5 Essential Tips for Creating Effective Craigslist Ads

After the large number of views and responses on our past Craigslist posting articles, I thought I would follow up with a few more items and a real example of what we use to achieve great results.

You can see a perma-copy of one of our best performing Craigslist ads here: Vanivo Craigslist Ad.  Here are a few things that make this ad effective:

1) Eye-catching, actionable title.
The asterisks (***) draw the attention to the phrase “web design.”  We phrased the title as a question because the mental cue for a ‘yes’ answer is to click on the link.  That’s why the ads like “Think you’re smarter than George W. Bush?” get clicks.  In their head, viewers think “yes,” which is psychologically tied to the act of clicking.  Subtle, effective, and oh so sneaky sneaky (Mr. Deeds reference).

2) Strong reference and tie to the local audience.
Craigslist users tend to be proud of their geographic location and like others who share their views.  Since we target businesses locally, and I happen to love the Portland area (born and raised), it makes sense to use a Portland theme in our ad.  The awesome photo was taken by our very own Nick Buck-Niehaus and is part of a framed panorama in our office (and available for sale/licensing). 

3) Visually appealing ad.
Most of Craigslist is unformatted text, which gets boring.  By giving your audience something awesome to look at, you’re demonstrating your professionalism and longevity (that you’re not a fly-by-night establishment) since you invested time and/or money in the creation of the ad.  Most visual ads are just an image on a server (hosted elsewhere, not a Craigslist photo) referenced by a line of code in the ad.  This is easier than trying to format the page in acceptable Craigslist HTML (this can be a pain, and a huge nested-tables project), not to say it isn’t doable. 

The effect of the single large image is almost the same as if you convert it to HTML, so I wouldn’t waste time on that aspect.  The key to using this image is to link it to an appropriate landing page on your website.  Ours is linked to a sales form which asks for contact information and promises a free consultation session. 

4) Include text keywords.
If you’re not formatting the ad in HTML (just posting the image), there is no way for Craigslist to read the text on that image.  This means that if someone searches for ‘Internet marketing,’ my ad is invisible to the search tool.  To compensate for this, insert a list of your keywords that potential customers might type in to try to find your ad.  I do this at the bottom to make sure I don’t waste any space at the top. 

5) Testimonials and Past Work.
Credibility is a big part of our industry, and fortunately our work speaks for itself.  I included a few work samples as both a sample of our awesome design work  and as a colorful image to spruce up the page.  I included the testimonial section for the same reason (minus visual appeal).  As I write this, I think putting a photo of a smiling businessperson next to the testimonials isn’t a bad idea. It’s visual and psychologically conveys happiness and satisfaction – excellent buying emotions.

Well, that’s about all I have for you right now, but stay tuned for more marketing tips.  As always, if you liked this article, please share it!


Tony Kau is co-founder of Portland web design and Internet marketing company Vanivo.  For service inquiries, you can contact him directly at tony -at- vanivo.com.

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Related posts:

  1. Creating an Effective Call to Action
  2. How to Optimize your Craigslist Titles
  3. The Ultimate Craigslist Posting Strategy
  4. How to Put More Than 4 Images in Your Craigslist Ad
  5. The 8 Most Effective SEO Techniques. Period.

  1. September 21st, 2010 at 11:55 | #1

    This website lets you created HTML formatted ads for FREE. Upload up to 5 photos, hosted for free, and expandable up to 700 pixels wide, lots of themes to choose from and you can even track your ad’s performance, not just with a hit counter, but with an actual map to see where your visitors came from. Try http://www.slipdex.com for all those features. There are several sites out there that do this, but this one is by far the best!

  2. December 27th, 2010 at 20:20 | #2

    Those are really great tips to post effective Craigslist classifieds. Thanks for sharing this information.

  3. December 1st, 2011 at 17:02 | #3

    This is very solid advice. My company has been posting for a couple years on Craigslist, and everything I’ve learned supports the info in the article. I especially like the use of “***” which is better than using ASCII symbols that won’t display in all browsers (harming your CTR).

  4. February 13th, 2012 at 10:37 | #4

    Great tips, I have been using http://www.craigslistadcreator.com for my ads on craigslist. Its free and no sign up allows for I think atleast 10 images also. Now with these tips I will have some awesome craigslist ads!! Thanks

  5. March 20th, 2012 at 10:23 | #5

    You mention linking to a landing page. I’m pretty skilled whenit comes to HTML. However, all my attemptsto do so in a cl ad have been thwarted with a warning message. That I’ve either used too much HTML or my ad contains a link to another website. Which I assumed was taboo. Is this allowed and if so how is it done correctly?

  6. June 13th, 2012 at 07:23 | #6

    Ive put together a web page with all the symbols you can use in Craigslist. http://www.realpva.com/ascii.html enjoy and good luck.

  7. June 19th, 2012 at 19:27 | #7

    Hi, I have created a free application that anyone can use to create a custom Craigslist Add for free. Go to http://www.akrontech.net/CLG.html and download it if you want to start making better ads for free without any computer skills needed. All you need are your pictures and some text you want to use for your description.

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