Craigslist is still a large lead-generator for many properties, but it’s also one of the most abused listing sites.
Some people will post one listing a million times a day. Spam-bots constantly fill up space with bad links and viruses. Realtors use creative, HTML posts that out-compete the mom-and-pop property managers. Posters use several links that take users out of Craigslist’s domain.
So, Craigslist has cracked down on posts abusing its terms and conditions. Yet, the site doesn’t typically post the updated rules. The most recent rules Craigslist actually notified users of were the elimination of HTML tags and posts in 2013 to prevent services such as Postlets from spamming the listings.
Unfortunately, that leaves property managers and realtors to track common trends to find out what’s working and what isn’t. There are a lot of stories of posts being ‘ghosted’, where users publish the post, but it never shows up on the listing results, usually because a post or a user has been snagged as spam.
“It’s constantly changing, they’re updating their bylaws and you have to be ready for the change or you’re going to be lost in it,” says Chase Harrington, Chief Strategy Office of Property Solutions, who focuses on figuring out the science behind Craigslist’s suspected algorithm for the company’s own software. “We would love to know their secret sauce, but it’s kind of like figuring out Google.”
However, Craigslist is still a go-to source for prospective tenants in a majority of markets, which means it’s not worth giving up on just yet. “Every company should still have a plan for Craigslist,” says Harrington.
You just have to learn how to play by their rules. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
Don’t Post 23,000 Times a Day. Craigslist can keep track of user’s posts and will often ‘ghost’ a post after it’s been published more than a handful of times in one day. Don’t try to be smart and use different accounts to post the same listing, either.
Post from the Same Computer. Craigslist will detect if you’re posting from different computers to try to gain an edge over the competition, which is seen as a spamming precaution. If you’re planning to post one listing multiple times in one day, do it from the same computer to decrease the likelihood of being ghosted. “It’s not a hard fast rule that if you post from a different computer it’s going to be ghosted, you’re just increasing your chances of it,” says Harrington.
Use Original Content Every Time. If you want to post multiple times, be sure to change it up. Don’t just copy and paste the information from a previous post. Update your copy and try to convince readers in new, fun language every time. You’ll be less likely to be ghosted if more of your posts are unique.
The More Keywords the Better. Filling out as many of the metadata fields as possible increases likelihood your post will be found in a search. It’s similar to managing the tagging for your websites and blog posts for SEO. According to Harrington, you should also try to use the best keywords that fit your audience. “You have to be specific and you have to know your market and the demographic you’re searching for and what are they searching for even within the same market,” he says.
Only Use Easy to Remember URLs. Since you can no longer have active links, and writing ‘copy and paste this URL’ will likely get you ghosted, you have to use extremely simple URLs. “If clients have great branding and it’s like camdenliving.com, people will remember that. Then you have others like theparkatpierside42.com, well they won’t remember it,” says Harrington. If you don’t have a simple URL, just include the best phone number and email for contact.
Use Amazing Photos. With the standardization of posts, photos mean more than ever since it’s the only visual your potential tenants will see. Good photos should have even lighting that show every detail of a room instead of one white square where the window is supposed to be. You should also use as many images as possible. An exterior shot and one interior shot won’t cut it. Make sure you show every room and any finishes you’d like to highlight. It could make the difference between them calling you or clicking a different posting.