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Winning vs. Losing Craigslist Ads

by Andrew C. MacDonald on April 19, 2012

Guest post written by Ashley Halligan, an analyst at a Web-based software advisory firm

Craigslist isn’t a new tool, nor has it changed much since its initial launch. But, it’s become a very attractive marketing tool for many, particularly rental property owners, and leasing agents. That being said, it’s a shame how few people take full advantage of the tool — given that is does happen to be free. And by “take full advantage,” I don’t only mean using it, but actually optimizing its use. The truth is, especially with rental properties, there’s a thick line between a winning and a losing ad. So what draws this definitive line?


Engaging Titles – The title is the only opportunity to encourage someone to open your rental ad. Make the most of this initial opportunity. Provide an explicit, honest, alluring title. Answer the first round of questions a prospective renter may have: cost, bedrooms, neighborhood, and a unique or attractive feature that makes you stand out from the abundance of similar listings.

Great Copy – If someone’s opened your ad, that implies an interest. Here’s your chance to woo the prospective tenant with honesty and creativity, while painting a vivid picture of the property while also selling its location, neighborhood, and unique attributes. You should answer the remainder of the visitors questions in the copy, in a clear and concise format. Explain rental terms, any restrictions, the perks of the property, including its surroundings. Good copy should lead to a request to see the property.

Actual Images – Images of the actual property available are pertinent. Provide images that showcase the property’s features, along with its main rooms — the bedroom, bathroom, living area, kitchen, and yard if applicable. Consider providing images of the property in different seasonal peaks. Keep in mind, this will be the tenant’s home, and making it attractive year-round is an asset.


Posting Spam Ads – Unfortunately, in addition to marketing Craigslist has also become a platform for advertising, which has led to over-posting of spam ads. Leasing agents and big-box apartments often capitalize on mass listings, none of which are of the actual property that’s available. For prospective tenants, this can become a frustrating nuisance while scouring the broad number of listings Craigslist holds.

Vague, Generic Descriptions – Once a rental seeker has opened your ad, your description of the terms and property are ultimately what will encourage an inquiry — which is the ultimate goal, right? One sentence listings are rarely successful, as are ads that are not convincing. Simply stating the number of bedrooms and the total rent is entirely selling, is it? Furthermore, failure to include images or some sort of multimedia is even more of a reason for a prospective tenant to skip over your ad.

Strict or Unreasonable Expectations of the Tenant – Keep in mind that your future tenants will be calling your property ‘home’ for a period of time. Including rules or regulations that are unreasonable are certain turn-offs. There are certain rules tenants expect whether they be pet or noise restrictions, but one example of prime example had a mandatory wake-up time (where automated lights would switch on), and there were particular hours the backyard could be used.

A winning ad leads to an inquiry, whereas a losing ad leaves a lack of interest for your property. With a free tool, there couldn’t be a more expensive mistake. Winning and losing has a significant difference — occupancy versus vacancy.


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