Online Marketing Tips: Search Engine Marketing vs. Online Classified Advertising

Here's a deeper look into when a small business should use search engine marketing, Craigslist or both.

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When it comes to marketing a small business I’ll be the first to tell you that I have done it all — from search engine marketing (SEM) to Craigslist advertising. I also run a digital marketing firm so I have become fairly effective at figuring out which method makes sense when a small business owner needs to marketing their business.

I am partial to search engine marketing, not just because it’s what we do at Que Commerce, but also it’s incredibly valuable and measurable. However, Craigslist ad listings present benefits as well.

Here’s a deeper look into when a small business should use search engine marketing, Craigslist or both.

The Pros for Using Craigslist

Craigslist is a good online marketing tool for small business because the online classifieds site offers:

1. Free use.

Any small business can advertise products and services on Craigslist at no charge and will likely attract a few individuals who “may” be interested in the offering. I say “may” because many times people are shopping and comparing vigorously through Craigslist.

2. Categorized and easy for buyers to navigate.

Craigslist provides segmented categories for small businesses to market services to prospective buyers. This may be considered unimportant to some, but it is nice to gauge who will view your products and services. It also allows small business owners to see who they are competing against and potentially tailor the offering in a way that outperforms competition.

3. Visually pleasing ad options.

Small businesses can add HTML and infographics to advertisements, which dramatically makes ads stand out. This is for advanced Craigslist users, however informative advertisements that sell benefits stand out more than simple text advertisements.

4. Easy ad management.

Small businesses can easily repost ads to Craigslist, so that they recycle to the top of the category listing for that day. Craigslist has so many advertisers in each category that the same day you post an advertisement it will likely cycle to the bottom of a category list or to the second page. Craigslist lets users repost, however you cannot re-list excessively; every 1 day or so is adequate.

The Cons of Using Craigslist

Craigslist may not be a good online marketing tool for small business because the online classifieds site:

1. Often attracts spammers.

When you post a small business advertisement on Craigslist you will likely attract many spammers. However, we all know the easier it is for people to respond the more likely you will get prospective buyers.

2. Caters to an audience of bargain hunters.

The Craigslist audience is mainly comprised of bargain hunters. So if you are looking for a fair trade of cash for services or products, Craigslist may not be the best channel.

Consider the value of the online searcher in a classified listings channel and their willingness to pay. Craigslist users typically have a lower willingness to pay than people who may shop in other online channels. You have to determine if the customer value in Craigslist is worth your company’s effort.

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