Residential Magazine

Harness the Power of Craigslist

You can advertise locally on a global site for free

By Nathan Rufty

With all of the free sites available online where loan originators can market their mortgage products and services, why not consider Craigslist? Craigslist is a highly trafficked website searched by more than 60 million people every month. Alexa ranks Craigslist in the top 20 of most-trafficked sites in the U.S., based on the personal assistant’s ranking model. In fact, Craigslist outranks big-name websites like Walmart, Bing, Yelp, Apple, PayPal and CNN.

Many loan originators have found tremendous success harnessing the power of Craigslist to generate home-purchase and refinance leads. The advantages of using Craigslist to attract attention from buyers and refinancers are numerous. For one thing, it is internationally recognized, but provides local marketing opportunities and leads.

Craigslist also is free and takes just a few minutes to set up, and less than an hour to create three to five posts that will go live immediately. After that, it only takes a few minutes every couple of days for the first week to maintain the posts as first-page search-engine listings.

Most importantly, originators who put in the (minimal) time required to create and maintain a presence on Craigslist will face very low competition. Many originators have not yet taken the initiative to start using Craigslist or have abandoned their efforts because they are unware of the power that Craigslist has in search engine results.

Grab attention

You may have tried Craigslist in the past and perhaps didn’t see the results you were expecting or hoping for. It takes more than just posting some text and a single image to be successful on Craigslist. You need to use the correct keyword search terms in the title and include targeted search terms in the first 156 characters of the body of the post.

You also need to add more than a single, dull image. Several images that include bright colors can make the difference between viewers clicking on your page or moving on. Lastly, you need to make sure to complete all the fields in the posting form to ensure you get a first-page ranking.

Having an attention-grabbing title that uses your key search terms is crucial for top-page ranking on search engines. Too often, originators use highly competitive search terms, which make it difficult to receive top billing in search-engine results. The more detailed you can get the better.

Think about using terms to describe your loan program such as “USDA the No Money Down Home Loan in Big Bear, CA 100% Financing” instead of just “USDA home loan.” Search engines love long-tail keyword search terms, so stay hyper-local to your area. You will see better results.

The first 156 characters in the body of each post need to have your key search terms as well. This opening section also should mention the name, benefits and location of the loan program discussed in the post.

If you are advertising the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan used in the earlier example, the first 156 characters could read like this: “The USDA loan program allows buyers to purchase owner-occupied homes in the Brawley CA area with no downpayment. You can finance 100% of the purchase price!” Search engines will use this text in their results pages, providing all the pertinent information you want searchers to see.

Having standout images is a good way to break through the clutter on Craigslist’s search-results pages. Many postings don’t have any images at all and a lot of the images honestly are not terribly memorable, so if you make sure your images stand out, your posts will get more attention. Try a portrait picture of yourself with bright colors and an eye-catching border. There are plenty of free sites that can help you create eye-popping images.

Learn the process

The process for posting on Craigslist is fairly straightforward. Simply follow the steps presented on the website or, if you need help, find someone in your office or sphere of influence who can provide guidance.

“ Providing too much information in your post will not incentivize borrowers to contact you for more details. ” 

Craigslist users can choose from a large number of posting types and subject categories where postings will get displayed. For mortgage originators, the best categories to use are “financial services” and “real estate services,” which are found within the “service offered” area.

Once you have chosen a category and location for your service, make sure you complete every input section on the posting-input page before moving on to the map and image pages. Don’t forget to include your name, NMLS number, contact number, postal code and physical location. When your post is completed, review it carefully and then click the “Publish” button.

Once the post is live, you will need to log into your dashboard in two days to renew the post, which will push it back to the top of the daily listings. Once you complete that step every two days for a week, the post should remain active for the next 30 to 45 days, depending on what type of posting you selected.

Master Craigslist marketing

To get the most out of Craigslist, here are some tips to follow during the process of creating your posts. First, create your initial posts on Friday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. This will make sure your post will be at or near the top of search results over the weekend when people are looking.

Keep your ad short and to the point. Providing too much information in your post will not incentivize borrowers to contact you for more details. Don’t be too vague either, however. You need enough information to distinguish your programs and entice readers to contact you for a deeper conversation. And, avoid any deceptive language in your postings or anything that can be construed as a bait-and-switch tactic. This will surely get your post flagged for removal.

When providing e-mail contact information, make sure to use your company e-mail address. This shows viewers you are legitimate. For a contact phone number, it is best to use your cell number because many searchers will want to text you first to start the conversation.

Craigslist does not allow clickable images or links in the body of a post. To get around this restriction, you will need to add instructions above the URL you want them to follow, such as: “Copy and paste the link below into your browser for more information about the No Money Down Home Loan Program in California.”

If you want to make your post’s title stand out more to attract people just browsing posts, you can add some Craigslist HTML code symbols within the title field. There are many colorful and unique symbols to choose from that can grab attention. These codes can be found online. Don’t go overboard, however. You want to stand out, but you should also try to look professional.

• • •

Craigslist is free and only takes minutes to create an account, less than an hour to create a couple of postings and a few minutes every few days to maintain those postings and get first-page rankings on major search engines. If you spend the time to create some strong posts, you should see a payoff on your investment in a short period of time.

The only investment is your time, so set aside some time a couple times per week to post more high-quality ads with clear messages that describe what your products and services are all about. Craigslist has the power to give you top-page ranking on many search engines, so use it to your advantage. Post a lot and post often.


  • Nathan Rufty

    Nathan Rufty is a mortgage coach and trainer with Mortgage Marketing Pros, a company that works with loan officers to develop marketing plans that increase leads and closed loans. Mortgage Marketing Pros was created by a producing loan officer and a master marketer to teach mortgage professionals how to create their own businesses without relying so much on one or two streams that can dry up without warning.

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