How To Configure Craigslist Email Alerts

You don’t need a Craigslist account to create an email alert, just an IFTTT account. IFTTT is a service that allows you to automate actions in one online service based on triggers that occur in another. For example, you could create an IFTTT ‘applet’ that runs whenever you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook that automatically saves the photo to Google Drive. IFTTT integrates with dozens of online services, from Dropbox to Twitter.

For a Craigslist automated email, you’re going to take advantage of RSS feeds for search results in Craigslist. RSS is a way to structure data so that a computer can easily parse it without the help of a human to understand the information. Craigslist publishes RSS feeds for your searches. When new items appear in your search, a new structured row will appear in the RSS feed. You can think of this like an Excel spreadsheet for your searches: imagine you could open one Excel file and always see an up-to-date results for the same search. That’s basically what Craigslist does, but with RSS instead of Excel.

You can use IFTT to combine RSS feeds and email, to email you whenever a new ‘row’ is added to that ‘spreadsheet.’

First, complete your search on Craigslist. Be sure to set whatever facets exist on the left of the page to narrow your search. For example, here’s a search for a Maytag Washer and Dryer between $1 and $700 on the Denver, CO Craigslist site.

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Scroll to the bottom of the first search results page and locate the RSS icon, which looks like this:

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Click the link and you will be sent to an RSS-formatted page. Here’s the RSS page for my search. This doesn’t look like a spreadsheet, but to the computer, it’s structured data. Copy the URL of your search’s RSS page. You will need it later.

In another tab, head over to IFTTT and create an account. It takes less than a minute. Once you’re in, click My Applets and then New Applet. 

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Once the New Applet screen appears, click the this part of the if this then that.

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You will be asked to choose a service. Recall you are automating an email when a new entry appears in an RSS feed. Therefore, the this portion of the conditional statement will have something to do with RSS. You should find an RSS Feed option in the Choose a service page.

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Click on RSS Feed and, when prompted, click Activate to activate the RSS channel. You will then be prompted to select a trigger, something that happens on the RSS feed that triggers an action to take place. 

You can choose between whenever a new item appears in your feed (A new search result is available for your search) or whenever a new item that matches a specific keyword. Since you already customized your search on Craigslist, the first option – New feed item – is the option you should select.

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When you’re asked to Complete trigger fields, paste the URL of your search’s RSS page that you copied previously into the Feed URL field. Click Create trigger.

Now you’ve created a trigger. IFTTT will look for new search results in your RSS feed, and when a new one appears, it will execute. What it does when it executes will be set in the next step, when you define the that portion of if this then that. 

After you click Create trigger you are sent to a screen that looks like this. Click the that link.

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Now you need to define the type of action that will take place when a new item appears in your search. Locate Email and click it.

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You will only have one option within the Email category: Send me an email. Click it.

You will be asked to define what the email looks like. You can leave everything as-is, but you can also modify some of the Ingredients to customize your email.

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Note that you could add text to the subject to change the actual subject of the email you receive. You can also expand the Ingredient icon to see other dynamic items to include in your email.

When you’re ready, click Create action.

You will be shown a summary page. Click Finish to activate.

That’s it. IFTTT is not up to the minute. You can expect to wait 2 – 7 hours after an item is posted to receive an email.