Craigslist gets a ton of pageviews every month. Can you guess how many? If you guessed 1 billion, you’d be off by 49 billion.
Craigslist gets a whopping 50 billion page views every single month. So much traffic goes through Craigslist that startup company Airbnb used to post all of their stuff on craigslist in the early days to capture some of that traffic.
Now Airbnb is a multi-billion dollar company.
The traffic from Craigslist is real and there are buyers to be had within the heaps and heaps of “lookie-lous” and low-baller investors.
To get to the gems, you need the right tools and strategy to cut through the noise.
Creating the Craigslist Ad
Let’s go over the basics of how to make a housing ad on Craigslist before we dive into the strategy of how you should write and market the ad.
Head over to www.cragislist.org and make sure the town you are selling your house in is selected from the dropdown menu on the top right.
Click on “post” to get started with your ad.
Then be sure to click on housing offered and NOT “for sale by owner” (I know it’s confusing).
Once you do that you’ll find yourself in the interface where you can begin to craft your posting. This is where the fun begins!
How write the headline
Legendary marketer David Olgilvy once said that 80% of marketing is the headline. He said this way back when print newspaper ads and mailers reigned supreme, but that same thing holds true even in the digital age.
On a website, 8 out of 10 people will read a headline but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the rest of the post.
A study found that 6 in 10 people on social media will share a link, but will never actually read the article they just shared. They simply liked the headline, and clicked “share.”
The same logic applies to the title of your craigslist ad.
You must write a compelling headline or nothing else is going to matter. It’s particularly important because there are so many house for sale posting going live on Craigslist every hour and you will quickly get buried.
You can’t just rely on being at the top of the heap every time.
You need to be able to stick out at any point on the list.
Rules for Writing Headlines
The first thing to remember is to never lie or exaggerate about your property in the title of the ad.
There is nothing that we all hate more than when we click on something and the website doesn’t deliver on what the headline promised. It leaves a sour taste and people will learn to stop clicking on your ad. It also can make you look spammy, which is a death sentence on craigslist.
Use numbers strategically in your headline to grab their attention. Numbers are like brain candy. A simple, odd digit immediately adds organization and gives the reader a hard end they know they will arrive at.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the brain seems to believe the odd number more than the even number. They tested this and found the odd number to increase click-through rates of their content by 20%.
The trick is to use the number in an original way. Having a title that says “3 bedroom house for sale,” is not a good use of your odd digit.
This brings us to our next step for the headline, which is to create a reason for them to click on the ad.
Here is an example of a headline that incorporates all of our elements:
7 reasons you should check out my bungalow (#3 is a five minute walk to the beach).
The special characters help to set you apart from the pile without appearing spammy, and you pique the interest of the reader by giving them a sneak peak into your list.
It also looks different from the rest of the crap, which is refreshing for someone that has been combing through craigslist housing ads for a few hours.
Keep in mind that your headline isn’t set in stone. If you find that your ad isn’t getting much traction, keep experimenting with new ones until you find something that works.
The marketer that is willing to experiment the most, wins in the long run.
Once you’ve got a killer headline, you’ll need to figure out the next most important part of your ad: the body of the post.
Writing the Body Copy
Now that you’ve gotten people all jazzed up to read your posting, you’ve got to deliver the goods.
Let’s start off by making sure we don’t make the mistake of using run-on sentences, messy grammar, or blocks of text that look like a doctoral dissertation.
Keep it simple and make use of lists. People will never read a block of text, but they will read your list–particularly if you’ve given them a number in the title.
Make sure to include all of the keywords that you think your target customer will be searching for. Craigslist serves up ads to people based on what they type in the search bar, so make sure to work in the details of the house that people typically search for.
A trick that some people use is to keyword stuff the description at the end of the post. It looks pretty spammy, but it will bring your ad up for a lot more searches.
Feel free to experiment with that if you feel like your ad isn’t getting enough traffic, but don’t go overboard.
Try to incorporate the keyword organically into the post if you can so it not so obvious that you’re optimizing the post for search.
Pictures are just as important as the copy on your posting and most people make the mistake of making the images way too large.
Not only does this look hideous and unprofessional, it also takes longer for the page to load for the end user.
That’s going to lead to people clicking the “back” button before your page even loads.
Don’t do that.
Take the time to edit the photos and make them less than 600 pixels wide.
Be generous with the amount of pictures you include in the listing but don’t be redundant. One picture highlighting the main features of the house is fine.
Don’t take pictures of a single appliance just because it’s an upgrade. Simply take a picture of the kitchen and write in the copy that you recently upgrade the refrigerator.
If you are taking pictures with a digital camera, please do not leave the date and timestamp on the lower right corner of the image. It looks really bad and it dates the pictures which you don’t want if your house sits on the market for awhile.
The Best Time to Post the Ad
Some smart people have done the hard work of figuring out the best time to post your for sale by owner ad on Craigslist.
All you have to do is follow their lead.
The authors of “Cracking the Craigslist Code,” write that the best time to post your housing ad is between 10 am and 12 pm Monday thru Friday. 5 pm also works well.
If you wait for the weekend, stick to posting it in the morning.
Craigslist has a rule that you can only post the same ad once every 48 hours. If Craigslist is going to be your main source of leads, you can consider deleting the post and re-posting it at the optimal time (10am to 12 PM) every day.
Make sure you copy the headline and the body copy of the ad so you can easily paste it into the new ad you create every day.
I recommend re-posting the ad everyday if you want to be competitive on Craigslist. So many housing posts go up every day and you can easily get buried.
Avoiding the Time Wasters on Craigslist
There isn’t a magic formula I can give you that’s going to scare away all of the “tire kickers” while still attracting all of the qualified buyers.
But the best way to combat this is to be as detailed as possible about the house inside the ad itself. The more questions you answer in the ad, the fewer useless inquiries you’ll get.
Mention that you are not interested in hearing from investors (assuming you are trying to sell your house for a “retail price”). That will help you steer clear of lowball offers–unless your goal is to sell as fast as possible.
The best policy to embrace when you are trying to sell your house online is to treat everyone as a potential customer.
Be as responsive as you can to everyone and you’ll much more success selling your house.
If you’re trying to sell your own house, Craigslist is a free and easy way to get in front of searchers. Just make sure you post your ad either after 5 PM or on the weekend, and avoid spam tactics to try to get people’s attention. Remember to include relevant keywords (near the beach, near downtown, 5 minutes from the mall) etc. in your posting to get maximum search exposure.