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Posted by on in Apartment Marketing
Craigslist Just Changed All the Rules. What it Means to You.

Did you see it? The change rolled through Florida all of last week. And it hit Texas on Friday. Today, all of the sudden, it went nation-wide.

Dubbed Hurricane Craig, this change is a seismic shift in Craigslist's posting policy throughout North America. Many of the most commonly-used HTML tags in Craigslist have now been disallowed. This includes images, tables, most text markup, and anything but the most bare-bones of links.

Practically every Craigslist template ever written can now be put through the shredder.

If you are posting to Craigslist, what does this mean for you?

  1. You have to upload your photos using the much-lampooned Craigslist photo gallery. Pro tip: when selecting photos to upload, use the Control key (Command key on the Mac) to select all the photos you want to upload in one go.
  2. Readability just became much more important. Your template and over-sized photos will no longer carry the day. Renters are now going to have to face down page after page of mind-numbing text. So structure yours for an easy and quick read, with the most important items first.
  3. Details are going to matter more. With all that slick and pretty in the bucket end of the shredder, including details like laundry on-site, dishwasher, and two blocks from Starbucks will help to carry the day.
  4. A clear call to action is now a force-multipler. Again, the inspired and inspiring templates with sweeping views of the property are gone. So how do you distinguish your post, your company and your level of service?

UPDATE 1: Hurricane Craig just rolled back through yesterday and obliterated ALL hyperlinks. Craigslist is now officially a member of the pre-1995 web.

UPDATE 2: Here's a second post with additional next steps: Surviving Craig’s Brave New World.

Online scheduling, prospect nurturing and much more available at ShowMojo.com
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  • Diego Loya

    Good info Peter. I heard about changes to Craigslist but you put it right into context. I guess this now levels the playing field for all. It also creates a lot more work to get the same result.

  • Agreed. I'm a fan of level playing fields.

    And agreed. I NOT a fan or more labor and dragging the web kicking and screaming back to 1995. :)

  • <p>I have always been a contrarian on this issue. I don't think the switch to text based ads is necessarily bad once we've digested the disruption (rewritten ads, reposted them, etc.). We ran some A/B testing and tracked significantly more leads to our text based ads. We spent a good deal of time creating the ads. Like Peter's example, we put the important amenities and contact info first, which is something you didn't always get via the template ad experience.<br />
    <br />
    Another nightmare for the industry is all of the tracking tools broke. We got ours back online in less than a day, only because ours was very basic and had no tracking. We had adding analytics in our near term dev plans and were going to use pixel tracking (which means putting a tiny white image on the page and using its analytics to track page views, etc.). Obviously that is not a possibility anymore and we need to figure out a work around. Any ideas???</p>

  • Ellen, we agree that text ads aren't a bad thing.

    The big blow here is the disabled hyperlinks. Now, you have to be smarter about the link you post in your ad (not to mention how you frame the copy around it), as it will likely get copied and pasted in the browser. I think this is going to lead to an increase in shortened URLs, which obfuscate the destination link and encourage spam (an unintended consequence that CL will likely have to address down the road).

    That said, a smart URL structure on your company/property website ﹣ along with high quality landing pages ﹣ will be the best way to measure conversions from your ads at this point. We're already working with a few clients to make sure they have destination links in place to provide some level of performance tracking.

  • Great idea to create separate landing pages, Mike. You could always use the same tracking phone number as the CL ad on that page, too.

  • I agree with Mike that the real issue is the hyperlinks being disabled. Forget about tracking even (because you can track by Mike's proposal). Copying and pasting links (especially on a mobile deceive) is a PITA. We do see renters doing it. But they shouldn't have to. This is the web.

    When all the other HTML was disabled but we could still get links on Craigslist, we saw an increase in traffic (although that could be attributed to first-moverer advantage). With all hyperlinks disabled we're now seeing an increase in traffic from other sites. I think renters are starting to bail from Craigslist (at least temporarily) because of the lack of hyperlinks and/or because of the mess Hurricane Craig made of most of the posts.

    Two additional points.

    First, I'm all about cleaning up Craigslist. But that should be done through improved search to fix the top-listing issue that is the source of much of the spam in the first place. That should not be done by turning Craigslsit into an classifieds eReader.

    Second, and this is a problem rarely discussed. If Craigslist doesn't like your email address then it will not send it along through its email anonymizer system when you inquire on a post. And it won't tell you when it doesn't like your email address. It'll just throw it away. Last week we were testing with an iCloud.com email account and Craigslist would not send the email to the poster. So renters with email accounts that are less susceptible to NSA snooping (read: not gmail) could be inquiring by email on dozens of posts and getting nothing back because Craig isn't passing the emails along. With hyperlinks gone, this particular issue probably got compounded by a factor of five.

  • Bill Stephan

    Ellen Thompson

    I fear that the "significantly more" leads from text heavy ads translate as a less engaged prospect and thus reduced close ratio's for properties. And, of course, this will translate into more time and effort at site level sorting through the jump in poor prospects.

  • <p>I have hands on experience with CL in Philadelphia and with 3 companies with a total of about 80 communities. Your fears don't match my reality. The ads we use are relatively short and to the point, and have key selling features front and center. I haven't had a single complaint from any property manager about lead quality (this isn't to say I didn't have complaints from people who didn't want to do the posts!). In the two companies where we have lead to lease tracking, the close rate of CL leads is between property websites and ILSs. Frankly, we didn't have lead quality issues before, and users in your submarkets may behave differently. As a person who recently went through my own apartment search, let me add my personal perspective. I was looking at anything in my desired location that met my minimum amenities need. My engagement was not at all affected by presentation (and I saw some ugly websites and CL ads) but my user experience was best when it was easy for me to spot what I was looking for (W/D in the apartment).</p>

  • Bill Stephan

    Ellen Thompson

    Very interesting feed back, thank you ;) Just remember, CL's reality has just changed as of Monday. Only time will bear out whether or not CL will lose value i.e. higher cost of usage/lower closing ratio's.

  • Lauren Brand

    Sunny Side: this creates an opportunity for another website entrepreneur to create a new "craigslist" that is easier to use, rise above, and be a better service.

  • Thanks for great information! I felt the pain of having to redo my ads one by one, and not even realizing the pictures and captions weren't showing up until much later! As an apartment locator in the Houston area, I try to make my ads very appealing and informational, but they looked more professional using design templates from a third party vendor such as Postlets.com where I was able to post to several venues at the same time. I still use the Postlets.com but have to simply cut down on the text and ad more really high impact pictures. No captions for the pictures on Craigslist that identifies what the pictures are, whether it's a 1, or 2 or 3 bedroom, clubroom or interior of the apartment, etc. At least they are not charging to post on CL, so I'm just happy that has not changed! :o

  • Tina McCain

    We here at Beyond Wine Cheese apartment marketing were sent into a scramble just like everyone else, but we remedied the problem by revising our existing templates to fit Craigslist's new requirements. Instead of HTML, we sized and revised our ads to be uploaded as a .JPG as the "first" featured photo in addition to a property's photos. So, for example, if you want to emphasize your location, our design created specifically for "location" will catch eyes interested in that. We have designs that emphasize pet friendly, parking, storage, etc. We're proponents of such professional ads because it's our business and we're biased, but it also helps those many communities who don't have great property photos -- at least if their first image featured is a professionally designed eye catching ad, it might get the reader to stick around and explore more.

  • Melissa D. White

    Thanks Peter for this post! Very helpful info to forward to our teams. The ad does appear more organic with the text ads. Definitely following Mike's tip on making sure we have a stront url structure. We use Google Analytics to track Craigslist referrals to landing pages, and I hope this doesn't cause a significant decline to Craigslist referrals, as they have traditionally been the top referral source of traffic to our websites.

  • gerard walker

    i agree with lauren craig has done themselves in someone will take over sorry to see them go tho