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Craigslist is the fourth most visited independent site for car buyers—with more traffic than Edmunds, Cars.com and NADA Guides—according to a recent study from J.D. Power. What’s more, many dealers are seeing about four times as many clicks on Craigslist as on AutoTrader. It’s no surprise that dealers have begun to jump on the Craigslist bandwagon.
With this increasing popularity within the automotive marketing sector came a flood of companies that claim to be able to list a dealership’s entire inventory for them on a daily basis. The problem with this claim? Posting the same listings multiple times is against the rules, and will certainly result in a dealership’s listings being banned from the site completely.
That being said, if you play by the rules and create good listings, Craigslist can yield solid leads—a lot of them. It’s all about knowing how to avoid the pitfalls and reap the rewards.
Ghosting, blocking and other Craigslist no-no’s
If you use an automated system to post your ads, it’s only a matter of time before Craigslist finds out and blocks or ghosts your ads. When an ad is ghosted, the system will still give you a post ID and a URL, which you can see in your browser, but the listing will never appear in a search. This fools you into thinking the ad is active. The more times your ads get ghosted, the higher the likelihood that you’ll be blocked completely. When this happens, you’re essentially blacklisted from posting ads entirely.
So how do you play by the rules and avoid ghosting? Here are some tips:
If you do choose to use a vendor to help with Craigslist posting, make sure they play by the rules—and check and report ghosting regularly. Because once you’re blacklisted, it’s extremely difficult to use Craigslist to post ads ever again.
Now that we’ve gotten what not to do out of the way, what can you do to ensure success? First off, if you’re taking the time to post on Craigslist, you’ll want to get the most out of your efforts; that means creating consumer-relevant ads that set your inventory apart from the competition and that answer the questions car shoppers are asking.
In addition to posting quality listings, it’s crucial to monitor those listings in order to gauge results and optimize your campaign—just as you would with many other advertising media. Are your ads getting ghosted, and if so, which ones? Are people clicking on your ads? Most importantly, are your ads generating leads? Check the following reports daily, or at least weekly, to stay on top of these questions:
Always run experiments to fine-tune your performance. If possible, track these experiments all the way to sales. For example, you may try posting one month with prices and one month without. You’ll get more contacts without the price because people will call to ask for the price, but does this convert into more sales? If your current Craigslist vendor can’t guide you in these endeavors and provide the aforementioned reports, you should seriously consider switching vendors. After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
My mom used to tell me, “Jacob, if something sounds too good to be true … put all your money into it because these things only come around once!” No, she didn’t say that—and for good reason. If a Craigslist vendor is offering you a price that’s far below the competition, or is claiming they can post every car every day, then it probably IS too good to be true. Follow the aforementioned tips, however, and Craigslist can be a lead-generating gold mine.