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autorevo.com 2014 Guide #14Understandingthe beast.(or How I learnedto stop worryingand love Craigslist)a Craigslist guide by AutoRevo.

888.311.7386All the gritty Craigslist details.“Craigslist” is a dirty word in the automotive industry. “That Which Must Not Be Named”is a constant headache for most dealers. Why do we all put up with it?According to Craigslist’s Fact Sheet, it gets 50 billion page views per bsolutelyridiculous.Because of that incredible traffic, though, dealers put up with the headache.Dealers don’t like Craigslist, and Craigslist doesn’t like dealers, but the customersare there, and the volatile relationship continues.On December 3, 2013, Craigslist made a game-changing decision: it startedcharging 5 to post passenger vehicles in the “cars/trucks by dealer” section of the site.Now that the dust has settled and everyone’s fallen into the latest Craigslist routine,we want to know: how much did the 5 fee change things? What was the true impact?That’s what we’re going to talk about in this guide.

888.311.7386Inside:Craigslist’s Terms and Conditions .3Paying the 5.00 fee.3Posting rules.4What is flagging?.5How the 5 Fee Changed Things.6Fewer listings, same number of customers.6Flagging, ghosting, and deleted posts.6No more templates, no more tracking.8“Things Craigslist Does Not Like”.8Contact information in the posting title or body.9Posting too quickly.9Ignoring confirmation emails and calls.9Odd account activity.10What does Craigslist like?.10Help! I’m banned! Or my post isn’t showing up!.11How to Post to Craigslist.12Automated Craigslist posting services.12Posting assistance software.13Step-by step instructions for posting manually.13The steps before the posting form.13Finally! The posting form.14Editing the map and uploading photos.18Proofing, approving, and paying.19

888.311.7386Craigslist’s Terms and ConditionsLet’s go through the legalities first. As of June 2014, here’s what auto dealersneed to know about Craigslist:Paying the 5.00 feeWhen you post a vehicle in that category now, it costs 5.00 per post.That fee is paid directly to Craigslist, and there’s no getting around it.Any provider that says they have a partnership with Craigslist is full of it;Craig spits fire at anyone affiliated with a dealership.The fee is payable by Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Your postwill be live for 30 days, and can be edited, but not renewed. Want to repost?It’s 5.00, and it’ll be treated like a brand new post; the only difference is that youwon’t have to re-enter all the information.Craigslist is offering bulk posting for “paid account holders” only.Let’s say you want to buy more than 400 posts within a three-monthperiod. If you want to plunk down the 2,000, you can apply for invoicing.There’s a process involved, though: to become a “paid account holder”,you have to sign up. There’s a form on their site, and you have to provideyour dealership’s Tax ID number. If and when you’re approved, up to 7 businessdays later, you can be invoiced and pay by check.It’s important to note that only dealers in select major cities can sign upfor invoicing. You can see the list at http://www.craigslist.org/about/ctd blocks.Page 3

888.311.7386With that said, one of our Dealer Consultants called Craigslist, and he wastold that dealers could purchase 50 or more postings at once by credit card(a 250 purchase) if they called and requested it.You can call Craigslist at 415-399-5200, extension 8283 to find out more aboutbulk postings.Posting rulesIn the “cars/trucks by dealer” category on Craigslist, you can only post“specific individual automobiles for sale.” They don’t want postsabout specials or sales – just passenger vehicles for sale. Of course,if you post a vehicle, and one of the pictures you upload mentions a deal,that seems to be kosher. The deal just has to accompany a vehicle.Under the new terms and conditions, Craigslist posting in the “cars/trucks by dealer” section cannot have “clickable hyper links, templates,[or] external images.” On Craigslist, normal text is black, hyperlinked textis blue, and hyperlinked text you’ve already clicked is purple (unless you’vemade changes in your computer settings).Craigslist did this to make sure that when someone is viewing yourCraigslist posting, if they click on a picture or URL written in the text,it isn’t going to lead to another site. All photos are uploaded directlyto Craigslist’s site. The only clickable links are provided by Craigslistand are for the maps to the dealership on Google and Yahoo!.Page 4

888.311.7386If you include a hyperlink in your post, Craigslist will strip that codingso that it can’t be clicked - but the URL will still be visible. People who viewyour post will just have to copy and paste the link into the address bar.What if you want to try to avoid the fee and rules and post in the “by owner”section? Bad choice. Craigslist, on craigslist.org/about/ctd, says that any dealerthat does will suffer “ad removal, account closure, other remedial actions.”They also add, “Please flag any dealer ads in “by owner.”Basically, play by Craigslist’s rules, or you’ll be kicked out of the playground.What is flagging?Flagging continues to be the bane of most auto dealers’ Craigslist experience.Any Craigslist user can click the box next to the hyperlinked word “prohibited”and flag a listing.If you hover your mouse over the word “prohibited” or the box next to it,a message pops up: “flag as prohibited / spam / miscategorized.” Craigslist claimsthat “flagged posts are reviewed by staff before any removals take place.”Page 5

888.311.7386How the 5 Fee Changed ThingsFewer listings, same number of customersRemember the disaster the “cars/trucks by dealer” section used to be?It was spammed mercilessly, and it was incredibly difficult to fish out thelegit posts from the sea of spam. Since the introduction of the 5 posting fee,the spam has been drastically reduced; in some cities, it’s been eliminated.The 5 fee has actually helped make Craigslist a better place to post passengervehicles. The number of posts has decreased because most dealers balkedat the fee (so spammers disappeared) - but the number of customers lookingfor cars hasn’t changed.Each post is getting more views and has a better ROI, even with the postingfee. So, honestly, we hate to say it but Craigslist did good with the 5 fee.We’d thank them, but they’d probably yell at us like they always do when we talkto them.Flagging, ghosting, and deleted postsWe mentioned flagging on the last page, which is when a user reports an adas spam. With the fee, flagging isn’t nearly as much of an issue as it used to be,although it’s still a royal pain.Some dealers will go through and flag every ad by their competitors.A few are brazen enough to admit that they do it. Thanks for perpetuatingthe “car dealers play dirty” sterotype, guys.Page 6

888.311.7386When a post has been flagged, there’s no way to know how long it will be beforeit’s removed. Craigslist claims to review posts that are flagged, but it seemsthat the more one specific dealer is flagged, the faster their posts are removed.If your posts are deleted, you don’t get a refund, regardless of whether your postwas up to code or not.The good news is that ghosting has all but disappeared (pun intended).When a post was a ghost, it was supposed to appear on the listings page,but didn’t. The dealer didn’t get any kind of warning that the posting wasn’tonline, and while there was a functioning URL and post ID for the listing,no one ever saw it.Ghosting seems to be a non-issue now in the “cars/trucks by dealer” section.Instead of ghosting, posts are just deleted. If you’re curious about the statusof your listings, you can check the status of all your postings in your Craigslistaccount homepage.Page 7

888.311.7386No more templates, no more trackingThe biggest drawbacks with the new Craigslist rules are the loss of templatesand link tracking.To help postings stand out from all the noise, providers offered brandedtemplates for Craigslist. These templates allowed dealers to use differentfonts, colors, and links in their posts, and they looked more like actual ads.Now they’re explicitly disallowed in the new Terms and Conditions,which results in every post looking pretty much the same, like a classifiedssection in the newspaper.When hyperlinks and clickable images or text were allowed in Craigslist postings,savvy dealers could track the links using Google Analytics and other programs.It was easy to see how popular a particular ad was by how many clicks it got.That’s no longer the case, and dealers have no way to view stats on their postingson Craigslist.“Things Craigslist Does Not Like”I asked our Craigslist expert, who’s also our lead developer on our Craigslist FirstClass service, for his input on this guide. He sent me an email with four postingerrors that Craigslist seems to hate:“Accounts that do any of these things will get increased verification calls/emailsand are more likely to be flagged or removed. Craigslist appears to bemuch more aggressive about enforcing these unwritten rules on free listingsthan on paid listings. Also, in many cases, Craigslist will simply preventyou from submitting your post until you conform to these rules.”Page 8

888.311.7386Contact information in the posting title or bodyIf you enter an email address or phone number in the title or body of yourCraigslist posting, it might get blocked.This is why you’ll sometimes see phone numbers written out, like “eight six 7 fivethree 09.” Dealers will also try “hiding” email addresses from Craigslist’s systemby spelling out the symbols: “example [at] example (dot) com”.Posting too quicklyIf you post too quickly, Craigslist assumes you’re spamming the systemand will block your posts. After a lot of trial and error, our dev and supportteams figured out that 15 minutes between posts is the fastest you can postwithout being blocked.Ignoring confirmation emails and callsWhen you create a post in Craigslist, it’s not live until you check your email,click the link in the confirmation email, and accept the terms and conditionson Craigslist’s page. If you create posts, but don’t click the links, that’s a redflag in their system. Likewise, if you receive a phone call to verify your account,but you don’t answer, that may cause Craigslist to ban your account.Page 9

888.311.7386Odd account activityYour IP address is your network’s address online, and it’s public information.When someone knows your IP address, they know your general location.All the computers in your dealership are likely on the same network,so they all share the same IP address.If Craigslist sees that multiple IP addresses (multiple locations) are accessingone account, that account will probably be banned, or the posts will beflagged and removed. This is a tactic spammers and robo-posters like to use,which is why Craigslist is quick to remove them from the system.Another surefire way to catch Craigslist’s attention is to post to multipleregions from the same account or IP address. It’s one thing to post to a coupleregions that are nearby - it’s tempting fate, but you can usually get away with it.It’s a whole different ballgame if you’re based out of Dallas, but you’re also tryingto post to Houston.Craigslist defines itself as “Local classifieds and forums - community moderated,and largely free.” If it sees a dealer abusing the system and not posting locally,it will flag their posts, and that dealer is at risk of being banned.What does Craigslist like?Well, we’re talking Craigslist here, so “like” is an overly-optimistic word.It would probably be more accurate to say “shows less hatred toward.”According to our development team, “Craigslist seems to be more forgivingto accounts that have been phone verified.”Page 10

888.311.7386Great news, right? So how do you get phone verified?Unfortunately, you have no say in the matter. “Only Craigslist decides whenor if you get the honor of becoming a phone-verified account holder.” Evenworse, if you do happen to be lucky enough to be chosen, it’s only for one phonenumber per account, and it only stays verified for 90 days.Then, in the ultimate show of despotism, “Craigslist excludes a large range ofphone numbers” from eligibility.Craigslist likes to verify accounts. It helps them keep their iron fist arounddealers’ necks and make sure they’re not spammers or robots. When you sign upfor Craigslist, make sure you use a valid phone number that you actually use.You want to be sure that if you win the phone-verification lottery, you don’t losebecause you didn’t pick up the phone.To do your best to stay off their radar and get as many listings approved aspossible, try to follow their rules to the letter, answer your phone and emailswhen they contact you, and pray.Help! I’m banned! Or my post isn’t showing up!Let’s say you’ve managed to do everything Craigslist hates most: you postedto too many regions, from multiple IP addresses, too often, and your postshave email addresses and phone numbers in the post title and body.You decided to stick it to the man, and now the man has shut you down.Page 11

888.311.7386Your only choice at this point may be to create an entirely new accountat a new IP address. That means that you’ll need to use a new email addressand phone number, and if your dealership’s IP address has been banned,you’ll have to post from another network.If your post isn’t showing up, don’t assume the worst right away. It can takeanywhere from a few seconds to a few hours for a post to be publishedon Craigslist. Give it some time, and if your post is still MIA after half a day or so,look into the problem further.How to Post to CraigslistAutomated Craigslist posting servicesA few providers offer tools that automate the Craigslist process. We can’t speakto how other posting services work, but with AutoRevo’s Craigslist First Class,all you have to do is select which vehicles you want posted to your region.The software will take care of uploading photos, approving the postings,and entering the payment details for the 5 posting fee. It also includes calltracking and recording, and allows you to receive and reply to text messagesfrom potential buyers.Automated Craigslist posting services are ideal for auto dealers who simplydon’t have the time or staff to sit around and deal with Craigslist all day.There is an additional cost associated with the services, but if you post to Craigslistoften, it’s worth it. The service will do everything for you so you can concentrateon selling cars.Page 12

888.311.7386Posting assistance softwareFor dealers who don’t want to post manually or pay for an automated service,posting assistance software will take your inventory and start the postingprocess. You still have to check your inbox (or spam folder, many times)for the confirmation email from Craigslist, approve the posting, and manuallyenter in your payment information.These software solutions are far less powerful than a fully automated solution,and still require some of your time, but you’re still not going to be stuckwith the tedium of manually posting every passenger vehicle in your inventory.Step-by step instructions for posting manuallyIf you have time to post yourself or have a dedicated staffer who canmanage Craigslist postings and leads, manually posting is your third option.Here are the steps for creating a listing in the “cars/trucks by dealer”section of Craigslist, from start to finish:The steps before the posting formGrab your caffeine of choice – this is going to take a few minutes.If you’re brand new to Craigslist and have never posted to the site,here’s how you manually post passenger vehicles.Go to craigslist.org. Once you’re there, you need to select your area,so find your city or metro area and click on it. Right below “Craigslist”in the top left corner, you’ll see “post to classifieds” in blue hyperlinked textand highlighted in light yellow. Click that link.Page 13

888.311.7386About halfway down the list on this page, you’ll see “for sale by dealer”.Click that bubble and then hit the continue button.Now you’ll see a longer alphabetical list. Click the bubble next to “cars & trucks –by dealer”. You’ll see the 5 fee reminder (as if you could forget).If you’re in a large city, you might next be asked for a “location that fits best.”Click the appropriate bubble. After this screen, you’ll be able to fill out the formto create your listing.Finally! The posting formNow you’re ready to fill out the form to post your vehicle. If a box has a greenborder and green descriptive text, you have to fill in that information.You have to fill out your email address. When you select “CL mail relay”,the system allows you to communicate with people interested in your adwithout your real email address being disclosed. The relay hides both youremail address and the potential customer’s. If you don’t want any emailsfrom interested parties (a bad idea), enter your phone number and selecthow you’d like people to contact you: by phone or by text.Page 14

888.311.7386The posting title is the link that shows up on the page when buyers go Craigslist.Avoid using ALL CAPS, ending with multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!, \\\\random characters//// , and other DiStrActIng tExT. Make it easy forpotential customers to read, and include what they want to see: The year, make, and model of the vehicle Major selling points, like One-owner, CARFAX included, sunroof, etc.Page 15

888.311.7386Here are a few examples of good titles:And here are a few bad ones:The price is important, and postings without a price always see fewer leadsthan postings with a price listed. Whatever price you enter will be displayedin the Craigslist results in a small box next to the posting title.Page 16

888.311.7386One price trick dealers play: listing a ridiculously low amount, like 70.Since people can sort the results based on price, these listings will then show uphigher in sorted search results.If you don’t list a price at all, you won’t be included in the results when peoplesearch or sort by price. You aren’t required to enter a price, so if you wantto waste your 5 posting fee, go ahead and leave price blank.“Specific location” is a field that many dealers experiment with. Some entertheir address, or city, or phone number, or even their dealership name.This descriptor shows up on the search result in parenthesis next to the price.The “include ‘more ads by this user’ link” checkbox needs a bit of explanation. Ifyou check the box, and you have more postings on Craigslist, customers will beable to click a link in your ad to see all your other Craigslist postings.Page 17

888.311.7386The final part of the posting page includes two checkboxes. If you click“show on maps,” you can enter your dealership’s address, and a map will appearon the top right of your post.When you click on the small hyperlinked question mark, you’re taken tohttp://www.craigslist.org/about/help/show on maps, which gives you moreinformation about how the map works.The final checkbox says, “OK for others to contact you about other services,products or commercial interests.” Most people don’t check that box,as it seems to promote spam, but it’s entirely up to you; all it does is put a statementat the bottom of the post that says it’s okay for others to email or call youabout unrelated matters, or vice versa.After you’ve filled out this form, click the “continue” button.Editing the map and uploading photosThe next screen lets you make sure the map in your posting shows the correctlocation for your dealership. If you need to make any changes to your map orlocation, do so, or else just click the “continue” button.Now you’re on the screen that allows you to upload your pictures.Craigslist allows you to post up to 24 pictures. You need to be sure to uploadyour best or most important image first, since it will be the image potentialcustomers will see first when they click on your post. The first picture is also theone customers see when they sort by “thumb” (thumbnail, or a small version ofthe picture) , or “gallery”. When you’re done, click the “done with images” button.Page 18

888.311.7386Proofing, approving, and payingNow you can look at your post and see how it will look once it’s published.You can edit the text, images, or map by using buttons on the bottomof the screen. It also shows that the posting is 5.00 and that it’s a draft.Craigslist will send you an email that will allow you to publish your ad, edit it,verify your email address, or delete your ad. Make sure you checkyour spam filters or junk folder if you don’t get the email within anhour. If you don’t follow the directions in the email, your post will notbe published.Click on the first link in the email, and you’ll be taken to a page that asks you toaccept Craigslist’s Terms of Use. Once you’ve done that, you’re taken to the BillingOptions page. Here you can either log into your account (if you aren’t already)or select to pay with a credit card. You’ll enter your credit card informationon the next screen.After your payment has been approved, you’ll see confirmation and a message:“Thanks for posting with us.” Your post will soon be live. You can edit your postat any time and manage all your postings from your account management page.If you need a receipt, check your email - sometimes Craigslist will email it to you.You can also see your charges on your Craigslist account management page.And there you have it.We hope this guide helped you learn to love Craigslist (if only a little) and use itmore effectively. Craigslist is a beast, but it can be an incredible source of leadsand sales. Good luck, Godspeed, and we’re here if you have any questions.Page 19

888.311.7386We hope you enjoyedthis guide.Unlike other providers who forget about you until you complainabout a technical problem, AutoRevo is dedicated to helpingeach and every dealer succeed.This Craigslist posting guide is one of many free guidesthat we provide for our dealers. We’ve worked with thousandsof dealers through the years, and we want to share our knowledgeand experience to help dealers be the best they can be.Real data, real solutions, and real success. From vehicle acquisitionto point of sale, we’re with you every step of the way.

[or] external images." On Craigslist, normal text is black, hyperlinked text is blue, and hyperlinked text you've already clicked is purple (unless you've made changes in your computer settings). Craigslist did this to make sure that when someone is viewing your Craigslist posting, if they click on a picture or URL written in the text,