Save the trees; move your classifieds online!
Well, maybe it’s not the best CTA of the year. However, it’s the twenty-first century, and a great many things have moved online, advertising included. You know Craigslist, of course, but it’s not the only classified website. The United Kingdom has Gumtree, and OLX is as well known as Craigslist — maybe better known — in some countries.
In this article, we’d like to share some insights into how classified websites work, how they make money, and how to create a classified website like Craigslist with technologies offered today.
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- Why do people need classified websites?
- How do classified websites make money?
- How to create an online classified website
- Features necessary to create a classified website like Craigslist
- How much does it cost to make a classified website?
Why do people need classified websites?
There’s a wealth of classified websites on the web nowadays, and they’re prospering: According to Statista, in 2019, worldwide revenue from classifieds will amount to almost 22 billion dollars. That’s almost 10 percent higher than last year. Out of that amount, over 4 billion dollars in revenue will come from the United States.
The best place to advertise today is online. Whether you sell goods or services, you have a higher chance of doing it successfully by posting an ad on the internet than by posting an ad in a newspaper.
At the same time, maintaining a personal site, promoting it, and dealing with every little issue may not be worth it for one-time deals and for tiny businesses with limited budgets. Therefore, the need for ad aggregators arises.
Classified websites offer a platform for everyone who wants to move their garage sale online but doesn’t want to build their own webpage. On a classified site, users typically don't do anything to promote their ads; the only thing they need to do is place them. Even registering can be optional. Isn’t that convenient?
Offering this kind of service can be quite profitable too. Below are the most popular ways to monetize a classified website.
How do classified websites make money?
The easiest and most straightforward way to earn money by providing a platform for classified ads is, obviously, to charge a fee for placing an ad. This can be a one-time fee or a fee to host the ad for a specific period of time. However, this option is appropriate in two cases only:
Yours is a huge Craigslist-like marketplace with a good reputation. In this case, chances are people will come to you despite there being free alternatives.
You host very niche classifieds. If you’re a platform provider for a specific territory or you only host a shortlist of specific ads, you have fewer competitors and can, therefore, charge a fee.
In all other cases, with a number of rivals who offer the same service for free, you might hit a wall with paid classified ads. It’s better to find an alternative method of monetization.
So how do free classified ad websites make money?
Mostly, the same way other websites and apps do.
When a website has hundreds and even thousands of classifieds on it — and that’s easily the case with many free platforms — it’s really hard to get noticed. You can offer to bring an ad to the top of search results for a reasonable price.
Ads on the site itself
Leave space on your website to place ads from other companies and businesses rather than individuals. You can use Google AdSense or a similar service to automatically fill that space, or you can make agreements with local businesses to advertise on your website.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
With PPC advertising, advertisers can place an ad for free and are only charged when it gets clicked.
Extra features/listing limits
You can allow customers a limited number of photos for free or, alternatively, let them upload a video if they subscribe for a Premium account.
How to create an online classified website
There are two ways you can build a classified website like Craigslist. You can:
- use WordPress and themes for classifieds
- hire a team of developers and create a classified website from scratch.
Surfing the web, you’ll likely find a huge number of tutorials and recommendations for creating a classified website using WordPress templates. Indeed, making your own classified platform this way is the easiest process ever. You don’t need to be savvy in coding or have any experience building a website — only some basic HTML and CSS knowledge.
Moreover, the cost to make a website like Craigslist based on a WordPress template is really low. In fact, there are even free templates, meaning you’ll basically only pay for a domain name and maintenance. Sounds perfect, right? Too good to be true?
Unsurprisingly, there are downsides. Here are some of them:
The biggest problem with any template is that it’s not unique. Your website will basically be the same as many others that use this very same template. Unless you plan to create a classified ads website for a small niche with very few or no competitors, making a complete clone of something that already exists might not be a successful idea.
When you create a website using a script or a template, including a WordPress template, you’re restricted in terms of integrations. Adding features to a WordPress template-based site is challenging, sometimes even impossible. Besides, you’ll need a specialist to do that without breaking something along the way, and if you’re hiring a specialist, why not do things properly from the start?
WordPress templates sometimes have difficulties with big data flows. As the number of website visitors grows, WordPress will inevitably start having performance issues. So if you’re planning to grow and expand your business — maybe go global — in the long run, WordPress isn’t the best choice.
These concerns are just the tip of the iceberg. You might encounter data safety issues, limitations related to monetization, and more. All in all, a WordPress template is a good choice for a niche business, but not if you want to build a website like Craigslist or Gumtree.
If you want your website to stand out from the crowd, be safe and stable, and bring you success, a website development company is your best bet.
Website development company
If you’re aiming at the scale of Craigslist and OLX (eventually), not at building a local classified website, ready-made solutions won’t meet your requirements.
To create your own classified ads website that’s unique and customized to your every need, it’s better to hire professionals. It won’t be an instant solution and it won’t be cheap, but if you’re planning to upgrade and grow your business, custom development is the better choice. Benefits a development company offers include:
- A website tailored to your goals
- Research to help you find a unique value proposition
- Knowledge of up-to-date technologies and trends
- Unique design
- Changes and additions based on performance
- Testing, evaluation, and launch assistance
- Post-launch upgrades and support
Working with a professional development company, you’ll have a better chance to build a successful classified website. A team of developers will help you come up with a set of features that are necessary and cut out those that aren’t. You’ll have a completely unique website design. And everything will be tested before launch so you can gather feedback and increase your chances of success.
If you choose a company that builds apps alongside websites, when your business grows, you can order mobile apps from a team that already knows what you want and how your business works. Mobile apps are a great way of expanding an online business.
Features necessary to create a classified website like Craigslist
The features you’ll need to add to your classified website will depend on the scale of your business and the niche you plan to fill. But there’s a certain set of features you’ll need in any case.
Features for users
Form for submitting ads
This is the main feature of a classified ads website, of course. Some classified websites allow users to place ads without creating an account, while others require users to sign up to post. Either way, the form for submitting ads should be clear and understandable.
These are ads that sellers pay to have shown at the top of the search results or category list. If your business model involves paid promotion, you’ll need to automatically bring those paid listings to the top.
A website dedicated to classifieds must have search functionality. Otherwise, how will buyers find what they’re looking for? A simple search bar is an entry-level feature. It would be much better to have advanced search — either by default or as a separate button.
The specific functionality of this advanced search will depend on your niche. If you’re building a classified website for a single category, you’ll need a location filter, at the very least. Filters for different specs and peculiarities significant for your chosen category will be a good addition.
If you’re aiming to provide a marketplace for sellers and buyers residing in a specific area without limitation to the products they offer, you’ll need a category filter. There are two ways you can implement this filter:
- As part of the advanced search tool
- By building a general category selector with search within it
Or you can do both.
Automatic geolocation and/or location selector
A location selector is especially important if ads you host cover a significant area — a big city or a state — but will be a welcome addition even for a small town. Most people prefer making purchases without having to travel far.
Form for contacting sellers
Your site must offer some way for a buyer to contact a seller. You can allow the seller to post their phone number and/or email in the product description, but most people are hesitant to make that information public. Offering an option to contact the seller via the website will be appreciated.
Commenting is a useful feature for ads that don’t just offer one-time services or products. The majority of those who make purchases online check reviews and comments before making a decision.
Add to favorites/follow
Keeping track of a specific category, set of filters, or seller is useful for frequent buyers and those who seek a specific product.
Classified ad websites that have the option to post without registering or verifying an account — and sites that lack proper moderation — can fall victim to fraudulent and offensive ads. A reporting feature allows website visitors to flag inappropriate listings. This will help you keep your website’s reputation clean.
A tagging system helps with filtering results. You can add search by a single tag or create an option to choose several classified tags and search for items that have all the listed tags in the description.
Built-in chat is still pretty rare in online classifieds, but it has its fans. If a seller is online, communicating with them via chat is way faster and more convenient than filling out a form or sending an email.
Features for administrators
The bigger your website, the sturdier your backend must be. Managing categories, ads, locations, and all the functionality you implement requires solid support. This is the part where you absolutely can’t cheap out. If you do, it’ll come back to bite you later.
If you decide to go for premium listings, where sellers pay a fee to have their ads featured at the top, you’ll need to implement a payment gateway. Depending on the scale of your business, you might need to also add support for multiple currencies.
Protecting sellers’ personal data must be at the top of your priority list if you want to build a successful classified ads website.
Sign-up/sign-in via email and social networks
Whether or not you allow users to post ads without registering, if registering is possible, we highly recommend at least offering options to sign up via email and Facebook.
Verifying the identity of sellers is one way to protect your website from spammers and fraud. You can use a captcha as protection against bots and SMS or email verification as protection against sellers of products and services that violate the law or your terms and conditions.
Optional features may include a customizable dashboard and homepage, an option to display related ads, and a variety of features to make listings more appealing, like photo and video attachments.
How much does it cost to make a classified website?
Whether it’s a website or an app, to estimate the cost of developing a classified platform you need to consider everything you want it to have. The more you need, the more money you’ll have to invest. The cost to make a classified website like OLX, Gumtree, or Craigslist with the help of a development company will be way higher than the cost to build a classified website at a local scale or for a niche category.
To build a website like Craigslist, you’ll need:
- Project manager
- Front-end developers
- Backend developer
- UI/UX designers
- QA specialist
You might want to start with a niche and expand as you begin to make a profit (as OLX did). If we’re counting the minimum of necessary features for a custom classified website, you can expect the cost of development to start from $25,000. This number will go up as you add features and expand your reach.
But any amount we say here is a very rough estimate. If you want more information about how much it costs to make a classified website, we’re always just a contact form away. Drop us a line.