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Disclosure: I may be compensated via the links clicked in the article. The opinions expressed are my own and stand by my recommendations. Read the disclaimer.

How To Advertise On Craigslist Effectively

Craigslist is a treasure trove of opportunity for astute marketers. Each month, more than 60 million people visit Craigslist in the United States alone.

The site features a very simple interface and several highly targeted sub-sections. Best of all, many of Craigslist’s daily visitors are qualified buyers, looking to make immediate purchases.

Craigslist came from extremely humble beginnings. The founder of the site, Craig Newmark created an online mailing list of about ten friends, so they had somewhere to discuss social happenings in the San Francisco area.

The list continued to grow and evolve. People who were on the list began to ask Craig if he could get the word out about a job offer, or an item for sale, or an apartment for rent. At this point, Craigslist began to take shape; a shape that has remained relatively unchanged throughout the twenty-year history of the site.

Today, Craigslist operates in more than 700 cities across 70 countries. The site is a hugely popular destination to buy and sell merchandise, buy, sell and rent homes and apartments, look for a job, advertise a job, meet people and more. Each month, over 80 million ads and one million new jobs are posted to Craigslist.

In almost all instances, it’s free to post your ad to Craigslist. In a few markets, Craigslist will charge a small fee for certain types of posts. For example, it will cost $10 for a broker to post an apartment for rent in New York City, or $5 for a car dealer to post an ad about a car they have for sale throughout the US. And if you are posting lots of these types of ads, you can have a paid posting account.

One thing that has remained constant is the sense of community that’s associated with Craigslist. Craigslist’s top priority has always been its user experience, and the site is carefully moderated to ensure users have a quality experience. You may want to take a look around the help section on the Craigslist site. That page features useful information that will help you to stay in the good graces of the site when posting your ads.

If you are developing a locally-focused marketing plan, Craigslist will feature heavily. Here’s a broad overview of how to get the most out of your Craigslist advertising.

Sections

To maintain order on the site, Craigslist is broken down based on several parameters. At the top level, you select your location. This limits the results to just ads posted in the city you select. Next, the site is broken down into the categories below.

Community

The community section of Craigslist features local information, posted by members of that community. Posts may include local news, a lost and found section, local political discussion, information about events and more.

Personals

The personals section allows CL users to create personal ads in hopes of meeting new people. Personals are broken down into sections depending on the type of relationship you’re hoping to find.

Discussion Forums

In addition to being a major online marketplace, Craigslist also features dedicated discussion forums for over 100 topics.

Housing

The housing section is a great place to search for rental properties or to advertise a property you own. Housing features subsections for apartments and houses for rent, sublets, office properties for rent, parking spots for rent and much more.

For Sale

Along with the housing section, the for sale section is a highly popular destination on Craigslist. There’s a subsection of this forum for seemingly every type of product imaginable.

Services

Similar to the for sale section, the services section is for businesses and tradesmen to highlight the range of services they offer to the local community.

Jobs

By far the most popular section on Craigslist, over 1 million new jobs are posted here each month. The section is broken down by industries, and it’s an excellent resource for companies looking to hire, as well as individuals looking for jobs.

Gigs

Similar to the jobs section, this section of the site is for one off or short term work in your local area. This section is a great place to post about or land a freelance job.

Resumes

For those looking for a new job, you can use the resume section of Craigslist to post your cover letter / resume to let potential employers know what you can do for their company.

Using Craigslist

The first thing you’ll notice when visiting Craigslist is that the site is exceptionally easy to navigate and it’s very straightforward. The design has remained unchanged since the late 1990’s. What Craigslist lacks in fancy design it more than makes up for in functionality and ease of use.

Creating An Account

You don’t have to create an account to post on Craigslist, but it’s a very good idea to do so. If you don’t create an account, there are a few extra hoops to jump through when creating your post. On the other hand, if you have an account, you’ll be able to post your ad very quickly and easily.

With an account, you’ll also be able to keep track of all your different posts and edit or remove them as necessary. Craigslist ads are usually active for between 7-45 days. So, you’ll want to keep an eye on when your ads are expiring and need to be reposted.

To create your account, visit the main page of Craigslist. Click “your account” in the upper left-hand side. Next, you’ll enter the email address you’d like to use for Craigslist. Craigslist will send you an email to confirm your account. Click the link in that email, create a password for your account and you’re all set.

Posting To Craigslist

Posting to Craigslist

Just like every other aspect of the site, creating a post is quite easy to do. From the homepage of the site, just click “post to classifieds” in the upper left-hand corner of the page. Next, you’ll select the section your post belongs in, and the subsection you’d like your post to appear in.

For example, let’s say you’re a lawyer in Philadelphia. To advertise your services in a post on Craigslist, you’d select “services” as the type of post you’d like to create and “legal” when prompted to choose a category.

Depending on the type of post you’d like to create, there may be some additional fields for you to fill out to provide potential buyers with as much pertinent information as possible regarding your post. As a general rule, if more fields are provided, make sure to fill all of them out. The more complete you’re able to make your post, the more engagement it’s likely to receive from the Craigslist community.

Craigslist Ad Input

One field you’ll certainly have is for your contact information. Potential buyers will know how to communicate with you based on the information you provide in the contact section. As a general rule, you don’t want to give your actual email address out in a Craigslist post. So, when you’re creating your post, choose “CL email relay.” The email relay effectively hides your email address when users reply to your ad, which will keep your identity safe.

You’ll also probably want to be sure to keep the box that says “okay for others to contact you about other services, products or commercial interests” box unchecked. Otherwise, you’re in for a spam party.

Renewing Your Posts

The ads in each category on Craigslist are sorted by recency. As new ads are created, older ads are pushed further down the list. To get your ad back to the top of the list again, Craigslist allows you to renew your ad (aka – don’t repost as spam). You’re able to do this once every 48 hours.

Manage Craigslist Ads

To renew your ad, go to your account page. From there, you’ll be able to see the ads you’ve posted. Next to each ad, there will be a link to renew your ad. This is a quick and easy way to give your ads a bump back to the top of the list.

Editing Your Posts

Next to the link to renew, you’ll see options to edit or delete your ad as well. Click the edit link, and you’ll be able to make changes to any aspect of your post you’d like.

Tips For Creating An Effective Craigslist Ad

One thing that’s important to remember when using Craigslist is its popularity. Millions of people visit the site daily, and thousands create posts. It’s easy for your posts to get lost in the fold, so it’s of paramount importance that you create memorable and engaging posts on Craigslist. If you’re interested in how to advertise on Craigslist effectively, these tips may help.

*Aside – if you want to go further and learn the art of copywriting – check out these resources or this copywriting course.

Headline / Title

The first way to set your post apart from the thousands of other posts you’ll be competing against is with your title. Creating an engaging and information-rich headline is going to be the first step towards creating an effective ad on Craigslist. The perfect title will be long on information and short on space. Providing potential buyers with relevant information in the title will encourage users to click your posts, and it will make them easy to find by using the search function.

Keywords

Perhaps the most important aspect of an effective Craigslist ad, keywords will make your ad easily searchable which translates to more eyes on your ad. Unlike more advanced search engines like Google, Craigslist doesn’t use elaborate algorithms to sort the order of it’s search results.

Instead, Craigslist relies on keywords to serve relevant results.

By making the body and title of your ad rich in keywords, you’ll put your ad in a much better position to be seen. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean that you should go crazy and jam your post full of keywords without any purpose.

Make sure that the keywords appear naturally in the body and title of your ad. Moderators patrol each section of the site and will remove posts that are packed with needless keywords as they appear to be spam.

Pictures

An equally important component of a successful ad in Craigslist is photos. Ads with photos will garner more engagement, period. Users on Craigslist even have the option to filter out ads without pictures.

In certain sections (housing and for sale especially) most users will use that filter to exclude ads that don’t have photos. At that point, you’re greatly limiting your potential exposure by not including photos.

Even if your post doesn’t seem like the type of thing that would require pictures, it’s still a great idea to include at least one. Remember, your goal here is to create the most engaging ad possible and photos are a great way to accomplish that.

You’ll want to pay attention to the resolution of your photos as well. Craigslist can only display an image that’s about 850px wide. Larger images will not display correctly on Craigslist, and this can affect the user experience of your ad. Consider reducing the size of high-resolution images, so they display correctly.

If you’re posting something for sale, you’ll want to keep those higher resolution photos handy. Anyone who contacts you regarding your ad will probably ask for additional pictures.

Be Informative

Provide as much relevant information in your ad as is possible. Whether you’re trying to promote your company, sell items or hire for a job, the more information you can provide in your ad, the better off you’ll be. Not only will this help cut down on unnecessary back and forth through email, but it’s also a good way to vet out customers or applicants who aren’t really qualified for what you’re offering.

Also, try and make your ad scannable as well. An ad that is scannable will provide those viewing the ad with all the pertinent information they need in short, easy to read bits.

Cross Promotion

If you’re placing multiple ads for different products or services, use your ads to promote one another. Each time you create an ad, link back to your other ads on Craigslist in the body of that ad. You can also go back and edit your existing ads to include links to the new ads you’ve created.

Other Links

Besides linking back to other ads you have on Craigslist that may be relevant, use your ad as an opportunity to link to your website and social media channels. You’ll want to avoid linking out to a product page on another site, or a paywall. That type of thing can be perceived as spam and can result in your ad getting flagged or removed.

Renew Your Old Posts

Every 48 hours, you’re able to renew your post and push it back up to the top of the category. Renew your posts as often as you’re allowed to so you can receive maximum exposure from your posts. Keep in mind that the timestamp on your post will still show the time of the original post.

For posts that may be time sensitive, consider deleting your old posts and create new ones instead. Some users on Craigslist may see a post that’s several days old and assume the offer is no longer available, so they’ll avoid contacting you about it.

Variety

A smart practice you may want to adopt is varying your ads, instead of just renewing your old ones. Consider trying different copy in the body and title of your ad, and rotate the photos you’re using. The best way to find out what works best for you with advertising, in general, is through variance and testing, and Craigslist is no different. Best of all, since it’s free to post most ads on Craigslist, you’ll be able to vary and test ads to your heart’s content for the low price of FREE!

Tracking and Testing

If you’re serious about advertising your business or services on Craigslist, you’ll want access to as much relevant data as possible. Craigslist doesn’t provide you with lots of actionable analytics information in the way that other advertising platforms do. But, tracking is still possible*. There are several different options you may want to look into to track the response your Craigslist advertising is receiving – even if you are manually tabulating the number of leads. If you are linking to your website, you should also use a link with UTM parameters for effective tracking.

*Note that Craigslist bans all data mining, so whatever method you use (ie, hidden pixels), you’ll need to use at your own risk.

If you’re using a variety of different ads, you’ll also want to A/B test them to determine which ads are performing best, and which ads are performing poorly.

Keep It Clean

Do your part to keep Craigslist clean and useful by removing ads you’ve posted that are outdated, irrelevant or feature items which are no longer available. Or, if you’re experimenting with the copy and content of the ad, delete the old versions of the ad. Multiple versions of the same ad appear to be spam and also negatively affect the user experience of the site.

Be Honest

It may seem like a no-brainer, but be as honest as possible in your ads. Try to represent the products or services you’re offering as accurately as possible. Let’s say you have an old, worn piece of furniture for sale, describing the item as “like new” would be a great way to attract more people to your item. But, when the buyer comes to see the item and realizes it’s been misrepresented, then all you’ve done is waste their time as well as your own. This is just one example, but it holds true in nearly every interaction you’ll have on Craigslist.

Use Best Of Craigslist

Best of Craigslist is a section of the site that features the most popular ads on the site. Craigslist users can vote these posts into the best of section. Sometimes, you’ll see posts that are only there for humor’s sake. While they’re good for a laugh, they aren’t especially useful for any other purpose. But, there’s also plenty of incredibly well written and clever advertisements there that can help give you creative ideas to use in your posts.

Don’t Over Do It

Since Craigslist is almost entirely free to use, it can be easy to get carried away and post a hundred different ads all highlighting the same goods and services. This practice is frowned upon within the Craigslist community. It’s also a great way to get flagged as a spammer, and possibly even banned from the site.

Using Craigslist For Business

Craigslist presents such a unique opportunity to grow your business because the site is free to use (for the most part) and millions of visitors flock to the site each day. That traffic combined with the very low cost of use gives smart marketers tons of opportunity to leverage Craigslist to help their business. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways of how to advertise on Craigslist effectively.

Service Professionals

For independent contractors or freelancers, Craigslist can be an extremely valuable source for lead generation. In the service section of Craigslist, you’ll notice subsections for almost every trade imaginable, from home contractors to automotive maintenance specialists to lawyers, artists and writers, there’s a niche for almost any skilled trade on Craigslist.

Use the Craigslist community to your advantage by posting about the various services you’re able to offer. Be sure to include as much relevant information (including pictures) about the services you offer. Don’t be shy about linking out to your personal website or portfolio, either.

Keep in mind that in most categories in the service section, there is lots of competition. This is an opportunity to make your business stand out. Take extra care to craft an engaging add that compels your audience to learn more about your business and the services you offer.

Networking

Craigslist also presents lots of opportunities to network with like-minded individuals or companies.

For those who are involved in direct sales, where a face to face interaction is typically required to make sales, networking on Craigslist can be an excellent way to generate leads for new business. Consider positioning yourself as an experienced professional offering a boutique quality, one on one service for your new clients.

If you are interested in growing your own community, website, or newsletter, Craigslist can be a great way to find new subscribers for your content. With so many users on the site each day, there’s no doubt that at least several of them would be interested in the niche that your community, website or newsletter focuses on. Post a quality ad in the appropriate subsection, and you’re likely to hear from some like-minded and engaged users who are interested in joining your community.

Jobs

For both individuals and companies, the jobs section of Craigslist can be an invaluable tool.

Individuals can search through the available jobs posted on Craigslist to find a position that’s well suited for their experience and skills. Each month, over a million jobs are posted to Craigslist, so there’s certainly no shortage of employers looking for new employees.

For businesses, Craigslist provides an easy and free tool to locate talented new applicants. In some cities, Craigslist charges a small fee to post a job ad. Check out Craigslist’s fee section to see if you’ll be required to pay to post your job. Usually, Craigslist only charges fees in major metropolitan cities. If you’re hiring for a position located outside of a major city, chances are you’ll be able to post your job offer for free.

Be sure to create a job post that’s as engaging as possible for potential applicants. With over one million new posts a month advertising available jobs, you’ll need to do everything you can to make your business stand out. Engaging ads will lead to more responses from better quality applicants.

Small Businesses

Small business owners are in a great position to benefit from using Craigslist – especially businesses with a local focus. The community atmosphere of the site meshes well with the concept of a small business, and Craigslist users are very receptive to the ideas of shopping locally and supporting the local community.

Most small businesses will find their niche represented in the for sale section of Craigslist and should post ads there which highlight the goods and services they offer. The community section of Craigslist can also be very useful for small businesses that host events or classes.

Real Estate

The housing section on Craigslist is one of the largest and most highly trafficked parts of the site. Real estate professionals have been using Craigslist as a tool to find interested renters and buyers for years. It can also be an invaluable tool to use if you’re a homeowner looking to rent or sell a home, office, vacation home or even a parking space.

When posting in the housing section on Craigslist, pictures are of paramount importance. Always be sure to include plenty of photos and information about your listing, or it’s unlikely you’ll have much success.

Start Up Businesses

Startups face a unique set of challenges to grow their company and compete in the market. The companies startups compete against often have a loyal customer base and a sizable marketing budget to attract new customers. Startups rarely have either and must work very hard to attract new customers and market their offerings.

Craigslist is an invaluable tool for startups because it allows them to develop their branding, marketing, and advertising at little or no cost. As the company grows, you’ll be able to take what you’ve learned from marketing on Craigslist and apply it to other platforms.

Competitive Analysis

Another highly effective way to use Craigslist is to analyze the competition in your area. Considering all the benefits to Craigslist, there’s a high chance that competitors in your area are also using Craigslist to market their businesses as well.

Put yourself in the mindset of a potential customer who would be interested in the products or services you offer. Search Craigslist using the terms that a customer is likely to use, and note the results. Pay close attention to the products or services the competition is offering, how they price those products or services and what keywords they used in their ads.

What you’re able to learn from your competitors can prove invaluable to you as you further develop and refine your advertising on Craigslist.

Affiliate Marketing

Craigslist is a useful and popular way to find new affiliates for affiliate marketing programs. Affiliate marketing is the process of marketing another person or company’s products or services to earn a commission off the sale of those goods or services.

Companies love affiliate marketers since the arrangement between the company and affiliate is based entirely on results. Affiliates only make money when they generate a sale or a lead for the company. The arrangement is typically referred to as PPA or pay per action. The affiliate only receives their commission when their link generates a lead, or a visitor, or a sale.

Companies with affiliate marketing programs create unique links that are attributable to each affiliate. When a customer clicks on this link and either visits the company’s website, requests more information or completes a sale, it’s attributed to the affiliate. The amount of money an affiliate makes for each of these actions varies widely. But, regardless of how much money an affiliate makes from each sale, the fact remains that Craigslist provides some fascinating opportunities for affiliate marketers.

While there are rules that prevent you from posting in the jobs section to find new affiliates, the discussion forums can be a useful place to find new affiliates for your business.

A Word About Scams

Considering how popular and easy to use Craigslist is, it’s no wonder that it’s also a breeding ground for spammers and scammers. While almost all of Craigslist’s users use the site with the best intentions in mind, there’s still a few bad apples in the community.

Use your judgment when posting on Craigslist and when responding to people who have inquired about your ads. If something seems fishy to you, it probably is. Avoid dealing with anyone that you don’t feel “right” about. Also, report known scams and spammers or flag their posts so the moderators can remove them from the Craigslist community.

Use extra caution when using Craigslist to sell goods which must be physically picked up by the buyer. Whenever possible, meet with them in a public area with heavy foot traffic. Also, consider bringing a friend with you when you make the exchange.

Next Steps

Craigslist is an amazing platform for advertising / marketing your products & services. Not only is it mostly free to advertise there – they have plenty of unique traffic. That said, the low barrier to entry can lead to “race to the bottom” ads.

Use Craigslist as part of  a broad strategy to reach your audience. Don’t look it as a silver-bullet to sales, but as a place to test, refine and improve your product & messaging. Once you get that right, you can develop a process to drive sales from Craigslist.

Read my post on how to advertise your website online for other ideas!

Larry Ludwig

About Larry Ludwig

Larry Ludwig is an entrepreneur, financial expert, tech & marketing guru with over 25 years of industry experience.

In July 2018, Larry successfully sold Investor Junkie for $6 million.

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