5 best WordPress directory plugins in 2019 (and how to use them)

September 9, 2020 4 comments

WordPress directory plugin

‘If you need to create a browsable list of information on your site, a WordPress directory plugin is the right tool for the job.

The word we used – “information” – is intentionally vague because you can use a good WordPress directory plugin to organise and showcase different types of content. You can collect:

  • Businesses, similar to a Yelp or Yellow pages format
  • Users/members
  • Locations
  • Products
  • Files (documents, videos, audio files)
  • …the sky’s the limit (with the right tool, of course)

What’s more, your visitors will be able to search and filter all that information to find what they’re looking for, and you’ll give yourself tons of chances to rank in Google with all the various entries in your directory.

To help you find the best WordPress directory plugin for your needs, we’ve collected five great free and premium options.

Then, after we share more about each WordPress directory plugin, we’ll also give you a step-by-step tutorial for how to add a directory to your WordPress site using the first option on our list – Posts Table Pro.

Best WordPress directory plugin: 5 options compared

Below, we’ll share details for five of the most popular directory plugins for WordPress. You’ll find both free and premium options on this list…

1. Posts Table Pro – Most flexible WordPress directory plugin

The Posts Table Pro WordPress directory plugin

In terms of flexibility, Posts Table Pro is the best WordPress directory plugin because it lets you build a 100% custom directory for any type of content, rather than forcing you into a pre-made framework, like many other directory plugins.

Essentially, Posts Table Pro lets you take any post type and display it in a flexible table layout (AKA a directory), complete with lots of search and filter options to help visitors browse the directory listings and find what they’re looking for.

You can use it as a business directory plugin for WordPress. Or, you can also display other types of information. Here are just a few examples of what you can use it for…

If you pick a different WordPress directory plugin, it’s likely going to lock you into a single “type” of directory content. But with Posts Table Pro, you’ll have total flexibility for how you put together your directory.

To use Posts Table Pro, you’ll typically create a custom post type for whatever content you want to collect and then use Posts Table Pro to display that content in a directory format. We’ll show you exactly how to do this at the end of this post in the tutorial.

You can use Posts Table Pro with any WordPress theme, and it makes for a great “WordPress searchable database plugin” too. Posts Table Pro uses AJAX search, so visitors can get instant search results from your database content.

Make Posts Table Pro your own

Because you’re working with your own custom post types, you can build out your system exactly how you want it to be. Here are some examples of how you’ll be able to set things up:

  • You can use categories, tags, or custom taxonomies to organize your directory items.
  • You can use custom fields to store as much or as little information about each item in your directory. Or, you can also collect addresses to create a geodirectory.
  • If you want to let people submit their own listings, you can use Gravity Forms’ drag-and-drop editor to create a front-end submission form and collect as much information as needed. You can even charge users for submitting content and connect to any of the payment gateways Gravity Forms supports, including Stripe and PayPal.
  • You can also use Gravity Forms to let users submit reviews for directory items, which lets you create your own lightweight Yelp clone.
  • Using something like WP All Import, you can bulk add listings via CSV import or XML import.

Finally, as well as being the most user-friendly, Posts Table Pro is one of the more affordable WordPress directory plugins, coming in at just $79.

Posts Table Pro
The easy way to create a create a searchable directory in WordPress.

2. Business Directory Plugin – Dedicated business directory plugin for WordPress

Business Directory Plugin for WordPress

As the name suggests, Business Directory Plugin is a popular business directory plugin for WordPress.

It helps you create a Yellow Pages-style directory, including an option to add reviews, which also lets you go in more of a Yelp direction with your directory.

With the paid version, you can let visitors filter by location information, which helps you create a local business directory. And there’s also a Google Maps module that lets you display the local directory listings on a map view.

Beyond that, you have the option to create a front-end submission form and accept payments via payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe.

Business Directory Plugin has a limited free version at WordPress.org, but you’ll need the premium extensions to get access to the most important functionality. The premium plan starts at $199.99 for use on a single site, which makes it a little pricey in comparison to other options on this list.

3. GeoDirectory – Local business directory plugin for WordPress

Geodirectory plugin for WordPress

Another aptly named plugin, GeoDirectory helps you create a local business directory for one or more locations. It’s focused more on physical listings, which makes it a great business directory plugin for WordPress, but not so great if you want to create a directory of people or other non-tangible items.

The free version only lets you create a directory for a single location, but the premium version adds support for multi-location directories. Visitors can then search your directory by zip code or proximity, as well as more traditional keyword searches.

If desired, you can let users submit reviews, which lets you create a directory similar to Yelp.

And like the previous two options, you can create a front-end submission form using a drag-and-drop form builder. And it also comes with a built-in CSV import feature to help you bulk import directory listings.

If you want to charge people for submitting listings, the premium version lets you add prices for your listings and accept payments via PayPal or Stripe.

To access all the premium functionality, you’ll pay $199 per year, which, like Business Directory Plugin, is one of the higher prices on this list.

4. Formidable Directory – a WordPress directory plugin with powerful forms

WordPress directory plugin

Formidable Forms is a form building plugin that’s been around since 2009. Forms are just one part of the directory building equation, but Formidable has features that can turn form data into websites too.

Naturally, people began using these features to build directory sites as well. The only issue was that it required a bit of coding. With the release of Formidable Directory, coding is no longer needed.

Formidable Directory includes everything from Formidable Forms + an automated directory building wizard to get started quick. It comes in three different formats: business, employee, and user – each with their own quick start wizard.

Like other options on this list, you’ll be able to create paid or free listings with all the major payment gateways. Simply adjust your submission form using the drag and drop form builder. Or create a new one!

And if you don’t like the included formats, you can also use Formidable’s Views feature to turn all your form data into whatever kind of website you want.

Formidable Directory starts at $298/year – which also includes the entire Formidable Forms plugin as well.

5. Sabai Directory – Affordable, but not as flexible, WordPress directory plugin

Sabai Directory plugin for WordPress

Sabai Directory is a popular WordPress directory plugin sold through CodeCanyon. It’s an affordable option, but it lacks the flexibility that you’d get with Posts Table Pro or some of the other more customizable plugins.

Because it offers built-in multi-location support and reviews, Sabai Directory makes a good option for a geodirectory or Yelp clone.

Users can search by location, and you also have the option of showcasing directory listings on Google Maps.

If you want to accept payment in exchange for directory listings, you can create a frontend submission form and sell paid listings via PayPal, Stripe, and other payment gateways.

Finally, Sabai Directory includes a CSV import feature to help you bulk import listings.

Sabai Directory is available from CodeCanyon.

How to create a WordPress directory with Posts Table Pro

Now that you know your options, let’s dig into how to actually create a directory with one specific plugin – Posts Table Pro.

As we mentioned before, Posts Table Pro gives you the flexibility to use it as a business directory plugin for WordPress, as well as a variety of other applications.

Posts Table Pro
The easy way to create a create a searchable directory in WordPress.

In a nutshell, Posts Table Pro takes the listings that you add to the WordPress admin (e.g. business listings, staff contact details, etc.) and displays them in a table on the front end. It transforms the information into a fully functional directory website.

Of course, that’s just the beginning. You can also:

  • Choose exactly what information will be included about each item in the table (including images and other media).
  • Link out from each item to another page, post, or other content type.
  • Include as few or as many entries in your table as you’d like.
  • Enable visitors to quickly find information by searching, sorting, and filtering the table (for example, they could search for an item with a specific keyword, or filter the table to only include entries in a particular category).

All of this results in a listing or database that is dynamic – meant to be used rather than just passively looked at. You’re able creating a searchable database, with the search results shown instantly:

An example of an eBook listing.

Plus, the highly customizable nature of the plugin means it can be adapted to all of the uses we mentioned in the previous section, and more.

Posts Table Pro
The easy way to create a create a searchable directory in WordPress.

To illustrate the types of WP directory you can create, let’s look at some examples of Posts Table Pro in action.

3 case studies using the Posts Table Pro directory plugin

Perhaps the best indicator of Posts Table Pro’s flexibility is how many WordPress sites it’s used on, and for how many different applications. We’re going to introduce you to three such sites, so you can get a better feel for the ways this WordPress directory plugin might be useful to you.

What’s more, all of these examples implement more unique directories, rather than just using Posts Table Pro as a business directory plugin for WordPress.

SuperConnection – WordPress member directory

The nice thing about a highly-customizable plugin like Posts Table Pro is that it can be used to create both simple and complex directories. For instance, SuperConnection is a site offering various self-improvement courses, and includes an online directory of consultants for its audience’s reference:

SuperConnection WordPress Directory Plugin

This WordPress members directory is kept as simple as can be. It just displays each consultant’s name and location. You can click on each name to visit a more detailed profile and find contact information. (However, you can also include contact details in the table itself.)

RJ Lee Group – WP publications directory

Next up, RJ Lee Group is a forensics laboratory and scientific consulting firm in the U.S. As part of their work, they often publish papers and make presentations. To make all of those publications available to their website’s visitors, the firm created a document database. This includes advanced search for all of the paper titles and citations:

The RJ Lee Group website.

In this WordPress document directory, you can see the name of each paper, its full citation, and the date it was published. There’s also a handy search bar, since the table contains a lot of items. Clicking on a paper’s title will take you to a page where you can download a copy.

Wavelength Electronics – WordPress product directory

While both of the previous tables kept things simple, this final example makes use of the full range of Post Table Pro’s feature set:

The Wavelength Electronics website.

This product directory listing includes quite a bit of information about each item, including an image and even a technical data sheet with download links. In addition, the filters above the table let you sort the entries based on the specific criteria you’re looking for. All in all, the table makes product comparisons very simple.

How to create a WordPress database, directory, or listing (in 4 steps)

If you want to create a WordPress directory or front end database for your own website, the good news is that it’s an easy task. Of course, how you customize your table will depend on the type of database, directory, or listing you’re building. Still, the process remains the same regardless of the application.

Let’s walk through how to create your own WordPress directory using Posts Table Pro!

Step 1: Install and activate the plugin

Before you can create any kind of dynamic table, you’ll need to purchase the Posts Table Pro WordPress directory plugin.

Posts Table Pro
The easy way to create a create a searchable directory in WordPress.

Once you’ve bought the plugin, you’ll be provided with a zip folder containing all of its contents. In your WordPress site’s dashboard, head to Plugins → Add New, and click on the Upload Plugin button:

Adding a new plugin to WordPress.

Use Choose File to find and upload your Posts Table Pro folder, then hit Install Now. Once that process is complete, you’ll also need to activate the plugin:

Activating a plugin in WordPress.

There’s one more step to take before the plugin is fully up and running, however. Under Settings, visit the new Posts Table Pro screen:

The Posts Table Pro settings.

In the first field, enter the license key you were given when you purchased the plugin. Hit Enter (or save your changes at the bottom of the page), and you’re ready to get to work.

Step 2: Customize the plugin’s settings

On the same screen where you just activated your license key, you’ll find a lot of additional options. These are settings you can customize to determine what your directory looks like and how it works.

The first setting, Post type, is the most important:

The Posts Table Pro post type setting.

Posts Table Pro works by displaying content from elsewhere on your WordPress site. Each entry in your directory can be created as a post or page, or even as an entirely custom content type.

If you just need to include a few pieces of information, as in the first two cases studies introduced earlier, you may be fine selecting either posts or pages here. (Using posts is usually more convenient than pages – just add each listing as a separate post.) If you want to keep your directory listings separate from your blog posts, however, you may want to create a custom post type. I’ll tell you how to do this in the next section.

Below that, you’ll find the Columns field:

The Posts Table Pro columns setting.

Here you can list out all the columns of information to include in your table. There are a lot to choose from, which you can read more about in the plugin’s documentation. You can use the standard fields that come with WordPress itself, or you can create custom fields or taxonomies to store extra information. I’ll tell you how to do this in a minute.

Make your WordPress directory easy to navigate

Continuing to scroll down, you’ll see plenty of additional options. You can tweak image sizes, set the length for excerpts from post or page content, and determine which information will feature links to other places on your site.

All of the settings here can be useful, depending on the contents and purpose of your directory. No matter what kind of directory you’re building, however, we’d recommend checking out the Search filters option:

The Posts Table Pro filters setting.

This will place dropdown filters above the directory. Visitors can use these to sort the table based on specific categories, tags, or other criteria. This is an excellent way to help people find what they need fast.

When you’re done customizing these settings, save your changes to the page. Don’t worry – you can always come back later and make changes. Even if you’ve already added your directory to the site, any edits to these options will be automatically applied.

Step 3: Create the individual entries for your directory

Next, you’ll need to create an individual piece of content on your site for every entry you want to include in your WordPress database or listings. The way you approach this step can vary, depending on your goals.

As we mentioned earlier, you can simply use regular WordPress posts as your database entries. This approach woks well if you don’t use posts for other types of content (such as a blog). You can use the title and description fields in the WordPress post editor to add the name and bio for each member of your staff, for example.

However, by default posts will only enable you to add a few pieces of information. What if you also want to include each staff member’s phone number, location, and other details? For that, we’d recommend downloading and installing the free Pods plugin:

The Pods WordPress plugin.

This is an easy-to-use tool that will let you add custom fields and taxonomies to your posts. That way, you can supplement your database entries with whatever information you need.

Consider creating a directory custom post type

Of course, this method can cause problems if you do use posts to create blog entries, news articles, or any other type of content. You don’t want those posts showing up in your directory, so you’ll need a way to differentiate database entries from everything else on your site.

For that, you can create a custom post type. This is essentially a separate type of post with its own name and section in your dashboard. For example, you might call it ‘Directory’ or ‘Listings’ and put all your directory listings under there. You can customize it however you’d like, and include custom fields as well.

The following tutorial video will walk you through using Pods to create a custom post type, and then add new fields to it:

When you’re done, go back to the Posts Table Pro settings page and select your Directory custom content type. Then, you can go ahead and create an individual custom post for each entry in your directory.

Step 4: Add the directory to your website

Finally, it’s time to display your new directory, listing, or database on your site. This is the easiest step of all.

Open up the page (new or existing) where you’d like to place your directory. The next step depends on whether you’re using the Classic Editor or Gutenberg:

  • Classic Editor – Click the ‘Insert Posts Table’ toolbar button. This adds a [posts_table] shortcode to the page.
    Inserting the Posts Table shortcode.
  • Gutenberg – Add the [posts_table] shortcode to a ‘Shortcode’ block.