A local directory covers a defined geographic area. It may be a region, town, city, county, state. While a local directory lists website URL’s, they are not required. It’s primary mission is to connect the searcher with a location or business. It does this by listing street address, phone number, business hours, URL, Description, map location, comments and reviews. If you think Yellow Pages or even Google Maps you get the picture.
Google Maps and Yellow Pages are also going to be your major competitors. You need to focus on what you can provide that the big nationals can’t: 1. Your local knowledge and experience, 2. your ability to find stuff in person, boots on the ground, 3. free listings.
Local Directories can be a good sideline for a person that designs websites for local businesses.
There are lots of different recipes for a local directory:
- Dining Guide
- Entertainment Guide
- Activity Guide
- Business Directory
- Community Guide
- Town News and Event Portal
- Your Favorite Places Guide (example)
- Comprehensive Directory that includes several of the above or all of the above.
Note each one of the list above could be a stand alone how to blog post which I’ll write Real Soon Now. If you want me to expand upon something, for now just ask in the comments.
The important thing is you need to look at your area: what does it offer, what do you need to know when you are looking for something, what does the competition overlook? A tourism guide won’t work in an area that has no tourism and nothing to build tourism around. Likewise, a Town News and Event Portal won’t work if your town is well served by a local newspaper. But so many small towns are only served by regional or county wide papers, so if the paper does not do things like cover town government meetings and when the book club meets you might have a niche.
Keep in mind, a local business directory is not limited to just businesses and organizations like churches, libraries and the YMCA. Because you have maps you can also list local natural attractions, hiking or biking trails, scenic outlooks, parks, farmers markets, best fishing spots, bird watching spots, train spotting spots, swimming areas with and without lifeguards, all the things that leverage your local knowledge that Google and Yelp miss.
Directory + Blog
Most local directory types are well complimented by having a blog. The blog lets you have a voice and fresh new content in a way that a directory alone cannot do.
Choosing Your Business Directory Script or Plugin
You can chose between a stand alone directory script or if you use WordPress as your blog there are a number of business directory plugins available for WordPress. Here is my listing of some resources.
One thing to look out for is you want a script or plugin that is being actively improved and maintained. Most people prefer Google maps for their directories, but Google could shut down their API or raise their prices for use at any time so you want a directory script that either A. gives you a choice among map provides right out of the box, or B. is being supported so if Google cuts everybody off the software developer is still around and can switch you to Bing Maps or some other alternative.
Various other scripts can enhance a local directory: forums can add a local social network element for discussion, photo gallery can be a place for people to post local photos. Whatever you think might enhance your directory.
Take a look at a small local directory and personal blog combination: Life in the Forest of Dean. The owners blog about retired life and gardening, they added a local activity section and a first class local directory to give something back to their community. That directory gets a lot of visitors, both from people outside the area and also from local residents. The area covered incorporates a number of towns and villages and it’s just big enough that the local people can’t always know that a new eatery opened in the next town, or where to buy firewood, etc. So the directory serves both locals and tourists alike. Notice that the directory part is ordered by towns with each town serving as a top level category. This is very good organization listing by geography.
You can always start by making a local directory for your own use if you want listing the places you eat at, shop at, go to. And keep adding more over time. Or you can have some other plan for somehting from the list above. The process will work best if you enjoy it, enjoy getting out, exploring, taking notes and pictures.
Have fun with it.
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