How to write an Austin Craigslist Real Estate Ad

I post all of our Austin rental and sales listings on Austin Craigslist under the real estate section. It’s free and sometimes effective, so there is no reason not to post listings on Austin Craigslist, along with photos. In doing so, and in observing how user-unfriendly the Craigslist interface is from a real estate listing browsing standpoint, I’ve come to some conclusions.

The only real effective way to use Craigslist to locate Austin real estate is to search for keywords. For example, there have been nearly 300 new real estate postings on the Austin Craigslist real estate for sale section so far today (4/13/2007). Scrolling down the page reading the listing titles is time consuming and isn’t very productive. Clicking the “Next 100 Postings” link at the bottom of each page, just provides more of the same. You’d have to scroll through 1,000+ postings just to view the last 4 days of new entries. Since postings remain active on Craigslist for 45 days, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to scroll through all available listings. They are instead going to search for keywords.

So if I was looking for a home in Circle C, or Legends Oaks, or Western Oaks or Shady Hollow, I would be typing a search for those neighborhood names. Or I’d be searching for some other attribute such as “South Austin”, “Kiker” Elementary, or “Bowie” High School for example. If I wanted a home that attended Westlake High School, I’d search for “Eanes” or “Westlake”.

So, knowing that my Austin Craigslist posting is most likely to be viewed as a search result, I need to make sure all listing copy is written in a keyword rich manner.

For example, let’s say I have a listing in Travis Heights, off South Congress (soco) in South Austin for sale. Would the following be good ad copy?:

Charming older cottage minutes from downtown and close to everything. Walking distance to neighborhood park and pool and local shops and restaurants.

Notice the lack of relevant keywords in the sample sentence? How would a searcher who wants a home in Travis Heights find my listing when there is no mention of the neighborhood? They wouldn’t. I’ve seen many poorly written ads like this on Craigslist.

Better copy would be:

South Central Austin charmer in Travis Heights minutes to downtown Austin, 6th Street and Zilker. Walk to Stacy Park and pool and to South Congress (soco) shops and restaurants.

Notice the difference? We’ve said essentially the same thing as the first example, but in a keyword rich manner that is more likely to result in the posting being seen by someone searching for a home in Travis Heights or near South Congress (soco).

We can take this concept a step further by thinking of secondary keywords to include in an ad. For example, a rental listing I recently posted on Craigslist is located in Western Oaks. I lead off the ad with:

Great home, nicely updated in a superb South Austin location in Western Oaks close to Legend Oaks and Circle C.

Why am I mentioning “close to Legend Oaks and Circle C”? Because anyone searching for a home for rent in Legend Oaks or Circle C may be interested in this home in Western Oaks also. I want to capture as many interested prospects with the ad as possible. Also, since quality schools are a motivating attribute for many in the SW Austin area, it’s important to mention all schools by name in case someone is searching specifically for a home that attends certain schools.

So, writing a Craigslist ad is not that different from writing website copy. One has to ask “what keywords and search phrases might be used by people whom I want to find this content?” Then make sure those keywords are included in what you write.

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