Should a Small Business Use Free Local Classified Ads?

Carmen Rane HudsonSmall Business SEO


free-local-classified-adsSeveral people on various small business forums that I’ve spent some time on have asked whether or not free local classified ads like Craigslist are helpful for lead generation.

Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. Locally-focused businesses that sell real products and services can indeed pick up some good leads to this medium.

So I thought I’d take a moment to discuss some of the pros and cons of using Craigslist.

The Pros of Craigslist

Free local classified ads have an unbeatable ROI. And unlike other “free” internet advertising methods, they really don’t take too much time since you’ll look like a spammer if you post them too often.

Craigslist ads are searchable too. That means that you could appear at the top of a highly targeted local search even if you aren’t at the top of a chronological list of category results.

Craigslist ranks very well in Google. Individual ads do sometimes come up in the search results. So Craigslist can give you a little SEO boost.

And people who are searching ads on Craigslist are usually there to buy and not to window shop or do research. That means you’re much more likely to make a sale.

These pros are true for just about any free local classified ads site that you can think of.

The Cons of Craigslist

Craigslist nevertheless carries quite a few noteworthy pitfalls.

First and foremost, the site’s got a scuzzy reputation. This reputation can impact you if you aren’t mindful of the way that you present yourself.

Second, people often jump on Craigslist because they are looking for some kind of deal. This means you’re likely to run into a lot of tire kickers, lowballers, and bargain hunters.

In some cases, Craigslist is not a good match for your target market or customers. If you sell interior design services to high-end clients you may as well market yourself elsewhere – your customers just aren’t looking for you here.

It’s also very easy for trolls and competitors to bock and flag your ads. And a lot of spammers lurk around the site, looking for email addresses.

Finally, it’s easy and free, which means that there’s a real danger that you’ll want to rest on your laurels instead of pursuing stronger marketing methods.

These cons are true of just about any free local classifieds ads site that you can think of.

Who Does Craigslist Work For?

Do you rent property? Craigslist is an awesome place for you as it’s often people’s first stop when they’re looking for a new place to live.

Craigslist is also a good place to sell cars and furniture. It’s very popular for these things.

If you’re a local contractor, it all depends. Handymen and cleaning services do well.

Plumbers, electricians, painters, and roofers do okay, too.

Higher-end specialty custom contractors or products should look elsewhere.

In my next post I’ll talk about how to write a successful Craigslist ad so that you can get great results if you decide that this is a good venue to add to your overall marketing mix.