Picking the right classified ads platform for Joomla

With the decision to go with Joomla as my CMS, my next hurdle is to figure out what additional components I’ll use with it. As I’m building a jobs site, my first priority is to evaluate and select a classified ads platform. I’m going to want to keep my costs down, so my personal selections will be somewhat biased as a result.

Deciding between home grown or off the shelf

While I can hack around a bit under the hood with HTML, I’m a little leery about trying to put together something as complex as a classified ads platform from scratch. For someone with more time or programming talent than me, this might be a solution to consider. A home grown platform could be completely tailored and customized, allowing it to stand out compared to any competitors. As the existing choices are so feature rich and easily modified, this is not a path I intend to pursue.

The solutions available for classified ads vary in price from free–always a great option–to quite expensive. As I said previously, though, as my budget is limited I’m only going to focus on the free choices that are available.

Choosing between tight and loose integration

While there are a good number of free classified ads choices available, not all of them integrate closely with Joomla. In reviewing my options, I realized that while the tightly integrated ones are easily installed and configured within an existing Joomla site, they seem to be less frequently updated and supported. In contrast, the less integrated ones seem to be far more actively developed with vibrant support communities, but can be a real chore to seamlessly interface with Joomla. It’s a difficult trade off between ease of use and a perhaps fuller features set.

I discovered a few options, such as Jobline and Marketplace, which appear to be tightly integrated with Joomla. It seems that both of these products are no longer being developed, though, and so in the end I decided that selecting one of them would be unwise. Instead, I elected to solely focus on options that were currently and actively supported.

Comparing Noah’s Classifieds and AdsManager

Noah’s Classifieds seems by far to be the grand daddy of classifieds ads platforms, with an immense base of installations and users. The main site doesn’t have a support forum, though, which was troubling at first until I stumbled upon the Noah’s Classifieds Unofficial Support Website which has a great forum. There is a version of Noah’s for Joomla, too, making it appear to be quite attractive. Because it was modified to work with Joomla, though, the development of the Joomla version and the normal version aren’t in synch, and I wasn’t personally comfortable with using it.

The other choice was AdsManager, which was developed specifically for Joomla. It’s website isn’t glamorous, but the software itself is impressive. It was designed from the ground up to be very closely integrated with Joomla, allowing it to share user accounts and permissions, which makes it very easy to setup and configure. It also has a very active support forum. I asked a number of questions, and got responses very quickly, enabling me to quickly move forward with the few configuration issues I experienced.

The best classified ads solution for Joomla

I felt a strong case could be made for either Noah’s Classifieds or AdsManager. In the end, I opted to go with AdsManager, though, due to its seamless integration with Joomla and the strength of its community support. Thus far I’ve been very satisfied with both its features and support, and feel it’s the right choice for the jobs site I’m building.

Getting started… again!

It’s been quite some time since I last posted an update… a far too common occurrence with blogs! I have been actively working on ESL Jobs World, though, and thought it would be helpful to post some new information to get everyone caught up with where I am.

Building Traffic

The good news is that a lot of my efforts to build traffic to the site have been successful. I’ll get into the strategies in another post, but I’m happy to report that ESL Jobs World now ranks in the top 10 on Google, Yahoo and MSN for its primary keywords. It’s home page is now PR 5 with Google and it’s secondary pages are all PR 4. It took some time for my search engine optimization efforts to pay off, but it looks like fortunately they have done so.

Along with the increase in traffic has come–as you would expect–an increase in activity on the site. While in April very few jobs were being posted, at this point in early December the site averages anywhere between 50 and 100 per day. Yes, that’s per day! This is great news, as one of the keys to the long term success of the site is to make it attractive to the teachers that will visit to find work. It goes without saying that a job site without jobs would not be terribly useful.

Building Revenue

During the first six months of the site being live, I was very sparing in trying to monetize it in any way. I wanted to just let the content speak for itself, and not give visitors any reason whatsoever to turn away. Especially in my niche of education, members can have a toxic reaction to a feeling of being sold in any way.

Recently, though, with the visibility and credibility of the site increasing, I’ve added a few Google AdSense blocks. Nothing excessive, I hope. I experimented quite a bit with their size, shape, color and placement before I got what I felt didn’t detract from either usability or the overall look and feel I was trying to present.

I’ll go into more detail in a future post, but the bottom line is that the site is now earning a small but steady amount of income. My plan is to take my earnings and put them back into the site for the foreseeable future. I’ll be looking to optimize the earning potential of the site in upcoming weeks and months, and I’ll be sure to share my efforts along the way.

Enhancing Value

I’ve always been a big believer that the only way for a site to be truly successful is for it to consistently deliver something of value to its visitors. Figuring out what is valuable within your niche, though, can often be difficult. It can be a fine line between adding every bell and whistle that pops into your head and building content or features that actually entice people to visit and return.

I feel I’ve done reasonably well in this regard by doing the obvious… asking people their opinions! In a future post I’ll get into more details, but the kernel of what I’ve done has been to try to create a natural, repeated dialogue with my visitors. I’ve then looked for common themes, and acted in areas where I felt I reasonably could.

Looking Ahead

There’s so much that I’ve done in the past few months that I’ll be making an effort to go back and review what I’ve done. I’ll try to highlight as much as possible what worked and what didn’t work, as much to remind myself as to hopefully enable others to avoid my mistakes. I hope you’ll check back again to see!