Craigslist Power Posting Pointers: Avoiding the Ghost of Christmas Present

Craigslist Power Posting Pointers: Avoiding the Ghost of Christmas Present

If you devote any appreciable time and effort to posting ads on Craigslist, you have most likely run into the decidedly unparanormal but incredibly annoying phenomena of “Ghosting”. Essentially, ghosting refers to the process whereby your ads appear to go live, show up green ( active )in both your account, as well as when you check the URL – yet, are nowhere to be found in the live, real time results in the CL section in which you posted.

This is either Craigslist way of telling you your ads are alive and well in a parallel universe where you are incredibly rich and successful, or, they are just playing some sort of demented, passive aggressive mind f**k where you are being punished for over posting.

In fairness to CL – many categories have indeed become spam havens where some sort of policing is required – for Craigslist to have enduring value to us ( marketers) there has got to be some sort of vetting process where the spammers are regulated and reigned in from overwhelming the board with nonsense.

However, the seemingly arbitrary way this is being handled – where ads are “approved” on the surface, but being kicked out by either the CL spam algorithms, or some sort of human edited black listing, is causing more havoc, in my opinion, than benefit.

The reason is simple: If you post a lot, you know there is only a so – so likelihood that your ads are going to make it up. So lots of people are just posting like maniacs, sending the same ads up over and over, ( especially in small business sections like financial services and services offered) diluting the effect and drowning whatever good value propositions there may be in the lot.

If your ads are being ghosted – well, it just feels like a monumental waste of time. I have had ads in the same sections I have been posting for months, suddenly just not show up. These aren’t spammy offers, rather simple, benefit oriented affiliate offers to very specific CL demographics that for some odd reason ( one of several ) are being pulled before they even hit the stage. I would much rather have the ad rejected, or be given some sort of formalized policy on why this is no longer appropriate, than to have the ads show as running, yet – be nowhere to be found.

Anyway, it appears that the reasons you are ads will be ghosted are:

  •  URL in the ad
  •  Ad copy triggering some sort of Spam filters. Especially in Finance. ( and Adult, but I don’t post there)
  •  Image in the Ad ( depends on category)
  •  Over post – ( or very similar to another ad you have run, or unfortunately, someone else has run)
  •  Hidden Text. Typically a sign of either an automated posting solution ( which inserts hidden, or “ghost white” text into the post to make each piece of “spam” unique, theoretically CL visitors don’t see it, but the CL Bots do, making the same ad appear different)
  •  Domain name. If you have one domain name that you use for multiple offers ( especially people who are using one primary URL for several different affiliate redirects) you will eventually have your posts ghosted. This has happened to me for sure.
  •  Your IP. I think this is very, very rare. I think an IP ban is probably relegated to people are hitting it really hardcore, and I mean in quantity of posts, as well as category of content  Many recommend, if you are making your living on Craigslist, to use a dial up connection when posting for this reason.

Ok, let’s look at a few very simple workarounds.

Rather than growing homicidally frustrated, the key is very simply to recalibrate your offers, and your approach. For me, it is incredibly important that I be able to display images in my ads, because most of my offers are sales letter sorts of affiliate offers that look like text, but are really .JPG’s.

This allows me to run the same basic offer on a consistent basis without triggering the text spam filter, or duplicate post problem. It has however, opened another set of problems, as these images are hosted on domains under my control. And when things are going well, human nature is to grow soft.

And I have grown very soft and lazy. So if I have 10 different markets that I am playing in, and each offer is an image, displaying a unique affiliate oriented product or service, I have very simply hosted the majority of these images on one of my primary domains.

And, I would very simply make the image a live link to a certain sub-page on my own domain, on which I would have a very simple redirect script sending the visitor to the affiliate offer using my ID or cookie. Very, very simple – right? Nothing abusive here, no hardcore over posting, one offer per day, per city, per market. 10 markets, 10 ads.

Maybe not within the CL TOS, but – nothing like some of these hardcore spammers who use all CAPS in their posts and make you want to reconsider your generally affectionate feeling for your fellow man. Well, suddenly – about 10 days ago, my ads just stopped producing. Mostly because they stopped running. Here is what I have done to fix it.

1) First, you have to tear it all down and start again. There are so many variables, so many different permutations as to which of the above is causing the problem that you need to get a new email address or CL account (s), and starts anew.

2) Rather than post live text links ( which I have had A LOT of luck with, even as others have said they don’t work) use your URL in an image. Simply type it out, highlight the URL with a different color, make it larger, a different font, etc. TELL people EXACTLY what they need to do – i.e. – ‘TYPE THIS INTO YOUR BROWSER NOW, TO GET XXX”, etc. There is an old saying in direct response copywriting by John Carlton, who said something to the effect of, when referring to selling stuff via infomercial a decade ago – “you have to envision your prospective customer as a slumbering sloth, who will resist every urge to get off of the sofa and take action on your offer”.

The same thing applies online – even though they are only a short mouse click away!  Here is an example of an ad I am running on CL in the credit repair niche using an image ( I removed the actual URL which is part of the image in the ad )laughed.bmp.gif

3)Host your images with a well known, and accepted online image repository! This is HUGELY important. CL might blacklist YOUR domain when you host an image there, but they ain’t going to blacklist all of the hosting services used for purely non commercial purposes on CL. Find out which ones those are and open a free account. I’m not going to publicly post the one I am using right now, but just do the same things I did – find ads with images ( you will see the img denoted in the listing) – open the ad, right click on the image, COPY the image location and PASTE it into your browser.

You will see where the image is hosted, and if the ad is live and in a section you want to use, guess what? It’s obviously kosher to use. If, like me, you spend about 15 minutes doing this, you will find that there are a FEW very popular image hosting services that are common to Craigslist, and for the time being anyway – you will be able to host, and post images from there for free.

4) Once I saw that my images were live, and were not subject to the same “ghosting” that I had been running up against, I started to edit my ads by adding live links. So even though the ad already had the URL in it as mentioned above, I would go back and insert the appropriate anchor text to link to my affiliate re-direct as before, with one new incredibly powerful wrinkle…….

5) Rather than using domain re-directs as before ( i.e. – all of my affiliate offers redirecting from sub pages on my domains using either JavaScript or meta-refresh code ) I bought, and have been using a link cloaking script that negates the need to have many different domains for different products, promotions, ads or offers.  (UPDATE:  This is no longer advisable)

6) The last option that many affiliates ( or even people selling their own stuff ) tend to consider on Craigslist, but the one that is undoubtedly the safest from a long terms strategic standpoint on CL – is simply crafting your offer in such a way as to have it be delivered via the email address you post with the ad.

This requires no image, no URL, no redirect, and very few headaches at all. And why should it? This is quite simply what Craig Newmark probably had in mind in his utopian vision of how CL would evolve as an online marketplace to begin with..:-) While, as you would expect, your response rates will definitely go down, your ad acceptance rates, should you be having problems getting them through, should be at 100% with this strategy.

Simply, all you are going to do is post an attractive, benefit laden text ad, use any number of the popular free email accounts that has an auto response setting ( I use gmail very happily for this) and you will just put your offer URL in the default response that everyone gets when they reply to your ad. Very easy – set it, and forget it. I have covered this at greater length on other posts in this category, you can get more sophisticated with an Aweber sign up list for your reply email .( hence, * squeezing* your responders onto your list when they reply – although most commercial auto responders will require a double confirm for this )

Anyway, overall – I’m hoping this has been a help to anyone who is having problems with their ads not showing up on CL – even whilst appearing to be good to go. It’s infuriating, frustrating and really can make you question weather using Craigslist is worthwhile in the long run. I believe it is, and for the foreseeable future, believe the above workarounds will work as well for you, as they have for me. And again, in fairness to CL – remember, moderation truly is key.

As an entrepreneur and business owner, as well as a consumer – I can certainly see and understand their concern in keeping the bad posts, and the serious spammers, under the proverbial covers – where they belong.

For anyone struggling with Craigslist posting issues……

We’ve had great luck using Backpage.Com – it’s free – no ghosting – they have automatic resposting – and a premium section that is very inexpensive -and converts really, really well.

(you’ll need to post more ads to really “Crush it” using Backpage…..but it takes HALF the time and if you keep at it – and keep your ads highlighted – you WILL get good traffic – or at least that’s been our experience over the last 3 months in multiple cities! Check them out – PAIN FREE posting – what a concept… Enjoy!



  1. IAN- wow I so loved the laymen-isk easy to follow and Wit in yr posts/help RE: CL it has helped me a lot –heres a twist and I am gonna check more on my Adds(ghosting) but,, I hardly get any calls off CL?? I am a painting contractor Lic/bonded and a painter of faux marble and know my trade well so I am kinda dumb founded by lack of calls..But Maybe the link to my website Ain’t a great idea and I had been using the same CL acct for years.Etc… I learned a lot from yr posts Right On TY Ian, Perry Tradesman

  2. OMG, I have been wasting for two weeks that my ad has never shown up live. Originally, I was thinking if I enter the wrong secret code or wrong phone number, or what ever I could possibly entering wrong. I just post the ad again half an few hours ago, and I learn that there is a green ghost. I have used craigslist for a long long time and I didn’t have any problem to post my ad at all. Why it is different now?
    I am a honest person and I have two tivo I want to sell, so I post the 1st one
    tivo series 2, the 2nd one Tivo HD. and I all use the similar word to describe my tivo. what wrong that I have two Tivo to sell? I would rather that craigslist tell me oh something is wrong, instead of cheating me hey your ad is ok but just can not go live. I keep thinking what is wrong when I post the ad. and THIS IS IT.
    green ghost! Now I have to switch to different computer or try to change my ip.

  3. Man .. Excellent .. Wonderful .. I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds additionallyI am glad to search out a lot of helpful info here in the submit, we’d like develop extra strategies on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  4. Thanx, this is a pretty good post!! Craigslist has seem to go down a bit and that ghosting seems to be the key!! I’ll try some of these techniques though using several different redirects and posting changes has been working alright for me so far!!

    Thanx Again

  5. I could be wrong but it seems to me that ad ghosting happens in single’s rather then “all your ads” being ghosted. I may be wrong but I would post 5 ads in one city and most of them appear then 4 more ads in another city and they are ghosted but all my previous ads remain. I have tried using html pictures with the link added into it with barely any difference.

    1. Thanks Jay – I haven’t thought about Craigslist in a really, really long time – and don’t have any idea what’s going on there from a marketing standpoint – so any thoughts I have on this blog about circumventing the “ghost” issues are really outdated and very possibly, completely wrong..:-) ( ironically this blog still gets tons of traffic from these posts – but CL is not part of my strategy anymore – as it was simply too much trouble to even mess with after a while)

  6. Hi Craig – Wow – I’m not sure I can answer this one well…If I were you, I would simply repost, and see what happens. I would take a look at the forum area for this section, and see if anyone else has had similar problems ( I would imagine having ads FLAGGED here would be the more likely issue) and just try again in the absence of any obvious problems.

    Good luck though – hope you and your wife are successful in your efforts to adopt!

  7. Dear Ian – Today I tried my very first Craigslist post – and of course it ghosted. I had no idea what that meant until I googled your column after I could not find my ad on the site. The ad I was trying to post was for adoption. My wife and I would like to adopt a child, and we thought we would run some ads on Craigslist as we have done in a few newspapers. However, the very first one ghosted — even though there was no prohibited content, we cannot have over posted, and the ad by definition was unique. Would you have any suggestions on how someone who is not a professional e-mailer can get around this? Any ideas you can offer would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  8. I was wondering if anyone has had any luck with ipgreen or a similar program that changes your ip address for you? I noticed someone saying they drive to another wifi spot an log on again, that is just changing your ip address and that allows you to post again. This software does it for you, I’m just wondering how well it works?

  9. Love ur post…really helped me out…I was becoming frustrated wondering what the hell was happening to all my post even though I got confirmation they were posted…U’ve opened my eyes!!
    Thx a mill

    Matt – St.Maarten

  10. The Green Ghost strikes me about 5 ads out of every 10; I have found fat success driving elsewhere in town and rebooting my wifi laptop at a diff wifi spot. Using that scenario, coupled with image hosting at a welcomed site and using 5 emails, I can THEN get out about 8-10 ads before the ghost appears.

    You may notice when you begin to log out that the exit page is similar to if there had been a problem accepting yer page. You’ll know it when u see it.
    They really SHOULD foment some changes to announcing when you’re ghosted (and $100 to anyone who creates a script that changes your info on the fly, GUARANTEEING 0 ghosting ever…woot woot!)

  11. Ian,

    I am like you, a mind that refuses to take no for an answer. I have been on the warpath for similar en devours and I truly appreciate your article. I’ve learned a lot in 48 hours and I think I am on my way to successfully posting without having to manually write in every single post.

    Using others’ hosting sites to filter for working image hosting was simply genius…

    can I write to you directly if I run into a problem? I promise that any problem I encounter would be well worth solving.


  12. I am using adsoncraigs and I keep doing everything they tell me to do and I keep getting ghost ads on Craigslist.

    The person running that program should set up some master ads we can all use to make our own but they keep telling us what we can try and the information is just not clear enough on how to the things they recommend.

    I have spent countless hours, days, even months now with no success!

  13. Very interesting and informative article about Craigslist.
    We have high traffic classifieds that cover all the major cities, in the world, and we would welcome your business.
    We don’t flag ads, but we expect our customers not to post Spam.
    Thanks for reading my message.

  14. Thanks for the article, it was very informative and at least gave me some answers as to why my ads are all of a sudden drying up.

    My problem is that i’m not a big advertiser, but a real estate investor that has homes for sale. I get the majority of my calls off CL users, and with my ads being ghosted, calls have gone to 0.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find a decent compromise between an ad that details how we sell houses (owner finance, bad credit ok) and simply posting “house for sale. Call please” that doesn’t get ghosted.

    Honestly, I’d pay a monthly fee if I culd simply post the ads the way I like with the information that needs to be in the ad. I think the problem is CL is run by self important volunteers that are on a mission to show the world how much power they have, as opposed to offering a nice online service for advertisements.

  15. Hi Ted – All good points, and I agree – it’s a big pain in the ass. I would further point out that I have said – ad infinitum on this site and elsewhere, that CL is a small part of an overall strategy to captialize on the many potential eyeballs it brings to the party. No more – no less. I wouldn’t predicate an entire business model around it like many silly folks do – frankly, because when the party ends – you are shit out of luck and pretty much without a similar outlet to exploit in a similar fashion. With that said – you don’t need to be a deep pocket "SPAMMER" to compete and do it quickly. You just need to be creative and not willing to take no for an answer. It is a Sunday today – I am at my Aunt Sarah’s apartment in Boca Raton Florida eating Lox and Bagel and playing MaH JUng with about 8 other 85 year old women – Wi Fi Hijacking a connection off of a bunch of unsuspecting Jewish Grandmothers, and I have managed to post 10 ads today between bathroom breaks…:-) And as of now – all are still live.

  16. It is like chasing your tail. I am trying to run a business and get my service in front of people for free. Sure Organic search is working, paid ads too.

    This has become a full time job, and frankly one in which I now refuse to play. You see, you change all these things as suggested, and CL reads this then adds something new, the cycle starts anew.

    IMHO – pay someone with the brains and patience to play cat and mouse – who will guarantee a posting to stick. I am willing to pay for that service, as I am sure many are as well. Email copy of a live ad – thats what I want.

    What I see on CL is the deep pockets SPAMMER will always find a way around the rules, and flood the new channel until it closes. The little guy posting 1 or 2 ads in his primary city will still be ok .

    As CL takes over the world – are they really still concerned with being local?

  17. Hi Walt – Unless you are a huge Police fan – I doubt the ghost is in your machine..:-) I would try another photo hosting service ( find an alternative to photobucket of which there are many) I certainly do not have all of the answers…but I would try

    1) Using a dialup

    2) I don’t know what you mean by "quote" in text – but I would remove any text if you can’t get your ad through – and see if that changes your luck. Put the text in the image instead. If you mean a "quote" of some sort of random string of text at the bottom of the post not related to the offer – I would remove it for sure.

    3) I would reverse engineer the process until you discover what is problematic – even if it means ( or possibly starting with) a geographically relevent post to your own marketplace ( i.e – you live in Wisconsin – post in Wisconsin) – no links – no images – and a simple "reply-to" for contact. Ie – Walter is selling a Lawnmower. Please contact walter at email address above to buy lawnmower. If it don’t show up – Walter has a big problem with making money on Craigslist. In this case you may want to explore if you just have bad craigslist Karma – maybe through past lives or something. You can probably hire one of those regression therapists who will explore this with you through regression hypnosis. This helped me figure out why I was getting too much topspin on my backhand – (Civil War battle injury) and was very helpful to learn…;-)

    If you still have problems after the above ( not including the regression therapy.:-) email me directly and I’ll see if I can’t make a better non public solution!

  18. Article is very good, however is there a way CL can Ghost my computer other than using a cookie? I’ve been posting in the past and my ads have just recently been ghosted.

    I tried posting one ad with a new gmail, new ip, graphic ad on photobucket with a quote in text at bottom, ad was ghosted.

    Is the ghost in my machine?

    Walter Going Wiggy in Wisconsin

  19. @Mark – Thanks…I appreciate the nice words – hope it helps you make more money!

    @Wes – again, appreciate it..:-) And I agree – the interesting thing is, you CAN get your ads through – it simply requires some work…like all endeavors with a low barrier of entry – the low hanging fruit does eventually disappear ( and with it – most of the competition over time as well). I’ve had to re-work my stuff YET again since the New Year – (although I’m pretty sure I’ve got a pretty good ingenious workaround in place that I’m not quite ready to share – as every ad that has my email or domain names posted on the q and a’s here no longer works…:-) Good luck!


  20. As a business owner of a huge adult site (I won’t say the name here) where I come to find out most of my affiliates were promoting my site on cl seem like they’re throwing in the towel or going to advertise on alternative sites. I don’t blame them, going from 200 a day to zero and adding a whole lot of stress ..just ads more fuel for the fire.

    I just hope craigslist realizes that simply charging people to post an ad in services section would be the best thing for him and advertisers that are just trying to catch a break and get back to their life’s.

    But for now I’ll get back to my mailbox and read the cries of my affiliates.

    I’ve been reading many articles on the internet, this is so far the best one. Thanks!

  21. wow.. what a great piece.. !

    this has been one of the best ,,practical writings on being ghosted and what to do about it.. and even what the H*ll is causing most of it ….
    that I have ever read..

    Thank -You..

    Canton, Oh.

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