Posting to Craigslist For Car Dealers

Craigslist can be an incredible source of leads and revenue for car dealers, but doing business with the site hasn’t come without problems. Ghosted listings, over-posting, posting too quickly, flagged listings, banned accounts, certain computers get blocked, entire dealerships get banned from posting are all problems that occur every day. Craigslist was not created for businesses, but instead as an online classified community; Craig has no desire to cater to your business and cares even less that your dealership’s listings are there.

If you want to tap into the power of classified marketing by using Craigslist, there are some best practices that you will need to follow to avoid the aforementioned pitfalls and make the most out of your time spent posting to Craigslist. If you’re already using Craigslist, these guidelines will help you improve your listing strategy, and if you’re not using Craigslist (presumably because you have been living under a rock), this list will help you drastically boost sales.

As a seasoned Craigslist vet you may have heard the term “ghosting”. If you are a newbie, don’t worry , you won’t have to employ a paranormal investigator. Ghosting is just CraigsList’s way of defending against over-posting on their site.  To help keep spammers at bay, they simply do not display ads in their search results that they feel may be spam, even though an account shows that it is posted and live.

Making your ads stick on Craigslist can be difficult. Ghosting, or ads not going live, is a common problem and there is probably a good chance that you’ve been unlucky enough to experience this at least once. The actual causes of ghosting on Craigslist are numerous, but there are a few main things that people typically do that can cause ghosting or ads not going live. One of these is how often you post. This can cause major problems with ghosting if you aren’t aware of it.

Over-posting is probably the number one reason our support line lights up like a Christmas tree. Do not try to get every car in your inventory up in one day. Spread out your postings over the course of the day.  For example, post 2 or 3 ads first thing in the morning.  Go away and do some paperwork, help some customers, and come back to post another handful right before lunch.  Come back again a couple of hours later and post another handful of ads before you go home. We find it is best to wait at least 15 minutes between postings, with no more than 10 cars posted daily. Posting smaller chunks of ads throughout the day also ensures that you have a more constant presence for your ads throughout the day. If you want to be a player in the Craigslist classified games, you must take a slow and steady approach or be disqualified.

Some users think the key to getting better results is to repeat their listings several times a week, or even every day, but this type of strategy is not only a violation of the Craigslist Terms of Use, but just plain doesn’t work in the long run. This sounds good in theory but in practice it usually quickly leads to your ads being ghosted. You are officially allowed to have only one ad for whatever it is you are selling or listing on Craigslist at a time.  It does not matter if you use a different template; it is the car itself that matters.

Forego duplicating listings to get to the top and use the renew feature. All ads that are posted can be renewed every 48 hours (up to 25 a day) which will bring your listing back to the top. It is important to note that you should renew ads only after you have added any new listings for the day—I suggest renewing ads before you leave for the day. If you renew first then add new listings, Craigslist will see them as all new ads which can get you ghosted for over-posting.

Stay in your Market! The best strategy is to post in your specific (or nearest) city and post within the policies of Craigslist. Whenever you post, Craigslist records your IP address.  Your IP address can provide the geolocation of your network.  There are ways to post to several areas, but multi-city posting is the fastest way to get banned from Craigslist; it is not worth it!

The content in your posts is critical. Craigslist looks at all content of listings, everything from your images and HTML mark-up to the actual phrases you use in your ads to determine if your ads are too similar. Content that looks too similar to other posts may be significantly more likely to be ghosted. Don’t use repetitive words in titles (dealer name, catch phrase). Some content management tools try to randomize content, but your input plays a big part in a successful Craigslist listing.

Sometimes you think you did everything right and you still run into problems because of your area; an over-saturated market simply ghosts more frequently than a slow market.  Because of this, tweaking your ads’ content to be less “Spammy” is necessary.  Other times, the rules of posting seem to be less flexible.  This just requires a bit of creativity and adaptation in what you decide to post depending on what you see in your market.  Observe what is “sticking” and see if it sticks for you as well.

Your user account itself can be a cause for ghosting.  New or unused accounts may need to be “seasoned” with regular and non-abusive posting before they are able to post more frequently.

Flagged Listings: Craigslist users may flag postings they believe to be in violation of Craigslist guidelines, by clicking on one of the flagging links at the upper right corner of each posting. Several conditions can contribute to your listings getting flagged, but most likely a competitor is probably flagging your listings to reduce competition. Our support staff has received several calls lately and the only way to combat the problem is to randomize your posting templates, post plain text ads and above all reduce your posts and use image-based templates that include your dealership name, phone number, and location. Car buyers searching for specific car models can still see everything in your ad, but you’ll make it harder for anyone specifically trying to search for your dealership. If you include your dealership’s name in either a URL or text-based content within your posts, then those listings have a chance of getting targeted by anyone trying to flag your posts.

Beware of “automated” posting means; there are companies out there that will circumvent Craigslist technical measures to post on your behalf over and over again, hiding the fact that it’s the same dealership.  Not only is this against Craigslist TOU, this is exactly opposite of what Craigslist is all about, Craigslist’s strength is that users can go to one site and see the multitude of vendors selling products. Using scripts to drown out other companies and avoid CATCHA codes, automated account creation and even going as far as to auto post is exactly why the dealer section of Craigslist resembles the Wild West. Using one of these services sounds good in theory but eventually the service will be shut down or black listed; why not just do it the correct way and not contribute to the unruliness.

If your ads start to ghost, stop posting and take a step back. Let the account cool down for a few hours or even a day.  If your account is ghosting, you need to change one of the above that you can control such as what you are posting, the account you are using or the type of ads that you are sending.

Once you wade through the quagmire of do’s and don’ts of posting to Craigslist, you will have to decide whether you want to be part of the solution or part or the problem. If you do it the right way, you can increase your leads dramatically by taking advantage of free local classified ad listings on one of the top 10 most visited websites in the US for the long haul.

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