The Outsiders' Guide to Craigslist
by Richard O.
Revised September 10, 2013
The phenomenally successful community bulletin board
known as Craigslist serves over fifty million
online users in the U.S. alone, and, except for modest fees
in designated cities for certain classes of ads, all its services
are without charge.
Beyond its imperfect documentation, however,
Craigslist support is largely non-existent (understandably so, in
view of its enormous popularity and the modest size of its staff). You'll almost certainly have more luck addressing your questions to a third-party site like Help Owl. Or just read this guide.
Posting is straightforward. You just find the
prominent "post to classifieds" link (it's at the upper-left corner of the main
page), drill down to the appropriate category, and fill out the simple
The first page to which you're directed when
posting will invite you to create an account. You don't really need an account,
but it'll take only a minute or so to set up, and can make things a lot easier.
So do get that account.
Nearly all posts are free. If yours is not, you'll find out soon enough, or you can look over this list
of exceptions. Should there be a problem with a paid post, you can use Craigslist's billing support channel: either phone (800) 664-0633, ext. 1, or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Required fields. In general, the only required posting fields are
Title and Description. If you omit Price, for
example, users will simply see no reference to price on your post,
unless you include price information in the body text.
Should the need for which you posted be met right away, that's the end of
it. In most cases, however, you'll want to re-post. Without re-posting, your
post will stay up (in Los Angeles) for between 7 and 30 days, depending on
the category, but you don't want to wait nearly that long. Posts appear in
chronological order (last submitted on top), and users who browse
will typically stop perusing after two or three days' worth of posts.
Other users, who search by keyword, may retrieve older
(You can always edit your post, but editing won't
move it up as will re-posting.)
Another way to improve your response rate is to
post in more than one category. But don't do that before reading about
Craigslist is replete with rules and regulations.
Trouble is, they're not particularly easy to find, they're not all in one place,
and, worst of all, some of the most crucial ones are not in print at all!
Whether the rule is in print or not, if you're found in violation you'll be
penalized, and the penalty can range from a rejection of the current submission
to a continuing block. You may be invited to register your protest but in my
experience such protests will be ignored.
If you want to see what rules are written down,
General Posting Guidelines. I've enumerated here the most
important (stated and unstated) Craigslist rules. Bear in mind that
enforcement varies (sometimes will be immediate and other times may take weeks
- You may not post "essentially the
same item" before deleting the old item. This applies even when
posting in a different city or category. So if your post lends itself to more
than one category, you need to alternate the categories.
Workaround: You may be able
to overcome this restriction by setting up an additional account with a
different email address.
- You may not post the same item more than
once in 48 hours. Until February of 2006, this rule wasn't
strictly enforced. Now you will not be permitted to re-post
until fully 2,880 minutes have elapsed.
Note that it may take about 15 minutes
before a new post is accessible to users.
Hint: Bringing up your post as submitted, by clicking on its
heading on your account page, will disclose the date and exact time posted,
two lines below the head.
Update. As of this
writing, Craigslist is requiring about 15 minutes more than 48 hours
before allowing a re-post, in this quirky fashion: It will allow you to delete
and resubmit (if the 2,880 minutes have elapsed), but at the end of the
resubmission process it will disallow the new post as too similar to another
recent post (!). To avoid this situation, add 14 or 15 minutes to the 48 hours, before reposting.
- Your post may not contain a link "to a
commercial website or auction." This is an example of a rule I
haven't been able to find anywhere, until I was blocked for violating
it! You may have to guess whether Craigslist will consider the linked
site "commercial." Craigslist's current enforcement of this restriction
seems to be minimal.
You'll be entirely safe if you don't link to
any website, but instead invite the reader to email you for more
information (very easily done--see below). This option however involves the
risk that your reply may be blocked by a spam filter (even though your message
isn't spam). You may always give a Web address as non-linking text, or link to
a webpage without any links on it.
- You may not exceed your "volume limit." As I write this,
Craigslist doesn't define the volume limit in any way, but will reject a post
for this reason. Try the workaround for restriction 1, above. Or just
re-try ten minutes later.
- The Posting Description cannot be longer than 1000 characters.
The Posting Description is your entire post exclusive of the title.
This seems to apply only to paid listings, so otherwise it's probably safe to
- Craigslist makes it easy as pie for its users to
respond to your posts. If you want phone calls, simply include your phone
number in the writeup. If you want emails, Craigslist will "anonymize"
your email address, never to be seen by responders. These folks will click on
a link to respond, and that response will go to Craigslist, and then to
Each anonymized email response
will refer to the unique number for that particular post. So you can easily
track your responses to see which posts are most effective.
still track responses if your post refers the user to a webpage instead
of eliciting an emailed reply. Just set up a free account at StatCounter.)
- The body of your post can be in either plain
text or HTML. If you choose plain text, Craigslist will automatically
convert any Web addresses starting with http:// to links (but
exercise care when including a Web address--see Restrictions,
Craigslist allows you to add HTML tags to a plain-text
submission. Not all tags are supported. Those that are definitely supported are listed here. (The point that other tags will be "stripped out" is not always observed by Craigslist, however.) I strongly recommend your use of the <big> tag for any post that you may want to bring to the attention of folks over 60 or so.
- Depending on the posting category you may be
invited to add a picture from your hard disk. (For more details, go to www.craigslist.org/about/help/pic.) Otherwise, you
can add graphics in HTML with the <img> tag, if your picture
has been posted to the Web--although lately Craigslist has been blocking that
tag in some cases.
- At times Craigslist pages may
not properly display. For example, a deleted post may still appear green
(denoting an active post), or you may be given the option to delete a post
that you've already deleted. If you should encounter this issue, refreshing
the page might help. Or ignore the Craigslist page and rely on the emailed
confirmations--bearing in mind that these may take 15 minutes or
- Before finalizing your post, you'll have to
decipher a "Captcha" code to assure that you're not a robot. These codes
are always case-insensitive--so you can ignore caps.
- It's wise to vary the posting time of an ongoing
post, so that a different set of users will see your post close to the top.
Two good posting times are early morning and early evening, and you may want
to switch from one to the other every few weeks.
- When Craigslist's servers get too busy you may not be able to complete your post, and may see instructions to wait a while, perhaps accompanied by a button. Using the button will only delay you further. Just refresh the page after a few minutes (and repeat if necessary).
- A "flagged & removed" message, should you get one, is not as
formidable as it might seem. All this ordinarily means is that you'll have to
re-post. (This leniency unfortunately does not extend to posts that are
"blocked." But even blocks are not usually permanent.)
- Of late Craigslist has been removing posts without explanation of any
kind! This may never happen to you, but if it does, the best solution is the
workaround for restriction 1, above.
How Best To
Even if you have multiple postings suitable for
several categories, these steps will reduce the re-posting process to about a
minute a day, while giving you maximum exposure.
- Compose your posts. You may
want to create an entirely different post for each category. If sufficiently
different, posts promoting the same transaction may display simultaneously
without a problem. Alternatively, use the workaround described
above under Restrictions.
- Create your account, by using
the link on the "post to classifieds" page.
- Create two bookmarks for your
browser. One will be your account page, and the other will be the
browse page (the Craigslist main page for your
locality), for reviewing others' posts.
- Submit your posts.
- Wait 48 hours plus 15 minutes.
- Open your account page.
- Pick a post you'll want to
re-run. Click on that post.
- You'll be given two choices, Edit and Delete. If
you want to re-run the post in the same category, choose
Delete. Then go back to your account page, click on the deleted post, and
you'll be able easily to re-run it.
- If you want to re-run the post in a
different category, click on the Edit button, to bring up
your "raw" post.* Then using Ctrl-A and Ctrl-C [in Mac, Cmnd-A and Cmnd-C],
copy that raw post to the system clipboard. Go back to your account page and
delete the post. Finally, open the post page that you've bookmarked [step 3
above], and post in the appropriate new category [using Ctrl-V or
- If you have another post to re-run, repeat steps 6 through 10.
- Wait a day, and repeat steps 6 through 11. (But
don't attempt to delete/re-run any post until 48 hours from its last
*Should you forget and
delete the post without first copying the raw post, you can still obtain the
raw post by beginning [pretending] to re-post the deleted
promoting the same transaction in several different categories, it may be to
your advantage to stagger the posts. To this end you'll want to keep one or more
initial posts for a longer interval than the others.
Don't overlook the search box at the top left of
Craigslist's main page. The judicious use of keywords can be a big timesaver
over simple browsing.
These tips will help you use Craigslist to
take advantage of others' posts. All the tools described are free.
- Searchtempest lets you search many cities at once, and offers other search options, like limiting your search to posts with pictures.
- A little-known source of great bargains consists of
offers on Craigslist to sell unwanted gift cards.
This opportunity stems from the fact that many holders of gift cards
either paid nothing for them, or paid well below the face value. For example,
DiscoverCard users using their "Cashback bonus" have been able
to purchase certain gift cards at half price.
To secure such a bargain, visit your bookmarked "Browse" page,
and follow the "for sale" link. Then in the keyword search box, enter
"gift card" (with the quotation marks), and pick out the offers that
appeal to you.
Don't hesitate to bargain with the seller for a lower price. (Aim
at no more that 50% of face value.) Once you've made
a deal, be sure you verify the amount of credit remaining on the
card. This may mean meeting at the store.
other strategies for buying or selling gift cards, see my article at this page.
- Housing Maps utilizes Craigslist and
Google Maps to help you better locate available housing
throughout the country. You'll be able to specify your price
range, and you'll see at a glance whether there's a picture or pictures of the
property. Once you make your preliminary selection, you'll be taken to the
original Craigslist post.
- Yard Sale Treasure Map uses Craigslist posts to find yard sales near you, according to items you're seeking, acceptable distance, and even your preferred day. .