make money from online directory

To make money from online directory business, it is essential that you understand the nature of each unique business model, its working principles, and the values it brings to users.

Nature of online directory & its value for users: Online directory is a kind of platform business model whose value is created by promoting interaction and exchange of information between producers and consumers. By broad definition, an Online Directory is a website listing individuals or organizations with information such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The value of an online directory, hence, lies in the exchange of information about listing contents between listing owners and visitors. Directory owners have a place to show their listings to many users while visitors can access your site and find useful information of any directories.

Make money from online directory site: Generally speaking, the monetization method from any services you provide is to charge for the value your services can create for users. In other words, users have to pay to get the benefits from your services. So how does this relate to an Online Directory? As discussed, the main value of an online directory platform derives from the exchange of information between listing owners and visitors. Taking advantage of this type of exchange, you could earn money by effectively taking control of the information exchange flow between two sides.

How to make money with an Online Directory Business?

make money from online directory

Mentioning the exchange of information, let’s first talk about the side of listing owners who offer the information. Their purpose when coming to an online directory website is to have their listings displayed on your site. So, to monetize from this target, you can make them pay to list. One popular method is Paid listings.

Paid listings

This is the big money maker of your directory site. Listing owners will pay to get their places listed on your site.

You can offer different pricing plans, each of which includes different benefits. It can be a page introducing solely about your pricing plans. Be clear about why customers should buy listings on your site, how much each plan costs, and what they will get in return. Make it easy and convenient for customers to buy listings.

But, are your customers willing to pay? And how many people will do it? The answer lies your site quality. The more the traffic to your site, the higher the chance all the listed places are noticed, and the more convincible the reasons to buy your listings.  

For a newly established site, having a huge traffic is not what you can do in one or two days. One strategy you can consider is allowing free listings at first to attract more listing owners. It can be free for the first 5 listings, or free listings in the first month. Fees will be collected later on. During the free period, it is important to prove that your site is a worthwhile online directory, and that staying on your site will bring benefits to your customers.

Featured listings & Special places for listings

You could go further with another revenue model – Featured Listings and Special places for listings.

Choosing this plan, listing owners will have directories appeared at special spots on site, which stands more ability to draw the attention from the audience. The more visitors to site, the more attractive the featured listings.

Special event, promotion news

Besides earning money from directory listing, you can charge when listing owners want to add event, promotion news to their listings.

This is preferred to listings that have been on your site for a period of time. Promotion campaigns, discount news, giveaway events, etc. are effective strategies to make better engagement with the audience.

Marketing to the audience

Another revenue model to monetize from listing owners is lending them your visitor database. You will help them send promotion news, advertise marketing campaigns to the list of subscribers on your site. By this way, listings will be promoted not only on site but also personally to their email addresses. As long as your site has collected a big customer database, this method is expected to be an effective money making tool.

And, if done well, you will provide useful and relevant information to the target users. Needless to say, once users got interested in what shared from your site, the chance they access such information is higher, which is the goal of listing owners when using this marketing plan. Moreover, besides monetary benefit, your site also earns good reputation from this strategy. Your site will be seen as a quality site for helpful and reliable knowledge sharing, which in the long run leads to higher traffic and bigger revenue.


And, surely I can’t leave out the typical business model of offering spaces for advertisements. You can sell advertising by allowing banners, text ads, and video ads to be put at some specific positions on your site. You can earn quite much from advertisements once you’ve built a sufficient traffic to make your site an attractive place for advertisers.

Membership fees

Collecting membership fee from listing owners is another business model. It can be made on an annual basis, or month. Similar to Paid listings, but, instead of charging per listing, this method will charge per listing owner allowing them to be active on your site in a predefined period of time. Based on the quality of audience on your site, listings owners will decide whether to join or not.

Membership fee is beneficial for listing quality control. Once deciding to join, listing owners will be more serious and act accordingly, and of course, spammers will be reduced significantly.

You can also apply this fee for site visitors. However, consider this method carefully. In my opinion, membership fees should only be applied to high quality listings, to which members are willing to pay to get access.

Otherwise, it should be easy and convenient for visitors to join your directory site so that you have more opportunity to build a solid traffic to your site, which provides an ideal condition to attract more listings. As a result, it will create the balance in the number of both sides of customers: listing owners and site visitors. More directory owners pay to have listings on site whereas visitors will keep coming back to your site due to its rich and informative content.

Final thoughts

In a nutshell, there are a number of ways to make money from Online Directory Business:

  • Paid listings
  • Featured listings & Special places for listings
  • Special event, promotion news
  • Marketing to the audience
  • Advertisements
  • Membership fees

To effectively make money from online directory business, it is important to bring the most value for users. Select and apply suitable monetization strategies so that you could simultaneously get both sides of customers on site and utilize the ability to exchange information between listing owners and visitors.

My Dang,
Editor of EngineThemes

Images designed by Freepik.

  • 9ja Business Directory
    Sep  18TH,  2016

    Great read with useful tips..

  • Cletus Asikpo
    Oct  04TH,  2016

    Awesome tips. i appreciate .

  • Cy Palace
    Apr  29TH,  2017


    May  14TH,  2017

    I am starting Directory Listing Business from today. Your article was really helpful in making the decision.


  • Igor Madzou
    Jul  10TH,  2017


  • Pep
    Jul  23RD,  2017

    Thanks a lot.

  • Yego
    Oct  17TH,  2018

    Useful article. Thx

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