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”.
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…….
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!