Craigslist and the Local (Real Estate) Market

May 9, 2006

Topics: Search Marketing.

Craigslist, famous for it’s spare design framework and egalitarian classifieds network, has been growing practically non-stop since it’s founding by Craig Newmark in 1995. The inherent nature of Craigslist is as a resource for local information, organized as it is into clusters of information listed in hundreds of cities throughout the US and the world.

An article in the New York Times, "The Nitpicking Nation" by Stephanie Rosenbloom discusses the rapid development of Craigslist
for the housing market. If you’re looking for a rental – one of the most fundamentally and exclusively "local" verticals, it seems that Craigslist is becoming the place to go.

What Craigslist offers, as Greg Sterling notes, is a well-developed character – their brand.
Craigslist doesn’t have any fancy features. No Flash, No AJAX, no neat Web 2.0 social networking buzzwords. But it does have personality.

Ultimately, in any internet marketing enterprise the biggest challenge is creating a service which not only attracts peoples attention but keeps their interest. Flickr‘s done it. So have Technorati and Digg. But these are big projects with very wide scope. All of these ideas are broad. If you’ve got a small, focused site – topically oriented on, say, real estate, you’re not looking to gather as broad an audience as these other sites.

Or are you?

After all, everybody needs housing. If you can build a real estate service with a comfortable personality and the necessary functionality (you can’t leave this out!) then you really can target everybody. The key is not to try and target everybody all at once.

Craigslist enables their visitors to easily pare down their options to their own locality. No longer being bothered by extraneous advertising (everything’s local!) or irrelevant options (like having to reselect your state for each query) means they’re easy to use. That familiar feeling, like a small community bulletin board,
keeps people coming back.

I think that Zillow is doing a nice job developing a resource for home buyers, although they don’t offer home listings. I’m still waiting, though, for a great resource for rental listings. There are a lot of decent local sites, but your options become very limited if you’re in a city without one.

If anybody does happen to know a great rental listings site with national scope, I’d love to hear about it, though!

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