If you're in a industry that is surrounded by local information (like the wedding industry, lifestyle, city guides, snowboarding, etc.) then developing a proper vendor/business directory should be a vital piece of your website's business model. People are always searching for local information, and a well designed directory will drive substainal traffic, engage more people, and ultimately drive more sales.
Today I want to profile one of my favourite directories and websites - VenueReport.com. If you've never heard of them, The Venue Report is a great resource for planning your next event and I think the team at the Venue Report has nailed how to successfully run a directory. Based on the Venue Report and the results I've seen over the years, today I'm going to give you 5 awesome tips for your own directory and how to make it more successful.
We are a society that Google's everything and we are used to the ability to search for what we want. Plus, today's online world is crowed and people need the ability to find exactly what they're looking for.
VenueReport.com has a great searching tool for their venues. You can search by location, capacity, style, and different amenities. This kind of searching is simple, easy to manage, and exactly what your online readers want.
It's surprising to still see publishers with directories which only list the vendor's email, website, and phone number, and have no direct way to engage with them through their website - via a contact form, the ability to leave a review, or the ability to like/save the vendor.
Engagement is the key way to show your vendors/advertisers how their ad is working. If all you're doing is sending your readers off to their social media or website, then all the vital engagement is happening off of your website and is difficult to track. You can't rely on readers to accurately tell each vendor that they found them through your website, it just doesn't happen. By creating the interaction between your readers and your advertisers within your website, you are able to add tremendous value to your site.
Engagement also needs to be tracked and/or measurable in order to sell your website's value to your vendors. Showing this value is vital to your sales.
This is probably my favourite aspects of the Venue Report: they list both paid and non-paid venues in their directory. Our company, LOV Media, has been pushing this model for over 10 years, simple because it works well. This doesn't mean you list every single possible vendor, you still have a standard and you choose only those which meet your standard.
The Venue Report explains it this way: "The Exclusive listing is free because we want to have a collection of only the best venues worldwide. We do not want properties to be able to merely "buy" their way onto The Venue Report."
Listing both Paid and Non-Paid vendors in your directory, is a win-win for you and your readers:
Now the key to succeeding with both paid and non-paid is to have two versions of profiles; a limited version for non-paying and an upgraded profile for paying vendors (which is exactly what the Venue Report offers).
As I mentioned before, we are a society that likes to search for information and over 43% of all Google searches involve local intent. That stat alone shows us how important it is to have regional information on your website.
I've always said that nobody, other then Kate Middleton (and maybe Kim Kardashian), is planning a national wedding/event. Nobody is searching globally for restaurants, shops, or a new house. People search locally or by region. This is kind of a no brainer, yet I'm still seeing top blogs re-designing new websites without any regional capabilities in their directory. A successful directory, like the Venue Report, drills down by regions so readers can find the most valuable information related to them.
A proper vendor directory that's broken down regionally with good categories, will naturally have strong key word phrases for SEO built in. For example, San Francisco Wedding Phtographers or New York Restaurants. However, I highly recommend double checking your <title> tags within your directory, because I still come across poorly developed WordPress blogs missing these and you're missing out on substantial traffic because of it.
You can take a peek into how the Venue Report has properly tagged their directly for search engines below.
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