Guest Post: The Changing World of Craigslist
Regardless of what you have to say about the “Casual Encounters” section, Craigslist is one of the most important websites ever created. The site was revolutionary when Craig Newmark launched it back in 1996, and it is currently available in 50 countries around the world. Alexa currently ranks it at 11 in the US for traffic, with an average of 19.2 daily pageviews per visitor. Not too shabby.
Though the site is still a major influencer, Craigslist has recently undergone major changes that affect its viability as a marketing channel. Nobody knows this better than our marketing team at MojoMotors.com, an automotive classifieds site where car shoppers ‘Follow’ cars and receive alerts when prices drop.
Since we are a startup with limited marketing dollars to spend, we have historically utilized Craigslist ads to drive in-market car shoppers to our site. We’ve had success for a couple reasons:
- Posting is inexpensive
- Lots of serious shoppers use Craigslist
- Regional pages allow targeting of specific populations
It used to be free for us to post ads in the “For Sale By Dealer” automotive sections in our active markets. We were able to drive high quality traffic to our site without taking money away from product development. Then, Craigslist dropped a bomb on us.
Wait, it isn't free to post any longer?
In an attempt to monetize and to slow down SPAM posting, Craig and his buddies decided to make some major changes. Starting in November 2013, clickable links and embedded photos were no longer allowed in the “For Sale By Dealer” sections. Soon after, Craigslist announced that, as of December 3, 2013, it would cost $5 per post in “For Sale By Dealer.”
This isn’t the first time Craigslist has instituted fees for specific market segments. In 2004, the company announced a $25 fee for posting job openings in New York City and Los Angeles. They subsequently applied the $25 fee to all major cities, with one exception: it costs 75$ per job posting in San Francisco. Craigslist has also introduced fees for real-estate listings in NYC and for therapeutic services listings across the country.
The landscape of the “For Sale By Dealer” section has completely changed since the $5 fee automotive posting fee was put into place back in December. Lots of dealerships stopped posting altogether, electing to wait for the dust to settle. We decided to continue posting ads despite the new fee, and the results have been solid. Still, we’ve learned a few lessons along the way that we would like to pass on.
1) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It was easy for us to rely on Craigslist to drive traffic, so we did not feel pressured to focus on SEO and PR initiatives. When Craig dropped the bomb on December 3, we had no choice but to bite the bullet and pay for ads.
2) Quality, not quantity. Advertising for free is all well and good, but it often means that your ads will get lost in a sea of crappy content. We don’t mind paying $5 a post because each post we put up is so much more effective.
3) You get what you pay for. The number of posts in the dealer section has declined far more than the number of people using Craigslist, so each ad we put up is much more valuable than before.
4) With content, less is more. The more content you put in a classified ad, the less likely consumers are going to go to your website to find out more. It’s often better to leave out some information so that the people reading the ad want to find out more.
5) Provide a great user experience. Car shoppers that come to mojomotors.com from Craigslist ads tend to stay on Mojo through the end of the buying cycle. It’s easier to find a car on Mojo Motors, and our site has far better design and functionality. It doesn’t matter how much traffic you drive to your site if you can’t keep consumers engaged once they get there.
Author Bio: Sam Jackson is the Marketing Coordinator at MojoMotors.com, an automotive classifieds website where shoppers ‘Follow’ used cars and trucks to get alerts when prices drop. Mojo also offers vehicle reviews for different makes and models. The site is free for car shoppers and dealers pay a monthly fee to have their inventory listed. Mojo is built with a mobile-first approach, and over 50% of our traffic comes from phones and tablets.