Ever wondered why there is such a big fuss over Craigslist? Why do so many startuppers want to know how to make a website like Craigslist?
Well, Craigslist has 364,130,904 monthly visitors and $1B in estimated annual revenue.
Despite Craigslist being one of a kind, it still has many analogues. Surprisingly enough, they are all successful.
But where do you start when you want to make a website like Craigslist?
1. What is Craigslist?
Craigslist is a classified ad website spread across 70 countries and 700 cities. It was created in the 1990s during the era the Internet was just picking up pace.
How did Craigslist start?
The whole story of building a classifieds website like Craigslist started with its launch in 1995 – namely a single email was sent about 2 upcoming events in San-Francisco to around 12 people. Surprisingly, the email was spread around and people were emailing back for information about future events.
Craig Newman, the founder of Craigslist, kept sending emails about various subjects, including events, selling and buying. However, time passed and more people wanted to subscribe to the emails. That is why it became harder to maintain email sending.
The need for a website was apparent. That’s when Craigslist was created.
Before Craigslist,t there were only a few websites that allowed advertisements but only on a paid basis. The purpose of creating Craigslist was to give people free access to posting ads online.
2. Market analysis of classified advertisement websites
The time for newspaper advertising is almost gone. Classified advertisement websites replaced ads in newspapers. Thanks to classified advertisement websites, people are able to post an ad with just a couple of clicks.
There are many reasons why people decided to switch to online advertisement: the ability to write long ads for free, to use images, to sell internationally and to easily search and filter ads.
Craigslist is not the only classified advertisement website. There are a lot of websites like Craigslist, but Craigslist remains the most popular since it doesn’t charge a lot and is present in 70 countries.
As we’ve mentioned above Craigslist was the first classified ad website to become successful. Nevertheless, it doesn’t discourage others to try their best. Guess what? They also succeeded and brought even more unique features which you can find later on in the article.
Let’s start with a list of the most popular and successful classified advertisement websites in history.
3. How does Craigslist make money:
When every startupper was doing it the old-fashioned way by attracting major VC and investors in Silicon Valley and monetizing their business, Craigslist decided to take a different turn. It was never the founder’s intention to make billions off of this platform. Craig Newman revealed during an interview to Inc that he was determined to create a free platform, so he refused to allow banner ads.
However, Craigslist does charge fees for the following:
Even though Craigslist was the predecessor and was supposed to set the tone for the whole industry, the following classified advertisement websites aimed to monetize their business.
That’s why various revenue models for classified ad websites have appeared:
A user pays for every posted ad.
This type of monetization model has a major drawback since customers wouldn’t want to pay for something that might not be successful.
The solution here is to either charge a small amount for every ad posting or to allow posting a certain number of ads for free within a month and charge for posting numerous ads. For example, posting on Oodle is free but there is a limit to the number of free postings. The limit is determined by the category of the listing. The same is applied to OLX.
A customer pays a fee for each transaction, meaning buying on the platform.
This is not the most popular monetization model among classified advertisement websites. However, as classified advertisement websites have been on the market for the past 20 years, things have changed and now charging a fee for each transaction is pretty common.
OfferUp is an example of such a change. It charges the buyer a percentage for using a platform and for payment transactions using their integrated payment provider – Stripe.
A website offers a set of abilities for additional costs, such as traffic statistics, XML import of all products or the ability to filter ads by category.
This type of revenue model is usually offered to standalone businesses that want to sell on a website under their branded name. In this case, classified ads offer businesses to create a business account where they’ll be able to track their sales and have their own business page on the website. For example, OLX uses this technique to monetize its platform.
A website allows Google Ads or AdSense ads to place their banner ads on a website for a fee.
It isn’t the most well-known method for getting the revenue out of your business, because it seems really spammy and pushy which customers can see right through it. This type must always be combined with another revenue method. Quikr is one of the examples of displaying featured listings.
4. Main features of Craigslist
We have mentioned above TOP classified advertisements websites across the world. Having analyzed their feature, it is possible to highlight the core features for all the classified websites.
When the first classified websites arose on the market of online advertising, registration did not use to be essential for posting an ad, but nowadays it’s becoming crucial.
Why is registration vital?
With the registration on a website, users gain access to their personal account where they can view all the ads they’ve posted, their favorite ads, and chat with other sellers or buyers.
Besides, registration allows a classified advertisement website to enhance its security level and is beneficial in terms of marketing because you get to see exactly who is using the platform. From there, you can easily launch some paid campaigns for targeting this or similar audience, thus attracting more customers.
If you are building an MVP, then creating a simple registration like Craigslist will work for you too.
However, if you’ve already validated your idea and want to build a fully-functional classified advertisements website, then it should have the following:
- Ability to sign up with Google/Facebook or with a phone number/email
- Request a password
- An email confirmation to finish the registration
Optionally, you can request:
- Full Name
Searching is probably the first thing that a user will do on your website, that’s why your search engine should be clear and fast. Classified advertisement websites should always be all about searching and finding the right offer.
Various classified advertisements websites use different searching techniques, but they all come down to this:
- By keyword and location
- By category
When a page with all search results appears, it always allows for filtering and sorting. Sorting will help customers view the results as they wish. Sometimes it’s important for customers to see the most recent deals, sometimes the price is the key factor.
Most common sorting filters:
- Price (high to low/low to high)
- Most recent (newest/oldest)
Filtering is more tricky than sorting since it changes depending on the category. For instance, a customer wants to buy a phone and you know the model. So a customer searches by keyword but they also want to indicate the desired RAM and whether the phone should be used or new. Obviously, they can’t put everything into the search bar because it might not bring up what they are looking for. Instead, they use category filters.
- Search title only
- Includes image
- Posted today
- Bundle duplicates
- Include nearby areas
Additional search filters:
- Ability to save search
- Ability to set search alert
- Filtering by type of ad
When you are thinking about how to create a classified website, we suggest building an advanced search engine as one of the core features. At Sloboda Studio we usually use ElasticSearch, which helps to create unique and customized filtering and sorting.
The product’s page is a page that a user can view to see a particular chosen ad of their choice. This page has functionality and interface elements that help users buy or stay longer on the website.
Product’s page started out to be very simple with minimal information, but with time it evolved and now customers can view similar products, chat with a seller on the platform, view other seller’s offers and see the number of users who viewed a certain product.
Ad posting is exactly what triggers monetization, so it is important that the process is quick, simple and well-thought-out.
For pushing users to buy, an ad posting page should have comprehensive information about the offer.
How can we encourage users to buy?
Offer users a faster way to get their money.
There are a few ways to do it:
- Offer sellers the ability to mark their ad as urgent
- Make them choose a type of ad (free or premium with different promoting plans)
- Offer to make a business account on the website
- Offer some extras to boost their ads for some period of time
All these tricks will help you convince your sellers to promote their listing which will help you monetize your business.
In addition, to confirm the publication of an ad, your website should send an email to the user in order for them to confirm their ad publication.
All classified advertisements websites allow users to report any listing they find inappropriate. However, the difference between Craigslist and later classified advertisement websites that came after it is that they actually check to see if an ad violates any rules. Craigslist just bans a listing after some time. Although it reduces the costs for ad moderation, it doesn’t build any trust on the platform since anyone can flag an ad and have it removed.
There 2 ways to moderate ads:
- With the help of AI pattern recognition
- Ad text modeling (you can write a list of keywords by which ads will be rejected)
Manual moderation involves admins proofreading and controlling the posted content.
Various classified advertisement websites use different approaches to communication. Craigslist allows users to communicate via emails which are encrypted for safety reasons. Other websites allow users to chat to on the website without the need for emails. Users can attach files to a letter and have all letters securely stored in one place for the users’ convenience.
Here’s an evolution of classified advertisement websites:
5. Creating a UVP for your classified advertisements website
We have determined and studied the most typical features of a classified advertisement website above but truth be told, it is not enough just to copy a successful product like Craigslist. Your website should have a Unique Value Proposition (UVP) on the market.
Basically, there are 2 ways to differentiate:
1. Go niche / geo-oriented
We can’t stress it enough: you need to start with something small. It can be either one country or one city. Maybe, you see a clear lack of a local website for ads in real estate. That’s where you should hit it.
Going niche is something that is used not only when creating a classified website. For instance, our client, TikkTalk launched an online marketplace only in one region and chose a very specific niche. This helped it to grow faster by using the local peculiarities in favor of the product.
2. Build more unique features:
Craigslist started with email distribution for upcoming events. Then the founder created a calendar on the website.
No one says that you can’t use a similar approach: build a calendar for upcoming events. Users will be notified about upcoming concerts, shows, etc. right on the platform, or in an email. It’s a great way to bring more value to customers and to attract a new type of target audience.
- Buying & Shipping
With this feature, users can buy items right on the platform. Usually, it works best with trusted sellers who have their own business. In this case, a classified advertisement website should partner with a post office for reliable shipping. This kind of feature is presented on OLX and OfferUp.
Users can either rate sellers after they buy something, and buyers can view their rating (Quikr), or users can add listings to the best offerings of today/week/month by clicking a button add to ‘best of’(Craigslist).
6. How To Make a Website Like Craigslist: Tech Solutions
If you are thinking of how to create a website like Craigslist, you should consider 2 core options:
Out-of-box software is a set of pre-made libraries or plugins installed on a website.
Almost all classified advertisements websites are written in PHP, and a lot of them also use WordPress.
Building a classified advertisement website entirely on WordPress can be a good strategy to validate an idea quickly and to attract investments, but it won’t be able to handle many real users. You need to keep in mind that all successful classified advertisements websites are not built solely on WordPress.
If you don’t know how to create a Craigslist like website, consider the question of whether or not you have already validated your idea and are ready to build a long-term project. If so, custom development would be a better solution. This way, you’ll be able to start with a clean slate and customize the website according to your user needs.
Given the fact of the number of users every Craigslist-like website has to cope with, it’ll be smarter to choose a technology that will be able to manage with such high loads. There are a few programming languages that might do the trick, namely PHP, Java and Ruby (Ruby on Rails).
In a nutshell: Although a market for online classified ads started to rise more than 20 years ago, it still grows and evolves. Each Craigslist-like website tries to find its niche in the classified advertisements industry.
If you are planning to be included in the above-studied list of classified websites, you need to create unique features that will be used by your target audience. But be cautious not to leave out any important features for a classified advertisement website.