Review: Hoobly Ad Site as eBay Alternative

Check out this online classified site if you're looking for other venues besides eBay for selling your stuff.
How exactly does one... Hoobly?

After investigating my local Kijiji classified ad site last month (See "Kijiji Review: Better than eBay for Hot Rods and Guitars"), I was keen to learn about Hoobly.com, a free online local classifieds site. With upcoming changes to eBay final value fees and the unpopular changes to the way feedback will be handled on the auction Web site, there has never been a better time for eBay sellers to start looking at alternative online marketplaces. With that in mind, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Hoobly's CEO, Peter Grigor and also get a little hands-on experience using Hoobly myself.

For those unfamiliar with Hoobly, it's an established worldwide classified ad site that has been online since February of 2003. At first glance, users may be put off by the numerous pet advertisements, however CEO Peter Grigor assured me that this single category simply took off with a small group of pet sellers, which in turn, pushed the site to like-minded users through organic Google searches.

From one seller to another, don't let the quantity of pet ads on Hoobly scare you away if you happen to be selling other wares, for instance, musical instruments or books.  I spent some time perusing the various categories and active listings, and found Hoobly does offer a well-rounded selection of categories with active listings. Pets & Animals is the most popular category with 14,122 listings but other categories such as Clothing & Accessories and Real Estate do well with over 1,000 listings each.

Hoobly: Registration and Site Features
If you use online marketplaces with an auction-like format then you are probably used to being put through the ringer when it comes to registering on the site.  The classifieds space is different and requires less user details upfront. On Hoobly you need to provide a valid e-mail address and your location to get started, and then you check your e-mail for a verification link and other account details. This will give you access to "My Hoobly" where you can create, edit or delete your own ads plus access your account details. After registering you can also choose to verify your account through PayPal, a worthwhile step as this changes your status to verified and also lets you track inventory through PayPal.

Next, you should set a "Home Area"  by providing a zip or postal code that will let you drill down to find local classifieds and take advantage of Hoobly's "Radius Search." This feature that lets you choose any city and display ads from five to 500 miles of your chosen location. It took only a moment for me to understand how important this search radius is for sellers. Going back to my experience with Kijiji, once I listed in my local Kijiji, buyers who may live close by but are still on the other side of a county or state line, would not see the ad from their own local Kijiji. In contrast, when searching Hoobly you can cross city, state and even country lines when you search within a radius from your home location.

Another benefit of Hoobly is that you don't have to stay local. To search nationally or internationally you choose the country from the main left-hand navigation and browse the ads and drill down from there. Currently Hoobly offers live classified ads in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, India, Great Britain and Pakistan.

The Listing Process, Tools and Premium Ads
Once you've created an account and log in, you simply click the "Classifieds" tab along the top of the main site page and select "Place New Ad." Then you choose the category and sub-category you want to list in. This brings up the listing editor where you will include the following information: ad location, headline, long description, an expire date, price, currency and quantity. The ad editor does allow for some HTML tagging, and Grigor said this feature will be expanded soon.


Hoobly Classified Site
Give a Hoo-ha: Hoobly is a comprehensive online classified site offering sellers an alternative to eBay.
(Click for larger image.)
Verified members can also choose to sell online via PayPal.  Here you can upload up to 12 different images of the item you are listing. In using the system I found it better to actually upload the images before the ad text, as often the text would disappear after using the image uploader. After entering in the details and images you click "Post Ad" and you are then directed to your "My Hoobly" page where you can review the ad and make any changes if needed.

The actual listing process is quite easy, but as the editor does not appear to have any spellchecking or proofing capabilities, I would recommend that sellers use their favorite word processing program to type up their descriptions then copy and paste the text to the Hoobly editor. Even with this extra step you are looking at only minutes to create and post an ad on Hoobly.com. Once your ad is posted, any interested buyer can click the "Contact Member" link right from the ad and send you a message.

How the Ad Revenue System Works
Hoobly currently relies on advertising revenues for funding so you will encounter Google Ads on the site in addition to Hoobly Premium Ads. The Premium ads run on the top of the Hoobly pages. Ad posters or any business can bid on this ad space. The ad system is similar in function to Google Adwords, but rather than bidding on keywords as you would with Google's program, on Hoobly you bid for placement; what the ad says and where it goes. On Hoobly you can choose the maximum cost-per-click then also specify a daily ad budget that you do not want to exceed.

As an added bonus, if you verify your user status through PayPal, the funds transferred during the verification process is given back as a Premium Ad credit that you can use later on the site. Hoobly CEO Peter Grigor told ecommerce-guide.com that over time the goal is to obviously lessen the number of Google ads on the site as the number of Premium Ad bids grow.

Security, Users and Growth
One area of concern that Hoobly addresses quite well is fraud detection and prevention. With the registration and verification requirements many scammers are shut down before they even have a chance to use Hoobly as an venue for fraudulent postings. Hoobly also does a good job of posting information for users in its "Avoiding Scams" section on the site.

The site also deploys an automated system where personalized e-mails are sent to users who have been in contact with a seemingly fraudulent person through the Hoobly site. The e-mail will describe the risky or questionable behavior or warning and then direct the user back to the Avoiding Scams page for more information.

In terms of site growth, Grigor said that Hoobly has surpassed the half-million registered users milestone and on any given month the site regularly sees activity from over 60,000 of those registered members. Currently the site lists over 25,000 active ads and with current talks of eBay strikes, I'm sure some of the disgruntled eBay sellers will help fuel Hoobly's growth, especially since it is one of the more established classified ad sites online. While I don't believe that a classifieds site can fully meet the needs of a full-time eBay seller, I do know that when an online marketplace like Hoobly can offer you a worldwide marketplace for free, its well-worth looking into as an alternative selling venue.

Vangie Beal is a seasoned eBay seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.

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