When you run a Web directory, you can’t just focus on appealing to people who might submit links. Your real target market includes the visitors who actually come to use the resource you’ve created. But how can you appeal to those people and in turn increase your traffic (and submissions in the process)?
Here are a few things you can do to improve your Web directory (or build a better one from scratch) and keep visitors coming back for more.
Know the Market You’re Targeting (and Choose a Niche)
The best thing you can do is make sure your directory focuses on a niche audience and that it addresses an actual need of that audience. Your niche might be a certain type of site or content that you’re indexing (such as indexing links to recipes, video tutorials, or a certain type of local business).
Ask yourself what people actually need or want to search for. Then make sure your directory gives that to them. If you don’t know who your real target market includes, you can’t effectively reach them. And if you can’t reach them, you can’t grow your audience, your traffic, and ultimately your income.
Make Your Website More Than a Web Directory
Are there some situations when a directory-only site might be effective? Sure. But they’re largely done already and they’ve been copied already (with little success). One way you can set your Web directory apart is to turn that directory into a feature of a larger site rather than the primary focus of the site.
For example, I run a writer’s market directory. That directory targets a niche audience I’m well-connected with. It satisfies a need. But alone it wouldn’t be enough. So instead of keeping it on a separate site (as it used to be), it’s now a feature on a much larger site for freelance writers which includes that directory, a job board, a multi-contributor industry blog, a forum, and more. The same strategy worked well for an indie music directory that was integrated into one of my oldest sites (which is now retired).
By integrating a forum into a larger resource, you can pull visitors back in whether or not they need to search for something in your directory. Get them to your site with whatever features work, and then convince them your directory is the place to go when they need to find additional resources.
Remember, you want to differentiate your directory from fly by night link farms. Making it a feature of a larger resource site is an excellent way to do that.
Include Regular Value-Added Content
Along those same lines, you can simply find ways to add new content to your existing directory. For example, you might add a blog to the site (or even several as we do here at the Directory Journal). Again, it’s about giving your visitors a little something extra.
It’s also about positioning yourself and your directory as a leading (and trustworthy) source of information for people who want to search the kind of directory you run. You can do that through blogging. You can release free reports and white papers relevant to your industry or niche. And you can bring in other forms of content that are appropriate to your audiences — videos, podcasts, or even software and online tools.
In what other ways do you think directory owners can better appeal to directory users? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.