This is a very frequent topic that has been asked among those real estate investors who post on Craigslist, most notably those who use virtual assistants to post on Craigslist. So this article goes into a fair bit of detail for how to do this as effectively as possible.
Craigslist is a real estate investor’s goldmine, but also the source of many headaches and heartaches. As Craigslist is regulated by the Craigslist community, all bets are off when it comes to what posts remain or get deleted or flagged. [note: this article is written with the assumption that you already know the basics of Craigslist, and instead is going to focus on how to make sure your posts have the best chance of playing by the rules and not getting deleted or flagged as inappropriate].
Here are the main variables that you must take into consideration:
- Posting Frequency
- What is your ad copy?
- Create ‘dummy’ email addresses
- Change/Hide your IP Address (for your VA)
Let’s begin, shall we?
1. Posting Frequency
This is the #1 question you must answer for yourself — how frequently are you planning on posting? This by itself will determine how complex your (and your VA’s) posting tasks will be. As a general rule, Craigslist dictates that you should not post in the same section of Craigslist more than twice in a 48 hour period. If you abide by this rule, then it’s very likely that you will not encounter any difficulty. However, even if you abide by these rules, if your ad copy (see #2 below) contains keywords or language that trigger what I like to call “Craigslist Jail”, then your ad could be flagged, removed or ghosted.
However, if you know you will likely need to post more frequently than the Craigslist-recommended guidelines, then you’ll need to come up with a more complex plan. This involves looking at the following variables – #2, 3 and 4 below. Read on for more details on how to do this!
2. Ad Copy
It’s impossible for me to go into the nitty gritty of this, but in general, you’ll probably want to use best practices when coming up with your ad copy. If you really want to be professional, see if you can find a copywriter who can help you with the verbiage for your ads, but in general, there is basic etiquette when posting to Craigslist, and lots of articles in the real estate investing world out there for you to borrow ideas from.
The most important bit of advice I’ll say here is that you should come up with several different examples of ad copy, so that you can rotate your ads/posts for as frequently as you want to post. The reason here is that the Craigslist “bots” out there will probably not pick up on the fact that you have rotating ads out there, instead of the same 1 or 2 ads being copied and pasted over and over and over and over again. Just use a little creativity and create a document (hint: use Google Drive documents for easy sharing with your VA) that has all of your ad copy so that your VA can choose which ads to use and when (see end of article where I talk about creating a schedule for your VA).
3. Create “Dummy” Email Addresses
This is very very important. Create a dummy or throwaway email address, and use it to create your Craigslist account. Always have this dummy email address forward to your main email (or your VA’s email if using a VA) so that the replies can be monitored. The reason for this is two-fold. First, have several of these dummy email addresses and Craigslist accounts so that you can then do multiple posts per day under different accounts to lessen the likelihood of getting flagged (note: this strategy must be combined with #4). And secondly, despite your best efforts following the rules, you may still get flagged — so if you do get flagged and.or your account gets banned by Craigslist, it’s best that this isn’t your personal email account, but instead a dummy account whereby you’d just then need to create a new dummy account, set up the forward to your personal email, and resume with posting on Craigslist.
4. Change/Hide your IP Address
IP stands for Internet Protocol, in this case referring to your Internet Protocol address, which is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a network. In layman’s terms, your computer/laptop connected to your home WiFi network has a unique IP address. So even if you create 10 dummy email addresses (as shown in #3), if you do this all from your home computer (or your VA does this from his/her home computer) — it all registers as the same IP address, which Craigslist can pick up on and flag your ads, or worse, block your accounts.
Note here that I’ve heard cases where people feel that using a VA in a foreign country, with a foreign IP address, can lead to instantaneous blocking by Craigslist. This is not entirely accurate. I say not entirely, because remember that Craigslist is community-regulated, so it is very possible that any foreign-based IP address that posts too often will get immediately flagged as violating Craigslist terms. However, it is not a blanket statement, as we have personal experience with foreign VAs doing this with no problems whatsoever. This is why the #1 variable I mentioned in this article was Post Frequency. If you are keeping within the Craigslist regulations, chances are your VA will be OK.
But back to changing or hiding your IP address. There are 2 ways to go about this. You can use web-based IP proxy servers (ex. www.us-proxy.org), whereby you can generate a U.S.-based IP address, and then have your VA change his/her browser settings to be configured to display that U.S. IP address.
The 2nd way is to use a VPN service. I’ve found that the paid services out there are more effective than the free ones, but by all means try them out. Your VA will know instantly if it works or not. Examples are www.hidemyass.com, www.cyberghostvpn.com. The process is the same, but typically have more reliable IP addresses for your VA to use, and they won’t slow down your browser when used (a problem that may exist with using IP proxy servers).
I apologize if I brutalized the actual tech-terms for these, as I’m not a tech-head by any stretch!! But I do know what works. So if you’re a tech-geek, please don’t crucify me too much in the comments section! 🙂
Creating a Schedule for your VA
Now that I’ve gone through all of the variables, it should be up to you as the boss of your business to create a schedule for your VA to make this work. Your VA is only as strong as the instructions you give him/her.
Start with creating your ad copy — create a document that has at least 3 or 4 variations of your ad copy, and label them (Copy #1, Copy #2, etc.), and share this with your VA.
Then create a spreadsheet template of a Posting Schedule. Train your VA to create a number of dummy email addresses that all get forwarded to your VA’s main email address. You should be OK with just 2 dummy email addresses to start (again, depending on your posting frequency). IF your account gets blocks, then just have your VA create another dummy account, and keep it moving. Then have your VA trained to use IP proxy servers or VPN service as needed, to generate unique U.S. IP addresses. Then here’s the key — the schedule should show how the VA will rotate between using different dummy emails addresses and IP addresses, to sort of play “keep-away” so that it’s much harder for Craigslist to catch on with what you’re doing.
Will this work all the time, everytime? No – this is why I reiterate again that the goal of this is to create a plan for your Craigslist posting. But with this, you won’t sit there crying that your Craigslist account has been blocked, or all of your ads have been flagged, and you don’t know what to do. It can be simple, or it can be complex, but as long as you have a plan, you can go back and tweak it to make it work. Because there’s never a one-size-fits all when it comes to Craigslist posting!
Haven’t hired your VA yet? Check out our previous post How to hire a Virtual Assistant to help with your Real Estate business