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.

Types

There are lots of different recipes for a local directory:

  • Tourism
  • 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.

A big city directory (eg. DigiLondon) can probably get by without because big cities are sort of anonymous places.  But a dining guide might want a blog for restaurant reviews.

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.

Other Add-ons.

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.

Case Study

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.

Getting Started

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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These are my thoughts on building a multi-directory search portal.

Introduction:

At the most basic level this would mean that with one search box and one search, you would search the indexes of 2 or more similar web directories.

Such a portal could exist on either it’s own domain or on a subdomain. Domain is probably better should other directories come along.  (Random thought: Could portal be part of Indieweb.xyz?)

Minimalist or Portal?

Minimalist example would be search.yahoo.com which is just an uncluttered search box vs. yahoo.com which is a full blown portal considered cluttered by some.

Unifying the Search

My suggestion, and it is just a suggestion, is to beta test with a free open source crawling site search that can be set to index more than one domain like either phinde or sphider.  One of these might work perfectly or will show it’s limitations but the learning experience of trying these first will be useful prior to coding a custom search.  (What would be icing on the cake is if Chrome based browsers would recognize this search form and allow you to add the search to the browser.  Search installed on a person’s browser gets higher use.)

Optional Portal Features:

  1. Cross Index of Categories:  I already touched upon my idea under “categorization systems” here.  This could be on separate pages from the search form above.  I kinda like this idea: no scripts just a page of plain HTML so low overheard and cost, it might encourage people to browse rather than search deeper into both directories.
  2. Web Search Form: Example: Searxscript.) Not sure what i think of this.  On some level you are competing against yourself. OTOH you are giving the user more reasons to use your portal.  I have done this before with both dropdown menu and radio buttons on the search form and very few people used it.
  3. Leverage RSS Feeds:  Use headline feeds from our blogs, and newest listings to keep portal fresh and not just a searchbox.  Free.

I’m not married to any of this.  Just throwing out ideas as they flit through my brain-pan.

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Q.: Does your directory have a crawler/spider?

 

Why yes we do.  Although he’s getting kinda old and is a grumpy old git and he hobbles more than crawls.  When he’s not mopping the floors and washing the bottles he can be found adding URL’s to our directory.  Generally he can add about 20 URL’s a day, sometimes 25 if we juice him up with caffeine.  After about 20 site reviews he starts going all cross-eyed.  We tried naming him Bradbot but it never really took.  🙂

Seriously:

Not really.  Indieseek does have a meta tag fetcher.  When I put a URL in the field the meta tag fetcher tries to grab that page’s Title, Description and Keyword meta tags and fill in those fields.  It does the same thing when the public submits a URL and it saves some time.

Other than that, everything is manual.

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For context you should read my post about decentralized search.

If you are using self hosted WordPress you can have a small links directory running in no time.  This uses the “Links” feature in WordPress that was never removed, just papered over.

  1. Add the “Links Shortcode” plugin from WordPress.  What this plugin does is reactivate the Links function in WordPress and lets you display the links categories you add on any page using a short code.
  2. Once you create a page and place the short code any links you add will appear on that page.  Follow the instructions on the plugin site on how to place and configure the short code.
  3. Create categories and add links in your WP admin under “Links”

It’s really just that simple.  And it’s free.

You can use this to make a blogroll and/or a links directory.  IMHO every blog should have both even if the “directory” or links page is only 20 links to start it will grow over time. This lets people surf from site to site based upon your recommendation which is a powerful thing.

You can divide things up over several pages.  The link listings have the option of Ratings, Title, Description URL and more.

 

Tips and Advice:

Start out making this for you.  This is a great way to keep your permanent bookmarks and share them with visitors.

If your blog is about one topic (ie cooking, hunting) your little links directory should probably match your theme.  If your blog is about anything and everything save whatever you want.

My suggestion is to name your links page “Directory” in your navigation menu – we need to get people used to seeing that word.

You can use this for anything: links to sites you like, links to your friend’s site, links to causes or charities that are important to you, links to sites or pages you check all the time.

Consider this part of the guerrilla war against the Google search silo. If a thousand bloggers all do this it starts making a difference.  Maybe we will teach people how to surf the web again.

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And why it matters.

It matters because the first 5 listings are going to be clicked on most.  Just like in a search engine, where the top 3 listings for a query get the most clicks. (Thus spawning the whole SEO industry.)

Alphabetical: The oldest way to rank listings in a category is alphabetically.  Which is great if your website’s name starts with the letter “A”.  The alphabetical thing started a whole trend back in the Yellow Page phone book days of naming businesses “Acme”, “Ace”, “AAA Exterminators” etc. to game the listings and be at the top.  That is the whole downside of alphabetical.

X Rank: Another way to rank listings is using a third party ranking factor like: Page Rank, Alexa Rank, etc.  The problem with this is the rankings are all based upon popularity.  So if you put the most popular sites first they stay the most popular.  That too does not seem fair, especially for new sites that have no rank.

Click Rank: Another factor that used to be popular was Click Rank.  Sites that got clicked on the most rose up in the ranks.  Again the problem was once they got to the top they tended to stay there forever.

Rating and Comments:  Many directories have a formula that will rank sites by user rating (usually stars) and/or how many comments the listing gets.  This never really worked out.  Webmasters always tried to game the system.  Also, in search, most people don’t bother to rate or comment, they just want to find answers to their query as quick as they can.

Editor’s Rating:  This is a subjective rating given by editors of the websites within a given category.  This can work well when you have expert editors taking care of subject that they are experts in.  But it falls apart quickly when you have one guy who is a Generalist, trying to judge sites on subjects he/she knows little about.  However, if you do have expert editors, this might be the best of the lot.

Here at Indieseek.xyz I use Alphabetical ranking in categories.  I could use the others but alphabetical keeps it simple and does not add to server load.

 

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