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Craigslist Real Estate Strategy: More Traffic & Leads

craigslist logoIn many markets the online classified site Craigslist.org gets insane amounts of traffic. Many real estate agents have attempted to take advantage of this by repeatedly posting ineffective ads and conclude it’s not a reliable source of website traffic or lead generation for them. Heck, I was even one of these agents for most of 2010.

You see I was posting ads nearly every day but the only responses I ever got were spam. How can that be? I was using professional looking HTML templates, lots of photos and a several paragraph description of the property and neighborhood amenities. I knew buyers were looking at the ads, but why weren’t they contacting me? I decided early this year to find a better way. I spent a lot of time researching what makes CL classified ads effective and this is what I learned.

5 ways not to suck at Craigslist

1. Stop using the same template as everyone else

Take a few minutes and search your local CL and note what kinds of ads and headlines everyone is posting. More than likely most agents are using the same or very similar ads with little different between them. Your ad needs to stand out from the rest and the more your ad looks like a private party ad the better your results will be.

2. Stop posting every picture & detail

The goal is to redirect that buyer away from everyone else’s ads and get them on your real estate website. If you are including 6, 10 or 15 images in your ad and a paragraph of text the viewer already has enough information to eliminate that property if it does not fit their criteria. Give them a taste and make then click through for more photos and details. That way even if they do eliminate that property once they’re on your site there’s a decent chance they will stay and look around.

3. Include 2-3 calls to action

The first call to action should obviously be a link to the listing on your own site. If you have a good idx solution a link to the listing page is even better. The full listing details and photos are all there and hopefully a call to action to save the listing or request a showing.

I recommend you also create a secondary call to action linked to a landing or other opt-in page. In my example below I include a link to Astoria Oregon homes for sale under $150,000. Try to use a generic CTA that will appeal to most buyers in your market (foreclosures, water front properties, ect.).

The 3rd CTA should be your phone number, front and center. Use the format 212-555-1212 so it’s clickable on mobile devices.

4. Track your ads

The big problem with any marketing is figuring out what working and what doesn’t. If you don’t track your ad views, click through rates, and headline variations it’s difficult to improve your ads. At the minimum using a trackable link in your ad will at least show you how many visitors clicked. From there your website analytics take over and you can monitor bounce rates and other metrics.

CL does block some url’s generated by shortening services like goo.gl, a good alternative if you are using a wordpress real estate website is your own custom short link. The free WP plugin Pretty Link Lite allows you to create your own short links and track the clicks in real time. For example if your domain is www.123realestate.com you can create a link that looks like www.123realestate.com/zxy that points to whatever page you want (onsite or offsite even) so you can track your ad clicks.

Bonus ninja move: Any images you insert as HTML can be tracked this way too, giving you a free and easy way to monitor total ad views. In my market CL has two areas that overlap and by using this method I was able to figure out which area got the most traffic.

5. Less is more

From my experience ads with lots of white space, a single image and 2-3 calls to action work the best. I’ve experimented with inserting a logo, website header image and other items to dress up my ads but the ads with a very minimalist look perform the best in my market. Here’s an example:

example craigslist real estate ad

example craigslist ad

(the required broker contact info was cropped out, make sure you comply with your state and local rules)

Time to execute

Now that you’re creating clean, minimal ads with multiple calls to action that are trackable you’ve already improved your CL strategy 200% over posting generic HTML ads. Testing different headlines, calls to action and the day/time you post your ads will hopefully increase your inbound traffic and leads further.

Stay tuned for another post on how to create CL ads that work.

What’s your Craigslist strategy? Let me know what is working for you in the comments.

About Jeremy Linder

Jeremy Linder is an Oregon Duck football fanatic, dad and hobby farmer. He also writes about Astoria Oregon Real Estate and neighborhood news.

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  • Thanks for the interesting and useful information on how to actually market on Craigslist!

  • I might also recommend not listing the price so you get more clicks. 

    • Great idea Eric! This is where testing and tracking your results is important.

  • Thanks for the absorbing and advantageous advice on how to absolutely bazaar on Craigslist! 

  • I guess I’m just skeptical that you actually get good leads from Craigslist?

  • Thanks, Jeremy, I have to admit I’ve always been annoyed by Craigslist real estate ads.  Maybe it’s for the reasons you mentioned–so many duplicates/carbon copies.  These are some great ideas that I might actually give a shot.  Now, if you weren’t a Duck, I’d probably be a bit more convinced…

  • Nothing against you, Jeremy. But GEB has become a total linkfest and it detracts from the content. This post is a perfect example of it, where the author for some unknown reason HAD to put a deep link to his site which served little if any purpose in illustrating the point. And it seems every blogger on this site is doing it! I don’t blame them, I blame the admin. But then again, he turned this from an informative, authoritative site with expert articles into a linkfest that he uses to promote his VR clients. Let’s see how many self-promotional links we can add to a post without seeming overly spammy – wait, that has already been done.

    Jeremy, good article.

    • I feel like I should probably write a blog post in response to this to address the entire issue. In short, guest authors are NOT paid to write here. Clearly, they need to get some value for their efforts. Great content takes a lot of time to write…and I’m happy to give someone a deep link in return for spending the time to write a great post like this that proves valuable to others.

      No one is unbiased. And no online site is unbiased either. It simply doesn’t exist. Not the WSJ, not TechCrunch, not Fred Wilson, not Bill Simmons, not the New York Times, not CNN. Am I biased? Absolutely..and I’ll be the first to admit it. I write more about Virtual Results now because I am talking to VR clients every single day…I know intimately what they are doing and what is working for them. If you don’t like the way this blog is run, don’t read it.

      • So the links in the Author’s Bio are not enough? What about the links on the sidebar? Still not enough? Well, it seems like most of the content, particularly yours, is about throwing something together around those links. The past authors provided useful content without all the self-promotion. Michael Price, I believe, did a great job of bringing together some of the best tech-savvy bloggers to this blog. Funny, most of those guys don’t contribute any more . Now you are setting the example, always linking to your VR clients.

        And there’s no need to tell me to get lost, I won’t read or visit this blog again.

  • I’m not sure if Craig’s list has been the best tool for me, but it’s worth a shot.
    Felipe Crook

  • Do you know how to find out how much traffic Craigslist gets for a real estate market?  I’m in Buckead, Atlanta and don’t think many buyers are using Craigslist in their home search.  But, I could be underestimating the traffic and ignoring a potential marketing forum.  

  • Jeremy,

    Thanks for your post.  I know craigslist is a powerful tool when listing properties. Your post will be a great reference for my coaching clients when giving tips for using craigslist.  Thanks for sharing.

    Daren Phillipy

  • I’ve been using Craigslist for a while and thought I had it figured out really well, but you’ve given me some excellent things to think about here, thanks.

  • Craiglist in my opinion is one of the most accepted Classified ad site that every one looking for. The tips you made about Craiglist is realloy very helpful and innovative too. I think it will be well worth to give a try at least.

  • Yes, that’s great and i agree with it. 
    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, 
    I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.

  • I tried to link in my CL post and the ad got taken down. Doesn’t this violate CL TOS? No one seems to give a straight answer.

  • Greg

    Because of CL boners I have pulled in the past, I can’t put my cell phone # in an add, because CL bots find it and ghost me. Any suggestions?

  • I find the idea pretty cool. I think it’s time to take some actions now.

  • krista watson

    Jeremy- thanks for your post. Question- Do the postings you submit only include YOUR personal listings? Or do you submit photos from MLS on any listing in attempt to attract a buyer. Thanks!

  • jimsimcoe

    Great article, thanks for posting. it seems like these are great strategies for finding buyers but how would you recommend finding sellers? I am an investor looking for properties to buy, green-up and re-sell. What are your thoughts?

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