I’ll be looking forward to investigating directory sites in the near future. Cheers!

  • Nelson February 18, 2011, 4:12 pm


    Your article offers great tips to build a directory, but if you really want to build a directory the right way it is a very good idea to be a member of directory forums.

    You will do better if you choose the best directory script there is and get the unbranded version which is less than $85. Just look what script the best directory owners are using and you will know which one I’m talking about.

    Using search engine friendly urls help a lot and categories must be kept to a minimum until you have enough unique content to create another category.

    I am a directory owner and have a lot of experience with directories so I know a few tricks not known to many domainers. In my case I choose to develop directories without spending a cent except for domain renewals and few other things with a combine total of less than $100. Then I spend a certain percentage of the profit but Never Spend More Money than what it makes. The directory must pay for itself Period.

  • Allen February 18, 2011, 5:35 pm


    You said that you pay someone to populate your directory, what type of company populates directories? I have a directory and need to use this type of service.

  • mike February 19, 2011, 3:26 am

    used to be good owning niche directories etc but they are obsolete now. google mostly pushes it’s own directory fields in front of hard earned generic results. google can do this because of their monopolistic size, offering free site with maps positioned before generic results.

  • Rob Sequin February 19, 2011, 5:24 am

    Great article.

    My work used to be managing my domain portfolio and optimizing for parking, adding content etc.

    Well, now that is not work, that is maintenance. You have to work running your business on your website. That means adding original content, selling a product or service etc.

  • BFitz February 19, 2011, 5:27 am

    Does anyone have any experience with edirectory? I want to overhaul my restaurant directory sites.

  • Jon February 19, 2011, 10:30 am

    Just the info I was looking for. Will be building a directory within a few weeks, so this article is definitely helpful.

  • David Azevedo February 19, 2011, 11:33 am

    Thanks i´m making a couple of directories and i was not paying much attention to developing links myself.

    I will keep that in mind “20 hours a week”

  • Tim February 19, 2011, 2:54 pm

    What’s the best software to power a website directory? There doesn’t seem to be any good Wordpress plugins for it.

  • Sunny Gandem February 19, 2011, 5:43 pm


    Excellent article on directory sites explaining how this model is different from others and the right approach in developing these type of sites. I fully agree with you that initially you should let “people list for free and then add in paid listings once you have the traffic to justify it”, following this path will slowly but steadily build the business.

  • Clay Burt February 19, 2011, 9:43 pm

    I haven’t tried any directories yet, but I am CLOSELY following your kayaking site as I have a domain I want to develop in a very similar manner…
    Peloton.org – for the cycling community. I don’t cycle much, but I have lots of friends with 10k plus bikes – has to be a good market I think. Anyway, I look forward to seeing what you do next 🙂

  • Clay Burt February 19, 2011, 9:48 pm

    Forgot to ask previously… Mind passing along the advice you mentioned or are the people working with/for you?

    “I am taking advice from directory professionals who are teaching me how to build this the right way, rather than the quickest”

  • Sri February 20, 2011, 5:20 am


    If you are looking for a directory and WordPress combo, try Directory Press theme. Check the site linked to my name here. I am setting up a directory of Udupi Hotels. People, especially Indians around the world, search for hotels serving Udupi cuisine.

    Check the mapping feature as well as the address locator. This theme costs about $55 (after discount) and can be used on any number of personal domains. I have a banner on my site that will take you to the theme’s site and you can use code SAVE30 if you buy the theme/script.

  • Sri February 20, 2011, 9:22 am

    @Nelson is hinting at PHPLD I think. The paid version has a great utility that searches and lists website URLs for the given keyword. Then you can choose the ones to be populated. PHPLD’s support is also great.

  • BFitz February 20, 2011, 9:27 am

    I am about to test the SuperPages.com affiliate to populate my generic directory page which I put up as a content fill. Premium profiles are sold on all other pages. I get about 15,000 uniques a month and 30% click on the directory page. Hopefully, SuperPages will allow that to a monetized action while still allowing premium profiles to be sold every where else. A cheap directory listing for most industries can be bought at MakeContent.com for $50 (no affiliation to SuperPages or MakeContent)

  • Allen February 20, 2011, 9:31 am


    What restaurant directory do you have? send me an email at Blkrockholdings@aol.com


  • Phil February 20, 2011, 3:30 pm


    It is nice to see you talk about the business end of building directories! Even with a 17percent year over year decline in print revenue the yellow pages still reported over a billion dollars in revenue Q4 for the print side… That is a large market that is shifting quickly and the best contented online directories will win!

    We just launched WeHaveNewCars.com and started selling with a three tier approach.. We have a regional sales team presenting at the dealership level in person like a yellow page ad rep would..We have a National accounts manger working with the large auto groups and finally a sales room making calls to the smaller less populated area dealerships.

    We are buying targeted traffic as well as buying traditional media to build our brand , we also have been buying keyword domains like NewCarDealerships.com and NewCardealers.org We have been very blessed in that our directory has been very well received by the new cars dealers.

    Great topic! Have a great day!

  • John Marks February 22, 2011, 10:29 am

    This is the reason the best, the fastest way and the cheapest way is to build directories using .tel domains.
    When I go to any directory all I want to find is contact information for the businesses I am interested in (telephone number, address, link to the company website). I don’t need to read a history of shoe manufacturing or shoe designing in Spain if I want to find a shoe manufacturer in Spain.
    Take a look as an example at http://www.granvillestreet.tel
    This is most up to date information about businesses located on the main business
    street in Vancouver, Canada. I compared it with Yellow Pages listings and this site has better and more up to date information than the big boys

  • Sri February 22, 2011, 11:02 am

    @John Marks

    That’s a great and ingenious example. Thanks for pointing it. Great idea to build out niche, mobile phone friendly directories.

  • Allen February 22, 2011, 12:04 pm

    I wouldn’t buy a .tel if my life depended on it. That extension sucks!

  • John Marks February 22, 2011, 8:38 pm

    I would and I am starting to buy and will be soon developing them.
    It’s so easy anybody can do it. Unlike any other extension you can change the information, update it or add anything to it in minutes and the most beautiful part of it it cost only about $10 TOTAL.
    The article also mention that with small number of visitors to your regular website you can only ask about $50 a month for listing.
    Well with .tel directory you can have 3000 listings so $50 a month would bring you $ 1 800 000 a year.
    Try to do it with .com or any other extension without spending a lot of money for buying the right domain, developing it, paying for hosting and positioning.
    I think I’ll take .tel anytime and Allen when I first looked at .tel my reaction was similar to yours but more I looked at it more I realise what a brilliant idea it is.
    Someday you will come to the same conclusion but you will have to spend a nice change of money to buy the right domains from someone who registered it a while ago.

  • Stephen Douglas March 12, 2011, 4:56 am

    Hi Morgan,
    Do you have any examples of directories you have built on your business model that we can look at? I know it’s hard to present successful sites using your own original idea and features, but you brought it up, so a lot of us building out directories would like to see examples of your work so we can determine if it follows what we’re trying to achieve.

    Nice and timely article!

  • John Marks March 12, 2011, 9:49 am

    I wonder how much you had to spend to create your WeHaveNewCars.com
    and many people you will have to employ and pay them to maintain your site.
    Take a look at another site owned by the same person who own granvillestreet.tel
    It is http://www.carseller.tel
    It is his new idea and not populated yet but I met this guy and he has a big plans for his .tel domains.
    He can upload car picture (soon it will be 4 pictures) and update the information
    on this site in 2-3 minutes. You have no chance to compete with site like this

  • Phil March 12, 2011, 10:03 am

    The site http://www.WeHaveNewCars.com has been in development for about a year and we spent a lot of time and resources to insure we delivered a quality product. We have a team of about 20 working on this project from seo to sales.. and accounting.

  • John Marks March 13, 2011, 6:10 pm

    This is why I am getting hotter every minute about .tel domains.
    The guy who has http://www.carseller.tel spend $10 to buy the domain and it took him
    about a week to make the webpage and he told me it took so long because he changed his idea several times until he was happy with his creation.
    Your website is very nice but you spent on it thousands of $ and almost a year.
    Looking at both sites I ask myself a question, what do I need to build a car selling website ?
    I need at least one picture of a car, brief description and contact information so
    I can contact the seller in case I want to negotiate the price and carseller.tel can provide all these information for me.
    To buy a car I don’t need to read about history of car manufacturing in Detroit or how to maintain the tires so I get a better milage.
    This is the reason .tel is so handy, simple and inexpensive
    It is limited in many ways but they add new features to it and for creating all kinds of directories you can not beat it

  • Jeremiah August 25, 2012, 11:08 pm

    Thank you for the well written article. I have been building and managing websites for years now, but I’m just starting my first directory project. I fully plan to put in the required work to build and sell listings, and I’m glad I came across this article confirming that actively working on my directory is not time wasted. Thanks again.

  • Jeremiah August 25, 2012, 11:09 pm

    Thank you for the well written article. I have been building and managing websites for years now, but I’m just starting my first directory project. I fully plan to put in the required work to build and sell listings, and I’m glad I came across this article confirming that actively working on my directory is not time wasted. Thanks again.

  • Francene September 27, 2012, 3:06 pm

    The directory business is tough and takes alot of work. Hopefuuly it pays off for me with my London business directory http://www.lookal.co.uk

  • Michael October 14, 2013, 7:59 am

    I was thinking for a while to start a “Directory Business” and your info its really good for a starter like me.

    Thank you

  • Steve November 26, 2013, 10:01 am

    Hi Morgan, another great article. I agree with the sentiment that you and others voiced, building a website is easy – creating a business is whats hard. In particular, Mike’s comment about Google’s results placement is spot on. It makes sites based on everyday categories less appealing because you just can’t compete with their enhanced search/mapping functionality.

    Also, I see that your kayaking.org site is not live any more – could you share what happened/your decision? Thanks Steve

    • Morgan November 26, 2013, 11:02 pm

      Thanks @Steve – glad to hear you enjoyed it! Kayaking.org was a fun side-project and also a great lesson. To do anything right, especially something with massive potential you have to put your full-time focus on it.

      Last year I quit my job and now have my full time focus on Fashion Metric. We have built a great team and even with four of us there aren’t enough hours in the day. The lesson here is that trying to build a company on nights and weekends won’t work, you have to really go all in or not at all. I had a dev team and some good writers for Kayaking.org but to do it right you’d really need meaningful funding and a team with a clear CEO that’s working around the clock to really make it the brand that it should be.

      I hope that whoever buys Kayaking.org from me can put the time in that it takes to really build a great business on the site. For me I’m loving having one focus rather than trying to split my time in 10,000 different directions.

  • Khalid December 24, 2013, 7:00 am

    business directories is a very good idea, however one shouldn’t start with very big one, a nice directory is fine.
    what about the script to run it?

  • sarah July 22, 2014, 9:41 pm

    In my experience if you build a directory on a basic script and submit it to directorycrit.com it will automatically get 20,000 visitors a month. I’ve owned DirectoryFire since 2006.

  • George Fuller January 19, 2015, 2:08 pm

    Anyone willing to share an example business model as Stephen Douglas mentioned?

  • Holly ManieOskoii January 28, 2015, 5:20 pm

    I am a business planning student and I was wondering if someone would let me interview them about how you set up a budget for your directory and how you make financial projections. My site will take a percentage based service fee for each booking. Since I am not setting my prices based off of COGS ( cost of goods sold), I am having a harder time making accurate projections.
    Any help would be appreciated!!

  • Arie March 6, 2015, 9:59 pm

    Speaking of Tel domains I just made the follow ing directory

    Gonna see how much traffic it gets before possibly selling advertising space.

    • Morgan March 8, 2015, 8:31 am

      Very interesting @Arie – what are you going to get traffic to the site?

  • Steve July 12, 2015, 1:51 am

    I am new to online directories. Does anyone know anything about the guys who founded & run Brilliant Directories. They seem really legit, but as usual, you really need to know what you’re doing when devising the marketing.
    It seems to me that the best approach is to establish a totally free directory, so as to attract plenty of members & visitors alike, and then maybe introduce special paid features and services as optional, in addition to selling ad space. Of course, the paid ad space wouldn’t make any sense to potential advertisers, unless they first saw that the site was well populated with members & visitors.
    Any advise for a newbie?

  • Sam Dhillon July 18, 2015, 1:28 am

    Hi, if anybody is interested in looking at a sample directory then you can check out our website below to get an idea on what it looks like. Thanks!

    Website: rapid-pages.com

  • Dave September 15, 2015, 8:45 pm

    Wow, I’m kinda late here I guess but I have a question. What are the legalities to making a directory and including businesses in your directory? I mean, say you’re not asking for businesses to pay to join, or even join for free.. what if you build a directory and just include all relevant businesses in it? What’s wrong with that? Anyone?

  • Joseph Greene September 30, 2015, 7:40 pm

    A lot of really great points here. But I think the if I build it they will come mentality is more pervasive than just directory sites. I have clients all the time who think having a website built is the be all end all of internet success. It’s my job to inform them so we don’t have crushed plans and dreams that end up being bad reviews for me and my business. But there will always be that client who only hears what they want to hear. That’s why I have such language in my contract as, “Your new website is a marketing tool.” And, “Search engine rankings are built over time.” At least it makes me feel better.

  • Harrison November 3, 2015, 7:04 am

    Everyone I know loves freebies. Beginning by offering free listings and creating niche content are great ways to build traffic to a new directory website.

  • Jim Pallero November 16, 2015, 10:12 am

    Great article Morgan, I am just about to start marketing campaign on my directory.

  • foreverafs.org December 3, 2015, 11:48 am

    thanks for the info. I think I have a good approach to small niche directories and how to make drive traffic to them in 2015 and moving forward…

  • Wilford James December 12, 2015, 12:38 pm

    I ‘m currently searching for more information on how to monetize my blog, so this post has some of the info I need to get started.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Daniel January 14, 2016, 8:23 pm

    Well thats an honest and really good article! I think also will apply to almost every niche!

    Thank you!

  • Dave January 28, 2016, 10:39 am

    Ive had my site http://reptilepetshops.com/ for a few months now and as you can see its a pure directory site with a blog added to it.
    I currently have 34 free listings and have another 20 free ones to add. However i am now in talks with product suppliers who may advertise on the page (rather than being a listing). Social media is a massive player too, i mean massive. Get on it and tweet, retweet, like, share etc etc. Make sure people know your avatar etc.

    • Jeff April 16, 2016, 12:42 am

      Awesome site, Dave! Thanks for the info. All WP, huh? Impressive.

  • Al February 10, 2016, 8:38 pm

    Hi Interesting comments,
    Which user friendly platform would you recommend using? Do you know premium press?

  • Juan Colome February 13, 2016, 6:49 am

    I use a very unique and different approarch to bulding traffic to my directories. I advertise to 100,000 + consumers in a given area via a huge 9×12 postcard with 16 offers. I could tell more for anyone interested in this concept.

    • inam November 6, 2016, 1:06 am

      I am interested to know more about your approach

    • Neil Robertson January 17, 2017, 4:25 pm

      I am interested please email me nrobertson@southerncrane.net

  • dave February 16, 2016, 2:57 am

    Hi Juan,
    Im interested in how you implement this.

    • Juan Colome February 16, 2016, 7:25 am

      I’ve been working with direct mail (EDDM) Every Door Direct Mail for over 4 years now. There’s a huge card we send out to entire communities which measures 9×12. It’s printed on glossy 16 pt paper and is all inclusive for the merchant. postage, design and print is all included. there are 16 slots available on the card. 8 on each side + branding. each merchant pays around 2 to 4 cents per piece hitting an average of 10,000 homes just in one area alone. I get my directory branding out there while making some serious $$$ There’s sample i have in PDF format but i do not know if i can post here or how.

      Have a great day!

      • Jev February 19, 2016, 11:50 am

        Juan Colome I would love to learn more. How can we get in touch?

        • juan colome February 19, 2016, 11:48 pm

          send me an email to admin@localmiamiguide.com with subject line “Hello Miami” and we’ll be in touch –


  • Judi March 9, 2016, 2:42 pm

    I know successful directories are often sold to big companies. Do you know where I can find information about how much they sold for? Thank you

  • Robert March 27, 2016, 7:13 pm


    I really like your reptile site and clean design. What programs or theme did you use to create your site?


  • Josh March 29, 2016, 10:09 pm

    I am trying to decide between a local general or niche directory….any input anyone?

  • rahul kashnia April 3, 2016, 2:26 am

    hi.. i am already running a directory business.. having thousands of listings.. i m looking for partner and sponsor.. if anybody intrested.. please ping me here.. thank you cheers 🙂

    • Nikhil August 15, 2016, 8:09 am

      What is the budget for creating and running a local directory? I am based in India. Is it possible to create a trade directory focused to a particular overseas country, and manage/growing it sitting in India? Please guide me. My email is nikhil.raxit@gmail.com

      • rahul kashnia July 13, 2017, 5:08 am

        Hello nikhil sorry for replyin late, yes it is possible to make a directory budget will be around 30k as per my personal experience.

    • Nikhil August 15, 2016, 8:11 am

      Hi Morgan,

      What is the budget for creating and running a local directory? I am based in India. Is it possible to create a trade directory focused to a particular overseas country, and manage/growing it sitting in India? Please guide me. My email is nikhil.raxit@gmail.com

  • dave April 4, 2016, 8:49 am

    Hi Robert,
    I use a theme called Listify its a great theme for directories. I currently have it running on two different sites.

  • Juan April 4, 2016, 9:35 am

    Hello Dave – yes, Listify is a great theme but it could run expensive no ? With all the required plugins ?

    what premium plugins are you running with that site of yours ?

    btw: did you ever receive that eddm info ?

  • Dave April 5, 2016, 3:11 am

    Hi Juan,
    Not really that pricey i think it was about $64 / £45 for the theme itself then i purchased

    WP Job Manager – Extended Location $19 / £13
    WP Job Manager Field Editor $39 / £27

    To be honest you can build a site straight out the box but i wanted the addons.
    I also purchased EventOn plugin which was $29 / £20
    So all in all $151 / £105
    For a directory theme that actually looks nice i thinks worth the money.

    Actually one someone contacted me from this page asking what i used, they have made the purchase and by all accounts are very happy with it.

    No i never did receive the eddm info.

  • Bobby April 14, 2016, 11:31 pm

    Nice website @Dave! How many companies have actually paid to be on a monthly subscription plan for your website?

    You mentioned somewhere around 54 free listings above and I noticed you currently have around 69 listings now so was just curious how long it took before a company paid for a subscription package and also if they requested info on daily traffic and what not? Also do you care to share how much traffic you’re getting on average?

    I’m currently working on my first local directory site as well and it would be great to have some experienced insight 🙂 Thanks

  • Juan April 16, 2016, 10:18 pm

    Hey Dave do you have to add those events manually into your site ?

  • Dave April 19, 2016, 4:10 am

    All WP yup and @Juan at the moment i add them manually but will be changing this at some point once the site starts to snowball.
    @Bobby, there are only 11 who pay £3 p/m at the moment. I am adding more free sites and then i target businesses close by to them explaining that their competition are on my site, so should you 🙂 Yes most people ask for traffic, but i explain its targeted traffic they want not sheer volumes and most people understand this.
    Regarding hits up and down at the moment to be honest. Anywhere from 50 hits a day to 500 a day. I have created a NEWS section on there (not working correctly yet), but this will help lift me up google too and i have created a forum page on there too (thats hard work).
    Thanks for the feedback by the way its all appreciated.


    • Juan Colome April 19, 2016, 7:28 am

      Yes Dave, It will begin to snowball especially once you add more listings. My site which is around 12 years old is ranked by google for 4 keywords on # 1 spot out of millions.

      miami business guide being one of them. best merchants in miami is another. It certainly pays off when you have traffic.


  • Adam April 20, 2016, 8:27 pm

    Hey Dave, site looks great! What’s the backend functionality like for managing the whole process: ie payments, invoices, emailing, etc?

    I’m toying with the idea of using http://www.edirectory.com/ mainly because of it’s backend functionality, but it costs way more!

    • Matt April 23, 2016, 4:04 am

      @Adam I am in the same boat. I was looking at edirectories also. I recommend you google edirectories review first. There are some little in and outs you should be aware of before going with them. A few articles mentioned they charge $50 – $60 per hour for updates.

  • Dave April 25, 2016, 4:18 am

    @Juan nice site mate and i can see why it ranks so well.
    @Adam thanks for the feedback. Its easy mate, as im not dealing with huge companies its just a simple paypal click with monthly payments. If i was dealing with large businesses i would be more inclined to use the woo hoo functions.

  • Xihla May 5, 2016, 3:30 am

    I am just starting with my directory in the home improvement niche . . . the website is almost done,but the hard work is obviously adding the listings and promoting it.

    About to get started, hopefully next year this time it will be a real winner #HardWork

  • David Shea May 10, 2016, 10:40 am

    @Xihla Home improvements is a big market but also a profitable one. Would love to see the site once its ready.

  • Mark May 22, 2016, 7:34 am

    You guys give good advice. I love it. Dave, your marketing strategy is more B2B, right. Out of the 50 or so sites you have listed, would it be terrible if you asked to add a banner or blinking logo to their website. A link that would lead traffic directly back to you. Would that be something you add to your package?

  • Dave May 23, 2016, 3:25 am

    Hi Mark,
    Yes B2B most of it, but some are one man bands. I do push for the back link as it will make my ranking stronger. However getting these businesses to actually add it is harder than i though. Getting them to sign up for FREE to the forum is also harder than i thought.

    • Mark May 24, 2016, 5:26 am

      Getting them to signup for a FREE listing is hard? Are they just skeptical? I would think the “one man bands” would be love the free stuff. What’s your strategy?

      • Juan Colome May 24, 2016, 7:41 am

        Once your site ranks well, it will become easier to get folks onboard. Picking up the phone and calling B2B is also crucial at first.

        • Mark May 25, 2016, 5:30 am

          That’s what gets me stumped. Do you cold call these businesses or do you contact them through social media. I have seen some use landing pages or post card marketing. What’s been good for you?

          • Juan May 25, 2016, 6:56 am

            A combination of all the above is a good starting point. I do walkins to small businesses and present them with a flyer. Gives me a chance to meet the owners and rub shoulders.

  • Dave May 27, 2016, 10:03 am

    Some are skeptical, no such as a free lunch and all that. Its mainly the fact that they dont have time to enter their own details or are too technophobic and i dont always have the time to dedicate in adding them all myself.
    Ive worked in media sales for over 15 years, the websites are something i do for myself.
    My others are http://transportrail.com/ and http://thelearnedlizard.com/ I also have a family to spend time with as well as train under 10s kids football. So anyone who really wants to put serious hours into it i would advise this.

    Call first and ask for the email address and the correct person.
    Email the info with a price structure, dont add images or signatures as they can end up in spam and lost.
    One week later follow up with call.
    If you have the time and your directory is localised the best method is knock on the companies door.
    When i get more time i will be phoning some of these businesses to get them on board.

    • Marcus May 31, 2016, 5:15 pm

      Impressive Dave,

      Yes my site will start off locally and then I plan to spread throughout the state. When you present your business idea, what benefits do you highlight the most? Do you offer your service free for a certain amount of months? Do give them top listings when they signup?

      I know you explained this earlier , but even if they aren’t tech savvy or just too lazy to do it – wouldn’t it benefit you more to enter in their information for them. And when they say no, do you ask them why or do you just leave them alone

  • rahul kashnia June 1, 2016, 9:46 pm

    Hi this is my site http://www.itravelzy.com, i am looking forward to build an hotels and restaurant directory in australia and uk, i have listings data more than 1.50 hundred thousand,
    I am confused, i dont know how to have booking hotels and restaurants settings on my site 🙂 please help

    • Juan June 2, 2016, 1:47 am

      @rahul – nice site. may want to consider a faster hosting platform. I am in the state of FLorida and connection was very slow.

  • rahul June 2, 2016, 7:30 am

    @juan –

    thank you :). i don’t know how its very slow even after i am using VPS hosting. i think its just because i am having more than 40k listings on the site. i have no idea how to handle this mess.

    • juan June 2, 2016, 12:47 pm

      @rahul –

      hmmm. it could be. i got your email, will be in touch soon 🙂

  • Marcus June 2, 2016, 12:51 pm

    Rahul, are you using Listify

  • rahul June 2, 2016, 1:07 pm

    @ Hi Marcus, yes i am using listify.

  • Marcus June 2, 2016, 2:27 pm

    Can anyone tell me why they chose Listify over edirectory and brilliant directories. I like Listify, it’s attractive. Why Listify?

    • Juan Colome June 2, 2016, 2:36 pm

      Your question does not compute. I use both listify and listable. Each has its strengths and weaknesses but directory and brilliant are way too $$$$

  • Chandra June 4, 2016, 8:31 am

    Juan Colome,
    I tried sending an email to you at to admin@localmiamiguide.com (with subject line “Hello Miami”) , per your recommendation to Dave on (February 19, 2016, 11:48 pm) via comment to this blog/thread. ..

    I’m in process of building an “ultra niche directory” for the particular genre of dance I teach – and am highly interested in seeing the sample PDF you use for your EDDM campaigns for your directory that you mentioned.

    Look forward to hearing from you

    • Juan June 4, 2016, 9:07 pm

      @ Chandra –

      Sorry about that. Please try again 🙂


  • Winston June 7, 2016, 10:17 pm

    Hey all,

    I recently purchased Listable (last week). I am building a directory website. I really appreciate this forum. Good to know I found colleague’s in various levels of success. So here is my current plan…
    model myself after manta.com…
    Enter listing data myself. Get then, approach businesses to confirm listing info and ask them if they currently offer a deal on their product or service. Create a claim coupon button on their profile, offer to send coupon via email in exchange for email submission. Set that process on autopilot. (This allows me to track my seo success and sell value to businesses)

    Then, SEO for local deals (via coupons), create relevant content and score back links from local influencers.

    Any thoughts?

    • Juan Manuel Colome June 10, 2016, 7:10 am

      @ Alfredo R.

      Really nice and fast loading site Alfredo. I like the layout. What theme is that you’re using ? We should chat soon.

      skype: juancolome

  • Nick Evans June 8, 2016, 5:03 pm

    Unless your running Google or Facebook then why would you want to list on any other sites?

    Everyone Googles a business and it shows on google maps. Why would I want to go to a specific directory website to find a business that I can just google?

    • Mak June 9, 2016, 11:47 pm

      Nick has an interesting comment. What will make a directory different? Why would someone come to your directory instead of google.

      Why would a business pay for listing when google free? I am interested to see who answers

  • Alfredo Ramirez June 9, 2016, 8:28 am

    Hey Guys,

    Love seeing all of you doing a directory site and reading the awesome tips! Very inspirational. My wife and I are in the process of transitioning from full time work to full time directory owners. We have had our directory for a couple of years now as a side business. The site is http://www.elpasoparent.com. Would love your feedback. It is profitable.

    Also, if anyone can chime in on SEO for directory sites that would be awesome. We want our site to get more visits through Google but it is a challenge.

  • tom June 14, 2016, 5:01 am

    in response to an earlier question – why would someone pay to use a directory site rather than just list in google? The answer comes down to skill, expertise, time and effort – all of which are needed if you want to rank a website in the top spots of google. Your average plumber or locksmith will be too busy plumbing and locksmithing to devote the time to working SEO strategies to rank their own sites. Also many small to mid sized businesses cant afford, or be willing to pay the $5000 per month that decent SEO experts charge to rank a site.

    But those plumbers and locksmiths need leads and clients. So in steps the Directory site, which is already pulling in way more traffic than the plumber/locksmith could ever dream of. and for a fraction of the price of an SEO guy to spend six months maybe ranking their site, they can have a listing up that day, enjoying the traffic of the directory site. Instant traffic, instant leads, small (relatively speaking) payment. Its a win win….

    All of that is, of course, assuming that the directory owner has put in the months of work that the plumber and locksmith have not, and that they have grown traffic to levels where business really want to list with them – which is what this post was all about: treating the directory site like a business and not like an instant cash cow.

    Great article. I would recommend not building a directory site unless you had a really firm understanding of SEO….

    • Marcus June 14, 2016, 7:43 pm

      Thats very encouraging. So that means we, directory owners, have to be very creative and innovative. How many of you owners are community driven? Do you sponsor any events or local sports teams? I am curious because i have seen businesses that are more involved get a ton business. A know a guy that owns a directory for the fitness industry. I swear to you, I see this guy at every 5K or sporting event. He works hard for his paid members. He even offers 1,000 scholarships once a year for a lucky college student.
      He gets crazy publicity

  • Lucious McDaniel IV June 20, 2016, 12:18 pm


    You and your wife’s directory looks amazing! I am working on starting my own directory right now and I am trying to outline my start-up costs so I can really understand what my financial needs are. I have already looked into directory software and things like that, but could you share some hidden cost that may arise?

    Feel free to email me: Anufind@gmail.com

  • vedanta June 27, 2016, 7:02 am

    I am also planning to make a business directory for my state. but this is big question why people will submit listing ?
    and i dont have resource to collect data .

  • RA July 2, 2016, 10:04 pm

    @Nick it makes sense to create a directory style site when you know you can rank right up there at the top of Google search engines for the keywords your website is targeting. If you can rank your site above the others then it’s definitely worth it. Yelp and Facebook are now only affective for business owners if they pay for their leads, several hundred a month. If you’re directory listings are more targeted and cost less than the other options, yet outrank or at least appear in the top 5 on the SERPs its definitely worth it.

  • Deb July 2, 2016, 10:07 pm

    Totally agree with all of the points made here. But you need to offer something unique, not just a plain old listing. Add value to the person searching and make it related to the topic of your website and it will be worth it! Good luck everyone

  • Stuart July 4, 2016, 3:49 pm

    Thanks for the inspiring article. I have built out a good portion of my site, https://www.localtolocal.ca which is intended as a directory and community hub for Ontario. I have yet to monetize it but have had offers for sponsorships which is encouraging!

  • Amir July 13, 2016, 8:33 am

    I own USA.Directory domain name, thinking about developing it……..
    Domain is an amazing domain with so much potential…….
    I was thinking to use yellow Pages API to access the date.
    what do you guys think?

    • Juan Colome July 14, 2016, 7:46 pm

      The money is in the niches. You go too wide and you’ll get lost in the crowd. That’s unless you want to do this as a hobby 😉

  • GotYouthFlagFootball July 15, 2016, 12:34 am

    Agree, Juan! It must be specific like http://gotyouthflagfootball.com. The Yellowpages is a huge site. Not unless you have millions and a big team of people could you get near it.

  • Connie August 28, 2016, 12:03 pm

    Just launched a great niche directory. I have a good sized following on LinkedIn but not sure what ot offer for early membership.
    Any suggestions?

  • Nick August 29, 2016, 10:29 am

    This is amazing post and I love your feel-free-to-say it approach and what your saying its correct. Because have launched my directory site http://www.ubbaloo.com and still working on SEO which is very important part of every online business.

    Good job Morgan.

    • Juan Colome August 30, 2016, 8:32 am

      @ Connie offer them a free trial say for 30 or so days. give before you sell 😉 what’s your niche ?

      @ Nick – great looking site – good job

      Stay well –

    • Duane Reeve September 28, 2016, 2:56 am

      Awesome site Nick, may I ask what Theme you are using?

  • Main Portfolio August 31, 2016, 6:24 pm

    I have developed a directory site long time ago, WebsReview dot com and honestly haven’t really monetized it. But i have got local businesses signing up for free listing including chiropractors, plumber, etc. From there you know what you can do? You can think of a directory site as a foot in the door to contact them and offer other services including press release services, SEO, social media management, FB Ads services, google adwords services etc.

    I myself would like to run my own business about social media management or mentoring. Currently have more than 20 instagram accounts and twitter each. Approaching 1 million followers. Maybe I can start offering my followers for free listing in directory and upsell them something else including personalized tshirts, mugs, necklaces, etc.

    Besides, I also have a domain directory, MainPortfolio dot com, but only for myself selling my own premium domain names. Thinking of selling them off the whole directory including the domains in the near future though, to start my social media management and mentoring business..


  • Juan August 31, 2016, 8:46 pm

    @ Main


  • Duane Reeve September 28, 2016, 3:01 am

    Awesome article and the comments are excellent too. I’m about to start my second Directory site, after have kinda so-so results with my first. Ah, don’t get me wrong; my first site has the potential of being a major success, but I relocated and finding it very difficult to maintain a Tourism Directory in a region that is now on the other side of the country. Time to setup one that is focused in an area nearby.

  • Arcade Directory October 4, 2016, 12:28 pm

    Thank you for the post.

    This is good info for me since I am getting ready to start building an arcade directory of free flash games. Since I had an arcade site before I know of places to get site owners to add their game sites to the directory so I shouldn’t have a problem with that.

  • Nicole November 6, 2016, 2:43 pm

    Is it better to pay somebody to build you the directory software.

  • Daphne November 26, 2016, 11:01 pm

    I am starting my directory. It will be live soon I am uploading the many categories that one can list in. I will use a freemium platform to start. Free trial for 30 days beta testing and then 30 days additional. I will have certain areas that are free and the. Certain info that one has to have a paid membership. But I will give all the goodies away for 60 days and see what happens

  • Mich December 6, 2016, 8:05 pm

    I put together my directory site via weebly pro, I have had to halt proceedings for a while though whilst I work out my next move. The biggest issue I have is the fact that I was manually adding the listing that came through- which took a while each one- then people would get in touch needing changes to their listings, like a new phone or email etc. Anyway, bottom line is that I realised I had a good site and people wanting to join but that I have now outgrown this model and desperately need to move on to a version that allows my clients to be able to go on and edit their own details if needed or to be able to fill in their own listing in the first place (obviously with a stopper that allows me to check before anything is published live) – so my question to you all is: please advise me on the best way to do this – shouldbi change to some sort of Wordpress site or suchlike? Do you run directories where people add their own details or am I being naive about that?
    Many thanks in advance
    Mich http://www.thespeakerslist.com

  • H Matthews December 21, 2016, 7:20 pm

    This was great to read and like the comments. I am working on my directory site as well. It’s a niche site but nation wide. I invested in the listify theme. Looking to have success with it…

  • websensejim February 18, 2017, 6:00 am

    Great thread. Building directories is something I’ve long thought about as a viable business model but in recent years its gone out of fashion mainly because Google hammered most directories (that used to rank well). But I think there’re viable again today, if you put the work in. Content and SEO are crucial for success, but I’ve seen many directories rank really well today for niche business phrases. So niche is definitely the way to go. Signing businesses up is the toughest challenge and you will need decent traffic first to convince them. But there’s another benefit that nobody had mentioned – CITATIONS. Citations are crucial for a Google Maps listing/ Local SEO visibility. Businesses are desperate to get on local search, so a niche directory listings helps them get there. If you can’t convince business owners, then just find the SEOs who are doing local SEO for their clients – they’re always on the look out for new niche directories.

    I’m currently looking for ideas about directory themes, designs, builds so anyone wants to discuss, hit me up on Twitter (see my link).

    BTW, nice looking site Nick. It’s Listable theme for those asking about the WP theme used.


  • Patrick February 20, 2017, 8:21 am

    I have really enjoyed reading this article and everyones’ comments. In regards to the argument that Google’s own directory listings have made making money with directory sites more difficult, I agree. Never the less, there is still money to be made by delivering more than a simple listing.

    My business partner had a directory site related to beach-bar restaurants in a country in South America. He made it free to list one’s establishment, however he charged a fee if one wanted to list featured entertainment (music, bands, theme nights etc) or special events (featured cuisine weeks etc). He did very well and sold the site after 3 years for a considerable sum. He was providing up-to-date, dynamic information that Google or even TripAdvisor could not provide.

  • Matt February 21, 2017, 1:12 am

    Great read Morgan! Thanks for writing, is there a part II or blog post that has tips for getting started with a directory site?

    • Morgan February 21, 2017, 11:17 pm

      @Matt – thanks, glad you enjoyed it and good question. I have never made a dime with directory sites myself and most Domainers I know who have tried spent more money than they made. So that being said I’m not sure who would be the best person to give advice here!

  • Maria March 27, 2017, 11:07 am

    Hi Morgan! Very good article, I enjoyed the read and will take the advice to heart. I am going to have a blog in my directory but now I am thinking: should the blog be targeted to the visitors that are going to visit my restaurant directory, OR should the blog be targeted towards my audience (the restaurants that I would like to have on my directory)?
    Or maybe have the blog aiming to the people visiting the website, and have a monthly newsletter to the restaurants that I would like to have on my directory (and already registered) with articles and announcements, so that they’ll register (for free) on the directory? :s
    Thanks, regards

  • Brian May 11, 2017, 4:25 am

    Google has not indexed ‘directories’ since 2011. SEO is a waist of time. Adwords is the only way of generating traffic.

    • Juan Colome May 11, 2017, 9:45 pm

      You’re an idiot Brian.

  • Brian King May 16, 2017, 4:04 am

    Pretty easy Juan, see if you can find one result in a Google search for a keyword of a directory vertical. That means, if you are searching for “Ford Mustang exhaust”, see if you can see one directory in the first 5 pages of results?

    Don’t waste your time, you won’t.

    • juan May 16, 2017, 7:39 am

      I rank on page one for several of my local directories. Couple this with massive postcard marketing 0n a huge 9×12 UV coated card I use to draw consumers to the portal and it’s a win win for all. circulation currently 250,000 in nine regions for s. florida

      but then again you wouldn’t understand.

  • Brian King May 16, 2017, 9:48 pm

    Show everyone ONE example (keywords + landing page), so your amazing claim can be verified?

    Erm, what has ‘postcard marketing” got to do with se indexing of directories?

    I do hope you are not going to suggest one is http://www.miamismith.com

    I’ll make life easy for you: show us where your first page (tapas) ranks on Google?

    Not entirely sure why you are personally attacking me? I’ve only been publishing for 15 years, but then again I wouldn’t understand.

  • John M May 17, 2017, 9:37 pm

    We own a name that would probably be great for a directory site OxfordEdition.com but we wouldn’t even know where to start. As always thank you for the post Morgan.

  • Brian King May 17, 2017, 10:08 pm

    We hear and see this all the time John.

    A domain name by itself is worthless.

    Domain names are not part of the se ranking algorithm.

    As to suitability for a directory, its nothing more than a convenient address.

    Sorry John

    • John M May 17, 2017, 10:16 pm

      Then how would you explain the name and name only no site mingche.com selling for
      over $2.5 million? Its actually the reason we own so many Chinese pinyin car related names but of course we all have our own opinions and best of luck to you.

    • John M May 17, 2017, 10:40 pm

      btw Perhaps you could tell Rick Schwartz that a name alone is worth nothing also. I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear how lucky he got selling some of his names that had no sites but don’t use such a condescending manner. Again best of luck to you.

  • Juan May 17, 2017, 10:21 pm

    I guess you would also doubt my income last 3 years has been well over 1.5 million for a 3 person operation. This using a combination of print and digital media.

    Anyways, good luck with your thinking and future endeavors Brian.

    Mahalo – from Maui, HI

  • Hugh May 17, 2017, 11:05 pm

    Morgan. I agree with you 100%. Google shows no love to directories that are not constantly updated and promoted at the targeted local or niche level. Passive sites with directories are not viable like they were from 199X to 2010 years. Thanks for your re-post talking about this one Morgan.

  • Brian King May 17, 2017, 11:33 pm

    The devil is in the detail John.

    There are thousands of web sites where you can buy and sell domain names.

    My response was about the suitability of OxfordEdition.com for a directory site not it’s worth on the open market.

    Chinese words in domain names have been known to sell well, but that wasn’t your question.

    As to Juan, another statement and still not one shred of evidence to support it.

    • John M May 18, 2017, 3:18 am

      First of all I didn’t ask you a question and secondly your response was very condescending but as I’ve said I wish you good luck.

  • John May 18, 2017, 7:52 pm

    Why did DMOZ close?

  • BJ May 23, 2017, 9:24 am

    Any successful directory sites still out there??? Hmmm…. How about homeadvisor.com, angieslist.com, aplaceformom.com…. etc. So yes, directory sites are alive and well.

    • rahul kashnia July 13, 2017, 5:16 am

      hello bj,
      Building a directory is easy but really getting things to work is hard. i am having more then 1 hundred thousand listing data, all the listings i have is of hotels and restaurants and some couple of thousands are of attraction places, and i am still unable get users on board, maybe because i am operating it from India, and the based location of the data is Australia and uk, now after working for around 1.5 years on my web directory, i am planning to make an application with some little bit changes and ideas i have.

  • Raj August 25, 2017, 9:05 am

    Despite the date of your published article being years ago ..however I still find it relevant. However I am curious if in late 2017 directories have lost their value? I am considering launching a curated directory at http://LinkDart.com – is it too late to start one?

  • citylist September 3, 2017, 5:03 am

    I have created the http://www.citylist.co.za 1 week back for South Africa only and added the few businesses but the problem is when i should stop adding my self.I have built the site using wordpress and focusing on implementing the yoast seo.How other business directory companies how they add their listing.Do they use google local api to get the listing or do they add manually initially.

  • Gaz December 27, 2017, 11:39 am

    Thank you very much! Your article really inspires me to work harder for my newly build online directory website ( https://www.mindanaospots.com/). My niche is mainly travel and tourism but I am eyeing to expand this in the future if everything goes well.

  • Brian King December 27, 2017, 9:44 pm

    Gentleman, gentleman, gentleman (shakes his head)

    Apart by (no proof) Juan, we have not seen one successful directory in years.

    Morgan says: I personally know a handful of people making a small fortune with directories..

    I say: show me ‘one’ and I’ll show you a liar and a con (yes, you Juan).

    Anyone? Show me one succesful directory! That means a keyword phrase and a page one ranking result.

    Directories have not made money since Google de-ranked every directory in it’s index.

    If a directory cannot rank for it’s keywords, how does it generate traffic?

    It can do all the SEO it likes but it will not rank higher than page 2, so it might as well be on page 22.

    Yes, it can run keyword campaigns, but then its a balance between the campaign cost versus advertiser income over thousands of categories.

    Manual marketing by word, mail or telephone seo, please, get real.

    Advertisers’ are not stupid: they will not invest unless they can see traffic.

    The only correct statement: Domainers Won’t Make a Dime with Directory Sites

    I can prove my claims after nearly 20 years in the directory industry. Can you?

    I challenge anyone to prove me wrong?

  • SANTOSH REDDY PULICHINTHALA January 2, 2018, 3:35 am

    Nice article.I have started directory site http://www.citylist.co.za but the key is you need to get the people first for that you need to start with free listings.

  • site November 9, 2019, 3:34 am

    If you have just “lost” a domain name that you failed to register, go back to look for it in 5 days.


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