How To Successfully Buy And Sell Using Gumtree

(or your preferred online advertising portal)

I make my living marketing and selling online, and Gumtree has become one of my good friends in the last few months. It’s taken me some time and trial and error to learn how best to take advantage her wily ways. Hopefully this post will give you some insights, too.


DO NOT DEPOSIT MONEY INTO AN ADVERTISER’S ACCOUNT WITHOUT HAVING THE GOODS IN YOUR HANDS. There’s an awful lot of duping that goes on online, and it seems particularly prevalent when it comes to pets, such as thoroughbred dogs. I personally know of a lady who was hoodwinked out of R5,000 for a Teacup Yorkie puppy which didn’t exist. The fraudsters even provided a number and they had chatted over the phone, but said number ceased to exist once the money had been transferred. Please don’t fall victim to these scams. Meet in person, in a public place, you with the cash and the seller with the goods. If you’re going to be purchasing a service online, do some research into the company providing the service, and make sure that the payment processing on their website is secure (the URL in your browser’s address bar will start with https:// instead of http:// – the s being for secure).

Set email alerts to receive the latest ads in the category you’re searching in. This is particularly handy for house-hunting or job searching. Go to Browse Ads and click on the category. In the Current Matches column on the left of the page, narrow down your search based on your preferences. At the end of that column is where you can set an alert.

Take a look at the seller’s other ads. This may or may not give you a feel for the advertiser, but it’s worth checking out. Perhaps the goods are being advertised as being sold by the owner, when in fact s/he is a dealer. If there are loads of similar ads, this will quickly be established. On the page of the ad, click on the “View poster’s other Ads” link, towards the top right of the page.

Make sure that what you’re after is being advertised at a fair price. What I usually do is Google “X for sale” (X obviously being whatever the goods/services are). Take a look at other online ads for the same or similar and get a feel for what the going rate is, particularly if it’s a used item.

Make an offer. “If you don’t ask, the answer is always No!” This can be particularly effective if/when… 1) You’ve seen the same ad repeatedly, at the same price, or perhaps having been lowered. Move in for the kill! 2) You’ve done your research and know that the asking price is not reasonable. 3) You sense some urgency in the need to sell.


Take time to carefully compose your ad. If you’re not a skilled copywriter, and can’t get someone with some experience in creating effective ads to help you, then simply put yourself in your potential buyer’s shoes. What would you be looking for in this product or service? Features and benefits? Does your product or service offer a solution? Why do you need to have it? Is this a limited offer, or one of its kind? Back to the research – take a look at similar ads placed by others, and see what appeals to you (from a buyer’s perspective, try to take your seller’s cap off).

“A picture speaks a thousand words.” Even if you don’t have a pic of your item and/or can’t take one, find a way to “speak” to your visual buyers. If you’re advertising a business service, use your company logo. If you’re able to take a series of pics which show different sides or angles of the product you’re selling, upload as many of those as is allowed. Compose, shoot and post good quality photos – take the time to place your item so that whatever’s in the background isn’t really revolting, or really distracting. You’ll get roughly double the amount of views and/or responses to ads with pics, as opposed to those without.

Use keywords in your ad, that your potential buyers would search for. The search feature is another way to narrow down the ads which are displayed to you, as well as the fact that Gumtree ads frequently show up in Google and other search engine results, so take advantage of these elements.

Make it easy to contact you. Some people prefer to use the Gumtree email form to contact you, while others would rather call or send an SMS, so make yourself available. Maybe it’s just me, but I find a line saying “Do not call me! Use the form to send me an email!” or vice versa, very annoying and unfriendly. I personally don’t want to deal with annoying and unfriendly sellers, particularly when it’s a business related product or service.

Apply the KISS rule (Keep It Simply, Silly). This not only applies to your ad copy, but also to the highlighting, bolding, font sizing and other options available in the WYSIWYG editing feature. I’ve seen some ads which have given me an instant headache and have been practically unreadable due to all the added effects! Some bolding here and there, perhaps an important line highlighted in yellow, can be effective, but don’t get carried away. Note: If you’re on a Mac and your preferred browser is Chrome the WYSIWYG feature isn’t available, so launch Firefox and compose your Gumtree ads there instead.

Re-post your ad/s every day. Just as you probably don’t dig deeper than page 2 or 3 of search engine results, the same is true for online advertising sites. Each morning, go to the My Gumtree section, delete your ad/s, and post it/them again so that it’s/they’re on page one for all or most of that day. Two ways to save your content so that you can copy and paste: 1) Compose and save your ad in an offline editor such as Word, NotePad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac). If you’ve added text effects, the easiest way is to open your ad in a new page of your browser before you delete it, then copy the text from there and paste it into your “new” ad, so that you keep your formatting.

Test your ad. You may find that your ad could fall into more than one relevant category, and particularly if it’s something that you’re going to be advertising regularly or re-posting, it’s easy to measure which category gets your ad the most attention. This is also true for split-testing – you can try different versions of your ad in the same category and see which gets the most hits. Note: Unless you’re really clever at reinventing your ad, Gumtree is quite clever at detecting that you’re posting the same or a similar ad while the other one is live, be it in different categories or not, and it won’t let you. When you come to re-post your ad in the morning, keep a note of the category, views and replies you’ve had in the previous category/version of your ad. This is best done over at least a week, given all the variables, especially if your ad is “evergreen”.

Post in unconventional categories, if this could be relevant. Following on from the above point, this method can get you some good results. For example, I regularly advertise my social media marketing services, and I’m continually testing and refining for the best results. Probably one of the most “relevant” categories for me to advertise in would be Services > Computer/IT, but I’ve advertised in other business related categories with good success, even though my ad has really been completely off-topic for that category. Know where your buyers are looking, and think outside the box!

Above all, be honest! Keep it real, people!

Please leave a comment if you have any tips of your own to share, or if you have any questions.


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  1. #1 by sporttoldmyway on September 28, 2015 - 4:28 pm

    Good article, some great tips for buying and selling using Gumtree 🙂

  1. How To Successfully Buy And Sell Using Gumtree « Inseine Marketing

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