How To Create Effective Craigslist Ads



    Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you have surely heard of If you haven’t, Craigslist is a network of online communities featuring free online classified advertisements. It allows you to post advertisements offering anything for free.

Some people love Craigslist and say that they have acquired their best deal from there while others wont go anywhere near it. It definitely has a bad reputation thanks to the spammers and non legitimate postings that advertise there but don't let that deter you as it can definitely help your business.

In this article, I’ll show you how to form an effective Craigslist ad and keep it visible.


Money vs Effort

Before we go any further, while posting on Craigslist is free (and who doesn't like free advertising right?), it does take time. Whether it is worth it or not will depend on your situation. If you have time but not much money, Craigslist can be a fantastic source of clients. If you stay pretty busy with your existing clients then it may not be worth it. If you are just starting your business then you definitely shouldn't pass up the opportunity to gain some initial clients.

Creating Your Ad

The key to creating a great ad is to make it to be able to be read quickly and be keyword rich but still human readable. You might consider something like this:

*** YourTown Computer Repair ***
Honest, Secure and Reliable
Over X Years of Experience
Reasonable Rates
Services Include: Virus Removal, Desktop & Laptops, Hardware & Software Repair, Networking
Your Name

This is an effective ad because it can be scanned by the reader. You need to get your point across quickly as the customer may be looking at 10 other ads and they often they will not bother to read huge blocks of text. While this ad is very short, it says a lot more than what was actually written. Let me break it down line by line so you understand why these words were chosen allowing you to create your own ad.

Keep in mind that the client will also be judging you based on your phone call. You can tell a lot about someone with only 30 seconds on the phone. Do you answer with “X Computer Services. How may I help you?” or with a sleepy “Hello?”
Do you sound educated or speak in slang?
Answering the phone like a professional will help separate you from the technicians who are only doing work for pizza money.


Pictures Can Say 1000 Words

    Include as many pictures up to 8 as you can 600 X 450 using the Craig's List picture uploader. You can use external image hosting to add more pictures or larger pictures. As many as you want really. There are many image hosting services available. Or you can use your own website to do that if you have one. The Craig's List Help Forum would have you believe that you cannot use external image hosting to add pictures, but that is simply not true. Avoid using camera phones. Try not to use stock photos taken from the internet unless you just have no way to take pictures of you own. If that is the case then make sure you say you are using stock photos, but it represents what you have to offer. Take pictures of only what you are offering. As an example if you are selling a computer. Only take a picture of the computer and what is included with it. Don't have it set up on a cluttered, messy, dusty desk. Make sure your pictures are centered, in focus and not crooked or from a long distance away. Take a picture or pictures of the bad spot or spots if any. If your pictures are too big in dimensions or file size you can use image reducing software. There are plenty of free ones. I have listed some below.


Examples of how to take pictures and not take pictures.

    Here is how not to take a picture. From far away, out of focus and with other things not relevant to what you are trying to sell. Are you trying to sell the wood or jack or gas can etc? No, you are trying to sell the old hub cap.


Here is how to correctly take a picture. Find a  non cluttered background like gravel, dirt, grass etc. Have your item cleaned, dust free, polished etc. And take more than one picture to show case your item. Take pictures of the front, back, top, bottom, sides, in and out and close ups. Make sure not to cut off the edges of the item. Keep the item in the entire frame of your camera.



A video Can Say More

    Contrary to the popular belief of the Flag Help Forum you can put a video of your item for sale or trade. It can be a great way to show your items condition or that it works. It can be a Youtube video or one you host on your own. Make it under 3 minutes long.


Keep Posting

    Depending on your location, the Craigslist listings can move fast. You could post your ad at 9:00 am in the morning and it could be pushed off the bottom of the page by 10:00 am. The way to stay at the top of the page is to post your ad multiple times throughout the day. Having said that, Craigslist frowns upon duplicate postings so in order to post your ad multiple times a day you need to change the ad slightly. You can do this by moving the lines around, maybe even test out a few completely different ads to see which one is the most effective. Or the posting console always lets you repost every 48 hours. you are allowed to renew your posting every 48 hours with a renew link in your Craig's List posting consol. Ideally you are allowed to post one thing every 48 hours. But technically you can post one right after the other.

    If you post your ad to the Craigslist pages of large cities, your ad may drop off the page too fast. Consider posting to the Craigslist pages of the smaller surrounding towns near you.

    If your ad is still getting pushed off the page quickly, there are more extreme methods such as posting from a handful of different Craigslist accounts with each of them posting a few times a day.

    There are plenty of free and paid Craigslist software and services for posting and searching postings. Below are just a few.


You may only have one live ad in a 48 hour period?

    Staff has alluded that the word 'per item' MAY be inserted... to read: You may post to one category [per item] in one city in a 48 hour period.

This 'term' is often used as a band wagon for users and helpers alike to troll posters for having more than one ad total.

    Reality is that the number of ads permitted per poster is NOT DEFINED BY STAFF and is completely and totally up to the community local to the ad. If the community will tolerate 2 to 50 or more ads per poster, that is up to them to decide and flag accordingly. Some people successfully post 100 postings without ever being flagged and removed.

    If the local community will not tolerate more than one ad per poster in that specific community, then it is up to them to decide and flag accordingly.

NO ONE in the flag help forum can dictate the number allowed.

    As for waiting 48 hours to repost a flagged posting. In the long run that doesn't matter. If someone wants to flag your posting. They will do so if you wait 48 hours or not. They will just as easily flag you on the 49th hour, 50th hour etc.





Craig's List Anywhere

CL Busy Dog



Craig's List Ad Maker

Craig's List Classified Ad Posting Utility


The Craig's List TOU


    The Craig's List Terms Of Use can be at times very vague and left up to interpretation. There is no set number of posts that you are allowed to post. Though it does say you can only post one posting every 48 hours. Yet the posting consol lets you post as many times as you want. And I personally have no issues posting more than one posting at a time. So you can could have 1 posting or 100 postings up at any one given time. Posting as many posts as you want it in no way impairs or interferes with the integrity, functionality, performance, usefulness, usability, signal-to-noise ratio or the quality of Craig's List. It ads to the diversity. One posting per person total in not a rule.


The Craig's List Discussion Forums


    Most people find the discussion forums in particular the Flag Help Forum not very helpful at all and many times rude, defamatory, harassing, condescending etc. If you do not agree with them you will get made fun of and called names. All of the "Helpers" there are volunteers. They very much like to make their own rules contrary to the TOU. They like to over use terms like "Spam", "By Dealer", "Over Priced", "Enjoy your ban", "Craig's List is a garage sale site", "Board Hog". If you ask them how many postings you are allowed to post they simply say "The readers will let you know by flagging your postings". Some will say you are allowed 3. Some say 5. Some say 10 etc. So there is no "Real" answer as to how many posts in total you are allowed to post. And it's because they them selves do not know so they are guessing. Most people go into the Flag Help Forum thinking they are getting help from people who work at Craig's List. Some will tell you they are only volunteers while other will tell you and have you think you are getting "Official Help". they like to over use the word "Spam". To some in the Flag Help Forum if you have 5 postings up it's consider "Spam". Even of you have 5 totally different posting for 5 different things. So if you have a couch, chair, refrigerator, dinning room table and lamp posted. you are considered a "Spammer". This is why there is no real answer as to how many postings you are allowed to have. I have personally been told everything from 3 to 12. All from different helpers. So if you get 10 different answers then how are you to know. The real answer is there is no answer. I personally have had as many as 88 postings up at once with no flag & removes and no issues. So with that their answers as to how many is not true or relevant. They will give you nothing more than their "Best Guess" why your posting was flagged. The Flag Help Forum likes to state things as a absolute fact. One example is if you are asking for help and they say you are a "Spammer". They will some times say "Enjoy your ban". Making you think that they or Craig's List will ban you or have set a ban on you from posting. This is simply not true. It takes a lot to have Craig's List ban you from posting. Over pricing. What a car is "Worth" for example is a subjective term. To some people a Cadillac isn't worth $1000.00 let alone $10,000.00. Those appraisal sites are just a "Guide" and an estimate. They are not written in granite. I always price my cars at "Fair Market Value". Meaning what same year, make, model, condition, mileage car has sold for in recent past. I have had cars on here that people told me I would NEVER get that price and NEVER sell. Yet I sell at that price every time. Most Flag Help Forum helpers will have you believe your posting got flagged due to what you have for sale is over priced. Again the price or value of something is a subjective term. You can ask 10 different people what something is worth and get 10 different answers. Again go by Fair Market Value. The Flag Help Forum always says that Craig's List is a "Garage Sale site" or "Bargain Site". Meaning that if you have something to sell that it should be priced as if it were being bought at a garage sale. If for example you have a computer worth a fair market value of $1000.000 for sale that you should have it posting for $400.00 or so. This is the farthest thing from the truth. Craig's List is NOT a garage sale site or bargain site. You can sell anything from a $500.00 old Ford Pinto too a $50,000.00 classic car to a $500,000.00 house. Board Hog is another term the Flag Help Forum uses. And they always compare to a bank that has a candy dish that has some candy in it that is free. Would you take all of the candy? The answer is no obviously. They use this analogy to how many posts you are allowed in their minds you can have. That analogy does not hold water. Craig's List is a huge website with hundreds of thousands if not millions of postings. So if you post 50 postings you are by no means "Board Hogging". Compared to the large scale of Craig's List. The Flag Help Forum acquaints you to taking up the whole site if you post your 50 postings. 


    Here is just one very harassing reply from a so called Flag Help Forum Helper

you are pathetic "not sold for extreme profit" < clhelper21 > 09/14 13:39:15

just a moderate profit huh 

you and your mother are worthless wastes of valuable resources

please go choke your mother and place your head in the stove 

after you stomp the heads of these puppies under your high heeled shoes



The Craig's List Flagging Consol

    The flagging consol on Craig's List is very very much over used, not used correctly and miss used probably 50% of the time. Some times people will flag your posting simply for nothing more than they do not like what you have to offer. Or you have a competitor flagging you. I have found over the years it takes about 10 to 20 flags to bring a post down. The Flag Help forum will tell you it takes 10,000 flags. That is simply not true at all. It takes different IP Addresses to get a post flagged. I have heard people that use IP Address Changing Software to get a post flagged. If you get a "Flagged and removed" email then that means you were flagged by other Craig's List readers. If you did not get an email then that means Craig's List removed your posting. In either case you are allowed to repost. Each time an ad gets flagged & removed, it takes less flags for other/subsequent ads to come down. As to how many flags it takes to remove your post. It depends on your area and section you are posting in. I have found that it in most cases only takes about 12 flags to get a post flagged and removed. The threshold is different for every location and section. I have ran tests and many times duplicated this number. All Craig's List staff will say is "between 1 and 10,000 individual flags." It varies by city, category, day, and user account (abusers need fewer flags), and can change. Each time you have an ad flagged off, the next ad needs fewer flags, and fewer, and fewer. Only local flags count, and each user can flag an ad only once. If you get flagged then go a head a repost. The flag help forum would have you believe that you have to wait 48 to repost. That is not true. Nor does it say anywhere in the Craig's List TOU that you have to wait 48 AFTER being flagged. The flag help forum also says wait 48 hours to avoid "Memory Flags". If people want to flag your posting then waiting 48 will not help. People will flag you whether you wait 48 hours or not. When it's all said and done I do recommend waiting the 48 hours. Anyone that is a "Chronic Flagger" should think twice about flagging something that "You" don't like. If you don't like what someone has to offer then click the back button and leave the posting alone. Because someone else might like what that person has to offer. A posting should be looked at for a minute or so then move on not head scratching minutes and then click the flag links. It is believed that as an account has more and more ads flagged, any new postings for different items are easier to remove. That is simply not true. If you have a toaster oven, clock radio, computer and TV posted. and the computer gets flagged and removed. That has no effect on the other posting you have. Having one posting out of 4 flagged and removed does not weaken your account as the flah help forun would have you believe.


Vendetta Flagging

    This term means that someone or a group that is offering the same thing or similar is flagging your posting as competition. The Craig's List Flag Help Forum would have you believe this is a myth and NEVER happens. That is the farthest thing from the truth. I have personally seen it happen. And it does happen. It is very easy for a competitor to do this with the aid of IP address changing software or proxy services. Or the help of a group of people. when every other compeditor is flagging eachoher postint. Eventualy one or more will be be flagged and removed.


Auto Flagging Software


    The existence of auto flagging software is acknowledged/ condoned with specific guidance in the craigslist terms of service.
"Section 7 z"

7. CONDUCT You agree not to post, email, or otherwise make available Content:
a) – q)…
Additionally, you agree not to:
r) – y)…
z) use any form of automated device or computer program ("flagging tool") that enables the use of craigslist's "flagging system" or other community moderation systems without each flag being manually entered by the person that initiates the flag (an "automated flagging device"), or use the flagging tool to remove posts of competitors, or to remove posts without a good faith belief that the post being flagged violates these TOU;


The craigslist community is most likely being affected by autoflagger software being deployed by the "community". People who troll around craigslist tormenting people who post things they don't like, or don't agree with.

This affects people like me by continually removing posts that are associated with the search terms programmed into the autoflagging software.

I have found many software offerings selling autoflagging software and autoposting software which are marketed to combat the autoflagging capabilities of the "community". This information was deleted from my postings on the flag help forum. I assume from this that the general public is not intended to know about the existence of the software. And the Flag Help Forum would have you believe that such software doesn't not exist or does not work. I have personally tried most of these software and they do in fact work.

I have read post, after post, after post of new people having their very first ad flagged. Innocent pet owners being harassed in the forum for being a breeder simply because their dog had puppies and they are trying to find a home for them in the forum that presumably is intended to serve that purpose.

I had my first ad for an animal emailed demanding that I put a re-homing fee to dissuade the dog fighting community from taking my animal. So many problems associated with this service suggests that the service no longer satisfies the needs of the community it is intended to serve, but rather serves the needs of the people who intend to inflict distress on that community. I have actually been instructed to euthanize my dog in the cl flag help forum. That advise is still posted there.

Posting information regarding autoflagging on any community forum on craigslist results in the posts being removed. This seems to be a sensitive subject. Any discussion regarding the existence of autoflaggers is vehemently denied, then the entire post gets removed. Clearly there is some fear on the part of craigslist to allow the public to become aware of autoflagging.
Too many flags and your ad gets deleted. So says the Flag Help Forum. Which is true in some cases, but not all cases.


Community Moderation And Community Norms

"Community Moderation" and "Community Norms." This means that each local community decides for itself what's acceptable and what isn't no matter what the TOS says. Ads that are fine in San Francisco might be flagged fast in Los Angeles. Abiding by community norms is as important as abiding by the rest of the TOU. The bad part of this is that there is no Community Norms listed anywhere and if you as 10 different flag help forums helpers you might get 10 different answers.

As part of your local community, you decide which ads are acceptable, by flagging those you think aren't. If enough other local users agree with you, the ad is removed.

If a reader believes in good faith that the ad violates any of the terms, it's not wrong flagging. If the community has decided (by flagging) that the ads don't belong, that's their right.

And it doesn't matter which of the bad-flag links you choose; they all go into the same pool. "Best of CL" is different.


Craig's List Posting Ghosting

    This terms means that if you post a posting that Craig's List staff deems breaking the Terms Of Use and they remove it and you keep posting it. They will "Ghost" your post. Meaning that you can post it but it will not show up in any category or in a search. Your posting is basically invisible. This is a way to get you to stop posting that particular posting. In some cases I have found that a posting will be ghosted and then the ghosting taken off enabling the post to be seen again. If your posting is legitimate and in no way shape or form breaks the Craig's List Terms Of Use. Then try a complete and total re write of your posting including the title. Always do a search on your own postings to make sure you have not been ghosted.


Weakened Account

    Craig's List Flag Help Forum would have you believe once your posting or postings get flagged or flagged and removed that your account is "Weakened". This is not true at all. The is no setting that Craig's List sets to your account to make it a weakened account. No where in the Craig's List TOU or Help does it say or indicate this. Having one posting flagged and removed does not effect your others individual postings.


 The Craig's List Posting "By Owner" or "By Dealer"

    There is no information on Craig's List to let you know how or why to post as a Owner or Dealer. In most cases it is common sense that tells you how and when to post as a owner or dealer. You post as a "Dealer" if you are a car dealer or dealership. Or a store of some sort, business or service. Or continue to sell one particular thing on a on going basis. Like comic books, trading cards etc. If you go into the Flag Help Forums they will in most cases tell you to post as a "Dealer" even if you are in no uncertain terms a dealer. If you are a guy that is cleaning out his garage of some old classic car parts. You are considered a "Dealer" in the eyes of the Flag Help Forums people. You will be told that you ARE a dealer. And you will instigated into to posting as such, and if you disagree you are then ostracized or made fun of or get called bad names.


Using HTML In Your Craig's List Posting

    You are allowed to use HTML in your posting. How much is again left up to interpretation. The Craig's List FAQ says "Please use HTML sparingly". What does that mean? To some it means one line of html. To others it means 20 lines. The Flag Help Forum would like you to believe that no html is wanted in a posting. And that you will get flagged if you use html. A good rule of thumb is about 1% to 40% html is fine.


Using Posting Templates

    The Flag Help Forum would like you to believe that no templates are allowed. No where on Craig's List does it say they are prohibited. Templates are fine so long as they have all your information and not the default templates "Fill" information. I personally have used templates from time to time. I make my own.


Using Key Words In A Posting

    A well written posting will not need key words. It will have the key words within the posting. An example is below.


    2000 Ford F350 Crew Cab Truck. Good condition, 5.0 V8 engine. 150,000 miles, runs great.

    Key Words: 2000 Ford F350, F350, Crew Cab Truck, 5.0 V8


    The key words list at the end of the post are not needed due to them already being in the post its self. And is part of the legitimate description of the truck.


A bad Craig's List posting


2000 ford f350 truck


2000 fird f350 crew cab truck, good condition, runs good. This is an awesome truck but must sell becuse the wife hates it.


A good Craig's List posting


2000 Ford F350 Crew Cab Pickup Truck


2000 Ford F350 Crew Cab Pickup Truck. I have had this truck for 5 years, not the original owner. I have had recent work done. I will include a smog certificate. 


Mileage: 150,000

Exterior: White good condition

Interior: Brown Cloth Interior good condition.

Engine: 5.0 V8 Gas

Transmission: Automatic 2WD

Tires: Good condition 80% tread.

Options: PS, PB, PW, PDL, Power Seats, A/C, Heater, Defroster, Original AM/FM Stereo CD, Factory Aluminum Rims.


Overall Condition is 7 our of 10. No rips or tears in the interior. No dents, scratches or rust.


$5000.00 Negotiable






    Be as specific as possible is describing your posting. Do not put in words like "Must Sell", "Need To Get Rid Of", "Priced to sell", "The Wife Wants It Gone" etc. Those just tell any prospective buyer that you are desperate to sell. And it will bring offers of less than half of what you want to sell for. And in the long run wont help sell your item. No not add hype to your posting such as "This truck is awesome" etc. To one person it's awesome. To another it's just a truck for hauling construction goods. Be sure to itemize everything into lists. List any paperwork with your item. You can also add links to more information. An example is if you have a 52" inch LCD TV for sale. Go to the manufacturers website or review website and copy the link to your particular TV and add it to your posting. Do not add links to or from eBay or other auction website. Itemize anything that doesn't work no matter how small it is. Itemize anything that is missing no matter how small. Have someone else proof read your posting for spelling and grammar. Always use all 8 pictures that you are available to post. Put a price in the price field and in the body of the posting. Contrary to the popular belief of the Flag Help Forum you can put OBO, Negotiable or Best Offer at the end of your price. Do not put $1.00 in the price field. That is false advertisement. You can also add a link to Kelly Bluebook, NADA or Edmunds for the appraisal value for a vehicle. When pricing your item use common sense and do some research to find out what the "Fair Market Value" of your item is. If you are selling something that is new in the box. Keep current on what it sells for new. New things tend to lower in price as the weeks and months pass. If for example you have a new computer in the box that was $1000.00 that you are trying to sell. That same computer might be down to $800.00 in a couple of weeks or a month. Combine and consolidate items that are in the same category to one posting. If for example you have 10 computer parts for sale. Don't make 10 separate postings. Put them all into one posting. Contrary to the popular belief of the Flag Help Forum it is ok to sound like a dealer or dealerish in your posting. Putting complete information in a specific concise manor does not mean you are a dealer. Contrary to the popular belief of the Flag Help Forum you can code your phone number as to avoid spam phone calls. There is software that people use to scan postings and grab phone numbers. I personally code my phone number. Before I used to do that I would get inundated with spam phone calls, advertisements etc. Once I coded my phone number the phone calls literally stopped. Example FIVE55-1Two3-456SEVEN. Do not post more than one post of what you have. Posting the same exact thing will get you flagged. If you are flagged do not put flag rants in your posting. That will just draw more flags. And let the people who are flagging you know that it is working and getting to you. Keep your posting under 2500 characters. When describing your item for sale make sure to include how old it is, when it was bought, are you the original owner, do you have the receipt. Do not use all caps in your posting. If there is no category for what you are posting then you need to post in "General". Be specific on how you wish to be contacted by either via email, Craig's List reply consol, phone or text.


Craig's List No Shows

    From time to time you will get people that once you give them your name, address, phone numbers and directions on how to get to you. You set up a time for them to come. They say they are on their way and then you will never see or hear from them again. This is either because they flake out on you and have changed their mind about buying what you have and leave you waiting for them or they were simply phishing for your personal information. I can't tell you how many times I have stood in my driveway waiting for people that never show up. There is no real way around this in either circumstance. About the only thing you can do is get their information first. Ask them for their phone number, address and what kind of car they drive. If they are legitimate then they should have no problem giving you this information. After all you are giving them your information. Don't give them your information until the day and the hour they are ready to come to you. For a one time meeting there is no reason to give someone your personal information like if you are married or have kids. And for that matter there is no reason to even give someone your real name. I never give my real name on Craig's List for a one time deal or meeting for someone you will probably never see again. It will be different if you expect to continue to have dealings with that person or strike up a friendship then you can give them your real name and explain why you gave a fake name. I always tell the person if you are going to be late or something comes up and you need to re schedule or change your mind to please call me and let me know so I'm not waiting for you. Most people are receptive to this. While others will still ignore it and never show up or call back to let you know they are not coming. It's the luck of the draw and just something you will have to deal with in weeding out the flakes.


There's 3 parts to a good ad.

The Draw. The title is probably the single most important part of your ad. That's what gets them there.

The Pitch. That's what keeps them there.

The Close. That's what brings them home.


Barter Section

    The barter section is a great place to trade your stuff for other stuff. This is good for people that have something, but they don't need or have to sell it. A good barter posting will start out with what you have to offer, its condition, fair market value. When assessing it's condition use the 1 to 10 scale. Simply saying it's in "Good Condition" isn't good enough. What something is in good condition to one person is not good to others. And then a list or description of what you want to trade for. Try to us as many pictures as you can. Do not put in your posting that you will also sell your item. That will draw flags. Do not put what you will not trade for. A good description of what you are looking for will work better. Put a price in the price field as to what your item is worth.


    Here is an example of how not to post on Craig's List. You see the multiple posts one right after the other. This will do nothing more than annoy the readers and get you flagged.




    All in all I have used Craig's List since 1996. I have bought, sold and traded many many things. From classic cars, classic car parts, car stereo equipment, electronics, computers, clothing, exercise equipment etc. I have done very very well and never lost money. I like anyone else who posts year around do get the occasional flagged and removed posting. But anyone who posts on a regular basis is bound to get a flag. One could even go so far as to say that virtually every posting on Craig's List has at least one flag on it. My postings stay up 99% of the time. It's a great place if used correctly. And a bad place if used badly. You do run into people that want something for nothing or offer you less than half for your item for sale. Or the person that you give them your name, address and directions, set a time to come to you. And then they never show up and you never hear from them again. When its' all said and done though Craig's List is a great place to buy, sell, trade, look for a job, a place to live or meet someone new.



    If you would like any further help composing your Craig's List posting please feel free to email me. Or I have a free Craig's List Posting Template.


Craig's List Posting Template



Updated 1/30/14 5:18 PM