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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some Craigslist Autoposters No Longer Working for Many Auto Dealers

If you've been using an auto-poster to list your vehicles on Craigslist, you're not the only one. Many dealers use such tools, because the amount of time required to post so many vehicles manually (let alone renew the ads regularly) is just not feasible. Craigslist doesn't care, because they really want the classified site to be used by individuals, not businesses. The reason why many auto-posters will soon no longer work is that Craigslist is no longer supporting the HTML tag in its listings. This is presumably to combat the rising use of auto-posters, something that is against the Craigslist Terms of Use.

As of today, when posting a vehicle to Craigslist users are shown a message that says the following:
PLEASE NOTE: Externally-hosted images (IMG tag) will soon be disallowed in for-sale ads. Please use CL image upload.

Here's a screenshot of the actual message:
PLEASE NOTE: Externally-hosted images (IMG tag) will soon be disallowed in for-sale ads. Please use CL image upload.
In case you're not clear on what the img tag is, it's a way to have an image (e.g. an ad for your vehicle) displayed on the Craigslist site without actually uploading the image to Craigslist. Using the img tag enables you to specify a source on your own server, or if using a 3rd party autoposter, a source on their server for the image displayed. It was only a matter of time before this happened, because Craigslist had absolutely no control over what images were being displayed, and some sellers (including car dealers) were abusing the site by flooding it with post after post of their own inventory, even duplicating the same vehicle several times per day. If the classified listings have 100,000 ads for used cars in one city and 20,000 of those are duplicates, it decreases the usability of the site for car shoppers, kind of like having to sift through your inbox when it's full of spam.

So what does this mean for dealers who want to continue using an auto-poster? Well the days of posting image-based ads are pretty much over. Dealers can (and will) complain for as long as they wish. The Terms of Use on Craigslist state clearly that (paraphrasing here) if you don't like the way they run the site or the rules they have in place, your only option is to stop using the site. I personally think a lot of dealers will stop using the site because they don't want to spend the time, which will only help those dealers who choose to continue using the site. In terms of supply and demand, it will mean less supply (ads) with the same amount of demand (shoppers). Dealers who continue to use either an auto-poster, manual posting tool, or posting service like Higher Turnover offers will thrive and continue to see a significant return on investment from one of the most visited classified sites in the world.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Choosing a Dealer Website Provider

A simple email I received prompted me to write this post today. The email was from a "website development and marketing company" based in the Western U.S. The message was short and sweet: they saw I just registered a domain name and wanted to know if I needed help with programming, design, or marketing. We get emails like this all the time. Some are well-written, some are not, but the point of this post is the bigger picture.

Someone who didn't know any better and who had a real need for website design or internet marketing at the moment they received the email might have hired this company. Every decision-maker has the right to hire whomever they wish, but chances are you don't have to think too hard to come up with a horror story about a friend, relative, or even yourself who made a bad decision at some point and had to live with it (i.e. money or time wasted). For some reason it seems that car dealers are especially susceptible to "being sold" on a vendor's products or services, without doing any due diligence at all.

To me, this email I received had several red flags:
  1. It ended up in my spam folder - If they can't even get their own emails successfully delivered to my inbox, why would I hire them to do email marketing for me?
  2. There were grammatical errors - Again, if they can't write a 3-sentence email without grammar and spelling errors, how would that reflect on my business if they were representing us?
  3. It was addressed to a generic name - If they want to impress me with their marketing skills, they probably shouldn't be referring to me as "Mr. Admin"
These sort of emails are a regular occurrence. I just happened to look this one over as I was emptying my spam folder and decided to comment. We see it all the time...dealers who choose a website provider because the salesperson "sold" them. These are the same dealers that come to us 6 months later, complaining that they wasted thousands of dollars on empty promises. If you're a dealer reading this, don't say you haven't been warned!