Over the years, Craigslist, a free classifieds-site created to connect individual buyers and sellers, has also become a powerful marketing tool for many industries, including multifamily. But recently, Craigslist implemented some rule changes to ensure the site’s content stays true its original purpose of serving the needs of people — not businesses.
It’s hard to blame the many multifamily properties that pushed the limits of the previous Craigslist ad posting rules by using elaborate HTML-based listings. What’s not to love? They received free listings that could be uploaded as HTML templates, with plenty of images, logos, and multiple hyperlinks. Plus, these listings could potentially be seen by thousands of users. However, it was most likely the excessive use of these HTML ads that led Craigslist to develop tighter ad restrictions.
Whether or not these changes end up being positive or negative for multifamily prospects, here’s an outline of the latest changes to Craigslist’s posting rules and what your business should do to address them.
Know Important Craigslist Advertising Updates
In an effort to keep postings consistent and level the playing field for all advertisers across industries, Craigslist has enacted new posting rules that eliminate HTML-based template listings. For example, Craigslist disabled the use of user analytic tracking codes that allow you to track specific elements in a listing, limited images to only those uploaded through its software, and removed the ability to use HTML templates, logos, image tags, and hyperlinks. As a result, the amount of information that you can place in and link to from your ads has been greatly reduced.
Maximize Your Craigslist Postings
So, what can property managers who previously used HTML templates do to stand out from their competitors? Craigslist ads still allow you to upload up to 12 images (you must now use their tool to upload them), so it is important that you use quality images of your property, since pictures serve as the focal point of these new listings. Also, although the ability to hyperlink to other websites from a term or image has been removed, you can continue to include the full address of links with “http://” in your copy, and these will be active. Even if Craigslist eliminates these active links in the future, you will still be able to include the URL to a website or page in your content so the user can copy and paste it into a browser.
Without the help of robust HTML templates, formatting your copy for readability is now a priority. Keep it simple, and list the highlights of your property in an easy-to-read format using short paragraphs and bulleted lists. You can also still format your copy to be bold or italicized with simple HTML commands like “<b> (text here) </b>” for bold. Do this with important items like your property name and phone number, but don’t overdo it. Less is more when it comes to font formatting.
Most importantly, don’t forget to include a prominent phone number near the top of your listing, and make sure to answer the calls when they come in. Using a tracking phone number will make it easy for you to know which calls come from Craigslist.
Boost Your Listings in Search
Now that Craigslist ads are much leaner, prospects will have to do additional online research to learn about your property. The best way to get your property seen when prospective residents search is using a comprehensive approach that includes an optimized website with relevant, quality content and paid search advertising so that your property can be discovered in the search results on sites like Google and Bing. Not following this combined approach can cost you many valuable leads that could have become residents.
Start with evaluating how your business currently performs in search engine results for important terms, like property names and locations. If prospects don’t find you when they search online, they’ll find a competitor. Google Webmasters say the single most important thing you can do to improve organic search listing positions is to provide high-quality content on your website pages, especially your home page. Other ways to improve both your online and mobile search engine results include claiming and optimizing your Google+ Local pages and other online properties like your social media pages, local listings, and review sites.
Since many prospects will know your property name, make sure to optimize your website, local listings, and social media sites for your property name keyword. You should also use search engine advertising to bid on your property name keyword to ensure they see you, not your competitors, when they search for your property.
Update Your Property’s Website
Because the new Craigslist postings contain less information than before, many prospects will visit your property’s website to answer their remaining questions. So, it is more important than ever that your site’s homepage efficiently delivers the content they most want to see – and helps them quickly navigate to the content they need. Online Marketing Institute indicates that 50% of potential sales are lost because consumers can’t find the information they are looking for on a business’ website.
Your website should do a great job of communicating the basics like your contact information, a call to action, your value proposition, and property amenities. These items are key to meeting a prospect’s needs. The site should also be mobile-optimized and include a click-to-call option for those who are researching properties on their mobile device.
Of course, all of this effort to make your site better and easier to find is great, but it’s just as important to have a plan for managing your leads once you get them. Everyone knows that leads have a very short shelf life. Once a prospect reaches out to you, the clock starts ticking. If they don’t get a quick response, they’ll most likely go with the property that follows up and nurtures them as they make their decision.
Don’t Rely on One Marketing Tactic
For those companies where Craigslist is just one of many marketing channels they use to reach prospects, these changes to the Craigslist rules are not that disruptive. However, for those that relied heavily on this online classified provider, these changes have probably had a significant impact to their lead generation efforts.
Overall, these changes illustrate an important lesson for all online marketers: don’t just rely on one marketing tactic to bring you leads. A diversified marketing approach that addresses the many different ways that prospects interact in your industry is the best way to maximize your efforts – and mitigate risk.
What tips do you have for addressing the Craigslist rule changes and adjusting your property’s online marketing efforts? Let us know in the comments.
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About the Author
Doug Jackson is a Sr. Marketing Manager at ReachLocal. He provides real estate organizations with information on how to grow their business through local online advertising, social media marketing and content marketing through the ReachLocal blog.