Winning & Losing Craigslist Ads: How to Optimize Your Ad

Craigslist is certainly not a new marketing tool for rental property managers; it's been around for quite some time, though with a growing popularity in its presence as a host for local properties, more and more property managers are utilizing this free tool (aside from brokered apartment listings in NYC). That said, given that it is, in fact, free for most listers, it's unfortunate how many generic, vague, and spam listings are still floating around -- and, in abundance.

Truth is, there's effective strategies with Craigslist listings, and entirely ineffective slip-ups that many property managers are still committing. After talking with a handful of industry professionals, I've come up with three ways to optimize your ad to stir maximum possible interest, and three ways to kill your ad. This is what the experts had to say.

There's three clear components that all Craigslist listings should have in regards to rental property listings. Yes, it is still possible to attract prospective tenants without these things, but why not infuse your ad with all things wonderful and attract more quality tenants? After all, it cannot be reiterated enough -- Craigslist is free. 

Beginning with an effective title is the first step to draw people into your ad. That is the primary goal, right? Think of the title like an introduction. Pique the reader's interest with something that's creative, effective, and honest, all while answering the initial questions a prospective tenant will be asking: How many bedrooms? How much? What neighborhood/area? And, list something unique to the property. Is there an unusual amenity or something that's particularly attractive? Put something here that'll trigger more folks to open your listing. 

Then, write an excellent body that will ultimately trigger your next desired outcome -- an inquiry. If your title was interesting enough to read your ad, make your ad just as interesting. Writing an ad is essentially copywriting, so it should be both informative and creative. Answer more questions the reader may have. Sell not only the property, but also the area. Is the street or neighborhood particularly wonderful? Let them know. 

Lastly, including images (of the actual property that's available), or some other multimedia is essential to really attract inquiries. Words can paint a fantastic image of a property, but without photographic proof that a property is, in fact, as nice as you say, how does a prospective tenant know? Particularly with the number of ads with multimedia, it's important to boost inquiries. 

And just as these efforts will raise interest in your ad, there's also a handful of things that can kill an ad. And frankly, why waste time creating an ad that's inefficient, unappealing, and uninteresting? It's a waste of precious time, right? 

Again, beginning with the title, this is your first change to make or break your ad. Experts suggest using ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation points; additionally they suggest not mass posting the same listing with the same title, which is often seen in apartment searches on Craigslist. Furthermore, be sure the title says something meaningful that will encourage a viewer to open the ad. 

Also, writing vague or generic listings is another way to drive viewers away. What incentive does a prospective tenant have to inquire about an ad that answers none of their questions, and doesn't paint an attractive image of the property? Unfortunately, these ads are common on Craigslist -- ads that are so vague that a reader goes onto the next ad without any of their interest stirred. Additionally, failing to include images or multimedia that supports the verbal claims in an ad is just as unattractive to rental seekers. Consider the image one of the last things that will encourage or discourage an inquiry. Why sell your property and yourself short?

Lastly, having unreasonable expectations from future tenants will be a sure-fire way to kill interest. Implementing unreasonable rules is a very unattractive sign for folks who are wishing to call your property 'home' for a period of time. Standard rules are acceptable -- pet rules, smoking rules, noise expectations, etc., but keep your rules within reasonable perimeters. 

Following these simple steps will boost interest in your ads, build your credibility, and can result in a higher number of inquiries. Why waste time creating an ad that's not fairly representative of what you have to offer? After all, a good versus a bad Craigslist ad has a valuable outcome: occupancy versus vacancy. 

Ashley Halligan is an analyst at a Web-based software advisory firm and guest blogger for APTly Spoken.