How to Build a Website like Craigslist today! [Guide Inside]

Yesha Bhatt

By : Yesha Bhatt

How to Build a Website like Craigslist today! [Guide Inside]1

If I hand you a newspaper to find yourself home through an ad, will you go through it? Of course, no! Why would you strain your eyes when you can hit the ad link on classified websites like Craigslist and find a perfect match? That’s precisely the motto of classified websites.

The growth of the online classified ads market is high and expects to grow at a CAGR of 9.5% from 2019 to 2026.

Felt like going for this business idea? Well, you should!

To be more specific, you should make a website like Craigslist because it provides its customers with value through quality ads and content. With around 40 people, its estimated revenue in 2018 was $1.03 billion.

What made it a huge success and how to build a website like Craigslist, let’s find out!

Here’s what the blog covers:

Craigslist: A Brief Intro

If you want to understand how to build classified websites like Craigslist, you need to first know how Craigslist works. In this session, we will give you a short summary of it.

Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, started it as an email distribution list in 1995 to provide services to recruiters and employers. Sooner, the service became the first classified ad website that the world has seen and is exploring to date. More than 60 million users across 70 countries use Craigslist today to post ads for jobs, sales, houses, events, services, purchase of property, and finding a date. It also provides forums for discussions.

But should you go for the same?

Suggested Read: Top 7 Web App Ideas to Make Money in Future

Why Do Users prefer a Website like Craigslist?

Though the website is a low-key site, it receives more than 200 million user posts monthly.

Here’s what makes Craigslist more demanding.

Users prefer a Website like Craigslist

Value Proposition of Craigslist

The goal of Craigslist was to provide customers with top-notch services. Here’s how they achieved it.

  1. Simple Interface: The user interface of Craigslist looks like a newspaper with dozens of ads and no images. Some might call it a bad design, but Craigslist believes in a minimalistic design and more functionalities, just like Amazon. Due to text-driven pages, the website loads fast. With no banner advertisements, visitors can quickly find the required items and post ads.
  2. Free or Cheap Ads: Craigslist provides most of its ad postings for free. Only an area or category of ads such as jobs, apartment rental, and therapeutic services costs money, that too in specific areas. Moreover, the cost of the ad is far less than the other specific website. It costs around $15 to $75 per cost.
  3. Ads Diversity: Craigslist is not niche-specific. It allows customers to buy or sell anything from a pen to a house. 80 million ads every month is proof of its diversity.
  4. Huge Community: Besides classified ads, Craigslist has a discussion forum where users can interact about computers, job markets, legal issues, money and taxes, and over 100 other topical discussions.
  5. Flagging System: Craigslist has an automated flagging system to keep spammers away from flooding their websites with spam ads. They can even remove an inappropriate ad flagged.

Providing customer value is what has made Craigslist a firm position in the market. Similarly, when making a Craigslist clone script, you need to find user pain points and provide them with a solution to that. Your value proposition can be anything like an attractive design, a mobile app, advanced payment methods, a unique business model, or more. To know what unique you can provide, research successful competitors such as Olx, Oodle, OfferUp, and more.

Want to build a website like Craigslist? Let us help you build a fully-functional classified website from scratch.



How to Make a Website Like Craigslist

If you’re thinking about how to make a website like Craigslist, you need to choose your business idea, decide your value proposition, features, and monetization strategy. Let’s start with the business model.

Business Model

There are four business models you can choose from:

  1. Niche Classified: This model is good if you want to go for a specific niche, e.g., job, real estate, fashion, or so. You can create a niche-specific ad website such as job listings and provide members with a monthly or yearly format. GlassDoor,, Zillow are examples of niche-specific classified websites.
  2. Fixed Classified: Fixed classified Script is popular among big classified ad websites like Craigslist, Olx, or Gumtree. You can charge users with specific rates based on ads. You can even offer them packages for further ad boosting. However, the revenue for this model is not stable, but you can provide customers with options such as post-free ads or paying for premium services.
  3. Freemium Classified: Another model to look for is freemium-based. Here, users can post free classified ads, whereas you can earn from banner advertising. The model is popular because free ads attract more users, helping to build a huge customer base.
  4. All-in-one Classified: If you’re not sure about a model from the above three, go for an all-in-one model. That means creating your hybrid model that consists of peculiarities of the niche, fixed, or freemium model. The example includes a fixed classified ad website with a banner advertisement.

Suggested Read: How to Start an ECommerce Business

Essential Features to Build a Classified Website Like Craigslist

Essential Features to Build Classified Website like Craigslist
So, you’ve chosen your business model, now you need to decide on the features of the Craigslist clone script. The features you add will focus on your customer experience. So, when you create a website like Craigslist, make sure that it consists of the below list:

  • Sign up and verification: Allow users to register or sign up with their social media accounts, or a phone number. Verify the accounts or numbers to reduce spam or fake identity.
  • Ad posting: Provide simple forms to users for posting ads. Make sure the form consists of all the required details of the ad and additional that users want to add.
  • Ad moderation: Allow users to flag ads that they suspect to be spam, fraud, or inappropriate. It will enhance your credibility among users and the community.
  • Geolocation feature: This feature will show the users about the ads and deals in their vicinity.
  • Communication channel: Integrate messaging feature so that sellers and buyers can easily interact before making a final call.
  • Search and navigation: An automated search completion feature with advanced filters and simplified navigation will help users to look for an ad quickly.
  • In-built SEO: Ensure that the ads consist of proper metadata and keywords for SEO optimization.
  • Multiple payment options: Provide users with multiple and secure escrow-based payment options.
  • Simplified checkout: Don’t stress your customers with lengthy checkout processes like a register form, or asking about the additional unnecessary data. A simple post ad form, payment and checkout should be your steps to successful customer ad posting.
  • Cross-platform: Make sure that your website is compatible with all devices. A responsive web design is an essential component of a successful eCommerce solution.

Also Read: 6 Key Elements for Successful E-commerce Business

  • Security features: While anyone can post an ad, it’s necessary to have some security checks done. For this, you can provide limited login attempts, login history, or IP tracking.
  • Rating and review: Help your customers make the right decision by providing a rating and review feature. Buyers and sellers can rate one another so that the others dealing with the same can know a little about them and the services (if any).
  • Social media integration: As we know about the growth of the Facebook marketplace, it becomes necessary to have a feature that would allow customers to post and interact on social media.
  • Mobile app: Having a website is great but try to bring in a mobile app too. It’s easier to interact via mobile apps than browse a website and post on it.

If you want to empower your classified website with rich functionality and features like these, we can guide you.

Monetization Model

Phew! Finally, the features list is ready. But monetization? We know Craigslist is a non-profit platform. It earns through specific paid ads, but it won’t be enough for you, as a newbie. So, we’ve found you a few monetization models that will help you make profits.

  • Pay Per Post: It’s a very simple and straightforward model. Here, the user will have to pay for every ad they post.
  • Featured Ads
    Featured Ads

    Image: us.stockkcots

    It’s a common model for a classified website like Craigslist. Users who want to promote their services or products can pay to get featured at the top of the classifieds. It will help advertisers to boost their brand visibility and you with some extra profits.

  • Subscription

    Image: MakeTechEasier

    This model works best for niche-specific classified websites or businesses that want to post regularly. You can charge advertisers with a monthly or yearly fee to use your website. For example, a job listing platform.

    Suggestion: Before you ask users to subscribe, give them a trial period to explore your website.

  • Premium Membership
    Premium Membership

    Image: Spotify

    Offer your customers premium services if enrolled for membership. It’s different from a subscription because it gives customers additional features like viewing the profile of the customers interested in the ad, ad feature at minimal cost, ad-free surfing, or so.

  • Banners/Sponsored Ads
    Banners/Sponsored Ads

    Image: Amazon

    Spare some space on your website for paid advertisements. Allow enterprises to display their ads on your website and in return, pay you for space. The good thing is that you can control the advertisements and you won’t have to share it with intermediaries like in Google Ads or Adsense.

A Good Read: 5 App Monetization Strategies That Seldom Fail

What model will be the best for your business? Let’s help you form a perfect monetization strategy.


Development Process

The last step towards the development is choosing whether you would like to go for an open-source or a custom-developed platform. Let’s see what both options hold.

  • Open SourceIf you choose to go for an open-source platform like WordPress, you won’t have to work on your website from scratch. You can choose a design from the templates, add plugins for features, and customize the website with simple drag-and-drop. However, it is full of limitations.> No unique features> No custom theme> No authority> No support

    > Scalability issues

  • Custom-developedIf you choose custom-development to build a classified website, you can be sure of all the features, designs, and functionalities. Whatever you require for your Craigslist clone script, you can get it developed. The most important thing, you will have complete control over your website and the data. Support from the development team will be another plus point. It may add up the development cost and the time taken but, trust me; it would be worth it.

Tackle the Challenges of Building a Website like Craigslist

When you create a website like Craigslist, you will face several challenges. However, with the MVP model and your technology partner, it’s not difficult to build a website like Craigslist. But the challenge is to enhance the business. The common challenges that most classified websites face are:

1. User Acquisition

How do I attract customers? Many classified websites have this problem. The simple trick is to offer them something of value. Other than that, you can

  • promote your website through YouTube, i.e. you can share your videos on YouTube and comment on others.
  • engage with customers on social media platforms. If someone posts about, say, looking for a home ad, you can engage with them and share your listings.
  • create forums like Craigslist, or you can join the existing forums and publish interesting content.

2. Ad Moderation

Another challenge is not having an ad moderation feature. It may lead your website to have illegal ads, spam, or identity threats. To safeguard your business and your customers’ trust, integrate a flagging system as we mentioned in the features list. Also, implement other techniques such as

  • Policy Agreement
  • Manual checks through scripts
  • Automated flagging tools

3. Customer Support

In the digital space, customer support plays a major role. However, classified websites tend to have limited staff. Look at Craigslist, a billion-dollar company that has only 40 employees. But this less human resource may affect your business. The alternative is to go for artificial intelligence. But as a startup, it may double your cost. Instead,

  • try adding FAQs to solve the common queries
  • Integrate chatbots for customer support
  • dedicate a team that looks over customer needs

And, after tackling all these challenges and building a website like Craigslist, all you should do is – Plan the Future!

PS: If you need any help to create a website like Craigslist – the business plan or marketing, feel free to get in touch with us.

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