The Craigslist Changes Fallout: Have posting tools become irrelevant?

We've been playing games with a free service.

We’ve been playing games with a free service.

At the end of September, we joked internally about the changes coming to Craigslist. We didn’t actually know what they were going to be, only that they were coming. October is the Craigslist month of doom. Last year it was the Great Ghosting Ruckus that caused leads to vanish into a black hole of ads. Our leads dropped by half. This year, Craig and his team worked hard on finding new ways to take their service back from us freeloaders.

Surprised about the Craigslist changes? Don’t be

Truth is, none of us should have been surprised. Over the years, we’ve violated the Craigslist Terms of Service like Miley violated our sense of decency. We’ve done it to improve our vacancy. Miley did it to sell records. Some will claim to have behaved while posting, but most of us posted too often, used posting tools, regurgitated the same content, used too many capital letters, and linked to external contact forms. We’ve been naughty.

And so the sledgehammer dropped, again. What makes this year’s round of face slapping more difficult is we are still reeling from Google taking away our ability to track keywords. In the office, when asked for an answer to a question, lately I’ve been responding with Not Providing. We slyly thought our posting tools wouldn’t let us down too. We can still track our ad views on Craigslist there Mr. Google! … until we couldn’t.

Here’s the latest of what Mr. Craig and the Gang have taken away, this time around:

External links are dead

You can no longer post live links to your website or external contact forms. You can include a link but you will not be able to click on it. With some verbiage (Don’t forget to Copy and Paste for more info!) you can still nudge people to do a call for action. It’s uglier though and mobile people will probably be more reluctant to do it. You ever try copying and pasting on an iPad? It’s annoying.

UPDATE 11/9/2013 – It looks as though live linking is back. This is good news. Craigslist realized that these back links help them as well by building more linking relevance. Hopefully this remains in place.

UPDATE 11/11/2013 – Live linking is gone again. The Great Live Linking Tennis Match continues. Hopefully they change it back soon.

No more external images

The days of the template are gone. Sorry everyone but those beautiful yellow banners with brown backgrounds and purple fonts that you’ve cherished have been replaced by white backgrounds and black text. Mr. Craig has removed your ability to include that fancy HTML code which could transform your post into something beautiful (Another good question is this: Is calling a Craigslist ad beautiful an oxymoron? Another blog post maybe). One workaround I have seen is to convert your pretty templated ad into an image and upload that to Craigslist. Not the best solution but better than boring.

View tracking is gone

The biggest thing posting tools have always helped with is your ability to find out if an ad has worked. Was the title effective? Is posting at 4pm better than posting at 11am? Right now, it’s impossible to embed any tracking code into an ad because it gets stripped. And that’s not a Miley reference. What this means is you can no longer determine if your ad has been viewed. Except when your phone rings and they say “That Ad on Craigslist”. Then you’ll know.

Should you fork over your companies money for posting tools now?

Should you fork over your companies money for posting tools now?

Are posting tools worth the money now?

As we continue to fork out over $40 a month to companies for tools to help us post to a free site, we need to stop a minute and really think. Is that money still worth it? The once meaningful analytics have been reduced to showing the number of ads posted a day. You cannot use their pretty templates anymore. It’s been proven that you get punished by Craigslist for using tools. Should we pay for half the services we’ve been accustomed to? Is there still some serious value for our money?

I’ll let you decide. As for me, these tools do give us the ability to make sure properties are posting and when. They are still good content curators, which can help keep people from re-posting the same things. Some give best practices for posting and recommendations for better ads.

I would love to hear how these changes have affected you. What are you doing differently? Has this changed how you are looking at Craigslist for lead generation? Do you look at Teddy Bears differently? (I do)

Happy renting everyone.

About the author

  • Jennifer Grand

    This article covers the Craigslist updates really well. As frustrating as they may be, it’s important to take the time to learn what the changes mean.

    I would like to correct the idea that the once meaningful analytics are no longer possible. (Although I suppose it depends on who is providing you with your analytics.)

    The initial view of an ad was just one metric to track. If you have 10 metrics you’re analyzing and you lose one that doesn’t mean the other 9 aren’t important. In fact, I’d say they become more important. In a business world where data is king, every metric counts.

    The depth of my company’s analytics is substantial and we continue to be able to offer them. As well as the Recommendation Report we introduced recently that has wowed our clients and taken Craigslist analytics to the next level.

    Thanks for all of the great information you’ve been providing here for the industry!

    Jennifer Grand

    • One of the biggest metrics we tracked is how effective an ad is. I think to expect prospects to copy and paste a link to a website is unrealistic. Will it happen? Sure. Will people copy and paste on mobile? Probably not.

      I’d love to chat further. Email me at, please.

      • Gab

        I’d love to hear what tools you were using
        if these changes only affect the real estate industry, only some cities, or every industry, everywhere?

        • slimatic

          Piwik was my tool of choice and it worked great with Craigslist up until recently. It was really helpful and I really hope Craigslist will allow us to use tracking codes to help know more about our ads.

          • Marcin_BodyRocker

            So as it stands, tracking is dead. I don’t see any alternative.

          • You can create subdomains to use for your ads but other than that, yup, there is no alternative.

    • Max Rockbin

      What meaningful metrics can you possibly provide? You can’t tell how many views an ad has had. You can’t see which ads are followed by a website visit (no linking out). You can tell me the ad went live and maybe when. You can tell me what was in the ad. Stuff I already know. That’s about it. Right? We all wish it weren’t so, but there’s not much point in pretending.

  • ololuge

    I liked the way the items in each category were just listed, one after another and you could click on the one you were interested in. NOw there are large pics (many) on each page and I quickly lose interest in the whole web site. Very hard to find anything I am interested in…

  • That’s exactly why you need to understand how to post to CL first and start marketing with professional tools. So that you can focus less on ad posting and more on the conversions. These changes were bound to happen just like the consistent updates CL has been doing for years. Ads are going to be more focused on getting contacts via email or phone vs. clicks with the removal of html and everything else. Look into automation tools, auto responders, and make sure you can post manually before you waste your time or money on anything over and above that. That is our opinion on the matter after operating one the most successful ad posting tools on the net for over 6+ years. If anything, these changes just mean more traffic to those people that know how to convert and keep ads live or re-posted. There will always be hoops that have to be jumped through no matter what or where your posting. The early days of easy money and fast traffic are a thing of the past. Though our clients continue to succeed so clearly its still viable and works.

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