Online Classifieds Soar 84% in February; Craigslist Dominates

April 7, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Automotive | Real Estate | Retail & E-Commerce

US online traffic to classified advertising websites increased 84% in February 2009 compared with February 2008, according to a report from Hitwise, which said that the industry has experienced positive month-to-month growth in share of visits in all but one month in the past three years.

hitwise-classifieds-monthly-market-share-us-visits-february-2009.jpg

Interest in classifieds appears to have increased as the state of the US economy has worsened, Hitwise said. Visits to classifieds websites have continued to climb – up 28% from December 2008 to February 2009 – as many cash-strapped consumers seek to sell off personal items, or troll classifieds to obtain deals at “fire sale” deals.

Number of Websites Growing Too

In addition to capturing more visits, the industry is also growing in terms of number of websites. In February 2009, Hitwise reported on 1,048 websites in the classifieds industry, compared with 814 in February 2008. Much of the growth is from localization of existing classifieds offerings, in particular the addition of Craigslist properties, the report said.

To better understand and communicate the category’s growth, Hitwise created two custom categories within its report: Craigslist Cities, which includes more than 300 local versions of Craigslist; and All Other Classifieds. The following chart plots the market share of US visits to these two categories over the past year:

hitwise-classified-craigslist-all-others-february-2009.jpg

Key findings:

  • The market share of US internet visits increased 90% to the Craigslist Cities custom category year-over-year in February 2009, while visits to All Other Classifieds grew 22%.
  • Visits to All Other Classifieds had been declining for most of 2008, with visits starting to increase in January and February.
  • This trend suggests that the worsening US economy may be boosting visits to classifieds websites and contributing to the recent uptick in visits to both Craigslist Cities and All Other Classifieds.

Craigslist Dominates Category

Among the top 100 classifieds websites, all but three were localized sites for Craigslist (i.e., dallas.craigslist.org), according to Hitwise. This represents a significant change compared with February 2008, when there were 12 sites in the top 100 that were not Craigslist properties. Hitwise suggests that this traffic increase may be a result of new localized versions of Craigslist and also an increase in visits from lower-income groups.

Craigslist attracts wealthier households, but recent growth is visible from lower-income groups, Hitwise said. Analysis of demographics of the Craigslist audience reveals that those earning a household income of $150K a year or more were 68% more likely to visit a Craigslist Cities website than All Other Classifieds websites in the four weeks ending Feb. 28, 2009. However, the site’s recent growth is being fueled by lower-income segments, suggesting that Craigslist may become less of a destination site for wealthy people and more of a necessity for lower-income groups as the economy continues to sour.

eBay Dominates Auto Category

The report also found that eBay Motors dominates auto classifieds while real estate and employment are more fragmented, with new players and new technologies contributing to a more level landscape.
Classifieds Sites Searches Have More Keywords

Hitwise analysis also reveals that search terms sending visits to classifieds websites tend to contain more keywords than average for retail websites, presenting opportunities for lower costs and potentially higher-qualified search traffic. While high-price, high-volume keywords can discourage new entrants, the classifieds industry seems to lend itself particularly well to a long-tail strategy, Hitwise said.

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