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My Response to the Many Concerns I've Received Regarding Craigslist Block on Mass Posting Tools

Craigslist blocks on auto uploads, mass population tools and templates.  A system of checks and balances in software 'law' - Terms of Use http://www.craigslist.org/about/terms.of.use

I have no desire to build an automated posting tool that violates the terms of use of another software company (Craigslist). Keep in mind, Craigslist is not a lead source provider, it is a mostly free, "bottom up" oriented classified website. That being said, do we want dealers to be able to sell their products and services on Craigslist? Sure - Our entire philosophy is to make it easier for buyers and sellers to connect. However, just like Auto Dealers know that we can never replace the emotional aspect of buying a vehicle, so does Craigslist about their advertising. There's a personal touch aspect that the developers of Craigslist do not want to lose to automation and mass posting mechanisms. Each time that a software company develops a way to violate Craigslist Terms of Use, Craigslist will fire back with a block; a means to protect the virtue of their product.

It is very unethical to violate Craigslist terms of use. I don't believe in free lunch; no pain no gain.

   

So what does this means to auto dealers? It means that they may need to put a little elbow grease into posting their inventory on Craigslist; this could mean adding a staff member or allocating this responsibility to an Internet or BDC manager. Our most valuable assets are our integrity and the integrity of our staff, vendors and advertising sources.

  

I’ve decided to take an alternate path and train our dealership personnel to properly upload their vehicles to Craigslist and abide by their terms and conditions. We will always ask this question and decide: is it just, fair, and right to do what we intend to do and put ourselves in their (Craigslist) position. The answer is obvious. We will prosper and grow when we obey their 'laws' even if we don't like them.

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Tags: Craigslist, Posting, Terms, Tools, Unethical, Use, automated posting, automation, cars for sale, inventory, More…of

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Comment by Alexander Lau on May 8, 2013 at 6:25am

Tom, "I don't always do things by the book, because the book is often wrong.  Best practices are sometimes wrong practices. Times change and the book slowly follows." That's it in a nutshell. By no means would I suggest someone to completely violate ther TOA, but there's an area in between that can be had (with success) if executed properly. There always is...

Comment by Tom Gorham on May 7, 2013 at 6:10pm

Alexander,  thank you.  I switched to the Internet side of this business in 1998.  I found that dealers who were interested in "trying" the Internet would ask a week or two later, "How many cars did you sell this week?  See the Internet doesn't work!"

I was lucky enough to find a dealer who understood that the Internet was going to incrementally take over the car business (the world).  He was more interested in seeing growth rather than how well it competed against floor sales.  My reports were never padded to "protect the innocent".  They always showed the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I had many sleepless nights but I guess that's why I've been with that dealer for almost 14 years.  I can be a bit out-spoken but I can also be taken at my word.

I don't always do things by the book, because the book is often wrong.  Best practices are sometimes wrong practices. Times change and the book slowly follows.  But I try not to compromise my principles.  I'm a firm believer that you can follow the rules that are set forth by the people you choose to do business with and win.  If not, you don't do business with them.

Comment by Alexander Lau on May 7, 2013 at 6:44am

Thanks Tom and vice versa on my part. I didn't necessarily mean SEO, just an example of the game that is played, including with Craigslist. I just have a different viewpoint on attacking Craigslist. I never stated to bombard Craigslist, in the first place. It's always smarter to do things slowly as not to get flagged / ghosted (goes for any process). Agreed, too many dealers think "off the shelf solution" done in a week alone. Not smart...

Comment by Tom Gorham on May 6, 2013 at 5:17pm

Alexander, I meant no offense by that.  I wasn't speaking specifically about SEO, but that's a part of what I referred to.  After all, this was an article about Craigslist. 

My point is that dealers (and others) often look for short-term, easy, solutions that break or stretch the rules but have great effect initially while everyone is looking the other way.  When others catch on, those solutions tend to disintegrate, sometimes with painful results, especially when it affects reputation. 

I believe that doing things well and within the boundaries set by the sites they are using results in a disciplined and long-lasting reward.  That's not risk aversion, that's long-term thinking.

Comment by Alexander Lau on May 6, 2013 at 7:21am

The early days of the Web, a far cry from today's standards, surely (there was little going on in the automotive retail industry in 1992). @Tom, what do you mean, "you win until you lose"...? It is what it is, you take chances with any initiative these days, risks are risks. BTW, Google very rarely blackballs sites for gray hat. At most, they may de-rank you for taking a gray hat approach (agreed, not always the smartest), but the reality is, don't show up at to a gun fight with a switchblade. 

SEO of any kind is pursued by gaming the system. There is nothing “natural” about any form of SEO. The fundamental concept of SEO is exploiting a flaw in a search engine’s ranking algorithm. The difference between white and black hat tactics is merely a function of where Google / Craiglist decides to draw a line, and this line is at least somewhat arbitrary. Google's goal is to confuse search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and to uncover aggressive SEO techniques through delaying, or obfuscating results from SEO changes being made.

Comment by Tom Gorham on May 3, 2013 at 4:55pm

Tim, I remember the early days of the web too.  "Most fields begin in a sort of 'wild west' scenario."

The fact was that there basically were no rules and so there were no rules to break.  As the field did mature, we had to mature along with it.  I might be wrong but I am supposing that's why you went from black hat to white hat. 

To wear a black hat today can mean many things, I suppose, and you may call them gray hats.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe black hats break rules and gray hats stretch them (to the breaking point). 

My reasoning for not doing so is practical.  Stretching or breaking the rules is a short-term strategy.  You win until you lose.  Sometimes the losing is very painful.  If you can win while wearing a white hat, you are insulated from that pain.  You may have to adjust your methodology from time to time, but you never have to suffer the pain and humiliation with being called out.

Comment by Alexander Lau on May 3, 2013 at 9:27am

Agreed Timothy and that's a fair perspective IMO. There's always a gray area as well. A combination of what's deemed white and black. Goes with anything.

Comment by Timothy Martell on May 3, 2013 at 9:16am

Wow. I'm jumping in pretty late in the game here, but found the differing points of view quite interesting. Having started my SEO career with a black hat and slowly transitioned over the years to a bright white hat, I would offer this perspective.

Every field matures. We don't have to look too far in automotive retail history to see how all businesses are forced to evolve over time. I was around in the 80's when dealer's sold cars over sticker. Can you imaging paying $2,000 over sticker for a 1981 honda? And you had to wait for it and we told you you should be happy to do it because the dealer down the street wanted $1,000 more to place the order!

Most fields begin in a sort of "wild west" scenario. But they mature. The same is true in my own industry, Web Marketing. What is web marketing? Well its the evolution of SEO. SEO's aren't SEO's anymore. Its not just links, content, markup and snippets anymore. You can't do great SEO without looking at link graph data, keyword data, domain data, topic analysis data, user and usage data, brand signals, offline signals, social graph signals, community building... the list goes on and on. 

I suspect the same is true here. I have no doubt that the market will reach some form of equilibrium. Where Craigslist evolves to allow enough flexibility within their view of a good ux to allow 3rd parties or dealers to find a happy medium to share their commodities on their platform. In the meantime just like White Hat and Black Hat SEO's you'll have the Penny's on one side and the Alexander's on the other. 

Comment by Alexander Lau on April 16, 2013 at 7:04am

Then finagle your inventory output to adhere to their standards, it's fairly simple actually. Again, it's a matter of finding a good service or tool that allows you to comply with the arbitrary rules. If you don't, your competitors might or are and that's the risk you take.

Comment by ROBERT CRAFT on April 16, 2013 at 6:46am

The only was to Post on Craigslist is their way or get deleted !!! Manuel baby

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