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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:

Building a website? 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.

How to Create a Local Search Directory Like Yelp on WordPress

What goes into a quality local search directory?

First, you need to make a WordPress website and then you need a tool. 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 - create a local directory website

ListingPro is a premium directory theme that you can purchase at ThemeForest for $69.

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:

how yelp search works

And here’s a screenshot of ListingPro’s search on my test site:

how listingpro search works

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:

import dummy content

how to create a local search directory like yelp on WordPress

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

You may also be interested in:

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:

style your directory

  • 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.

customize your header

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.

configure payments

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:

more nitty gritty details

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:

configure settings

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:

set up url config

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

add contact information

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:

choose your listing 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:

customize your directory listings

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.

add categories

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:

features vs categories

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:

add a 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:

choose options fro businesses

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:

in your dashboard

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:

changing statuses

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

front-end menus

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

submit 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:

manage 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.

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. Learn more below:

Layout and presentation by Karol K.

This post has been brought to you by ListingPro.

Yay! 🎉 You made it to the end of the article!
Colin Newcomer

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Osman Bar
February 13, 2018 10:07 am

Hi Sam, I believe it’s possible to create a directory for any country, not just the US, right? I’m thinking of using it for Turkey.
Also, the above question of Gene’s really caught my attention: is it possible to get local listings from Google/Facebook to be able to import into ListingPro ?

Scott G. Smith
December 20, 2017 7:35 pm

Is there a way to have user created listings and not just limiting it to the business? If say.. someone wanted to list and rate a BBQ restaurant that they’ve found.

Sam Rizzi
December 29, 2017 10:04 pm
Reply to  Scott G. Smith

Hi Scott, yes sure why not. 🙂 As an admin you can set wether you want the listings to be auto approved or only admin approved. So once the listing is approved the user who submitted the listing can leave rating.

Francine Marlenee McQueen
October 23, 2017 2:19 am

Does this come with an SSL Certificate?

October 18, 2017 2:12 pm

Great article .. you are always referring to this as a “local directory” .. are there any constraints that mean it is hard or cannot be used as a State or National or International Directory?

Sam Rizzi
October 26, 2017 10:59 pm
Reply to  William

Yes now the theme has Google Places API integration for world-wide so if you plan to use it for international you don’t need to add cities manually it automatically picks via google api. You can add single code (country) at a time or you can leave the field empty to activate globally (word-wide). When using Google API currently you can’t limit to a City or State. In that case you will have to use the other option with out google api to manually add just a city or state.

Bonnie Tinder
September 7, 2017 5:49 am

Hi – Is it possible to use ListingPro exclusively as a services directory and consumer ratings site? I don’t care so much about geo-location as much as specific evaluations of work / services done. Is it possible to customize in this way? Tx

August 9, 2017 8:12 am

Is it possible to set the payment ( Monthly subscription , Ads ..) from sellers to website’s owner in both ways : wire transfer & cash on delivery .

Sam Rizzi
August 14, 2017 4:26 am
Reply to  Gayathri

Hi, sorry I am afraid I don’t quite get your question. But from what I understood we currently working on Auto-Recurring payment and will be released very soon. If you question is whether or not auto recurring/monthly subscription will be available for wire transfer/cash then it might be in future but first it’s going to be for Stripe and PayPal.

June 22, 2017 1:17 am

We just reviewed this theme too. While we agree that the design is superb, we can’t say the same thing about the code that powers the directory portion of the theme. There is no way someone can build a professional directory with more than a couple hundred listings with this product. We also found a severe XSS vulnerability and other bugs (the authors have been alerted before disclosing them and they should have fixed the security issues). ListingPro is a nice exercise, but far from being something that can be used in a real website.

Zafar Khan
June 14, 2017 12:08 pm

Hi Sam, i am looking for a developer who is able to finalize my website completly with ListingPro. and i have to do that in a very short time.

Francine Marlenee McQueen
October 23, 2017 2:15 am
Reply to  Zafar Khan

Who did you have host it?

Gene Chamson
June 7, 2017 3:17 pm

It seems like it would be a lot of work to create enough listings for it to be a real directory site. Is there some way to automate the loading of listings data? I know this data is available by API from other directory sites, like Google and Facebook. Can you suggest a solution that won’t have me spending hours creating listings?

Jeff Baker
May 30, 2017 7:29 pm

Can someone explain why the new ads i’m creating don’t have the ‘AD’ tag in the directory listing? They are not showing up like the picture attached. What setting am I missing?comment image

mjgw pro
May 29, 2017 9:24 pm

Looks great Is there a way to calculate & show Taxes on the invoices that “Listing Subscribers” receive to pay for their listings? (like woocommerce does it in Listable or Listify Theme) – I’m particularly interested in European VAT (Value Added Tax) – where percentage is different from country to country.

Sam Rizzi
May 30, 2017 12:53 pm
Reply to  mjgw pro

Yes! this is coming in next release. 🙂

Sam Rizzi
May 26, 2017 4:43 am

@Colin and @Ionut Neagu team for this wonderful step-by-step guide to setup a yelp like directory with listingpro. It has been added to our official documentation for reference.

Juan Manuel Colome
May 26, 2017 3:51 am

It’s an interesting article and thanks for sharing. Having used many other directory themes I can honestly say that ListingPro beats all the rest by far. My only real concern is the fact that ranking a directory site for google is virtually impossible nowadays.

Sam Rizzi
May 26, 2017 4:41 am

Thanks! @juanmanuelcolome:disqus. I am the PM for ListingPro, I really appreciate your comment and feedback. We will need to look into this further and see what are our options.

Juan Manuel Colome
May 26, 2017 3:36 pm
Reply to  Sam Rizzi

Sam Rizzi – you have been an outstanding example of what a support team should be. I only know that you theme is by far the best on the market today and I wish you much success. I plan to be behind you following this success.
Juan Manuel Colome

Sam Rizzi
May 26, 2017 4:46 pm

Thank you Juan.
“We don’t want to come to work to build a wall, we want to come to work to build a cathedral.” – Simon Sinek

Juan Manuel Colome
May 26, 2017 7:50 pm
Reply to  Sam Rizzi

it’s good to be on your side 😉

Imran Javed
May 24, 2017 5:44 pm

You are most welcome for listing pro support.

Or start the conversation in our Facebook group for WordPress professionals. Find answers, share tips, and get help from other WordPress experts. Join now (it’s free)!

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