Classified websites are all over the web. Craigslist is a good example, and sites like Rent.com where you can find apartments to rent and Monster.com where you can find jobs. But they’re not all big-name, nationally-recognized sites. Look at ProBlogger’s job board, for example. If you’re thinking of setting up a classifieds site, here are some ideas for monetization.
Charge the advertiser: Traditional newspaper classified ads worked by charging each person who wanted to place an ad. This worked well because they had a captive, targeted audience. This would work online, too, but you’ll need to have lots of targeted buying traffic or charge a really low price before you’ll find advertisers who are willing to pay.
Paid categories: Craigslist offers free advertising for all but a few categories, like job postings. Because everything’s free, for both the reader and the advertiser, the site attracts plenty of traffic, which makes it attractive for those advertisers who’d have to pay for those few specific categories.
Sponsored ads: You can open the whole site up to browsers and advertisers and let everyone use the site for free, then monetize the site with sponsored ads. Charge different rates for key placements. And you can even let advertisers choose which categories they want their ads to appear in. Be careful that you don’t clutter up the place with banners, though. You want to make it easy for buyers and advertisers to see each other.
Affiliate ads: Depending on your niche you might be able to monetize the site with banner ads for affiliate products or even Google Adsense.
Users pay to browse the site: You could also use a reverse model and charge users a fee for browsing the site or charge them a fee to be able to respond to an ad. Setting your site up like this would require that you have a lot of quality, reliable ads for users to choose from. For example, if you had a job site, a user is only going to be willing to pay to browse the site or respond to an ad if there’s a guarantee that job really exists, if there’s a good selection of jobs, and if there’s a real possibility of getting that job.
Your first priority with any classifieds site is getting enough targeted traffic to make the site attractive to both users and advertisers. With that in mind, it might be best to start your site off as a free service for everyone. Once the traffic starts coming in you could ad sponsored ads or start charging for one category.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match, too, but don’t clutter the site up with ads. Make it as easy as possible for advertisers and users to connect and focus on building a quality site that can handle the traffic and necessary transactions. Then, gradually ad in your monetization until you find the method or methods that work best with your site.