We built our first classified ads’ software in the early '90s. It managed renewals and billing. That initial solution worked well and then a wave of innovation came. We have first hand seen the evolution of the classified ad industry. Everyone wants to be the Uber of X but those aspiring companies aren't the local leader like you. To stay the local leader, you must evolve your website to meet your customers' current expectations.
We searched for a classified ad website vendor but never found a good solution. We decided to build our own platform with our own team. Our software runs our websites and provides classified ads' management for other publishers. We have spent over 3,888 software development hours evolving our solution. You can now have a $100,000 dollar website solution for a low monthly fee.
Automotive Vertical Website Software
Our software can create you a vertical used and new car website for your local market. Our automated inventory import features allow you to quickly build car listings from local auto dealers. Our automotive software features give publishers the tool they need to compete agaisnt AutoTrader and Cars.com.
Niche Websites for Classified Ad
Our classified ads' software can power your vertical website. We will create your website using your industry specific category names and terminology. You will be able to build custom dealer pages for your customers to showcase their inventory. Your customers' inventories can also be synced with their own individual website. Your ability to sync their inventory from your website to their own gives you another revenue stream.
Fully hosted solution
Responsive design - Your website automatically transforms to the screen size of the user’s device. Ad placement process is responsive as well.
Supports unlimited categories & subcategories.
Ad placement process captures payments online. Funds deposited -directly into your designated bank account.
Set your own pricing & upsell opportunities.
Accept automotive dealer feeds automatically which allows you to offer similar services as Cars.com or AutoTrader.com
VIN Decoding for your auto dealers’ inventories.
Branded landing pages for businesses and auto dealers with their inventory to give them better exposure on your site.
Banner ad management tool with positions that can accommodate unlimited banner ad rotations.
Dealer websites - This tool allows you to build a website for any business and feed their inventory from your website to theirs. (additional monthly fees can apply)
Auction Advertising - This feature categorizes items in an auction which allows buyers to find the item outside of just the auction listing page.
Different internal user privileges for everyone in your organization.
Businesses can sign in to manage their own products / items / inventory.
Click-to-call and messaging feature tracks interactions with ads on your site for easy reporting.
Automatic email communications tools to help your business run more efficiently.
Automated ad renewal emails sent to sellers.
User dashboard for your customers to access previously run ads and initiate ad renewals.
Photo reminder upload email which allows users to add photos to their ads from their mobile device, by simply replying with an image attached.
Analytics Dashboard that shows dealer inventory metrics.
The three points below will give you a clear understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is very important. You should make sure you use best practices. Don’t try to trick the search engines.
Page Title (Title Tag) - Each page on your website has its own page title. Each page is determined by having its own URL (the wording in the address bar). The page title should be short and less than 55 characters. It should quickly to the point tell search engines and potential visitors what the page contains. Page titles also are important for social sharing. You should have your brand or company listed first if you believe your brand will lead to clicks in search engine returns. For lesser known brands and for the majority of websites, your company name should be at the end of the page title. Here are two versions; allySites | Website Design or Website Design | allySites. Search engines give higher value to words listed first than words listed later in the title. Page title is part of your website’s metadata. Moz using an example of Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.
Page Description - The page description shows below the page title in search engine results page. This description is a key element to entice people to click your link. You should use between 150-160 characters in your description. Page descriptions do not affect your search engine ranking. You should think of writing a page description the same way you write ad copy. The page description should focus on the specific benefits of the widget, not the general feature.
Unique Content Creation - Content is not created equally. The best content is unique content created solely for your website. There are no shortcuts to create great content that helps your website rank higher and attract more visitors by way of search engines. Placing press releases on your website for your trade industry can hurt your website's search returns. Google and Bing want to see original content. Five areas you can focus content are: Cost of Products; Problems Users Encounter That Your Product Cures; Comparisons of Products; the Best Products in Your Industry; and Product Reviews. We had a customer appearing 16th in Google search results which was the bottom of page 2. Within two weeks of creating original content for their website, we saw their search ranking move to number 6th in their market.
Please contact us to discuss these steps more in-depth. allySites - 800-247-7318
Automotive dealers primarily advertise to sell cars and build brand awareness. Print publications have always met both desired marketing objectives but measuring the impact print has on selling cars has become complicated. This is due to the internet drastically changing the purchase funnel for shoppers.
The challenge for a publisher is showing a print ad was a catalyst for a purchase. The buyer has a variety of routes and sources of information. We have listed below normal routes.
directly call the dealership
go to the dealership’s physical location
go to the dealership's website
go to the print publication’s website
search Google for the car they saw in the print ad
The option that precedes the actual contact of the dealer is never clear. According to C+R Research, Digital Influence in Automotive 2014, today’s shopper is influenced by 6-7 sources with 3 normally being online sources.
We have given a considerable amount of time trying to track and evaluate results auto dealers receive from our print and website products. Earlier this year, we had a auto dealer increase his spending over 2x the amount he had previously been spending in print. He also reverted back after this increase period to his previous spending level. This large increase in spending and then decrease gave us the perfect data to analyze. We analyzed four different time periods to chart the correlation between the increase in spending and contacts made to the dealer through our website. Our website’s url was not in the dealer’s print ads. This means our website arguably could have been the lowest source of contacts and definitely not the main source. The dealer’s print ads were predominantly full pages. The line charts below show this correlation. The number of contacts increased as spending increased and as the spending decreased the contacts decreased.
Our allySites software can give your company the ability to automatically import auto dealer inventories onto your website. We can build you a vertical automotive website or a horizontal marketplace with a variety of categories.
ABOUT C+R RESEARCH C+R Research is a consumer and market insights firm. For more than 50 years, the company has provided its clients with insights on the thinking behind consumer behavior in a variety of industries, including consumer packaged goods, financial services and retail.
We started developing software in 2010 for our first classified ad website. We knew the look and features we wanted, but didn’t know anyone that could develop the website for us. So we turned to Elance.com and that lead to our first lesson in programming and development of a marketplace website. Elance is a great platform to help you outsource work, but our project turned into a $12,000 mistake. We worked for nine months developing our website only to end with a website that didn’t function properly and never reached the desired functions we had set out to build. Because of this mistake, we decided to build our own team we could fully trust. We turned to developers who had worked on other projects for us and our current journey began.
You can take two different paths to build your own classified ads website that can act like a Craigslist and AutoTrader for your local area. The first path is developing your own software. The second path is to use software like ours to accomplish your goal of building a marketplace for your town. The latter is the best option for numerous reasons for the overwhelming majority of people and media companies. The first path of developing your own software requires an annual six figure expense commitment and in-depth knowledge of website development. It will take several years before you even start to feel like you are making progress. We might not have taken the first path if we could have seen the future. However, today we have no regrets because our software powers two of our own classified ad websites and websites for other publishers.
We developed our allySites classified ad software to power both vertical and horizontal websites. Vertical websites focus on one type of category such as our used and new equipment website www.FarmersExchange.com. A horizontal website offers a variety of categories like Craigslist. Another example of a vertical vs horizontal website would be Amazon, which is a horizontal marketplace, compared to vertical marketplace focused on animals like Pets.com.
The first step toward success for your marketplace is building content. The majority of marketplace websites fail because they never reach liquidity. The term liquidity in this arena means when a marketplace reaches the minimum amount of buyers and sellers to create a reasonable chance of a transaction taking place. Keep in mind that liquidity is not about user growth but content growth.
A great way to build liquidity is using the auto category on your website. You might have wondered before how AutoTrader or Cars.com are able to obtain all those listings. They do this through software like ours that can accept inventory feeds from vendors who provide automotive dealers inventory management tools. The market of vendors providing inventory management software to dealers is fragmented across the country, which can cause problems developing your website. Our software solves this problem because we have already established relationships with data vendors. Our established relationships simplifies the process for you to start receiving dealer inventory feeds from your local auto dealers. This also enables you to build content quickly on your classified ads website. As of this morning, we had over 3,900 automotive listings on our horizontal marketplace, Exchange931.com. This horizontal website serves a 50-mile market radius.
Monitoring and curation of content is the second critical step to building a successful marketplace. This step is not hard to accomplish, on a local market level, and is critical to distinguish your website from national competition. We monitor every ad placed through email receipts and an account verification process. It takes a few seconds to glance at placement receipts when an ad is placed. This task can be split between different people on your team or you can assign one champion to this step. We have tools to ban users and remove content quickly if you do encounter a fraudulent ad or inappropriate wording or images.
We have learned a tremendous amount the last five years about software development and marketplace creation. Your focus on marketplace creation will drive the most value for your company and use our software to start building a classified ad website from day one.
Below are active websites powered by our allySites software.
Facebook launched a new tool this week called “See First”. This feature allows users to select friends and pages they want to always see. The people you select will have a blue star by their name and will appear at the top of your news feed. Prior to this update, users could miss posts from their closest friends and brands they truly liked. This change is great for Facebook users, but not for local business pages. This new feature is natural business progression for a social network website whose average user has access to about 1,500 posts per day, but only sees 300.
The new feature reminds small businesses yet again why they can’t depend on Facebook to drive the majority of their sales. Advertisers with deep pockets will buy their way into this select See First group. Earlier this year, Facebook changed their algorithm to limit the number of people that a business page post would reach. We saw a significant drop of post views even though we continued to post the same type of content. We now are reconsidering our posting strategy.
Small businesses need to take a key lesson away from this change by Facebook. Facebook will continue to tweak their platform with the user in mind and not business pages. Facebook has paid marketing tools and products they want businesses to use to reach Facebook users. Facebook does not want businesses regardless of their size to reach Facebook users for free. I totally understand their reasoning for this change, but small businesses have been left behind and arguably tricked. Facebook intentionally or not previously gave the perception Likes were good for a business page but I don't see the ROI today for building Likes. Furthermore, small business won’t be able to compete with Coca-Cola or Amazon for attention in users’ news feeds.
Facebook was a love for many small businesses because it was a free way to advertise. Facebook now will need to be measured against other forms of advertising in local markets. The cost per thousand people reached will rise as the competition for the marketing space in the See First area of the news feed heats up.
This change builds on the core reason every business needs their own website with their own domain name. The business then controls their digital destiny and exposure. Small businesses have to understand that social networks must make a profit to operate and will continue to change their strategies to maximize their profit potential. By having a website, a small business can alter their marketing focus and channels over time to make sure they expose their message on the right networks at the right time to their target audience.
Contact Ginger Jones with our digital department, allySites.com, to learn more about small business websites. 800-247-7318
Our software can accept feeds from automotive dealer management systems, John Deere’s MachineFinder.com and numerous other equipment management systems. While the majority of the feeds are seamless and take little effort on the publisher’s part to maintain, there are exceptions. Because of these exceptions, we have developed this new feature that allows a business to load their items using a CSV file. This solution will be very beneficial not just for equipment dealers, but any type of business that needs to load items to our marketplace.
The initial upload of the CSV file walks the user through a couple of steps. The user first identifies the column that contains the category and then matches each columns’ content to our classified ad website’s fields. The time to upload the initial file is dependent on the number of categories you have to match from the CSV file to your system. The matching normally takes less than 15 minutes for the first upload. The column matching process is unique for each dealer and our software will remember the category and the type of column contents for future uploads for that dealer.
Sometimes dealers’ CSV files will contain new categories that have not been matched in previous uploads. The system recognizes the new categories and prompts the dealer to match the new categories. Moving forward, the system will retain those matches which allows for faster uploading down the road for the dealer.
This feature benefits both dealers and classified ad website owners. It allows any type of business to efficiently upload their items to your website and provides a simple way to grow the content of your website. This tool will become one of our most important and popular features.
Trying to figure out a way to give print centric advertisements more exposure on a website can be difficult. We have faced this problem for years, but now have developed a cool way to give real estate or used equipment auctions better exposure. Our classified ads’ website software allows a media company to post an auction with a text description and list unlimited items with the auction.
The cool part is the items categorization process for an auction advertisement. Each time the user loads a picture, they give it a name and select a classification. Since our software now knows the classification, the items not only show on the auction detail page, but also show in the corresponding category for the classification. This allows buyers searching a particular category on our website to find items that are going to be auctioned. Before this software update, items that were going to be auctioned only displayed on a single auction detail page. The old process limited the exposure of the items.
This new feature gives auctioneers more exposure for their auctions while helping classified ad websites build more content. We have posted below an image of our website’s list view page showing an auction item. When the user clicks the item labeled Auction Item, it takes them to the Auction Ad Detail page.
Our media company publishes 6 weekly local shopper publications reaching over 83,000 homes. We publish a monthly agricultural magazine which focuses heavily on the marketing of new and used equipment and land auctions. We work with thousands of small business each year; and along with our own experience using Facebook and Google have formed the following thoughts.
It has been well documented that Google’s SERP is filled with paid advertisements. Google Adwords work great for businesses selling products online, but offline businesses don’t receive the same value in most cases. Service businesses might benefit, but the cost is still high compared to advertising in a publication like ours. We evaluated four different ad campaigns. The cost per click (CPC) ranged from $.74 for our horizontal classified ad website to over $1.47 per click when advertising an available manufacturing building. Per thousand, the $.74 is 74 times greater than a color quarter page ad in our publications, which cost $.01 to reach over 83,000 homes. The $.01 doesn’t represent a click, but two things should be considered. A click on a Google Adword does not guarantee a sale, and an ad, in our publications, has to only work 1 out of every 74 times to equal the results of Adwords; and if the ratio is better than 1 out of 74, the publication delivers a greater return for the advertiser.
Facebook is racing Google to give small businesses way too many advertising metrics to cloudy the water. Facebook is lost when it comes to how they want local businesses to measure their ROI derived from the amount of money the business spends on Facebook advertising. Our Ads Reporting screen in Facebook has 14 columns with different metrics. Facebook gives advertisers this much information not because all the figures look good, but to hopefully return one number the small business sees beneficial. Small businesses mostly care about direct results, which means they want clicks on Facebook. Facebook offers campaigns based on impressions (CPM), but most small businesses do not have the budget to focus on image advertising.
We compared CPC for Facebook to Google and found the following: Facebook CPC were $.17, which is a lot lower than Google Adwords, but 17 times higher than a quarter page ad in our weekly publications. Page Likes were vogue when Facebook was new, but now Facebook only shows your posts organically to a small percentage of people that Like your page. I intentionally use the words “small percentage” because it continues to drop. One post we used several times dropped from 501 organic impressions on March 28th to 47 on June 7th. The content of the post did not change between those two dates.
You can’t blame Facebook for transitioning from a free marketing platform to a model that requires businesses to pay. They have shareholders to please and must drive their profits higher every quarter. They also must cut down the fire hose of information being fed into users’ feeds. As written earlier, Facebook allows business pages to create campaigns based on impressions. Our test using multiple variations of ads based on impressions returned results of $17.35 per thousand for unique people reached on Facebook. We would compare Facebook’s unique people reached to unique homes reached for our publications. Our cost of $13.36 per thousand homes reached is 23% lower than Facebook’s cost per thousand for unique people reached.
Facebook and Google both provide advertisers great tools for targeting ads to very specific groups of people. However, the cost per thousand for clicks and impressions in our test were exceedingly higher than advertising in our print publications. Advertisers should also consider, when comparing costs, the figures used above don’t account for the cost to manage and design campaigns for Google and Facebook, whereas, our cost includes design and printing. You can create your own ads, but you will then have to learn how their programs work, which is a cost and can be complicated. We would like to hear feedback that is not in line with our findings.
For small media companies located in mostly rural described markets, the best model for a classified website is not as clear as in a dense urban setting. Craigslist first changed the classified ad marketplace in cities; but more recently, vertical marketplaces have been able to disrupt Craigslist. Airbnb used Craigslist's user base as leads to build their successful accommodation vertical marketplace. There are others taking bites out of Craigslist's dominance, but only time will tell if they can succeed in urban settings. One could argue for similar reasons a Best Buy business model doesn't work in a town of 11,000 people, relates to the same reasons most vertical websites will not work in rural America. That is why we are excited about the opportunity and investment we are making in our horizontal local marketplace. Local media companies can still provide the best service and marketplace for their local area.
While local media companies don't have to worry as much about new marketplaces, they need to be very aware of technology user trends. In the last two years, we have seen mobile traffic overtake desktop traffic to our horizontal marketplace, Exchange931.com. The disparity between mobile and desktop traffic will only continue to grow. Mobile traffic to our horizontal marketplace in the last 30 days accounted for 60% of our total traffic and has increased 99% compared to the same 30 days one year ago. Responsive design is critical to meet this traffic change in user behavior. This traffic change is not an anomaly or centered in one type of area but seen across the country.
Google and Bing both recently made announcements affecting the way their search engines will view websites. They both said over time, websites that have mobile friendly pages will return higher in search results. While the impact from Google's change hasn't greatly been seen yet, any website owner that is not working toward making sure all pages are mobile friendly will be left behind. Google has given the warning. These changes by Google and Bing make sense. Users don't want to visit websites that require them to constantly zoom in and out on their mobile devices to view content. Website owners should not want this requirement either because the user will leave with a poor experience which means less reoccurring traffic.
Mobile websites used to be the first step to provide a good user experience. Today's websites should be designed using technology that makes the website responsive which better addresses mobile. Responsive design ensures the user will have a website that is easy to use on any device. Tablet traffic to Exchange931.com has increased 26% compared to the same time last year. Before responsive design, our website would have been limited to a mobile and desktop version, which wouldn't address tablet or devices with screen sizes in between. With responsive design, we can easily create one version of our website that conforms to the screen size of the user's device. The long term cost of maintaining a responsive designed website is lower than maintaining a website that has a dedicated mobile and desktop version.
Over 50% percent of U.S. consumers own a smartphone and the percentage is increasing fast. Don't be left behind wondering what happened the same way daily newspapers did when Craigslist destroyed their classified ads' section. Make sure your 2015 plans include responsive design for your local marketplace website.
Craigslist disrupting the classified industry is well-documented and can be seen through the demise of classified revenue of daily newspapers.. While Craigslist has had a profound impact on urban areas, rural markets are still underserved. We have seen this first hand because of the increase in our website traffic the last year. Our website traffic is up 39% the last 30 days, year over year. We haven't released earth shattering technology, but yet we have seen great growth. We have seen great growth because we have given our area a local platform. We locally connect producers and consumers as well as service providers with those that need services.
Our print product is the leading driver to our growth online, coupled with a platform that has more technology supporting it than is visually apparent. We have spent over four years building our platform without taking one month off from improving the software functions. We have evolved the platform over that time period to address the wants of today's search engines and mobile users. I specifically say mobile because over half our traffic is now mobile and our responsive design gives the mobile user a fully optimized experience while using our website.
We had a photo problem at first because most of our online listings to start came from our print product. We solved this problem with two different software functions. The first is an email that is sent to the customer that placed the classified ad when their ad goes live on our website. The email asks the user to respond to the email with photos of their listing. This has had great response because it is simple to use. The user can simply take a picture with their mobile phone and reply to the email with the picture attached. Our software will automatically add the photo to their classified ad. The other cool feature is the ability for a consumer to click the location of where photos appear on a ad detail page which triggers an email to the seller requesting a photo. The combination of these features has lead to a more than 2,415 photos being added to our marketplace and has consequently given shoppers a much better experience.
The next wave of disrupters are being funded hundreds of millions of dollars every month from private equity. Some of them will succeed because they find a market that is underserved or that meets the requirements for their platform or marketplace to succeed. However, many will fail because they don't have the local knowledge and trust that our brands provide our markets. We have the advantage of learning from the successes and failures of these new technology companies and we will use their successes to our advantage. Their success is a blueprint for our company to use to build a better product to serve our local community.