How to: Create Your Own Craigslist Analytics Server

I have been using Craigslist Ad Tracker [CAT] for some time to keep an eye on items listed on Craigslist.

Recently, I ran into a new limit of 10 items that CAT has put in place. Frustrated, I started searching for a replacement and didn’t find much.

I recalled reading about an open source Google Analytics tool called Piwik. I hadn’t tried it out yet as for most sites Google Analytics is hard to beat. I gave Piwik a try and found that it works pretty well for giving insight into ads on Craigslist.

To install Piwik, you’ll need your own web server capable of running MySQL and PHP 5.1. You can follow the Piwik install instructions here: http://piwik.org/docs/installation/

Once you get Piwik installed successfully, login to your site and then Settings -> Websites and choose Add New Website.

Enter a name for your item or site. Fill out any of the other items, if you’d like and click Save.

Then click View Tracking Code. 

Because Craigslist does not allow Javascript, you need to use the Image Tracker Code. This is also why Google Analytics can’t be used. (If Google provided an image tracker, I’d have probably used that. I couldn’t find one.) Ebay and a host of other sites don’t allow Javascript either and you could probably use this method on those sites as well.

After clicking Display Image Tracker code, you’ll see the code you need to copy/paste into your ad. The only part of that you have to copy is:

<img src=”http://yourdomain.com/piwik/piwik.php?idsite=1&rec=1″ style=”border:0″ alt=”” />

Repeat this for each item you are selling. After you get sites created, wait a few hours/days and you’ll begin seeing data showing up in Piwik under the All Websites view. You can also select each item from the Dashboard tab to get more detailed info.

I’m not sure why Craigslist is against providing insight into viewers of ads. I would not be at all surprised if they come up with a way to block this method too. In the meantime, however, hopefully this will give you more information about potential buyers of items you have for sale online.

 

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  • Abby

    Great Post, thank you for sharing you experiences about cragslists tracking solutions. I’m currently using Craigslist Ad Tracker, it works well by far.

  • Julien

    That’s a very interesting way to use Piwik. Great thinking.
    To go even further, it might be possible to avoid configuring one site for each item, this is something you would want if you are tracking other sites as well or selling items in different craiglist sites (newyork, washingtondc, ..).

    One could write a simple PHP or JAVA script using http://piwik.org/docs/tracking-api/#toc-how-to-use-the-php-tracker-api-example that would allow a enhanced version of the image tracker like so :
    <img src=”http://yourdomain.com/piwik/piwik-craiglist.php?idsite=1&rec=1&productid=MY_PRODUCT″ style=”border:0″ alt=”” />
    The custom script would then record the product view using goal conversions (http://piwik.org/docs/tracking-goals-web-analytics/) or custom variables (http://piwik.org/docs/custom-variables/).

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