Craigslist has been around since 1996. It’s one of the most long lived and consistently used websites in the world. But just how popular is it?
The kind of popular that consistently gets 20 billion monthly page views. Yes, that’s billion with a “b”. That number of page views represents over 70 countries around the world and around 700 local Craigslist sub domains. That’s a whole lot of eyeballs that could be looking at your listing and visiting your website, calling your office, or interacting with your brand as a result.
But isn’t Craigslist mostly just adult ads, creepy personals, and crummy job listings? Well, to be fair, yes those things do exist on the site in abundance. However, that doesn’t mean using the site in a smart way can’t generate some positive results.
How to Know if Craigslist is a Good Marketing Option for You
The core idea behind Craigslist is that it provides an online alternative to local listings. It’s important to keep that in mind when deciding whether or not marketing on Craigslist will be good for your business. Some enterprises are just not best suited for that environment. But a lot are!
If you’re wondering whether or not your business could benefit from marketing on Craigslist, you can start by asking yourself, “Would I benefit from a listing in my local newspaper?” (back when those were a much bigger deal) If the answer is yes, great! Proceed to the best practices below. If the answer is no, consider another question, “Would I want the ability to put a local listing in any any newspaper in any country in the world?”
Chances are you’ll find more value in the second proposition that the first. After all, thanks to the internet, many of us work from home and our customers are not necessarily concentrated in our physical location. But everyone has local interests and if they can come across your posting while they’re searching for a relevant listing in their area, then that works just as well!
You can use Craigslist to market in-person or virtual training/tutoring, workshops, consulting, affiliate marketing, and more. You can test different cities or regions to gauge where there is the most interest for your type of product.
To do that effectively, follow the Craigslist marketing best practices below.
Craigslist Marketing Best Practices
Whether you’re selling products/services for a local market or digital products/services for nowhere in particular, there are a few best practices you can follow to get the most out of Craigslist.
Write a Great Headline
Write great copy in general. This site is so heavily weighted towards text that you cannot ignore the importance of precise, even beautiful, language. Granted, you don’t come across those things too often on Craigslist but when you do it really stands out.
I’d recommend checking out this post series from Copyblogger. It’s geared towards writing great blog post headlines but the principles are the same.
Include Keywords in Body Text
The search functionality on Craigslist is first and foremost about recency and then filtered by keywords. That means your title and body text should both be keyword rich. We’ll focus on keeping thing recent in the tips below.
Use High Quality Photos
Adding a photo to your posts, of even average quality, will increase its effectiveness. But using high quality photos will set you above even the other ads who bothered to add a photo at all.
You don’t need to have a great camera to get high quality photos. Most recent smartphones have relatively great cameras. Focusing on simple lighting and composition will go a very long way.
Provide Contact Information
This might sound like a no-brainer but some people just will not respond to the default Craigslist reply email address. So try to also offer a separate email address or even a phone number. If you don’t want to give out your own phone number (or even that of your business) in that environment, then try using a VOIP service to set up a digital voicemail.
Link Out (But Not to a Paywall or Product Page)
Be sure to link out to your website or relevant social channel. Try not to go overboard on the links though, as the less options you have the more likely you are to get just the conversions you want. Also, don’t link directly to a sales page or product page as this may get you flagged as spam.
Pay Attention to Your Post’s Writing Style & Formatting
Any time you are writing for the web–whether it’s a blog post, status update, or Craigslist ad–you should be aware of your text formatting and writing style. Write in short, clear sentences. Keep paragraphs to around three sentences. And keep the insider jargon to an absolute minimum.
Post Often (But Within the Regulations)
A great way to get flagged on Craigslist is to post the same ad in the same place within 48 hours of the original posting. Instead, create a posting schedule for yourself using a spreadsheet or your calendar and create a new ad at the earliest time slots possible within Craigslist’s guidelines.
Clean Up After Yourself
This best practices goes hand in hand with the one last one above. If you want to look like a spammer, then a good way to do that is by leaving all of your old postings up on Craigslist. This will result in anyone who is searching through a category archive to come across the exact same ad over and over again.
Instead, clean up after yourself. Leave day or two’s worth of ads up but delete everything older. This will make your postings seem more urgent (as they’re more recent) and increase the likelihood of getting the response you’re after.
Mix It Up
Don’t write-up just one ad. Come up with a handful of variations on your original idea. This will do a few things for you. First, your copy will get better the more times you write it. The first few ads will probably be pretty bad, but somewhere along the way you will probably hit a good flow and turn out something nice.
Secondly, this will allow you to post more often across different categories without immediately standing out as a heavy poster. Users will be more likely to read your ads and take them seriously this way.
And finally, mixing it up with variant ads allows you to use our final best practice more advantageously.
Track, Measure, Test, & Repeat
Last, but certainly not least, we have our assessment stage. The important thing about this best practice is that it turns everything you did above into a rough draft. A first try.
A lot of times people will experiment with a new marketing strategy and if it doesn’t do great right away they give up and quit using it. To me, that’s like quitting track because you can’t run a fast mile your first try. It’s a process! And processes need refining.
So come up with a way of measuring your success, take notes on which variant ads perform best, and make the necessary changes needed in order to achieve incremental improvement.
Craigslist, believe it or not, is actually a lot more than the internet’s playground for weirdos, broke college kids, and those with too many pieces of old furniture. When used correctly it can yield traffic, leads, and clients across a wide range of interests and professions. Following the best practices above, will take you a long way towards success in terms of Craigslist marketing.
Do you use Craigslist to market your business? If so, we’d love to hear about the tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way. Please take a moment to share them with the whole community in the comment’s section below.
Additionally, feel free to share what you love or hate about Craigslist postings and cite examples of the kinds of ads you would respond to.