Craigslist is the 8th most trafficked website in the US right now, trumping Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bing. Needless to say, that’s a lot of visitors to the website made famous by offering free classified posts to the masses.
From the forum fodder it’s clear that owners have a pretty mixed view of Craigslist as a marketing channel – citing spam and fraud as reasons not to use it. But, there are plenty of owners (ourselves included) that have been actively using the site with great success. If you’re ready to give it a shot, these are the 7 steps to get you started.
Step 1: Create an account
While you don’t need an account to create a free classified post, it’s helpful to have one for renewing and re-posting. Sign up for a free account.
Step 2: Select your location
Depending on your region, there may be a set of predefined locations or the ability to write-in your own location (i.e. in San Francisco these are neighborhoods like Soma or the Financial District). Be sure to fill this in as it appears next to your title on the search listings page and will help you attract renters.
Step 3: Create an enticing title
Always fill in the rent, number of bedrooms and square footage as this gets added to your title and is used as filtered criteria for Craigslist search. Be sure to highlight key features of your unit like a hot tub, swimming pool, or location close to key attractions. If you have a seasonal rental or availability during a popular event, include that information in the headline as well (i.e. 2012 ski season or F1 race availability).
Try different headlines to see what generates the most inquiries. Craigslist users have the option to search the title only (vs. the entire post) so experimenting with popular keywords for your vacation rental is critical.
Step 4: Write your post description and call-to-action
You don’t want to put all of your information into the listing body, but you have to put enough to generate interest and get the user to click on your call-to-action. Include the basics (# bedrooms, # bathrooms, square footage, and location), a list of top amenities, a short description, and, most importantly, a link back to your website for more information.
Try a few call-to-action links – one at the top and bottom of your post (i.e. contact the owner, inquire now, check availability). Don’t forget to include your contact information directly in the post itself. Include your phone and email address for the highest chance of conversion.
If you allow pets, be sure to check off “cats OK” or “dogs OK” so your listing doesn’t get filtered out when potential renters search for pet-friendly properties.
The standard Craigslist post allows you to publish up to 8 photos. Maximize your listing potential by uploading all 8 photos allowed.
If you’ve been searching Craigslist to check out your competition, you’ve probably noticed that some posts are using custom templates. Because these templates use HTML, they aren’t limited to the same photo and layout requirements as the Craigslist standard, which is why you’ll often see many more than 8 photos. Postlets by Zillow and MyVR (I’m a little biased) have great Craigslist ad templates.
If your photos aren’t doing your post justice, schedule your next photo shoot and check out these vacation rental photography tips from the experts.
Step 6: Confirm your listing, renew, and repost
Once you publish your listing, check to make sure it went live about 15 minutes later. In a few major cities, Craigslist classified posts expire after 7 days, but most cities expire after 45 days. It’s critical to renew your post every 48 hours which will move it back up to the top of the search list. You can renew it as many times as you like until your post is 30 days old. After that time, you can repost your listing and start the process over again. This is where an account comes in handy so you don’t have to go digging through emails to find a link from a month ago.
Step 7: Avoid phishing and fraud
While Craigslist might seem like an easy target for a phishing or fraud scam, there are many ways to protect yourself and still reap the benefits of increased inquiries and bookings from the free classified site.
Phishing occurs when someone attempts to learn your login credentials in order to pose as you and learn confidential information about you and your renters, especially bank and payment details. The easiest way to avoid phishing is to not click on any link that asks you to log into your Craigslist account. Always log into your account by visiting Craigslist directly. Stay tuned to the blog for more ways to avoid phishing.
Many scams involve inquiries from users very far away, often in another country, or ask for wire transfers, cashier’s checks, or money orders as forms of payment. You can avoid would-be scammers by following a couple of common-sense rules:
- Never give out financial information like your bank account number or eBay/PayPal info
- Never wire funds via Western Union, Moneygram, or other wire service
- Do not accept cashier’s checks or bank orders – banks will cash them and then hold you responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later
- Do not accept over payments – scammers send fake payments and ask you to refund the difference
- Be careful of last-minute reservation requests that don’t leave you enough time to confirm payment validity
If you suspect fraudulent activity, contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center.