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How to Build a Classifieds Website Like Craigslist

This article was originally published on Codica blog.

Online classifieds websites change our modern life for the better. You can search for a job, accommodation, car, and so on without leaving your home. Besides, you can find great second-hand items on such platforms.

In this article, you will learn how to create a classifieds website like Craigslist in detail.

What is a classifieds platform?

Simply put, a classifieds platform is a website that allows you to publish ads for goods, services, job positions, etc. Users can choose either free or paid listings to promote their items.

A large number of ads transform into categories and classes. The most popular sections are real estate, vehicles, services, jobs, and community.

The classified ads websites are divided into horizontal and vertical marketplaces.

Horizontal platforms provide a huge number of different goods and services. For example, Craigslist and Classified Ads.

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On the flip side, verticals focus on a narrow niche. For instance, we can mention Indeed and Glassdoor as the most popular jobs marketplaces.

Overview of Online Classified Ads Platform market

TechNavio, a technology advisory and research company, predicts steady growth of global online classified ad platform market at a CAGR of 8.12% during 2016-2020. The cost-effectiveness of online ads combined with the decrease of print advertising can be defined as the major driving factor of this trend.

At the same time, the comparatively short life span of online classified ads prevents online classifieds platform market from more active growth.

Key players

You may be wondering who are the classifieds ad market giants, right? So, the most well-known websites are Classified Ads, Craigslist, Oodle, Locanto, and Gumtree.

How to build a Classifieds website like Craigslist?

1. Choose your niche

We recommend to start building a classifieds website with focus on one specific segment or a particular group of consumers. This approach will help you better meet customers' demands and avoid high competition at the start.

In addition, people tend to search for expensive goods like cars, property, or luxury items on niche online marketplaces. Thus, shoppers make themselves safe from fraud and fake items that are common on horizontal e-commerce platforms.

Below you can see an example of classifieds for the automobile domain.

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2. Define the required functionality

Your classifieds platform should be convenient for businesses that will publish their ads. Moreover, customers should also have a smooth experience of using your website for finding and purchasing the required goods and services. Therefore, you need to take care of its functionality to satisfy both parties.

The list of features that should be implemented in the first place:

  • Sign-up and verification
  • Easy ad posting form
  • Search with autocomplete
  • Cross-platform functionality
  • Multiple payment gateways
  • Rating and review system
  • Security features
  • Advanced filters
  • Geolocation feature
  • Search engine optimization
  • Straightforward checkout process.

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3. Launch an MVP first

The release of a minimum viable product will be a more cost- and time-effective solution than the launch of a full-fledged website. The MVP has limited functionality and is designed to satisfy the early adopters. After getting feedback from them, you can add new features according to their demands.

If we look at the list of must-have functions required for an MVP of your website, it will be significantly shorter in comparison with a full-fledged project.

The core functionality for an MVP of a website like Craigslist:

  • Sign-up
  • Search filters
  • Ad moderation
  • Communication channels
  • Payment system.

4. Take care of the design

We have discussed the importance of diverse functionality. However, the visual appeal of your website should not be left unattended as well.

The key design principles for offering excellent user experience:

  • Focus on simple and straightforward navigation. Let your visitors quickly find what they are looking for, and they will return for more purchases.

  • Avoid overwhelming users with extra information. Concentrate on product photos rather than on ads.

  • Create a Customer Journey Map. With its help, you will understand the challenges your potential buyers may face and the products they are going to purchase.

  • Define the optimum typeface and its size for your ads. Use spacing to improve readability.

Monetization strategies

As you probably know Craigslist is a non-profit platform. It means that it does not charge everyday sellers for posing their ads. Still, the specific ad types such as job openings, apartments, and cars from automotive dealers are paid.

However, you can take another path and monetize your platform.

Here are the most popular revenue models:

Featured ads

This revenue model gives vendors the chance to increase their brand visibility by highlighting their ads. Such posts can be either published above ordinary advertisements or have a distinctive badge to attract more customers.


This strategy supposes charging customers a monthly fee for using your website. Remember that people will pay more willingly if they understand how your platform works and what it can do for them. A trial period will help them know your service better.

Banner Ads

You can also sell space on your website to other brands to promote their products and services. You have full control over the advertising displayed to your visitors and don’t have to share revenue with intermediaries.

Premium membership

Some marketplaces owners go beyond the subscription model and offer premium membership. It means that extra features, for example, viewing profiles of people interested in their offerings, become available only after the account upgrade.

The upgrade of their Locanto account will bring users the following benefits:

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Pay to post

This revenue model works best if you have a steady stream of customers who regularly visit your website. It is also effective when you have a specific niche or a category with great benefits to your customers.

Final words

We have discussed the primary steps of building a website like Craigslist. Surely, there are many ways to start a classifieds ad website, but this plan works for us and our clients.

If you are looking for more information, we recommend reading our full blog article: Building a Classifieds Website Like Craigslist: All You Need to Know.

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