How to Build an Online Directory Website

By Matthew Schieltz

Thousands of online directories are on the Internet today: paid directories, city portals, and article directories, just to name a few. Starting an online directory can be a little challenging if you're new to the Internet, but an experienced individual should be able to have a directory up and running in no time with a few simple steps.

Setting Up an Online Directory

Step 1

Decide which type of online directory you'd like to start. Online directories can be paid or free. A general directory has many different categories and subcategories and can be adapted to just about any purpose. Niche directories deal with just one or two kinds of topic (for instance, web designer directory or restaurant directory). Regional or city directories have categories and subcategories related to the businesses and organizations in a specific location. Article directories are websites that list many different categories and subcategories of article topics.

Step 2

Choose a domain name for your online directory and purchase web hosting to host the website files for your directory. Many domain registrar services exist on the Internet and the majority of places allow you to buy a domain name and hosting at the same place. A few popular examples of registrars and web hosts include GoDaddy, and Namecheap.

Step 3

Search for an online directory script that you'll be satisfied with when creating your online directory. You'll be able to choose from many paid and free directory scripts online. An example of a free directory script is PHP Link Directory version 2; a very sophisticated paid directory software includes Gossamer Links.

Some important characteristics of a good online directory script that will be search friendly and amiable to visitors include being built in PHP and able to work with MySQL (database through your web host company); offering built-in paid subscriptions so you'll be able to profit from your directory; a featured listing posting; and being easily customizable.

Step 4

Upload the online directory script to your web hosting service after you have decided on a program to use. This can be done by first downloading the software to your desktop (paying for it first if it is a paid script), and then uploading it to your web hosting server and your domain's main directory by using your host's file manager or via a free FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program such as FileZilla. Check with the particular online directory script vendor for any further instructions, such as whether changing file permissions is needed.

Step 5

Make any design modifications to your online directory script if desired. Many online directories allow you to upload custom logos. Further design work can be outsourced, if needed, by posting projects on popular freelance websites such as or

Step 6

Decide on a category structure for your online directory. If you'll be creating a regional portal, you'll need to include major cities as categories and the businesses in each city as subcategories. If creating an online general Internet directory, you may need major categories like blogs, forums, hosting services, web designers, and Internet marketers and then subcategories for each.

Step 7

Log in to the administrator side of your online directory and begin creating categories and subcategories for your directory. Some online directory scripts will have MySQL 'dumps' available, meaning that category structures will be prepopulated on your website. Specific instructions for automatically installing categories through a MySQL dump, if available, can be found from specific directory script vendors. Each directory script is different; your script vendor should also have instructions for creating category structures manually if needed.

Step 8

Advertise your online directory to increase its popularity. Post links to your online directory in forums and forum signatures, create a blog post about it or even use banner advertisements. Whether starting a paid or a free directory, you can have potential members contact you to get started advertising in your directory listings.