Classifieds is one of the most popular forms of online directories. It is a combination of online directory with some eCommerce features to allow the website visitors to advertise as well as buy products through your site.
You can too create a Classifieds website of your own, without any technical assistance. This will be website like craigslist that can help you earn online.
This tutorial on how to build a classifieds website like Craigslist will help you with the technical steps, but in this post, there are some actionable tips that should give you an even better idea of what is needed to actually create and maintain such a website.
How a classifieds website works?
Classified is often called ad posting portal. Depending on the capability of the classified site, any kind of advertisement listings can be posted under the available categories. A general purpose classified website like craigslist covers everything: From kitchen appliances, real estate, electronic devices, instruments, to cars, furniture, and much more.
A classifieds website serves as a center point for both the advertisers as well as buyers. And there can be multitude of categories on a online classified site. Therefore, such a website will obviously attract a lot of different advertisers.
They can use it to advertise either a new or a refurbished item, or a used or second hand item. As a classified websites owner, you can let the advertisers decided if their item is new or used. The visitor can browse through different categories and find the items of their interest and contact the seller through your website.
Choosing the right platform
Since there are so many different options to choose from, picking the best platform for building your classified websites can be a difficult choice.
Why choosing the right Classifieds platform matters?
Choosing a right platform to create your classifieds website is very important since it will directly impact the performance of your websites.
Ease of use
A good platform will ensure ease of use and come with all the standard features and facilities required to create an efficient website.
We recommend using WordPress to build classifieds websites. There are beautiful and fully functional classifieds themes available to help you build a website, faster and easier.
WordPress is good for so many reasons:
- It is free, reliable and a widely used platform – powering over 35% of the total sites on internet
- WordPress is good for non-technical people since the options are all intuitive
- Availability of WordPress themes of different niche to create professional looking site in just minutes
- WordPress plugins, can be added and removed as and when required to add new features
- No coding knowledge, or designing skill required
Specifically to create a classified website, there are so many classifieds website themes available – that you can install in just minutes.
All these WordPress Classifieds themes comes with pre-designed pages and all the required features to create a classified site. Moreover, the design and the features can are all manageable with simple options to make your classified ads websites look and work exactly the way you want.
Another concern while choosing your Classified platform should be the flexibility it allows. Because over time, you would like to increase the scope of your site. We will learn more about flexibility in the next topic “Choosing a classifieds theme” where we talk about custom fields and custom post type.
And last but not the least, the manageability of your site. Because a classified ads website will require a lot of maintenance with a lot of active users and listings, and therefore all the options to manage the site should be easy.
Choosing a classified theme
Once you decide on platform for classifieds website building, you will have to choose a theme for creating a website like craigslist. Depending upon the platform, there will be different options for you to choose a template to create a classifieds website.
The design of your ads website matters because many things related to user experience are dependent on it. The look of your online classifieds software will determine how appealing your website will look to the users, people tend to prefer clutter free, and esthetically pleasing design. Moreover, the structure of your site will determine how easy to navigate your site it. How the important options appear. The responsiveness and mobile friendliness of your site will help you ensure the best user experience over different devices.
All in all, a good design with logically arranged screen elements, clean and modern looking – should be your preference while choosing a classified template.
Custom fields & Custom post type
Because your ads website will support a wide range of ad listings under different categories. Sometimes, you might find some categories that need some special fields, and that is where the option of custom field is required.
For those who don’t have any idea about custom field support; It is the feature in your classifieds software that enables you to create a new field for the submission form, that will ultimately be the part of your classifieds listing. The new field can be category specific.
So if over time, you realize that your classified ads posting website is widely used for car advertisement postings, you can create a category specific custom field, called “Car model Number” for only the advertisers who select the category called “car”.
Custom post type
Similarly, custom post type allows you to create an all new post type, or we can say listing type. So if you want to allow displaying real estate posts, or jobs on your site, all the fields required for such a listing will be different. So you can create custom fields for the job listings, and assign them to a new custom post type “Job listings”.
The ability to create and add custom fields and post type allows you to support almost any kind of listing on your ads website.
Proper branding of your classified site
Before you setup a classified website as your online business, you should carefully choose a name for your site. This is not essentially the domain name, but a name that rightly represents your site.
The domain name can be an acronym or a short form of your brand name, but branding your classified site is required. This will be the name that you can use to promote your site as well as trust building.
Because a classified website is just another form of an online directory business, you may even want to register the name of your business. Copyright protection can help you avoid other people from using your brand’s name.
Hosting that guarantees the best performance of the website
This only applies if you are using a platform that is not self-hosted. You don’t have to worry about hosting if you choose a classifieds website builder that is self-hosted. But if you choose a platform like WordPress to build a website, you get the freedom to choose a host as per your requirement.
And it is not at all difficult to get a reliable and affordable hosting service. Since there is so much competition among different hosting providers, they strive to provide the best services at the most affordable prices.
We recommend Bluehost but depending upon your location, the expected traffic, you can choose a reliable hosting service. A host that promises security, best up-time, pricing plans that fit your budget and some extras like backups, etc.
There are many hosting service providers that allow you to pick domain name for free, but the offers may change from time to time.
After sales support should also be one of your main considerations while choosing a host. Read reviews and go for a service where the support is best. Because a good responsive hosting support is essential when you find your site down, or a traffic spike, which can be some common issues during the life-cycle of your website.
One of the things that will usually work for almost any kind of directory website is local advertisement. A classifieds website will always be more relevant for the local people, because it will be a smoother process to deals.
And even for any other kind of directory websites, getting the attention of the local audience should always be your first priority. This applies in both respects, to attract the local advertisers as well as to promote your site among local people so that they can browse through your site when they need information/products online.
Start your promotions by promoting your site through local newspaper, or radio station or television advertisement. Depending upon what media is best to reach the local audience, you can choose the media for advertising.
Also, start by optimizing your website for local search. This will be easier and you can always change the ways when you expand. And it will be easier that way with a little more experience and knowledge of what works the best for your classifieds sites.
Your next step can be expanding your website’s scope and allowing inter-state or inter-city listings but starting small can be advantageous in many ways. You will have lesser competition and more chances in the local market.
Performance tracking & optimization
Understanding your traffic can always help you retain it. And there are many tools that you can use to track, evaluate and regulate the performance of your site.
The best one is Google Analytics. This tool will help you get an overview about the traffic of your site. What is the total number of visitors, the new visitors, the re-visitors, the device they are using, the most popular pages, the least visited pages, the bounce rates, pages that bring most revenue, the time visitors spend on each page, etc.
All this data will help you take structured and logical decisions about your website. If you conclude that most of the visitors on your site come from mobile devices, you can start thinking of launching a mobile app for your classifieds website.
You can also monitor the highest ranking pages and use the traction by adding a CTA. You can ad optimize these pages to earn direct revenue. Moreover, you can start working on the list of the worst performing pages to improve their efficiency and user friendliness.
A classifieds website like craigslist will not only require good efforts, but the efforts in right direction will bring the best results.
Use the best tools
If you buy a premium classifieds theme, it will come with all the required features built in. It will come with a working front end submission system for free and paid listings, a system to let you implement your desired revenue models and payment gateways support, etc. to create feature packed classifieds websites.
But besides all those features, you can use different tools available online to enhance the performance of your site or to add more features to your Classified website. Some of the most common tools are:
Integrate the contact form plugins to let your visitors easily get in touch with you. So if your visitors are curious about anything, if they have a feedback, or complains, they can get in touch with you.
The contact form will essentially bridge the communication gap between you and your website users. Therefore make sure that your classifieds websites have simple yet efficient contact form.
The directory style websites is bound to have plenty of images. Especially, when you are not limiting the number of images a user can upload while classified ads posting.
Multiple images on the classifieds ads are good, but they may result into slowing down the page. For this purpose, having an image optimizer will automatically optimize the image for the page so that the performance is not affected.
Nothing can be 100% secure on the internet. Especially with the advanced technology and the rising number of internet threats. In such condition, you should make all the efforts to make sure that your site’s content and user data is secure.
There are a number of security services and malware scanners that you can add to your websites to keep it secure.
You should always have a safe copy of your website, in case you find a problem in the live site. There are a number of tools that will ensure that frequent, and timely backups of your website are secured automatically.
Using such a tool in your website should be your priority, as it keeps you prepared for the worst. If your website suffers in any ways, you will at least have all the data backed up!
While using these tools can certainly help, you should also make sure that all the unnecessary plugins are avoided and removed. Staking up too many plugins can cause performance or security issues.
Classified website maintenance
An online directory will definitely need a lot of efforts in terms of maintenance. Because different user listings will contribute to compose the content of the website.
However, with experience and over time, you will get more familiar with the routine tasks needed to follow for classified site management.
Below listed are some of the most common task associated with the website maintenance.
Ad listing management
On the ad posting software, you will have to continuously monitor the listings that are posted through online submission form. The easiest way to do so is by creating a checklist of what to check:
- Quality of images upload
- Whether the required fields are properly filled up
- Confirming the contact details provided
- Checking if the listing posted is of a valid product
- Whether a proper category is selected
The advertisement listings are the most important part of your Classifieds website and therefore, they should be properly checked to ensure that they are completely error free.
You should always specify the guidelines and rules for posting on your website so that the ad listing posted require minimum correction.
In order to ensure that the service of your website remains undisrupted even in odd situations, you need to secure proper backups.
Backups can act like live savers in situations like malware attack, or a DDOS attack or any other security issues. You can quickly replace the compromised version of your site with the latest secure backup.
The same is applicable if for some reason your website becomes unavailable, or starts misfunctioning. A good backup manager can help you with automatic backups of your site.
Performance & security management
The performance of your website is not only responsible for the good user experience but also for better visibility. And therefore, you should constantly monitor and optimize the performance of your classified site.
There are several aspects of performance management, for example: It depends on speed, the browsing experience, the navigation and even the design of your site.
And different things can be done to optimize the performance of your site. For instance, you can use a page speed test tool like GTMetrix to measure the speed of your site. This tool will also provide you with an overview of all the steps that can be performed to optimize the performance of your site. Like minifying Java Script, optimizing image sizes, etc.
On the other hand, the security of your website should also be taken care of. You can use different security plugins to secure your site. There are different security tools that can be used for different purposes.
With the available tools and techniques, creating a classifies website like craigslist can be easy. You can use the Classified theme and launch your new website in just 20-30 minutes, without any technical assistance.
But there’s always much more to a website than just creating and launching it online. You will have to work to achieve the traffic, and then to maintain the traffic and efforts to convert the page visits into profitable conversions. Moreover, only properly maintained classifieds websites can retain the performance, and therefore it requires considerable maintenance efforts too.
Yet, Creating online classifieds website and setting it up as an online business and a tool to make money is one of the best online business ideas. It can be a side business, your classified ads website will earn additional income for you while you can stick to your profession/day job/business.