But while these two giants – Yelp and Foursquare – are certainly popular, they’re also nationally focused. And that national focus opens the door for a niche competitor to sneak in and grab a chunk of the local search directory pie.
To help you do just that, I’m going to spend this post giving you a step-by-step guide for how you can create a local search directory like Yelp on WordPress without breaking the bank.
What goes into a quality local search directory?
In order to find the best tool to create a local search directory like Yelp on WordPress, it’s a good idea to first define the key characteristics of what make Yelp and Foursquare so effective.
Those features are, predominantly:
- Quality search/filtering that makes it easy for visitors to find relevant businesses.
- Map listing view that lets people find the locations which are nearest to a specific area.
- User reviews so that visitors can get an idea of a business’ quality.
- Monetization options so that you can actually make money from your local search directory.
- Management tools for business owners so they can manage or claim listings without much manual work from the site admin (you).
Unfortunately, there’s not a free solution that does a great job at this. But there is an affordable premium option called ListingPro.
Our solution to create a local search directory like Yelp on WordPress
It turns your generic WordPress site into a fully-featured local search directory that’s packed with most of the features that make sites like Yelp and Foursquare work. ListingPro is our go-to tool because:
- It has a detailed live search that makes it easy for visitors to find content in your directory.
- It includes a beautiful front-end dashboard for businesses to manage their listings and place ads.
- You, the admin, can manage heaps of details from the WordPress admin dashboard.
Just to give you an idea of why ListingPro fits this purpose so well, here’s a screenshot of Yelp’s search:
And here’s a screenshot of ListingPro’s search on my test site:
Pretty cool, right? ListingPro’s search engine goes far beyond the default WordPress search, which is important for your local directory to be successful.
Below, I’ll give you a detailed, step-by-step guide for how to create a local search directory on WordPress using ListingPro.
Step-by-step: Building a local search directory on WordPress
Once you purchase ListingPro, you’re ready to jump into creating your directory site. Here’s how I recommend tackling your new site:
- Install ListingPro and configure it.
- Configure your site’s style.
- Set up basic details like payment settings and email notifications.
- Configure everything about your listings – categories, cities, etc.
- Set up your pricing plans for businesses to pay for premium listings.
- Configure the ad options that you’ll offer to businesses.
Below, I’ll take you through how to do all of this in more detail:
Step 1: Install ListingPro and run the setup wizard
- Installing the required plugins
- Importing demo content
I highly recommend that you import all of the dummy content because it’s going to make customizing your theme much easier down the line.
Once you run the setup wizard, you should be looking at what is pretty much a fully functioning local directory site:
Step 2: Style your directory site
Time to style your site. This is where you’ll pick the fonts, colors, and background images used on your directory site.
To change them up, you need to go to the new Theme Options tab in your WordPress dashboard sidebar. To configure styling options, you’ll stick mainly to the first five options:
- General Settings. Change up your primary colors as well as some navigation and functionality settings.
- Typography. Choose all of the fonts, sizes, and colors used on your site.
- Header. Change up your header layout and colors. You can also add a search bar to your header and upload your own logo here.
- Banner. Choose the big bold banner that appears behind the search box on your homepage. You can also configure which categories appear on the front page.
- Map Settings. Choose which style of map to use. You can either use normal Google Maps or go with a few different styles of MapBox.
There’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to configure most of these. It’s all about how you want your directory to look.
Step 3: Configure emails, payment settings, etc.
Once you’re happy with your site’s looks, it’s time to tackle some nitty gritty details like your transactional emails, payment settings, invoice management, and URL configuration.
This part isn’t especially enjoyable, but it is necessary to the functioning of your site.
So let’s go through everything you need to do in order. These are all still options under the Theme Options tab.
First, head to Payment Settings and configure everything. You can choose:
- Whether or not new listings require manual approval before they display.
- Whether or not you even want to accept paid listings.
- Payment gateways.
- Set up pages for terms and conditions, checkout, etc.
- The email new users get.
- The email someone gets when they submit a listing.
- Payment confirmations.
You’ll need to configure each email individually using the normal WordPress TinyMCE editor. It’s important to remember that you can use variables here. For example, if you type
%username, it will be replaced by the person’s actual username. ListingPro tells you all of the variables you can use in the Email Management page:
Step 4: Configure how your directory listings work
Once you got all of those nitty gritty details out of the way, you’re ready to dig into how your listing pages function. By listing pages, I mean the actual pages that display individual businesses.
To configure these, you’re going to be working in two different menus in your WordPress dashboard. You can start in the same Theme Options area you’ve been working in already.
Go to the Listing General Setting and click on the Listing View subcategory. Here, you can configure how you want to display lists of multiple listings. You can either display a normal list or go with a grid display. And you can also choose whether or not to include a map view:
- upload photos,
- add tags,
- upload videos,
- add website URLs,
- and lots, lots more.
For each option, you can either toggle it on or off. Then, if you turn it on, you can configure all of the text associated with that option:
- Categories. Choose broad categories for listings. E.g. Hotels, Restaurants, etc.
- Locations. Choose the locations to enable listings for. You can make the locations as large or small as you want. E.g. State, City, County, etc.
- Features. These are associated with specific categories. For example, you might want to add feature lists that are specific to only the Hotel category.
Step 5: Set up your pricing plans
If you’re not planning to charge businesses for listings, you can skip this section. By default, ListingPro already creates a free plan when you import the dummy content.
But if you want to add a premium plan on top, or replace the free plan with only a paid plan, you can do it by heading to Pricing Plans → Add New Price Plan:
Step 6: Configure your ad options
Ads are a good part of Yelp’s revenue model, so if you want to create a local search directory on WordPress that mimics Yelp and FourSquare, you’ll probably want to include ads as part of your revenue model as well.
To set up ads, you can go to Theme Options → Ads Options. Here, you can configure the text on your advertising options page as well as your pricing plans:
Managing your local search directory site
Ok, at this point, your local search directory should be pretty much set up. While you’re still lacking the actual listings, all of the core functionality should be there and you’re finished with the one-time setup.
Now, it’s time to give you a quick overview of how you can manage the day-to-day operation of your local search directory. Pretty much all your management will take place in these menu options:
How businesses can manage their listings and ads
Everything I showed you above is from the perspective of you, the site admin. But how will things work for the businesses that want to create listings and/or advertise on your local search directory?
Businesses who’ve created accounts can interact with your site in two ways:
- Going to their dashboard
- Adding a new listing
And if they go to their Dashboard, they’ll see a detailed front-end dashboard where they can:
- View their listings
- See invoices
- Create ad campaigns
- Manage bookings
- See stats
- Manage their food/service menu (if applicable)
There are also neat prompts that push businesses to promote their listings:
While you may have just learned how to create a local search directory like Yelp on WordPress, you’re not quite done yet. Now – you actually need to build up enough content to make it worthwhile for people to use your directory.
But after this guide, you should have a solid foundation that lets your visitors search, filter, and review businesses just like they would on Yelp.
What’s more, businesses can submit their listings or claim existing listings. And once they have a listing, they’ll be able to automatically promote their listing using ads – without you needing to handle things manually.
I hope this has been helpful! It’s really remarkable that even seemingly complex websites / web services like Yelp can be recreated with WordPress-based tools, and at a fraction of the price of hiring a dev team and having the thing built from the ground up!
Any questions on how to create a local search directory like Yelp on WordPress? Feel free to fire away in the comments section below.
Layout and presentation by Karol K.
This post has been brought to you by ListingPro.