How to make your Craigslist postings standout

February 28, 2012

General, How-to

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This post is as much for my sanity as it is for your sake.  I’ve seen more abominable Craigslist ads than I could ever wish upon another person.  Below I’ve assembled the basics of producing postings that are both effective and pleasing to the eyes.

Communicate to the buyer that you are someone they want to buy from.  This is the most important thing to remember when creating your post.  Having a high quality listing is one of the best ways to sell yourself.  The more informative your listing is, the less questions you will have to answer in emails or on the phone.  You will also reduce the amount of people that get to your house only to be unpleasantly surprised by the actual condition or appearance of the item.  This wastes your time and their time.  Your goal is to sell your item for the most amount of money as quickly as possible with an end result of two happy party’s.

The Title

I recommend STAYING AWAY FROM ALL CAPS.  I don’t even read the titles of ads that are all caps, let alone actually click on them . All caps = dealer, most of the time.  If not, it’s at least someone trying way to hard to sell their item.

Don’t put too much information in the title.  Don’t needlessly drive someone away from your listing by putting some reference to your fridge being “older” when you don’t have the room to explain how old it is, what kind of use it’s had and it’s condition.

Ask yourself what the most important information about your item is.  What is it?  What model is it?  What color?  What year?  If you were searching for this item, what would you type in the search box?  What information do other people selling this item put in their titles?  Learn from others!

Examples of Good titles

Nice white Kenmore refrigerator, with ice maker and water in door
White Kenmore Refrigerator, with ice/water in door
3 Year old White Kenmore refrigerator

Examples of Bad titles

Refrigerator with ice maker
REFRIGERATOR WITH ICE MAKER, FREE DELIVERY
16 year old refrigerator, has dent on front door
used fridg for sale
refrigerator

The description

Give the details first.  Make, model, features, age, color and condition.  Tip:  Put your best foot forward.  Your item might have flaws, but don’t draw needless attention to them unless they are deal-killing types of flaws. For example, you don’t need to put in the description that your 10 year old chest freezer has a scratch on the bottom of the freezer.  People know that the items are used and not perfect.  Examples of a deal-killing flaw would be dents on the front of appliances, tears in furniture, broken or missing pieces or functions of the item that are no longer working.

Instead, focus on the positives. What are it’s best features?  Does it look great, sound great, perform great?  Does it have original packaging?  Is it the deluxe version or do you have extra accessories?  Did you obsessively take care of it?  How have you treated it since you first got the item?  Has it only been used once?

If mentioning the age will help it sell, then tell them how old it is.  Every item is different thought.  Telling them your cell phone is 5 years old is more of a turnoff.  Telling them the speakers you’re selling are 5 years old is different.  Again, don’t needlessly drive people away from your item.  If age is that big of a deal to them, they will ask you.

Pictures

Pictures are the most important part of the ad.  Pictures are not only going to sell your item, but they are also going to sell the person on you.  People have no idea who you are.  When people are looking at your pictures, they are not only deciding if they want to buy your item, they are deciding if they want to buy from you.  Do you live in a dump?  Are you organized, clean?  Do you take care of your things?  Make sure there is lots of light and no clutter in the background.  I often take the items out to the front yard or the driveway.  It’s either a grey concrete backdrop or green grass and flowers.  Below are example pictures from two different appliance listings  that illustrate what I’m talking about.

 




Notice all the clutter and junk in the background of the first image.  The lighting is terrible as well and there is no reason to be zoomed out that far.  Second picture is a good example of a nice, crisp, well lit picture.

Contact information

Email address
You don’t need to give out your email address as people can email you directly through the anonymous email link that Craigslist provides.  This is best so websites won’t scrape your email address and start sending you invitations to buy the latest body part size increaser.

Phone number
Put your phone number in most of your ads. People aren’t very patient so unless you have a good reason, put your number in.  If you don’t want your home number in, get a free Google Voice number and give that out.  I’ve sold over 650 items in the past 13 or 14 months and have not had a problem giving out my number.  Changing one of the numbers to a letter is also a waste of time, and communicates to me that the person doesn’t want people to be able to search for their number.  I stay away from listings that spell out a number.

Legitimate reasons to keep your phone number out
You are a weak negotiator and you would rather negotiate over email.
You are selling your car and would rather not be preyed upon by dealers.  Dealers don’t like emailing, and when they do they are easy to spot as they are very impersonal.  You can be much more selective who you spend your time dealing with by sifting through emails.

If I missed something, shoot me a comment and will try to get responses up as quickly as possible.  Making nice, clean, attractive postings will cause others to imitate, benefiting everyone that uses Craigslist.

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33 Responses to “How to make your Craigslist postings standout”

  1. Ben Says:

    Love the post, though I have to disagree on one part, at least in some cases. In the same way that someone might post their email as “address (at) domain (dot) com” to avoid spambots, spelling out a number seems to me like it is not as much about being searchable or not.

    Generally I will not include my number, and though I do somewhat fall under your category of wanting to be able to sift through the emails, I also fall under another legitimate excuse that you didn’t include: my own schedule. As a student with a part-time job, I can’t answer my phone for much of the day except between classes or during my 15-minute break, but I can check my email all day since I type my class notes and use a computer at work. My hours are too irregular to post a “good time to call,” so it is just easier to omit my number, and send a text to the first person who supplies a number.

    I also have learned to pretty much that after the initial email, I should exclusively resort to texting, unless no “texter” replies to my listing… too many email exchanges have ended with the “buyer” revealing his spamming colors when he can no longer afford the $2 item because his son dented his car…. right before his sister showed him a link to a great job opportunity that could make me $800/week.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I hear you Ben. Each person is going to have to decide how quickly, and how available they are going to be after they post an item. Some people won’t email. Having a phone number is somewhat concrete evidence that the seller is real and local. Without that, the person could be in Guatemala, and often is. I’ve responded to a good handful of very legitimate postings that had no number listed, and a day later you get an email saying “I’m sorry I did not respond sooner but I was out of town. I’m back now and can meet you…..” Scam. I could make these types of ads all day long, not put my number in them and get hundreds of responses.

      Reply

      • Duane Says:

        I agree with you, Ryan. My preferable communication method is texting. So, in the ad, I would say, if interested, please call or text me at XXXX. Most people who texts will text me. I gets a lot of junk mails in my email. I may miss ‘important’ inquiry emails, hence, miss the opportunity to sell my stuff. I have sold a lot of stuff on craigslist. I’ve only got a hand-full of phone calls.

        Reply

    • Dan Says:

      I strongly disagree with your all caps take. Even in your example, the lower case examples blend with everything else. All caps ads stand out. At 100 ads per page and over 500 per day per category, I NEED TO BE NOTICED. Also, I think it’s no longer true that all caps mean dealer. (The ad’s body will make that obvious.) Perhaps this was true in Craigslist’s earlier days, but not today.

      Reply

      • Ryan Says:

        ALL CAPS COMMUNICATES THAT YOU ARE SHOUTING AT THE PERSON. People don’t click on items because they are listed in all caps. The item needs to shout and sell itself. Great pictures, good description and an item that is in great condition at a great price is what will sell an item. I guess I could be wrong, but that formula has worked well for me and I’ve sold thousands of items on Craigslist in the past few years. I’ve never used all caps.

        Reply

  2. Michael Says:

    These are great tips! I find myself spending too much time writing my ads (even though I have fairly good success). Any tips for how much time to spend on your posting and/or the length?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’ve gotten a lot quicker since I started. I can take pictures and have a nice ad posted of an item in less than 2 minutes. Faster if I don’t have to put dimensions or other little details that people like to know about. My average post is about 2 sentences long. I then put the price, offer delivery for a small fee if needed. I’ll space down, put my name,another space down, and my number. Clean, concise and to the point. Thanks for the question!

      Reply

  3. Tuli Says:

    Great advice. I would add that I usually use a 3rd party photo site(flickr)and embed my photos in the ad. The quality/size options are immensely better than craigslist’s built in photos.

    Reply

  4. The Serial Seller Says:

    Hey, Ryan,

    The only time I leave my phone number out is when I am selling a speciality item like an Omega or Rolex watch. Passionate watch collectors will try to call me up and ask me all kinds of technical points I as a watch layman just don’t know. I’d rather accept the questions through email, look up the answers without the pressure of the caller on the phone or waiting a call back, then email back to them.

    Also, if an item has multiple features on it, I like to list them in a bulleted format for easier reading like this:

    - 9″ deep Double Bowl Under mount design
    - 28″ wide x 17″ deep
    - Straight sides provide maximum capacity
    - Premium Satin finish to prevent scratches
    - Sound insulation – spray + pads
    - Comes with installation instructions and cardboard template for tracing out cuts in counters

    Usually this is word-for-word what a new product’s box says.

    I also have another line saying “cash only please.” Most people know this, but I remember two who wanted to pay with a personal check.

    Thanks,
    The Serial Seller

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Good tips! I haven’t been putting cash only but that would save me talking about it with a few people. Thanks for the comments!

      Reply

  5. Jerry Says:

    Sold some stuff on Craigslist the past few weeks and am now hooked. You’re posts have me excited at the prospect of doing this as a way to supplement my current income. I think my only concern would be making sure the item I am buying can actually sell for a profit. Wouldn’t the original buyer know that and in turn not sell it so cheap as he/she is leaving money on the table? One other thing I haven’t seen you post about is jewelry or sporting goods. How well do these items sell on CL?

    Lastly, what about buying wholesale items from an online wholesaler or a wholesale warehouse in the city you live? Have you tried or heard of anyone being successful with this?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Hi Jerry, thanks for the note.

      You will overcome the fear of losing money on items as your knowledge of the item niche increases. It takes time, but once you really know a market, you can dominate it.

      As far as people leaving money on the table, most know they are doing just that. It’s just that they prefer to move their item very quickly rather than get a few extra $ from the item. Sometimes they just don’t care. The reasons are endless.

      I haven’t gotten into the jewelry market, but I know there’s money in it, especially gold and silver if you know what you are doing. Sporting goods..you need to identify high demand items where the supply is low. Figure out how much the market is willing to pay for the items and go from there. There always seems to be good money in specialty niche items. Exercise equipment is a good area to get into, and often times people give the equipment away for free or for really cheap.

      As far as selling new/wholesale items, there is probably money there, but your going to have to look long and hard for little needs that aren’t being met. Could be low cost camping gear, appliance parts, bike parts etc. Lots of experiments etc to find that out, I just haven’t done it.

      Good luck, and your in a perfect position. Starting off using Craigslist to supplement your income is a good risk free way to start. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with what you find out. It’s going to take work and lots of learning, but it’s also a lot of fun!

      Best

      Ryan

      Reply

  6. Brian Says:

    I can understand people having qualms about putting their personal phone numbers out on CL. If that’s the case, why not pick up one of the cheap prepaid disposables (Walmart, etc.) and use that exclusively for your CL/eBay business? Having a cheap throwaway phone can have lots of other uses too – like when I’m going somewhere that it just isn’t wise to carry a $300 phone, etc.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      That’s a great idea Brian! I personally use a Google voice # and that can be changed quite easily, or be forwarded to someone else that might be working for you. They are very handy. You can have it transcribe people’s messages that they leave and text them/email them to you if you aren’t able to answer the call as well.

      Google voice is free, so I think I would recommend it first, then the cheap disposable phone’s. Good tip

      Reply

  7. Elle Says:

    I will never give my numbers out again. My Husband bought an item and gave the Seller both home and cell numbers. After purchasing the item, it broke. Called the Seller and E-mailed, only to have him get mad that we were asking for him to either fix it or refund. He in return, posted fake ads on Craigs list with our phone numbers! We had hundreds of people calling all hours of the day and night about “free washer” and “free laptop” b/c I divorced my Husband and wanted to get revenge! People are crazy! NEVER will my numbers be given out! I use e-mail that does NOT include my first or last name. Meet in public places also. But I do agree with the picture taking, clutter and dirt does NOT sell! All Caps don’t bother me, I do ignore if something says is in need of repair or if its really old..

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I see people posting fake ads like that all the time. It’s one of the things that would improve the Craigslist experience immensely if they came up with a way to prevent that from happening. However, if you use and give out a free Google voice number, you can change or delete the number in a moment, all for free.

      Everyone has to decide for themselves where they want the transaction to take place. I hate wasting time and sitting at home working until someone shows up works best for me.

      Reply

    • Querida Says:

      Hi, I am new to posting on Craigslist, however, Ryan has a very good point about the Google Voice number. I have used it for a couple years now and it’s great. If you get unwanted calls, you can choose to send the caller directly to voicemail, treat all calls from a particular number as spam, or block the caller. It’s that easy. You also can have all calls coming in forwarded to all your personal numbers without the party knowing your personal number. It’s the best option, I believe, if you are going to give your number out. =)

      Reply

      • Querida Says:

        Oh, and I forgot to add; the Google Voice number is free and can be changed easily if needed without changing your personal numbers, ie; home phone, cell phone, business phone. =) Hope this helps.

        Reply

  8. Marge Says:

    I just retraced my browsing history to find this, the first post of yours that I’ve read, which lead me to reading every other post on your site in the last hour or so.
    I had been looking for some help in listing home items I’m selling to clear out the house and make some money. What I discovered is a world of options to create income on Craigslist and a friendly trailblazer who is willing to share his knowledge and enthusiasm. I feel very lucky and very intrigued to have found your blog.
    Thanks for taking the time to write it!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Thanks Marge, I’m glad I can help people out. If you subscribe to my email list you will be emailed each time I write a new post. Let me know if you have any questions of ideas for future topics.

      Reply

  9. Mike Says:

    Good info! Thanks for taking the time to share with others what you learn. I’ve been earning an income in Craigslist myself for a long time, and have done it in two different states. I don’t really even buy a whole lot of things anymore, but just selectively shop the free,wanted and barter sections. I do so well that my own family don’t even believe me.
    Picked up a bunch (over 100) small, low power, and older single board computes that were never used for free a couple months ago. Put my 1st one up on ebay 1st week of November. Sold 8 so far, most with multiple bids, starting price of 59 dollars, last auction closed with 10 bids and the winning bid was 150. 8 of these things is not even half a case, and still have several cases of 20 left. By far my best deal on Craigslist to date.
    Going to use the funds to buy a diesel and convert it to vegetable oil, so I’ll be able to drive around a pick more stuff up, with very little fuel cost. You said you have an employee now, how does that work for you?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Sounds like you landed an awesome deal! Things are going well with the guy I’m working with. He helps out with pick-ups, deliveries, cleaning and repairing appliances etc. Right now he just basically does contract work for me

      Reply

  10. Shanna Says:

    Great information as always. I have been learning excellent information from you. I honestly appreciate your taking the time to share your Craigslist experience. I’m really hoping that this will pan out for me. I’m trying to find my niche market. I am starting with what I know and going from there. I have started out small with excess items from around the house. I have never heard of Google Voice before but I am going to look into that and/or a a cheap Phone just for my transition purposes. Thanks again for your time!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Shanna, that’s the best way to start. Selling extra items around the house earns some extra cash, de-clutters the house, and teaches you about many different niches without any risk. As far as Google voice goes, Google gives you a local phone number and you set it up to forward the calls to whatever phone you want, like your cell phone. You give this number out in your Craigslist ads and when people call, it rings your cell phone, or whatever phone you forward the calls to. If you miss the call and they leave a message, Google transcribes the message and emails you a copy of it. It’s incredible. Plus you can access your voice mail on your computer and many other features. Best of all, if some crazy starts posting fake ads with your number in it, you can change phone numbers instantly without going through the major hassle of changing your real number. Here’s the link and best of luck! https://www.google.com/voice

      Reply

  11. Merrilee Says:

    Ryan, thanks so much for your recommendation to use GVoice. I just got the google voice number (took only 3 minutes) and am excited that I can use it with the GVoice app with my iphone. With the app on the mobile device you can get voicemails, texts, and place calls just with wifi on the mobile and the landline number but the number they see is the google voice one. The reason why I have shied away from listing on Craigslist was because people do expect to be able to call you and get a live person on the other end. It makes them feel more comfortable by getting a feel for who the seller is. And that of course goes both ways.

    Reply

  12. Cameron Says:

    How much do you charge to have an appliance delivered?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Free if their old appliance is one of the desirable brands. If not, we charge from $20-$30 extra for delivery.

      Reply

  13. sharna Says:

    Thank you Ryan for your information very helpful

    Reply

  14. Joe Says:

    If someone is worried about using their personal phone number, buy a cheap phone with another phone number to be used only for responses to your Craigslist posts. Minutes can be purchased fairly cheap for these, and you know if that particular phone rings it is a potential customer.

    Reply

  15. Art Richardson Says:

    Great advice and motivation. Thank you

    Reply

  16. CheapskateSally Says:

    I have a google voice phone number. It’s free and easy to use if you have a gmail or google account. It’s a nice anonymity option and you can easily customize the voicemail.

    Reply

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