How To: Use Craigslist To Increase Your Local Search Advertising

If you have a product or service to sell, you should by now know of, the free ( mostly ) alternative to eBay that has taken off with advertisers worldwide.

Craigslist is divided into localities.. mostly states from the USA and by countries for the rest of the world which is then divided into regions and cities as well. This division makes it perfect for your local search advertising and marketing campaigns.

Readers search Craigslist by these localities, and can find anything from romance, apartments, jobs, various items for sell, and even community events. All of the listings are free ( with the exception of apartments and houses in a few major cities ), but religious Craigslist readers will flag your posting as spam if you abuse the free system. The goal is to not abuse your free listings, but optimize your listings and list them in a way to draw traffic back to your site. You only need one listing in the proper category and locality to make this strategy work, but nothing says you can’t post in other sections and localities of Craigslist if you wish.

Even though Craigslist doesn’t have the household brand name of eBay, it is a serious traffic source to consider. I myself have seen my ads placed in one city of Craigslist garner a traffic increase to my site of over 900%.

To win with the Craigslist game, you need to have an effective plan upfront for optimizing your postings and ads for your local search marketing plan. I don’t actually try to target Craigslist readers with my ads, but I try to target Google instead. Yes.. I target Google with my Craigslist ads, not Craigslist readers. There is nothing wrong with Craigslist readers, but where I live Craigslist is not a household name like it is in California.. so the amount of actual readers I have for my state / city combo is dismal at best. Optimizing for Google will not hurt those advertising in cities where Craigslist has a large following.

What do I mean? Well, if you do a search for a term / keyword in Google, most likely you will at some point find a listing from Craigslist high ( i.e. first page ) in the rankings of your results. Google seems to spider Craigslist on almost a daily basis so this makes it perfect for getting the traffic you need ASAP, and if done properly, that traffic can be directed to your site where your level of exposure for your goods will soar. Google must deem Craigslist ads as relevant, as I have been listed on the first page of Google for some pretty competitive keywords in less than week.

How do I so this? It’s not rocket science. Go to Craigslist now and find your locality. If you live in the USA, find your state.. then your city. You should see a listing of all the postings for your locality divided into sections. I spend most of my time in the ’services’ category since I provide mainly services and not products for sale.

After you have made your selection of category to post in, there is normally a link at the top of the category page listed as ‘POST’. You will most likely have to chose a sub-category of the category you are posting in, be sure to pick the most relevant one.

The next page gives you a simple form to fill out for your listing. You are presented with a title, location, and text body of your ad. At this point, think back to basic SEO skills… you need to have a great title.. one that will attract readers to click your ad, but also one that will have your keywords, with the keywords as close to the starting of the title.

Your location should be the city, state, or locality you are trying to target for your local search advertising campaign.

The body of your text can be simple.. at this point I would make a basic outline of how you want your text presented and what that text should say. You can not do too much with your text at this point.. I normally fill it in with what would be my h1 heading text, h2 heading text, text about my product, and what would be my link title back to my site or service/product page on my site.

I then fill in my email so I can get a confirmation link from Craigslist, then select to NOT show an email address in my ad. I personally don’t want people from Craisgslist emailing me.. and I do not want spam bots getting my email address, even if it is cloaked by Craigslist.

The next page presents you with a image verification image that you will need to fill out.. after that, you are done with step one.

You should shortly receive an email with a link that you will need to click to active your ad on Craigslist. Once you click it, you will be given an option to edit your ad. This is important to do! You want to edit your ad so you can optimize it for search engines.

When you ‘edit’ your ad, you are now presented with a HTML version of your ad! I normally copy all the text in my ad, open my favorite editor and start optimizing. All the rules of traditional on-page SEO apply now.

My text I had place for my h1 heading now gets wrapped with an actual h1 tag.. same with my h2 heading, but I also make my h2 heading into a hyperlink back to my product/service page on my site. My h1 and h2 headings should be a keyword rich heading so that when Google picks it up, it finds that my keyword is in the title of the post, but in the h1 and h2 ( which is now also a link ) headings at the top of the page.

I then go through the body of my posting, bolding ( strong tag ) anything I feel important that contains my keywords. I normally keep this to a limit of just one or two phrases/keywords.

I then end my posting with another link to my product/service page on my site ( same link as in the h2 heading ) and wrap it in a strong tag. I also add in a title attribute to my hyperlinks with the keyword (s) in both links ( the h2 and the bottom link ). I then publish the listing and view my results.

Craigslist ads generally expire after 45 days.. but I know I will repost my ad again at that time, not because I want to expose my ad to Craigslist readers ( remember I live in a area where most people still don’t know about Craigslist ), but so that Google picks it up again at that later date.

I generally wait a few days and search Google for the term I was targeting with my locality.. and I generally find my Craigslist posting in the 2-4 ranking results on the first page of Google. I have effectively beat out most of my competition with this one tactic for about 45 days. Google users will see this result and click on it to be directed to my Craigslist ad, where they have no choice but to click on one of my links to be directed to my product/service page on my site.

Craiglist also provides it’s readers with an RSS feed for updates to categories they find of interest. Placing your ad with Craigslist not only provides a way to advertise to readers who use their browser to view ads, but also those who have opted to use a RSS feed reader for that specific category. It also gives Google a way to again see your listing in XML RSS format, which in my mind gives you an edge over your competitors who don’t offer RSS feeds on their site. I know Google is constantly spidering my XML pages and RSS feeds, so this might give you the edge you need to expose yourself more.

Its not too bad of a marketing tool for about 10 minutes of my time, and the results are normally astonishing. Even if you don’t rank in the first page of Google, you may be getting some good traffic from Craigslist itself for the city/state you posted your ad in. Either way, traffic is traffic and with it you should be able to close several extra sales out of it.

** Edit**
Due to popular response to this post, I have decided to offer professional Craigslist posting services to my clients. If you would like to have an Internet marketing professional manage your online postings, please contact me at

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