A new classified listings tool is pushing user-entered listings to a host of other Web sites, with an aim to make it easier for real estate agents and other advertisers to get the most exposure for ads.
In the early days of the Internet, when a broad range of general search engines competed for a foothold in the marketplace, a number of Web sites emerged that offered to post user-entered Web addresses to all of the major search engines. The intent was to draw more consumer traffic to those user-entered sites.
With the popularity of online classified ad listings and vertical search engines on the rise, postlets.com is using a similar strategy to push user-entered classified listings to a host of Web sites.
Still in beta-testing, postletsis built around a simple concept: “Make one, get many.” Site users can build an ad using online tools, and postlets automatically submits that listing to several classified search engines.
Users must sign in to post listings, and that registration information is used solely to verify contact information and manage listing quality, said Asher Matsuda, postlets co-founder who specializes in user experience and product strategy.
The site is free to use, though Matsuda said the site’s next version may include a premium, paid offering for real estate listings “complete with embedded maps, more photos, virtual tour links and other enhancements.” Postlets generates revenue by running Google ads along the right-hand side of listings, and the site also has affiliate partnerships with housing, financial and automotive services.
Matsuda is also a marketing professional for an Internet company in Silicon Valley, and Raymond Chen, the site’s other founder and technical specialist, runs an independent information technology consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The postlets.com site, which allows users to enter for-sale and rental property ads, as well as auto ads, generates about 50,000 page views per month, Matsuda said, though he said this represents just a fraction of the Web traffic that site-generated classified ads receive at other sites, such as Oodle, Google Base, Trulia, Propsmart, LiveDeal and backpage.com.
For-sale-by-owner ads and real estate professional-generated ads can be created at postlets. “We initially thought the service would appeal mainly to FSBOs but quickly learned that quite the opposite was true,” Matsuda said. “Most of the feedback has come from real estate professionals and has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.”
The genesis for the site was a used-car listing on craigslist.org. Craigslist allows users to post text-based or HTML-coded ads, and postlets founders developed a tool to allow craigslist users to more easily build an HTML-encoded ad.
“We were able to take advantage of (HTML coding) to create a stylish and well-formatted ad, but realized that most people either don’t have the skills or aren’t willing to spend the time to do the same,” Matsuda said. “This led to the idea of a simple … tool that would let users quickly create an attractive classified ad and provide the HTML code that they can copy and paste into such sites as craigslist.”
He added, “The site has evolved by focusing less on the craigslist component and more on being an ‘uber listing tool’ that gets users’ ads on multiple classified sites and vertical search engines. We began by submitting a feed to Oodle, then added Google Base, Trulia and Propsmart to the list. We continue to research and work with potential partners as they come onto the scene.”
A description at the postlets site states, “so simple, a monkey can use it,” though also notes that the “monkey would require basic computer skills and something to sell.”
Craig Newmark, craigslist founder, said today that he could not immediately recall why there were troubles with postlets-created listings, though he said he would check into the matter.
Property listings at postletsare limited to 12 photos per listing, and there is no limit on the number of properties that users can list. The site does not host multimedia files, though users can post links to their Web sites and virtual tours.
Postlets is experimenting with “Gallery,” a tool that allows users to publish a searchable inventory of property listings to a unique Web address at the site. Postlets creates links to Google Maps for listings that include property addresses, though Matsuda said there are no plans for integrated map-based property searches, a la Zillow or Trulia “since our focus is more on being a listings generator and distributor and less on being a destination search site.”
The decline of print classifieds will likely continue, Matsuda said, as free online ad sites gain popularity. “In the long run, I suspect that most classifieds will be online and free. With low cost structures and self-service models, online classified sites have already established that a free model can work. This also means that we’ll see more entrants, both large and small, in an already fragmented space and thus a great emphasis on vertical search.”