The Ultimate Craigslist Posting Strategy

Lately I’ve been studying testing and implementing the best tactics for Craigslist posting. I’ve been experimenting for over 4 months now, and I’ve gotten measurably better responses (ad views and click-throughs to my website) by using the strategies outlined below, and for the first time ever, I’m sharing them with you.

Tip 1) Don’t Blend In.

Your first goal on Craigslist is to not get lost in the crowd. To view your ad, visitors have to find your title in the category page, which is easier said than done these days.

  • Include the keywords for whatever you’re listing in the title. This way, users can search ‘titles only’ and still have your listing come up. Avoid the obscurity and confusion by being clear and upfront with your audience.

  • Use a special character or six to help your title stand out. In addition to the asterisk (*) I recommend using a limited set of alt characters to attract eyes to your post. For example, a pair of right arrows ►►, diamonds ♦♦, or stars ★★ before a key word in your post can really do wonders to draw eyes. You can use these characters in your ad by copy-pasting them.
  • Never use low-credibility words. Craigslist readers are smart skeptics who don’t fall for dollar signs $$$ or ALL CAPS, and tend to not be enticed by the word ‘Free.’ Anything that seems too good to be true or smells like a dairy (cheesy or B.S.) won’t get a great response. Craigslisters are bargain hunters, though and are interested in limited-time discounts.
  • Use the appropriate verbiage. If you’re posting in the real estate section, it’s okay to use industry terms like ‘W/D’ for washer/dryer or ‘A Space’ to describe the building class. I’ve found it’s not okay to use terms like ‘ROI’ (for Return on Investment) in the computer and creative section since most viewers in these sections don’t have a basis for this term. I used ‘Increase Sales’ or ‘Get more Customers’ with better results.
  • See our post on Craigslist Title Writing for more details.

Tip 2) Post When Your Audience is Looking.

Anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes on Craigslist understands that newer posts are always located at the top. Your goal as a poster is to be near the top when your audience is browsing. This is especially important for sections that receive hundreds of posts per day, and less important for those that receive only a handful.

  • If you’re targeting consumers with a day job, post right before lunch or right before quitting time. Most people are hard at work until 11:30 or noon, but when lunch rolls around, they’re on their own time, and much more likely to browse Craigslist than during work hours.
  • Post your B2B service around 10am and 1:30pm. Since I advertise web design services, I know my audience gets to work in the morning, gets through their emails and messages, and finally gets settled to look for my services around 10. Right after lunch, it’s the same routine.

Tip 3) Create an Appealing Ad.

Once your target has clicked on your ad title, the battle has just begun. You have to convince him or her that they need to take the next step.

  • Present a visually stimulating layout.Craigslist is covered with plain ads formatted using the default settings (Times New Roman font, text spanning the entire width of the window, and a meager – at best – photo gallery feature). By using colorful (but not obnoxious) graphics and formatting, you can make your ad appear to be more worthwhile. Since you’ve invested more time into making a great ad, your viewerwill spend more time reading it. Craigslist only allows some of the basic HTML elements to help you arrange your ad, but with a little skill and patience (or by hiring someone else to do it), you can have a stellar design that appeals to your target.
  • Don’t go for the hard sell. I know you want to close your visitors by giving them all the best reasons to buy from you, translating features to benefits, handling objections, and closing all along the way, but DON’T. The typical Craigslist viewer isn’t looking for Pushy Joe to tell them what they need. I’ve had success summarizing a few benefits, showing my past work (on-page images of my latest completed websites), and putting my contact information on the page.
  • Back up your title in your ad. Follow the lead of your title. If a visitor clicked the title, they want more of the same. Don’t surprise them – they spook easy. Expand on your title and provide a call to action so they know where to go from there.

Tip 4) Run Multiple Ads.

There is always more to be gained by increasing your exposure. Craigslist has devices in place to make sure you don’t over-post (account posting limits, duplicate content algorithms, telephone verification), but you should take advantage of every opportunity to run an ad.

  • Focus each ad on a single item or niche. Don’t use one post to describe everything you do – break it into categories. I used to have an ad that read: “Web Design, Graphic Design, SEO, and Internet Marketing.” Now I run 4 different ads (one for each service area), and I can target each one a lot better. Guess what… you get more views this way too.
  • Write 3 slightly different ad variations so you can post daily. Craigslist limits a single ad to one post every 3 days. Instead of only advertising twice a week, create two additional ads with the same offering that are different enough to not be called ‘similar’ by their ad-checking scripts. This also allows you to test which verbiage works better with your audience. For example, if your second ad variation tends to get more attention, figure out what is special about it, and use that to mold your two other ad variations, in hopes of improving their conversion rates.

Tip 5) Measure, Analyze, Adjust, Repeat!

To gauge the effectiveness of your ad, you HAVE to track it. I signed up for a free analytics account at which allows me to put a tiny image in the bottom of every ad, which effectively lets me see how many people viewed my ad. This measures how effective your title is.

The links on my ad all go to my website, which has Google Analytics installed (also a free service). I can see how much traffic I get from each ad, and the quality of that traffic (based on bounce rate, page views, time on site, etc.) . Then, I combine the data from my Craigslist account (which has my posting titles) with data from GetClicky (which tracks the number of views each title gets) and combine those with data from Google Analytics (which tells me which ads got visitors to my website) in a spreadsheet and run the numbers.

From this data, I can see if an ad gets 40 views but only 2 clicks to my website, I have a good title (depending on the category) but the ad needs quite a bit of work. By using this method to measure, analyze, and adjust my ads, I have optimized my Craigslist campaign! Now it’s your turn! :)

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on your social network using the buttons below!

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-

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Related posts:

  1. The Ultimate Craigslist Posting Video Tutorial
  2. 5 Essential Tips for Creating Effective Craigslist Ads
  3. How to Put More Than 4 Images in Your Craigslist Ad
  4. How to Optimize your Craigslist Titles
  5. How to Use Google Maps and Yahoo Local to Grow Your Business

  1. Joshua
    February 27th, 2009 at 08:21 | #1

    Very interesting strategy. I like your suggestions as to time of posting. Also I now realize that my post can be broken up into 5 or 6 different posts. I would have never even realized that w/ out your help.

    Have you ever thought about tracking how many views you are actually getting? One way of doing this is by using a link that will take them to additional content. When using you will be able to see how many clickthroughs on the link you are getting.

    Can you comment on the best way one can find a mentor or mentorship opportunity through craigslist? What can you offer a professional that has unique insight into a specific industry in order to be able to sit down with them and receive that insight? Which board would produce the best results?

    or resumes?

  2. February 27th, 2009 at 14:47 | #2

    Glad I could help, Joshua!

    I track all my ad views using a program/service called getclicky. It’s basically a counter, but it works well enough to let me know what titles are working and which ones aren’t.

    I don’t know if Craigslist is the best place to find a mentor, but there are plenty of suggestions on Google. Just search ‘Finding a Mentor.’ I think the SBA and SCORE are great resources to turn to as well. I’ve never used them, but they have a positive reputation with everyone I’ve talked to about it.

  3. March 1st, 2009 at 03:37 | #3

    Hi Guys,

    Just joined up, i can’t see the edit button to edit my profile lol can anyone help?

    thanks guys

  4. Joshua
    March 3rd, 2009 at 10:45 | #4

    Wow I never even knew that SCORE existed. Interesting. I will have to figure out how to leverage this resource. I will let you know if I have any success w/ my postings. So far I took one posting and broke them up into five. Just in case you were curious my titles are:

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦ Share your industry knowledge of Telecom as a mentor ♦♦♦♦♦♦
    ►►Share your expertise in Information Security by becoming a mentor◄◄
    ★★ Share your insight into IT systems administration as a mentor ★★
    ♦♦♦♦ Share your wisdom as a CCNP or CCIE by becoming a mentor ♦♦♦♦
    Have industry insight and technical knowlege in IT? Become a mentor!

  5. March 3rd, 2009 at 14:59 | #5

    Nice titles, Joshua. I’ve also been toying with putting the random characters right before a key word, so for my web design ad it would be:

    ★★ Local, Professional ★★ Web Design ★★

    I see a lot of people using these accent characters at the beginning and end, so it would jump out a little better to put them in the middle of the title – right before the important keyword(s).

    Best of luck!

  6. March 6th, 2009 at 09:15 | #6

    I have used craigslist with hit and miss results. Your strategy is just what I was seeking to improve my results. Thanks for your post!

  7. March 12th, 2009 at 13:23 | #7

    Great suggestion. I’m glad I came across your site. Keep up the good work. I’m kind of new to blogging and posting on craiglist, does anyone have a suggestion of how to build a good landing page on a blog?

  8. March 12th, 2009 at 15:20 | #8

    That’s a great topic for me to post about. I’ll add it to my topic list, and hopefully you’ll see it up here pretty quick!

  9. GreggG
    May 15th, 2009 at 12:46 | #9

    I’ve been watching for a while but now i’m making my first post.
    Can anyone tell me their opinion of the forum thus far.
    Looking to meet new people to exchange info with,so leave me your name

  10. May 30th, 2009 at 17:53 | #10

    Great Ideas. I will given them a try.

  11. MichaellaS
    July 20th, 2009 at 06:18 | #11

    tks for the effort you put in here I appreciate it!

  12. Erroseidory
    August 13th, 2009 at 12:20 | #12

    This looks cool so far, what’s up people?
    If it’s not just all bots here, let me know. I’m looking to network
    Oh, and yes I’m a real person LOL.


  13. September 14th, 2009 at 14:09 | #13

    I was the first stumbler to grab your article — from google with the search term “optimizing craigslist postings”. Everything makes perfect sense. Thanks so much for the info.


  14. Albert
    September 26th, 2009 at 16:26 | #14


    How do you do color on CL postings? can anyone help please!, is there a program out there?

    Thank’s for the help!

  15. October 20th, 2009 at 00:02 | #15

    Hello. Great tips here. I am looking to create a great landing page using Craigslist. Help..

  16. Albert
    October 30th, 2009 at 10:15 | #16

    █►█► Is better impact?

  17. Briana
    December 10th, 2009 at 12:55 | #17

    Nice article with lots of useful info!

    Question though…Does anyone know how to put a Web Page, or more specifically, an image of a Web Page, into a Craigslist ad?

    Also, are there any websites that have *nice* FREE Craigslist Ad templates?

    And last, but not least, I originally viewed this article for the info regarding the best time to post ads. Do you think those times also apply to Services being posted?

    Any info you can provide will be greatly appreciated…Thanks!

  18. January 16th, 2010 at 12:21 | #18

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  19. heidi
    May 23rd, 2010 at 09:00 | #19

    Albert how did you insert those symbols. The copy/paste feature doesn’t seem to work for me. Thanks!

  20. January 19th, 2011 at 19:55 | #20

    here r a couple of good symbols

    . . . ⃟

  21. Mad Flagger
    December 11th, 2011 at 22:28 | #21

    “Use a special character or six to help your title stand out.”
    What a great way to get flagged!

  22. December 21st, 2011 at 10:45 | #22

    dear sir,
    i need your help .I am from Pakistan.please tell me how i buy ip’s and phone no’s ??

  23. June 11th, 2012 at 19:53 | #23

    Hey, Craigslist is blocking getclicky, does anyone else have an idea?

  24. Graciebe123
    June 29th, 2012 at 01:36 | #24

    I tried to embed getclicky into my craigslist ad and craigslist prohibited the module…..any suggestions how to fix that?

  1. February 27th, 2009 at 00:58 | #1