Going the Distance with Craigslist and Following Some Ground Rules!

Remember that story about the tortoise and the hare where they compete in a race so the hare can prove how slow moving and easy to beat the tortoise is? The hare gets over confident and decides to take a nap in the middle of the race, thus enabling the tortoise to move ahead and win. I think of Craigslist as a marathon, not a sprint, and the same “slow and steady wins the race” can be applied to auto dealers best marketing practices on the classified ad portal.

When advertising on Craigslist, many dealers tend to post too many ads, too frequently and with too many mistakes that can lead to undesirable flagging or even ghosting. If used properly, Craigslist arguably can produce more viable leads than AutoTrader or Cars.com. Of course, dealerships mistakenly think that by promoting their vehicles on the latter online portals they will have instant success and sell more cars. They can be thought of as “the sprint” which come at a much higher cost. Craigslist is an effective, cheap way to promote a dealership’s inventory online and receive genuine leads in a higher capacity than most other online automotive marketing sites.

So, why the marathon instead of the sprint?

Craigslist was created for the masses; an online classified site that works for you, not for big companies or people who just want to pay a ton of money to get their product in front of your eyes. This adds undeniable value for the ads that are posted on the site; people know what they’re getting when they go to Craigslist searching for a car – or just about anything. As a dealer, you can be on the first page of results day after day. Let’s face it Craigslist is a venue that your dealership needs to leverage, correctly of course!

All of this is obtained by following a few simple rules and by realizing that the marathon is better than the sprint. Why? Number one, because this is what Craigslist wants! Number two, when you sprint, you may get to the end faster but you’re more out-of-breath at the end and could have lost due to someone who can sprint faster than you.

In the world of automotive advertising, your sprint may buy you some advertising in the mix with all the other dealers on Cars.com, but you may never be on top of the results and you may not be able to afford to stay on the site for extended periods of time – especially without a good return on investment.

In a marathon, you have time to get your “second wind”, you have time to analyze your competitors, you have time to find the best pace for you, and you certainly have the time and drive to push that sprint to the finish line. But most importantly, you will continue in the race.

What it takes to win

Analogies aside, I’ll give you some tips on how you can improve your online visibility along with quality and quantity of inbound leads via Craigslist. No one ever said a marathon was easy – it’ll take some work but it will definitely pay off in the end.

1. Stay local

Craigslist was developed around metro areas in the intention of people staying local. Think about if you were buying a car – wouldn’t it be nice if you found a great deal on a vehicle that’s just a few miles away? Sure, you can post to multiple cities, but if you were buying a car how trusting would you be about buying an automobile thousands of miles away? Use the system that is in place – it’s effective and trustworthy.
2. Take out the trash

When you post classified ads on Craigslist they will stay live on the site for 45 days (7 days in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland,Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, SF Bay Area, Wash, DC. Click here for more info). When you post new ads that are similar you
risk the chance of having your ads flagged or even worse – have your account ghosted. By simply deleting old listings, which most likely won’t be found by visitors anyway, you avert this potential issue.

3. Consistency, not consuming

Don’t overwhelm users by reposting your ads over and over to try and get attention. Just one post every 48 hours will maintain your relevance in search results and in most metro areas in the first couple of pages.

4. No Posting Agents

Make sure your staff is posting your inventory! Craigslist hates posting agents, as a matter of fact, Craigslist terms of use has 20 bullets and guess what one is dedicated to? You got it, Posting Agents! See section 8: http://www.craigslist.org/about/terms.of.use

Bumps along the way

Like with most things, you need to prepare yourself for bumps in the
road. The World Wide Web and how people use it is constantly changing
and Craigslist is not immune to these changes. There will be downtime,
whether Craigslist makes changes to its framework, ghosting policies,
flagging, etc. The best thing you can do is to keep in mind that these
things may happen and educate yourself on Craigslist advancements.
Having a great software support team behind you is always helpful, like
a spare tire when you need it most!

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