Pushing and Pulling to get the best results

Searching through the classifieds, be it for a job, a car, a home or that collectible treasure, has been compared to searching for that needle in a haystack. You need patience, organization and perseverance to find exactly what you are looking for in the classifieds. Even once you optimize your search you have to decide how you want to receive all the search results.

Essentially there are two ways to search the classifieds – pull the information or have it pushed to you.

With the pull approach you go to the web site and get the information that you want from the web site’s classified listing. Pull is pretty much the electronic equivalent of reading the printed classified ads – though with effective use of search you are a step ahead. The challenge is also the same as with the printed classified. You decide what frequency to visit and at some point you get to busy to check all the time. Then, the fates get you, as the item or opportunity you were looking for is published when you are not checking and is scooped up before you even had a chance.

With the push approach you still have to go to the classified web site at least once and you have to sign up with the website. With the push approach you can be that anonymous shopper – but if you want the site to email or text you – they will need to know a bit about you. You identify what it is that you are looking for and then on a regularly scheduled basis the web site pushes information out to you – often referred to as alert emails. Pre-Internet you actually had a few services start this approach via the FAX machine and today you see this approach with information being pushed out via email, SMS text messages and new web services like Twitter.

While these approaches are used on classifieds sites, job sites, auto sites and more, let’s take a look at some of the classifieds sites and compare.

eBay has one of the most effective approaches that integrates the push and pull approach. Every time you do a search on eBay one of the options is Save This Search. You click on that option and you are prompted to name the search and by default it offers to send you a daily email alert for 6 months – though you can change that to anywhere from don’t email me at all to email me for 12 months.

Your search is saved on your My eBay page under saved searches. Now you can return to your My eBay page to pull the data or use the emails for push.

Kijiji is similar to eBay in terms of allowing for push and pull. Since Kijiji is owned by eBay, this similarity should not come as too much of a surprise. Kijiji uses the alerts as a lure to sign up – in fact that is where you will find the alerts option – on the left side of the Kijiji search page right above the Sign Up option. Kijiji alerts are daily for 60 days or until you unsubscribe – far fewer bells and whistles than eBay.

Craigslist is on the other end of the spectrum with a focus on pull. The built in push approach relies on you knowing how to use RSS – Really Simple Syndication – which is not that simple at first. If you know RSS, then scroll to the bottom of any Craigslist search results page and look for the orange RSS icon.

For us mere mortals, the best options are third party tools like Alerts or Google Alerts. While these 3rd party alerts tools require an extra setup step – the benefit is that you could use this one alert tool for all your alerts eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji and other sites too.

Let’s not overlook the challenges of the push approach. While eBay respects your email preferences – using an alert approach at other sites can lead to some serious mail spam. Even if you don’t get extra emails, the typical alert email is full of ads and promotional offers. Also, you are now getting a bunch of emails everyday and all too often, just like with the pull approach, you fall behind. Then one day you have to open up and click on a dozen messages to catch up or you take the risk and delete a few and hope you are not missing out on anything.

Whether you use the push or pull approach the first task is to optimize your search so the results are constantly showing you items you want to look at (be sure to check out Classified Search Tips and Tricks for search optimization tips). With your search optimized, next you decide whether you work best having to go pull the results or having them pushed to you. There is no right way – it’s figuring out how you work best so you can effectively get the job, house, car or collectible of your dreams!

By David Silversmith
May 4, 2009
© Daype Inc.