How to create a directory site
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If you are looking to create a directory website from scratch, getting started can seem like a daunting task. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!

In this article, we discuss step-by-step how to create a directory website. We will cover…

  • 🚉 Choosing a website platform (we recommend WordPress)
  • 💻 Selecting a hosting provider and a domain name
  • 🎨 Installing a directory theme to control your site’s looks
  • 💰 Deciding how to monetize your site
  • 🔌 Adding extra functionality via plugins

So are you ready to create a directory website in five easy steps?

Let’s get started…

How to create a directory website (5 steps)

1. Choose a website platform

Create a Directory Website WordPress

Here at ThemeIsle, we always recommend building websites with WordPress. There are multiple reasons for this. These include…

  • It’s free – The WordPress software is open source and totally free. So you won’t find yourself shelling out extortionate fees every month just to keep your website live. That said, you will still need to pay for a hosting service and a domain for your site. However, this won’t break the bank!
  • You own your website – If you build your website with WordPress, you 100% own your site. However, if you use an all-in-one hosted website builder then you will lose your site if you stop paying your monthly subscription.
  • There are thousands of WordPress tools, plugins and themes – Add extra features and functionality to your website by taking advantage of the different plugins and tools available, or improve your site’s appearance by upgrading the theme.
  • You can customize every aspect of your website – However you want your website to look and behave, you can achieve it with WordPress. You can customize every element of your website to suit your exact specifications.
  • It’s easy to find help – A community of web designers, developers, and WordPress enthusiasts from all over the globe provide help and support via blogs, forums, and other avenues. So whenever you need some questions answered, you will find the information you need online.

As we mentioned earlier, if you choose to create your website with WordPress, you will need to purchase a hosting plan and domain name. Let’s now find out more about how to do that…

2. Select a hosting plan and domain name

There are a wide assortment of hosting services and plans available. Therefore, you will need to do your research to find the right host for your directory website.

So what factors should you consider when you are choosing a hosting provider? Here are a few of the most important…

  • Price – Hosting providers and plans can greatly differ in price. When you are first starting up your directory site, a basic budget plan will suffice, which you can then upgrade as your traffic numbers and hosting needs grow.
  • Security and performance – The security and performance of your website are crucial, so it is important that you pick a host with a good track record. Find out if there have been any past security issues, as well as checking uptime percentages and performance related-features that each hosting service provides.
  • WordPress-specific features – Some hosts provide a great range of WordPress-specific features, which can help with the setting up and general maintenance of your directory site. These can include one-click WordPress install, automatic WordPress updates, and/or daily backups.
  • Support – If something goes wrong with your site, your hosting service is your first port of call. Having a hosting provider that provides top-notch 27/4 support can be invaluable.

We recommend Bluehost


At ThemeIsle, we recommend Bluehost for those starting a new project because…

  • It’s affordable, with plans starting at just a few bucks a month.
  • You get a domain name for free.
  • It comes with an easy setup wizard to help you get started with WordPress.
  • You can upgrade as your site grows.

3. Install a WordPress directory theme

Installing a directory WordPress theme is an effective way to ensure your website not only looks the part but also has all the necessary directory features a directory website needs. There are both a wide assortment of free and premium themes that you can choose from.

Let’s take a look at some top features that you may want your directory theme to include…

Directory theme features

The features you will want your theme to include may vary depending on the type of directory site you are creating. You may want to list local businesses, events, real estate, jobs, tourist attractions, or create a directory website for a different niche. However, whatever the type of directory site you are going to create, here are some key features that you may want your theme to incorporate…

  • Demo content – Easily set up your site by using pre-designed demo content.
  • Claim a listing function – Let businesses claim their own listing, without having to contact you directly.
  • Front-end submissions – Let businesses submit their listings through user-friendly front-end submissions form.
  • Search functionality – Enable your users to easily search your site and find the listings or information they are looking for.
  • Ratings and reviews system – Allow users to leave ratings and reviews, helping to create an onsite community.
  • Monetization options – From advertising, listing fees and subscriptions, to appointment bookings and reservations, look for a theme that allows you to generate an income in a variety of ways and that will integrate with prominent payment gateways (eg – Stripe or PayPal).

Before you commit to a theme, make sure you check out the demos and read reviews. This will ensure you have a good understanding of what features a theme includes before you make a purchase.

Here’s a list of themes built specifically to handle directory websites. Check them out, you’ll surely find something interesting there.

4. Decide how to monetize your site


There are numerous ways to monetize a directory site. The strategies you choose will influence how you create your website. Let’s take a look at some of the different options…

  • Charge for listings – Selling listings can be an effective way to generate recurring revenue, especially for directory niches like jobs or retail estate. Consider charging a monthly subscription, or a one-off fee for a set amount of display time. However, to charge for listings, your site will need to be receiving high amounts of traffic.
  • Claim a listing – The ‘claim a listing’ model, used by sites like Yelp, is a great option for directory sites that are just starting out and are yet to receive much traffic. By displaying all the businesses in your niche, you are creating a valuable site for your target audience. Businesses can then pay to claim their listing, adding extra information like branding, extra contact info, and much more.
  • Premium listing – Another way to generate money is to sell premium listing space. Premium listings could be positioned in prominent places on your site. They can also contain extra information including larger images, more text, and social links.
  • Take bookings – Take bookings and reservations through your site (for example, for restaurants or hotels) and charge a commission to do so.
  • Sell advertising space – Businesses who want to tap into your target market may well be interested in advertising on your directory site. Look to sell prominent banner or sidebar positions on a monthly retainer.

Select the monetary options that work for your niche. And remember that the strategies you use can change over time as your site and audience numbers grow. Most modern themes will integrate with payment gateway providers like PayPal and Stripe to allow you to take payments on your website.

5. Add extra functionality via plugins

Depending on your directory niche, your monetization strategies, and the features your chosen theme includes, you may need to install some extra plugins to add further functionality to your website. Here are some potential options…

  • WooCommerce – Integrating your theme with WooCommerce will give you the advanced options of taking recurring subscriptions and charging commissions for bookings and reservations.
  • Intergeo Maps – Add interactive maps to your directory site, showing the physical locations of the businesses you are listing.
  • Popup Maker – Display opt-in popups on your directory site. By collecting your visitors’ email addresses, you can then keep in contact. And importantly, entice them back to your site in the future.

Final thoughts on how to create a directory site

To create a directory site, you will need to put in the time to research and list businesses, promote your website and connect with your target market. However, if you follow the steps above, you will quickly get your site up and running, and begin to generate an income. Good luck!

Still have any questions on how to create a directory site? If so, please ask away in the thoughts below.

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