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November 24, 2010

posted by: Carissa Drohan-Jennings

Apartment Internet Marketing - Are Your Ads Getting Ghosted By Craigslist?

If you’re a landlord who’s marketing your apartments on Craigslist, then you need to know about “ghosting”.  Ghosting is a term used for posts that have been flagged as spam by the Craigslist’s anti-spam system.  The system monitors all accounts and IP addresses and tries to determine if the quantity, frequency or content of the ads suggest that they are spam.  If it feels that the posts are spam, it will “ghost” them. 

When the system “ghosts” your posts, you as a user will not know it’s happening because you still receive an email with a confirmation link.  The only thing is, if you log out of your account and search for your ad, it will not appear in the listings.


Why Is This Happening?

Craigslist has come under tremendous fire to get their spamming problem under control and they also needed to develop a system to weed out Internet marketers that were bogging down their servers with spam listings.  They decided to develop a system that limits the ability of Internet marketers to utilize Craigslist as a viable source of marketing.  In a nutshell, this system is meant to crack down on spam. Unfortunately, this system is not perfect and although your ads may not be intended as spam, they may be flagged. Their solution is a good one, but it sometimes hinders those who are trying to create good content.

Landlords should pay extra attention to this problem because they are more susceptible to be ghosted because apartment ads are typically similar in content and structure. Let me go into more detail about what the system looks for and what you can do to avoid being ghosted.


How To Avoid Ghosting

To avoid being ghosted we first have to know what factors the system looks for when determining if the post is indeed spam.

1.              Similarity of Title and Content

Just as you avoid duplicate content on your web pages, so too should you avoid duplicate posting on Craigslist. The system’s software automatically cross matches the contents in all posts to make sure they are all unique.  So no more copying and pasting your ads and only changing the bedroom types and pricing!  Be diligent in changing the content and layout in each post.  Avoid using duplicate keywords, duplicate or similar titles or similar layout and structure.  Try to make each ad look and read differently.  Also, don’t use the same URLs or emails in the ad as these are also easily flagged.

2.              Frequency of IP Address

Most people try to create multiple accounts thinking that this will confuse the system.  Let me tell you, that won’t work.  The system monitors posts relative to IP address, not account.  This means that if you’re posting from the same location, all of your posts will be subjected to analysis.  This is particularly hard for apartment marketers who have one department posting all of the ads.  That scenario simply won’t work.  You’ll need to gather up the troops and get your individual building managers involved.  If they post from their buildings then they’ll be less likely to be flagged, as they will have different IP addresses.

3.              Posting Frequency

Craigslist only desires 1 post per account in each category.  As a general rule, you can probably get away with up to 3 ads in any one given category in a 48 hours time frame.  Any more than that amount will increase your risk of ghosting.  So no bombarding the system with posts!

4.              Images

Images seem to increase the likelihood of ghosting, but not in all cases.  The safest and most reliable kind of ad on Craigslist is a plain text ad without any html code, hyperlinks or images.  If you choose to insert an image, try hosting it on a different site like Flicker or Photobucket.  Craigslist is much more likely to block a small, unknown website than a larger one like these.


Want To Know An Easy Way To See If Your Ad Is Live?

So, how do you know if your ad has been ghosted?  Well, instead of searching for your ad, just click on the link that they send you in the confirmation email.  Once you’re on the page then go up to your IE menu bar and click VIEW and SOURCE.  You will be able to see the HTML scripts of your ad.  If you see there is a paragraph called “<table Summary =Craigslist Hosted Image> …… </table>, it means your ads will show up in the main section, but if this sentence is not there then you’ve been ghosted.

Ghosting on Craigslist is a big pain and many of you may find out that it’s already happened to you.  If that’s the case, try to take some time off of posting and go back to it slowly, adhering to the rules above.  This should fix the problem.

Unfortunately there is no one step solution that will prevent ghosting.  You simply have to try to abide by the rules and be creative.  Change up your ads and make them look as different as possible.  That’s the only way to escape the system.