From real estate listings to niche membership sites, online directories provide an enhanced, interactive experience for your website visitors.
While the standard grid-style layout and “click to contact” buttons provide a standardized method of communicating with individual listings, a user directory is much more than a simple networking enhancement tool.
Its primary purpose is to showcase individuals (or businesses) in a way that promotes a deeper level of engagement with your website visitors.
From a business perspective, a directory not only brings in new traffic, but also enhances the quality of the overall website experience.
The question remains: can an online user directory enhance your business model?
Table of Contents
- The Untapped Potential of Adding a Directory to Your Site
- How a Searchable Member Directory Works
- 5 Member Directory Examples to Inspire Yours
- How to Create an Online Directory on WordPress Using AccessAlly
- A WordPress Directory Plugin For Your Business
The Untapped Potential of Adding a Directory to Your Site
From public-facing directories (like chamber of commerce business listings) to private sites (only available to paying members of a program), user directories provide a wealth of opportunity in terms of easy, instant engagement for your site users.
In terms of the bottom line, an online directory can attract more revenue and sales for your business in a variety of ways:
- You could charge a fee to users who want to be featured in your directory (or simply pay to be featured first in the results)
- Your directory could be limited to individuals who sign up for your certification courses, providing incentive for them to sign up and stick with the program.
- A well-built directory will attract new and recurring website visitors who are looking for a quick, easy way to browse through the results (especially if the alternative is a repeated Google search!). Not only does this build credibility for your site, but it also increases the amount of returning visitors who bookmark your directory, giving you more opportunity to turn them into clients.
- Many online directories provide a nice network for white-hat SEO link-building purposes
As mentioned before: at its most basic level, an online directory might also be a simple way to enhance the user experience of your site or membership program as a whole, boosting revenue by reducing customer churn.
Public vs Private Online Directories
The public directory is the format we're most familiar with. Many real estate companies and healthcare facilities, for example, use a public directory to make it easier for clients to search for–and connect with–the professional that best suits their needs.
If the info in the directory matches up with the search intent of the website visitors, the directory saves time for everyone involved.
But there's also an extensive market for private directories, where access to the directory is limited to paying members of an organization. This private format often appears inside a membership site, for example, where active members are encouraged to connect with each other.
How a Searchable Member Directory Works
On a practical level, user directories all function with the same basic principle: each user (or business) has a unique profile that shows up inside the user directory. This directory usually includes a search field and variety of filters to make it easy for website visitors to find the user(s) that match up most closely with their needs.
For this to happen, each “card” in the directory results provides a summary of who the person is and why you might want to connect with them. From there, the directory listing usually gives you one of two routes:
- The listing displays contact info (like a website URL) for you to use to connect with them.
- Clicking on the listing takes you to that user's profile page, which contains even more information to help you learn more about that user before taking action to connect with them.
5 Member Directory Examples to Inspire Yours
Example 1: The Certified Expert Directory
This is a great directory to add to your site if you're selling a certification program, like we've done with our AccessAlly Certified Partners & Advocates. Course graduates receive an invitation to create a profile and be featured in the online directory.
Not only does this give your successful students more visibility with potential clients, but it also encourages other potential clients to consider whether they want to enroll in your certification program as well.
See it in action:
The AccessAlly Certified Expert directory is an example of how this directory works: when a student passes the course and receives their official certification credentials, they're able to build out their profile and earn a spot on the directory.
(created with AccessAlly)
Example 2: A Chamber of Commerce Business Directory
Chamber of Commerce organizations are committed to establishing relationships with and promoting local businesses.
Like most B2B models, this is a highly symbiotic relationship, where marketing efforts are mutually beneficial.
One of the biggest challenges for a Chamber of Commerce is to find the most effective ways to connect tourists and locals with the lesser-known businesses in the area … like the mom and pop shops that offer incredible products, but don't have the ability to run high-visibility marketing campaigns on their own.
While many Chamber of Commerce websites rely on simple lists or spreadsheets to “showcase” the local businesses, a more effective format is to build out an online directory. With a location based directory, local businesses become more accessible to online visitors and, since each business could be “in charge” of its own listing, the information is often easily kept up-to-date.
(created with AccessAlly)
Example 3: The Private Directory For Company Employees
A third example of a user directory is an in-house directory that you might use for company employees. This could be used in either (or both) of two ways:
- To help employees understand what everyone does and connect with each other (small to medium sized businesses may benefit most from this model)
- A tool for your HR manager to monitor team member information and even make it easy to connect with them in a 1-1 format (especially good for medium to large-sized businesses, where it can be challenging to keep tabs on all team members equally).
In either case, the value of the online directory lies in streamlining your business processes and increasing communication between your employees.
(created with AccessAlly)
How to Create an Online Directory on WordPress Using AccessAlly
With an online user directory, you can create a socially engaging environment for your membership site users by encouraging each member to customize their own profile and then connect with other members.
All of the examples above were created using AccessAlly, a WordPress membership plugin with a built-in dynamic user directory feature.
Here's how it works:
When someone gains access to your membership site (either by signing up for a free account or purchasing access for a paid one), the AccessAlly membership plugin automatically creates a new WordPress user for them. From there, you can decide who gets to be featured in the directory, as well as what information each user is permitted to share (so you can standardize the appearance and content of the directory).
AccessAlly uses the member database in WordPress to follow your rules, automatically allowing the “right” users to create profiles for the directory.
It's a clean, easy-to-manage feature that's totally automated (after the initial setup, of course!) so that you can spend more time marketing your business and less time managing the dozens — or thousands — of profiles within your directory.
A WordPress Directory Plugin For Your Business
Whether you're building a private or public facing directory, AccessAlly is a WordPress directory plugin that not only allows you to create listings and profiles for your directory … but also gives you the ability to create the certification programs, trainings, and private accounts that go along with whatever business model you're using.