Marketers Flout Craigslist Rules to Promote Wares

A syndicated article providing guidance on marketing via free classifieds site Craigslist has been making the rounds on various business-oriented Web sites lately. Still, there’s no doubt the practice is controversial, particularly when advertisers disregard the site’s strict code of conduct. In fact, it’s difficult to get some advertisers who post to Craigslist to even acknowledge their use of the tactic on the record.

“[Craigslist] gives you a lot of exposure out there,” said one small businessman interviewed for this story who preferred to remain anonymous. The furniture seller said his ad posts have gotten “flagged,” or marked as possible spam or illegal postings, but he doesn’t blame everyday users for flagging them. “Mainly it’s companies out there; they don’t like the way you’re advertising,” he continued, pointing to his competitors as the whistle-blowing culprits.

Browse the “for sale” section of Craigslist, and you’re bound to find more than just the average Joe looking to unload that extra video game console or used baby crib. Several online sellers, affiliate marketing sites and local mom and pop shops are there, too, even if they’re not really supposed to be.

“Watch Streaming TV on Your Computer: over 2000+ Channels,” boasts the subject line of a post added several times to the for sale area of Craigslist’s New York site. The text post linked to a Web page where streaming TV software can be downloaded for $24.95.

“I have a few Airline Tickets remaining for $44 each way. Most dates available. Check it out here,” reads a cryptic post linking to Travel By Deals, a site laden with Google AdSense text ads, display ads for Priceline and and snippets of travel-related news articles, making it appear to have been set up for affiliate marketing purposes.

One Viagra purveyor made a preemptive argument in a post submitted yesterday: “This is to help the Criagslist [sic] Community. Why flag?” The post had been flagged and stricken from the site a couple hours after this reporter first discovered it. This displays the dedication of the site’s user community, people some believe could become disillusioned by the scourge of commercial posts on the site.

The classifieds site warns users that commercial posts are subject to removal if placed in sections other than the “services offered” area. Its terms of use require that users not post content “that constitutes or contains ‘affiliate marketing,’…that constitutes or contains any form of advertising or solicitation if: posted in areas of the craigslist sites which are not designated for such purposes…[or] that includes links to commercial services or web sites, except as allowed in ‘services.'”

Considering the availability of automated Craigslist ad posting software and even a book dedicated to marketing goods and services through Craigslist, it’s no wonder some advertisers are flouting the regulations.

George Berz buys Google AdWords ads to promote AdBomber, software he wrote to expedite his own Craigslist postings pushing his site-building services. Berz, who told ClickZ News the modifiable open source software brings in “a few extra bucks,” admits AdBomber appeals to “greedy spammers.” In fact, a Google search for “Craigslist spam” results in a sponsored link for the software which reads, “Automate your craigslist postings posts like a slave – see video.”

Because the software must be altered to automate multiple ad postings at once, said Berz, “that’s how I can have my peace with the world.”

Craigslist, which has a reputation as a beacon of social responsibility and non-profit-driven Web purity, happens to employ the peace symbol as its logo. The company has not contacted Berz regarding his software product. Craigslist did not respond to a ClickZ inquiry in time for this article’s publication.

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