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How to Create a Local Search Directory Like Yelp on WordPress

TL;DR: Yelp is a huge website / web service offering a ton of features and serving millions of visitors. This you surely do know… However! It turns out that you can create a local search directory like Yelp on WordPress. Here’s how – all done from top to bottom and without touching a line of code. Enter Colin:
Does the idea of learning how to create a local search directory like Yelp on WordPress intrigue you? I doubt I need to tell you about the massive success of sites like Yelp and Foursquare. You see them in the search results pretty much every time you search for a business.

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

ListingPro is a premium directory theme that you can purchase at ThemeForest.

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

 
Once you install and activate ListingPro (it installs like any other theme), it will take you through the process of:
  • 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:

 
Everything you’ll do in the following steps is all about making this base site your own.

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.
 

 
You can also pop down to the Footer section to configure some styles for your footer as well as to add your social profiles.

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.
  • Currency.
  • Payment gateways.
  • Set up pages for terms and conditions, checkout, etc.
 

 
Next up, head to the Email Management tab. Here, you’ll configure the transaction emails that your directory site sends out. What do I mean by transactional emails? Stuff like:
  • The email new users get.
  • The email someone gets when they submit a listing.
  • Payment confirmations.
  • Etc.

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:

 

 
Next, pop down to the Invoice Options tab and enter your own business’ details. This is the information that will appear on the invoice that you send to businesses who pay for listings:
 

 
Second to last thing! Next up, head to the URL Config tab to configure the page URLs for some essential pages. Note – if you imported all of the dummy data like I suggested, ListingPro will have already created these pages and entered the URLs here. But if you want to change the URL of the page, this is where you can update it so that your site still works properly:
 

 
And finally, go to the Contact Page to configure your contact information, as well as some basic details about your built-in contact form:
 

 
Phew! That’s a lot of boring stuff, to be honest. But once you’ve configured it, you pretty much never need to look at it again.

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:

 

 
And then if you go to the Listing Submit & Edit Settings option, you can configure the form that businesses will use to submit their listing to your directory. It’s a lengthy list – but it’s important that you go through and configure everything. For example, you’ll be able to choose whether or not businesses can:
  • 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:

 

 
Once you finish up this behemoth menu, you need to pop over to the Listings tab in your sidebar. Here, you’ll be able to add:
  • 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.
 

 
To show you how Features and Categories interplay, here’s an example where I added a feature called Allows Pets? to the Hotels category. As you can see below, users can filter by this Feature, but only when browsing the Hotels 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:

 

 
Businesses will then be able to purchase ads directly from their dashboard (more on that later!).

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:

 

 
For example, if a new listing comes in, it will show up as Pending Review in the Listings tab. To make it public, all you need to do is change its status to Published:
 

 
Similarly, you can manage reviews in the Reviews tab, ads in the Ads tab, and if a business wants to claim a listing, you can manage that from the Claims tab.

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
 

 
Clicking Add Listing brings them to a front-end form to submit their 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:

 

 

What’s next?

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!

By the way, if you’re interested in other detailed guides like this one, you can learn how to create a multi-vendor marketplace or how to create a membership site using WordPress.

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.

 
Colin: Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics. You can find him at www.cnewcomer.com
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