By Daclaud Lee, SEO Consultant and Project Manager at Archmore Business Web
You are a small business owner or marketing professional and your budget is limited. You need a free advertising solution that can potentially reach new customers. Therefore, classified ads are the way to go.
In June 1836, French newspaper La Presse was the first to include paid advertising in its pages. This advertising system allowed it to lower its printed price, extend its readership and increase its profitability and the formula was soon copied by other papers.
Digital media is the new print media, and nowadays classified ads are often free! Therefore you get free ads and a backlink to your website as long as the ad is running (most free classified ads will run for 30 - 45 days, but the amount of time may vary). Some sites may charge you for what they call "premium" posting, but for the most part, you do not need to waste money on this.
Classified ads are a great way to get a backlink to your website. Given there are no follow links, they are still good to have, so a user can get to your website, which in a sense indirectly helps with SEO and page rank as long as that person does not bounce (leave the site right away).
Let us take a look at some of the most popular free classified ad sites out there and examine each one closely.
As the name implies, this website allows you to post free classified ads. The setup is clean and the categories are clear. You can post an ad with or without an account. If you know how code the link by hand in HTML, then you can add it manually and you can add a backlink.
Pros: Simple easy to use. You can either create an account and keep track of your ads or post an ad without an account. If you post an ad without an account, they will notify you by email and you will be given links to edit the listing.
Cons: There does not seem to be a lot of posters using the site (this may depend on city and region). Manual implementation of HTML links.
A modern look and more than a few interesting newer features offered by FinderMaster makes it an ideal local classified ads site. Automatically detecting your region upon your first visit or its simple yet complex designs are examples of what you can expect to come across on your visit to this website.
Pros: Ads can be posted for free both as a member or as a guest. Its ease of use can’t be ignored and it covers a large number of areas and categories.
Cons: A great number of ads are posted in certain regions or countries and the other countries seem to be low in the number of posted listings.
This classified ads site has differentiated itself both through its user experience design and its user interface design. Basically, navigating through the website is quite intitule and it very well can be a to go place for posting almost anything. It’s free, local, and yet again quite easy to use.
Pros: Most classifieds force you to browse through a few pages before seeing the results you’ve been after and this is not the case with the WallClassifieds. It saves you those extra steps and it enables you to select a city and the category right from its homepage.
Cons: You won’t be able to spot certain filters such as selecting the number of doors for a vehicle through its search pages.
This is a free classified ads site that is easy to use. All you have to do is click on "Post an Ad" and the site takes you to a page where you can post an ad first and fill out your account details later. The site is very clean and the categories are very well defined. The site is also very active with a lot of traffic.
Pros: It is quick and painless to set up a user account. You can add HTML to each listing, which means a backlink to your site.
Cons: Poor search engine. When I did a search in my city, I did not just get results for my city. The search results showed ads from all over the place, from Los Angeles, California, to Detroit, Michigan to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Only one of them was from anywhere close. This is annoying for someone who is impatient.
Backlink: Yes, no follow
Classified Ads Pro Tip: Use this site for backlinks. You can add as much HTML as you want. This will take the ad viewer directly to your website's landing page and that's exactly where you want them.
UPDATE: As of April 6, 2018 Backpage.com has been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center. So unfortunately, you can't use Backpage anymore to post classified ads. Maybe one day, if laws change or if someone else takes over the website, we can use it again.
If Craigslist spawned a child and if that child happens to be the black sheep of the family, then that is what you basically have with Backpage. As with Craigslist, Backpage also had its share of scandals, such as the recent closure of the Adult section. Backpage had to close this section because they lost a legal case involving prostitutes posting illegal services. In spite of all the negatives, Backpage has cleaned up a bit and they still get a lot of traffic to the site. Ads stay up for about 1 month and they send you an email to renew.
Pros: Backpage offered a more HTML friendly ad system and you are not limited to the number of ads you are allowed to post each day. They had an easy renewal system sent straight to your email.
Cons: The associated ads can be annoying because they have the box checked by default (this could really mess things up for you since it would show every single ad you've ever posted). Therefore if you are posting ads for multiple businesses, it can be a bit of a chore to un-check the box each time.
Backpage Pro Tip: Backpage was HTML friendly, so you can add as many HTML links as you want on your ads. These backlinks were a powerful tool to drive traffic to your website.
Backlink: Yes, no follow
UPDATE: I am sad to see that Backpage is no longer active. Before the legal issues with prostitution and the court system shutting them down, Backpage was actually one of the best classified ad sites to generate a backlink and for local citation building. According to BrightLocal's Citation Tracker, Backpage.com had a citation authority of 80/100 (which is really high).
Oodle, Inc. is an online marketplace based out of San Mateo, California. It was founded in 2004 by ex-Excite executives Craig Donato, Scott Kister and Faith Sedlin.
On the surface, it seems like a really good Classified ads system, but when I signed up for an account on May 30, 2017, I had a bad experience. The very first post I made for a client got flagged even though I did not violate any of their terms of service. I sent in a dispute and they have so far not responded. If and when they do respond, then I will edit this comment.
Pros: Easy to use. It is integrated with USA Today, so your ads also appear on their site. As long as you manage to create an account and not get your account flagged for no reason, then it should be a powerful tool to reach new audiences due to its appearance on USA Today's classified section.
Cons: They do not offer HTML linking, so you cannot get a backlink to your site. The site is also either very buggy or it just did not like me, because it flagged my very first post and banned my account after I tried to make two more.
Oodle Pro Tip: Make sure your user account information is consistent with your social media profile. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe I know why my account was flagged. Oodle has an option where you can sign in with your Facebook profile. The moment I did this was when my ad was flagged. I had my Archmore Business Web company Facebook profile opened and not my personal profile. Since I signed up using my real name and when I clicked on the Facebook account link button, Oodle may have flagged my profile as a fake because the information did not match. Then again, I am not 100 percent sure, but it seems highly likely this was the case.
Backlink: No (Yes if you have a premium, paid ad)
This is a popular site for anyone looking for coupons and discounted goods or services. Pennysaver USA has an easy way for you to upload coupons in the form of image files. You can also set a discounted price within the ad itself and you can also give people the chance to give you a best offer if you are willing to work with custom pricing.
Pros: A great place to promote discounts and coupons.
Cons: No outbound HTML links. You do however get one business profile link where you can add a single website. I do not see this as effective, because it is not noticeable.
Penny Saver Pro Tip: Be sure to have your coupon saved as an image file that can be uploaded. JPEG is always a good format. Make sure the image size is also not too large or too small. 600x400 pixels is a good size.
Backlink: Yes, no follow.
Locanto is a worldwide online classifieds network with areas dedicated to jobs, personals, for rent, for sale, services, community, real estate, vehicles, and pets. Locanto Classifieds is available in more than 60 countries worldwide.
Locanto Classifieds sites are operated by the German startup company Yalwa located in Wiesbaden, Germany. Locanto was launched in July 2006 with a local classifieds site for New York City. One month later, on August 21, 2006, the service was extended to the U.S. cities. With Locanto, you are allowed to include HTML code, links, and pictures in your ad, and your ad will remain on the site for 60 days.
Pros: They have a good search engine. You can set your search radius as low as 20 miles from your city or more and the keyword search is accurate and precise, so you get exactly what you want. Social media share buttons. Mini analytics.
Cons: I really did not notice any issues. The only downside would be a lack of users in certain areas (they seem to be more popular in some cities than others).
Locanto Pro Tip: Take advantage of their mini analytics options in the My Ads section of your account. You can keep track of how many people viewed your ad to find out if it is doing any good. Also, take advantage of the convenient social media sharing buttons.
Backlink: Yes, no follow.
This site looks like someone created it in the early 90's and just forgot about it. Not only is it aesthetically unpleasing, but it is also not mobile friendly. I seriously have no idea why anyone would still use this site, but there are obviously still people making classified ad posts, which means there is still a good amount of traffic. Ads remain active for 40 days.
Pros: They allow HTML, so you can get a backlink to your website's landing page. This is great as a call to action ad in order to get people to click on your link.
Cons: Just about everything... The site needs a serious makeover. They are stuck in the 1990's. When I first hit the registration button, they had a wall of questions where I had to click a radio button to indicate whether or not I was interested in the service the site offered. In the words of Sweet Brown (an internet meme that went viral back in 2012): "Ain't nobody got time for that!"
USA Free Ads Pro Tip: Do not sign up for the paid monthly memberships, they are not worth it (obviously).
Backlink: Yes, no follow.
Geebo’s selling point is that it is a safe alternative to many of the other classified websites geared towards local communities. Their website offers a list of useful safety tips for buyers and sellers, plus you can report any scams or abuse directly to the site and they will take a look.
Pros: Clean layout and design. Buyer and seller screening (this can be a con too).
Cons: Your ad has to be approved by their system before it is live. This helps protect buyers and sellers since someone from Geebo (or an automated system) screens the ad. This can be a pro and a con because you have to wait a while for your ad to appear.
Geebo Pro Tip: Just use Geebo for the backlink because you won't get any other value from it...
Pros: Somewhat easy sign up. The categories are clear and the search engine gives you exactly what you want.
Cons: The design is a bit outdated. Not really that far outdated, but let us say this site would only hold up to classified ad website design standards before 2010. You also cannot put HTML links in the ad itself and the backlink to your website is not easy for a user to locate.
Adland Pro Pro Tip: You can sign up for an affiliate account and possibly earn money on the side if you have a website.
Backlink: Yes, no follow
Founded by Craig Newmark in 1995, Craigslist is definitely the most well known. Craigslist has sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums. Throughout the years, Craigslist may or may not have developed a bad reputation as being a site frequented by criminals and unscrupulous individuals, but this is just a small outlier. The majority of Craigslist users are just regular people looking for goods and services. Ads remain active for 7 to 45 days depending on the location.
Pros: Almost everyone has heard of Craigslist and they still get a lot of traffic to their site. They are often considered the number one classified ads site.
Cons: Craigslist only allows you to make two free posts a day for services per email account. There are A LOT of people using Craigslist, so popular categories such as Automotive Services, for example, can get quite spammy. Craigslist has also had a bad reputation in the media as a site frequented by dirt balls and psychopaths (ie: the Craigslist Killer), but the media hype aside, that was just one guy out of hundreds of millions of users. Therefore, I would not hold it against Craigslist.
Craigslist Pro Tip: You can add HTML Links in the Employment and Community Sections. You can also get away with creating more than one Craiglist account if you want to make more posts per day. This may get tedious, but if you are getting leads, then it it may be worth the effort.
Backlink: Yes and No. Outbound links may or may not be allowed depending on what category you are posting your classified ad in. All of the service categories do not allow backlinking. You have to log into your account to renew an ad and you some renewals count against your daily post limit.
Updated: April 21, 2022
Below are several more classified ads websites that will help you with your link building. I can't say these will be the best backlinks out there, but at least they are something. If you want to do manual link building to your website, then you should definitely check out some of these other classified ad websites. I have only used these once and they seem to be a part of the same classified ads network.
AdvertiseEra is an online advertising site that helps people sell and buy products in many different categories. We offer a self serve and managed service for advertisers who are looking for exposure for their business or product.
H1Ad is an ad network that helps people find businesses in their local area with only one click. It's not just any short name as the letters H1 is a tag that is used by programmers to usually point out the important headline and the H1Ad aim is to make your ad more visible.
GiganticList is a marketplace of millions of products and services available to buy or sell in your local area. GiganticList's comprehensive and current information on the most important things in your life - from jobs, apartments, and insurance to pets, cars, and bikes, makes it easier than ever for you to find what you need for your family when you need it.
Classified Factor is a simple and straightforward way to find insurance companies, lawyers, and other local businesses all on one site. From A-listers such as Oscar Mayer to graduates of your own school and more, you can browse through literally millions of listings to find what you need right at your fingertips. Uncover the right attorney for your case in seconds!
Disclaimer: Classified ads sites may or may not work for your business. In theory, classified ads are a great idea for free advertising, but you still have to keyword optimize your ads for full effectiveness. Sites like Craiglist have their posts indexed and crawled by Google, so keyword optimized ads also have a chance to appear in organic searches if you write the ad copy in an SEO friendly way. Keep in mind that the classified ads site itself also functions as a mini search engine for keyword optimized ads appearing on the site itself and if your ad is missing a popular keyword in the title, then people might miss it if they are using the classified ad site's search engine.
Are classified ads a waste of time and effort? What if no one is looking? What if the classified ads site itself does not have any relevant user traffic? The obvious answer is that no one is going to see the ad you posted, but you never know. It is like the old saying, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" If no one is there to witness this, then the answer is no. But is this ad a waste of time? No, it is not, because, at the very least, a classified ad will give your website a no-follow backlink, which is still better than nothing.
You may hear a lot about how useless no-follow links are, but look at it this way; a no-follow backlink on a site (even on a site that rarely gets visitors) is kind of like a way marker for someone who happens to exploring the less beaten path of the woods. What if that lone explorer happens to be there at just the right moment and hears the tree fall? What if that person turns into a loyal customer? Not bad for a free classified ad right?