How to Make a Directory Website with WordPress

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Ben Sibley

“Follow the plan outlined here and you can create your own website from scratch without writing any code for less than $300.”


It’s the main facet of a successful directory website.

Visitors will come searching for some sort of establishment, and your site provides a search experience that Google can’t. With a well-made directory website, you can help visitors discover new restaurants to try, hotels to stay at, or businesses to hire.

Regardless of whether you want to create a site like Yelp or a simple link directory, you’ll find the steps you need to follow outlined clearly here.

How to create a directory website

There are just a few simple steps to follow to put your site together. The most important aspect is that you select the right tools.

Here’s an overview of the process.

  1. Pick a great domain name
  2. Select a web host
  3. Install WordPress on your site
  4. Pick a WordPress theme
  5. Launch your site

If you’re not sure where to start, this can all be a little intimidating, but by the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done.

Before we get started, here’s a little motivation to move forward…

Preview of your site

I have a variety of designs to recommend, but here’s a preview of the one I recommend first.


This directory theme can be used to create gorgeous and highly-functional directory websites. I hope you’re excited to create a site like this of your own.

Let’s move on to the first step.

By the way, you may also enjoy our guide on creating a site like Yelp or how to make a website like TripAdvisor.

Choose a domain name

The very first step is to get a domain for your website. This is the address visitors will type into their browser to view your site.

The domain name of this site is which includes the top-level domain or domain extension.

Visual representation of a domain name's components

Don’t be fooled.

At first, it may seem like the challenge is in coming up with a good name, but the real challenge is coming up with a name that is memorable, on-brand, and available for purchase. While you could buy a domain from a broker, which will likely run you a couple of thousand dollars, I always recommend trying to find an available domain first, which will only cost about $10/year.

If you want some help with the process of finding an available domain name, our research guide here will help a lot.

Pick a host

Your website’s files will be stored on a server that will deliver them to each visitor’s browser when they arrive at your site.

You’ll be renting space on someone else’s server, which is called hosting. There are lots of hosts available, but my first recommendation for new WordPress sites is always Nexcess.

Nexcess WordPress Hosting
Click here to make your site

They’re easy to signup with and use, and they’ve been around for a long time.

Nexcess is way faster and more reliable than the cheap shared hosts but less than half the price of the typical premium host. This makes them an affordable host that beginners can grow into without having to switch hosts the moment their site becomes successful.

Install WordPress

Installing WordPress on your site will give you access to the world’s most popular website builder. WordPress itself is free and always will remain free.

Another benefit when you signup with Nexcess is that they’ll automatically create a WP site for you so you can skip this step entirely.

You can also check out my tutorial on making a WordPress website if you want additional help.

Pick a WordPress theme

There are lots of themes designed for creating directories, but a few stand out. My first recommendation is the ListingPro theme.

Click here to see ListingPro now

This theme has an awesome design and works well with the modern type of directory site that has become popular. Namely, sites like Yelp. As you can see from the screenshot, it’s easily adapted to fit a variety of niches.

the amount of functionality included in this theme is extreme. Visitors can create accounts to leave reviews and favorite establishments, or signup as businesses to add their own listings. You can easily monetize the site by charging businesses to add listings to the site.

Listingpro Update
Some of the most recent additions to the ListingPro theme

The listing pages themselves can include a ton of details beyond user reviews and basic descriptions. You can also include hours of operation, distance, map embeds, and “near me” indicators just to name a few.

Since ListingPro auto-locates the visitor’s location, you can cover a huge range of regions with your site and have it automatically present only the most relevant places to each visitor.

Alternatives to ListingPro

As I mentioned previously, there are a lot of great themes to choose from when creating a directory website. While ListingPro stands out as a gorgeous, feature-rich option, there are plenty of solid alternatives.

To see the top alternatives, check out this list of the best directory WordPress themes.

Directory WordPress Themes

You’ll find more than a dozen awesome themes for building your website there.

As an additional alternative, you could choose any theme you want and then use a plugin to add the directory functionality to your site. If you’d like to explore that path, consider these top directory plugins for your site.

Directory WordPress Plugins

While the themes recommended will provide you with a complete solution, the plugins can offer a lot more flexibility by integrating with any WordPress theme.

Launch your directory site

With your site built, the final step is to prep for your launch.

There’s no right or wrong way to build a userbase for a site like this, but two-sided marketplaces typically work best when attracting content creators first. Focus on a niche to get started and get some businesses signed up, and then work on promoting your site to end-users.

By following the steps included here, you can build an awesome site for your audience and you’ll be prepared to handle all of the visitors and signups.

To outline the steps one more time:

  1. Pick a great domain name
  2. Signup with Nexcess
  3. Install WordPress on your site
  4. Pick a WordPress theme (ListingPro is recommended)
  5. Launch your site

Once you have your site online you can begin promotion and attract a profitable audience. I hope this guide has shown you how possible it is to build an awesome directory without writing any code, so you can build the site you’re dreaming of.

Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley
This article was written by Ben Sibley. He is a WordPress theme designer & developer, and founder of Compete Themes.