You might get a warm fuzzy feeling when you view your new website, but that’s mainly a credit to your website builder. It’s not going to get you anything in the way of business. It might very well be a great website, with intelligent Search Engine Optimization written into it, but it’s not going to attract visitors if nobody knows it’s there. It’s no different than someone opening a new brick and mortar location in town. They might put a whole lot of thought and energy into filling it with extraordinary inventory and providing ambiance that offers a comfortable shopping experience, but without some sort of driving force that gets the word out, odds are no human being will walk through the front entrance of that facility unless they’re the mailman or the owner opening and closing each day.
Without a big budget for a first class TV spot capable of catapulting your business into overnight recognition, there’s just no comparable, inexpensive way for the average business online to get known and attract customers in a short period of time. Creating, printing, and mailing literature to people on a list you bought is not going to be cheap nor is it necessarily going to be successful. In fact, it has a built-in downside, but discussing that is for another article. What remains is for you to put Craigslist at the top of your to-do list, and discover how to utilize this wide web world of very important positives to accomplish the same things as that overnight thrust on TV, albeit over a much longer period of time.
Don’t approach advertising on Craigslist making a long face like it was your last resort, it really has far greater value to you than most anything else. Think of it as the TV campaign you couldn’t afford but with the same results that take a bit longer to achieve. And best of all, it’s free to use. Geico’s commercials didn’t deliver customers to them overnight and they’re still paying lots of money to keep the campaign alive. What it did initially was provide the recognition I mentioned and the continued thrust provided the returns in customer signups. And if you remain observant, you’ll see that they do everything possible to become ubiquitous on TV “and beyond.” So you can take a deep breath and invest a couple of months into doing the same thing on the internet utilizing Craigslist and put the millions you would have spent on TV back into your pocket. LOL.
As far as the “and beyond” reference is concerned, consider Craigslist as your TV and the “and beyond” the things you should be doing in conjunction with Craigslist, such as Facebook, Twitter, other social media, LinkedIn, email blasts, and more, all part of a coordinated effort to strengthen your visibility online. But Craigslist advertising should be your central and initial thrust; it goes anywhere you want it to go, reaches anyone you want it to reach, and has a lasting value even more enduring than any average TV spot. Think of Craigslist as your major step forward in a successful venture. But first, in order to approach this intelligently, you owe it to yourself to learn the very basics of the internet which I’ll offer a crash course in right here.
If you did absolutely nothing to promote your business on the internet beyond launching your website and then just sat around waiting for something to happen, you probably would, over a very long period of time, get somebody to stumble onto your site. The reason for that becoming even a remote possibility, is the very same reason that makes it a definite if you exert a genuine effort to promote it with Craigslist. You’ll come to realize why as you read further. But for now, since virtually no one except those in your inner circle know that you have a brand new site on the internet, shoppers at large are going to do random searches. No matter if they’re undecided as to whether they will be shopping locally or on the net, they ordinarily use the internet to see what’s trending and for how much. Let’s say your business is “Joe’s Above Ground Pools” and someone does a random search with (key)words that say “cheap above ground pool.” Do you think that your name is going to be included with the listing of places on the internet that offer above ground pools? (Note: I actually did this search and it resulted in 2,540,000 results). I think that it’s a safe bet that you’ll never appear anywhere near the top of that 2million + listing. First of all, the listings always begin with the paid entries, leaving the rest of the space for the unpaid hoi polloi. In this case, they started with cheap above ground pool listings from places like Amazon and eBay, then progressed on to sites that sell a variety of pool types. I would safely say that you have no shot whatsoever of initially getting anywhere on that list that would be of any benefit to you. (By the way, do the search yourself and you’ll find that the “cheap above ground pools” lead ins from Amazon and eBay are a testament to their ability to nail search result keywords right on the head. And that ability has made them surface number one in that search). Remember that for later on in this article.
That’s the reality of it, but the alternate reality that promises positive results is my proven reality. It’s important to know why Craigslist is so important to your effort, but it’s tied to the basic understanding of how the internet works. In the broadest of terms, there are browsers, like Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox, to name a few, and there are search engines within them, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Simply put, the browser’s main role is to present the web information you’re looking for, but the search engine within does the task of locating the information when you execute a search. In fact, every search engine uses its own proprietary algorithm to first create the indexed information it retrieves by basically crawling the internet reading everything on it. That means that all the search engines, each on their own schedules, are busy doing that very same thing. And that includes reading everything you put on Craigslist.
The key to success here is not only what content you apply to Craigslist, but the consistency and thought that goes into how you apply it. There’s a lot to know and a lot you’ll learn on your own to make this happen, but essentially here is what must be done: When you run your ad on Craigslist, you run it with the basic understanding of how the internet works. That will help you more than anything else. Forget all the technical mumbo jumbo that techs use to make you rely on stuff you will never use or understand, you should be relying on an old-fashioned work ethic that stresses perseverance, consistency, and creative content. They are what you need to get this particular job done successfully. Once again making the comparison to TV advertising, think of it like this: On TV, you’re advertising directly to the consumer with your message, who then reacts to your message by choosing to respond (or not respond). But on the internet, you’re advertising first to the search engines (who always respond) by directing any consumer to you if you have provided the answers they need in a search. Example: You saw that Amazon and eBay came up on the first page in a search of over 2million+ results by having the right keywords that matched the search entry. So why couldn’t that be you?
Since a lot of my business revolves around the creation of websites, the most common question asked of me is whether I can get a website ranked number one in a search. Anybody who answers yes to that question is not lying, but should make it clear what ‘yes’ they are promising. Because obviously, if you enter your entire online address (URL) into a search, you’re always going to be number one. Continuing the use of the fictitious brick and mortar store comparison, whether that storeowner is doing a land-office business or not, he or she can still expect to have mail delivered right to their door from the farthest points on the globe if they use their officially assigned address. Well, it’s no different on the internet. Your URL points directly to you and you alone, so when entering it in a search you should always expect to see yourself as number one. But if you use my Craigslist approach, you can expect to get the recognition you want at some point purely as a result of a search, and surface at the front of the pack. In a field of millions of results, that’s no small achievement.
So now that you understand the basics of navigating on the internet, it’s time to talk about Craigslist and the rules governing its use. Nothing I mentioned in this entire article will be possible if you violate their use policies and get your ads “flagged.” And nothing will be possible if you get your ads “ghosted.” Both flagging and ghosting are two punishments you will receive if you violate the manner in which Craigslist was intended to be used. If you are familiar with the ad posting procedures on Craigslist you’ll know what I’m talking about, if not, I suggest you go there and learn all about it. If you prefer to keep on reading and learn it all later, you’ll at least approach it with an understanding of what you can expect to accomplish and how.
Remember what I said about perseverance, consistency, and creative content. And remember that initially, you are not looking for direct responses from customers, you are looking for ads that run and stay running on Craigslist. Sure, you might get visits to your website from people reading your Craigslist ad, but that’s just icing on the cake as you continue your posting with the greater reward as your primary quest. The average ads have a life expectancy of between 7 to 45 days, depending on the category they are in, and each can be renewed or reposted after several days. But you don’t want to do that. You want to let that ad sit for 7 to 45 days while you post new ads. Are you beginning now to understand? No human being is apt to go back further than a day or so to read posted ads, not when new ads are constantly being placed each day. But every day that your ad runs is another day that it gets read by the robots. And if your headline is “Joe’s Above Ground Pools Are Cheapest” then that’s what’s going to be read by the search engine robots over and over again. And if you were part of the real scenario I presented in my search description earlier, you would eventually be at the top of the heap along with Amazon and eBay as a result. That’s because you have every single one of the keywords used in the search right in your headline. And that’s not even taking into consideration the keyword and keyword rich phrases that you can run in your ad’s body copy content, the live copy content on your site, the SEO that’s written into your site, and the ad’s link to your website; all those are rich with that and additional information that will be read and indexed, all contributions in your efforts to be noticed, even if the search result varies slightly.
Without going into too much detail, you should occasionally do searches to confirm that the path you are on hasn’t changed, or how you can improve on it. Doing your due diligence is important to keeping your efforts relevant. Obviously, as a practical matter, (still using my pool example) you’ll want to have your ad run in categories that people will look into if they’re searching for an above ground pool, but if you truly understand what major benefits you’re shooting for here, it doesn’t really matter a fig what other categories you’re also running in, because the information you’ll be running is going to be read and indexed, and the search engines just see it all as information. Plus, the information you want to come up with in a search is Joe’s Above Ground Pools Are Cheapest… and it will if you persevere long enough.
A final shout out to those businesses that have had their sites up for a long time and are disappointed with their results. It’s never too late to follow the old maxim: “today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Making a complete turnaround is not out of the question. Your time spent on the internet thus far has not been in vain because the robots have been at the least, reading and indexing the information already found on your site. So once you add Craigslist to your efforts, everything I described in this article will begin taking place. In conclusion, I want to add this valuable piece of advice: be consistent in everything you do. The more things like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn that point to and away from your site gives you greater visibility on the web. If you write articles for Ezinearticles, that’s another great way of getting noticed. Be a visible, in-your-face part of the online community just like that fictitious storeowner would be if he became an active member of his local Chamber of Commerce. This is not rocket science; it’s good old fashioned common sense. So stick to it and make it happen.