With the holidays approaching, you may find yourself noticing lots of posts popping up with gift recommendations and wondered if they really boost revenue (they do!) and how you can make one for your own blog.
A well done gift guide can be a fantastic way to increase your affiliate income. But a poorly done gift guide can actually damage the trust you’ve built up with your audience.
So before you go on your virtual shopping spree and start seeing dollar signs in your eyes, let’s talk about the right way to put together a gift guide.
Before You Start
Know Your Audience
Creating a gift guide that actually generates income depends on your understanding of your audience and what they need. So before you start, make sure you have a clear picture of who they are and why they’re coming to your blog.
Their preferences are going to play into every decision you make, from which stores you feature to the price range of the items you select.
Consider the following questions:
- How would you describe your ideal audience in 1 sentence?
- What is this group looking for help with?
- What’s their budget? It’s okay if there’s a wide range here, just be sure to select gifts at all levels to appeal to everyone.
- Where do they already shop? If you want to introduce new stores, that’s great, but keep in mind that many people will spend their money at places they already know and trust over someplace new.
Choose a Theme
When thinking about your audience, there could be a million things they might want or need. Choose a specific theme to narrow your focus and create a through-line for all your recommendations.
Don’t worry if your theme isn’t a typical one. When my daughter was young I would have been thrilled to find a guide called, “Perfect Gifts for Little Girls Whose Moms Need to Get Work Done and Need Said Little Girl to Play Quietly By Herself.”
Sadly, I never found such a guide…
For this part, focus particularly on why your audience comes to you.
Are you providing gift suggestions that your readers might want (and can forward on to their family and friends), or gifts that they can purchase for others?
Is this guide meant to help them discover new, creative gifts?
Or find bargains or tried and true classics?
Or make gifts themselves with recommendations of where to buy materials and tools?
Note: If you’re having trouble with this at the start, put a pin in it and come back to this once you’ve found a few products to recommend. You might find a natural theme, or one may come to you as you’re doing your research.
Gather Your Affiliate Links
If you’ve dabbled in affiliate marketing, you already have relationships with some stores or brands. Now is the time to review your links and apply to any other programs with products or services you want to recommend.
Also take time to review the terms of service that are in place with each company so that you don’t violate your agreement and lose your affiliate status. For example, Amazon does not allow offline promotion, so if you create a downloadable PDF of your guide, you must link back to your gift guide post for Amazon products (rather than the item itself).
If you’re going to use affiliate marketing in your everyday blogger life – and why wouldn’t you? – I suggest creating a spreadsheet with all of your common affiliate links in it. It will really streamline the recommendation process and make your life easier.
Crafting Your Gift Guide
Select Your Products
This is the fun part. It’s time to go shopping!
When choosing what to include and what to leave off your list, be selective. A list of 10 great, spot-on, you-read-my-mind gift suggestions is better than one of 50 generic ideas.
When you are curating your picks, always go back to your theme. If it doesn’t fit with your theme, or you have to do some mental gymnastics to try to justify how it fits, leave it off.
Consider why each individual item should be included and remember the golden rule; value first.
Make your recommendations based on the value they provide rather than the commission you can earn.
Grab or Make Eye-Catching Graphics
There’s a reason the flyers that come in the mail around the holidays are loaded with beautiful, inspiring, colorful, and fun pictures.
That’s why Target doesn’t mind paying the crazy shipping cost of their holiday circular and Harriet Carter always sends a catalog in November… whether you want it or not.
We know that products with quality images sell better. Even the color, type, model, etc. in the image will sell better than other variations of the same product.
Most affiliate programs allow use of their images for promotion of their products or services, but be sure to check your terms of service agreement before sharing them publicly.
If it’s a product you own, I also recommend getting some shots of you or your family using it, or the outcome of your use. This will put an even more personal spin on it, give you graphics no one else has, and your audience will know you’re not just blowing smoke.
Don’t Forget the Text
In a printed guide, text is less important, but since this is a blog post, you need to keep the rules of SEO in mind.
Google needs a minimum of 300 words to be able to understand and recommend your post in search results, so don’t skip this part.
One simple way to add some text is to introduce your post with a bit about how you put it together and why you selected the items you did. This can help your audience see that you currated your guide with them in mind, not just anyone.
Another easy place to add text is to give a brief overview of each item, with specific things you love about it. Explain to your readers why they need this thing and how it will make their lives better.
Finally, wrap it all up with a quick summary and even an invitation to comment with their own favorite doo-dad.
Here’s another question I get a lot about this topic: Should I include my own products or services in my gift guide?
If what you sell fits into your list, your theme, and solves the problem you’re trying to solve with this guide, then yes.
If not, leave it off. It’s not worth turning people off when they get to your product because if it doesn’t serve them at that moment, the rest of the list would be tainted with your product pimping.
Last, but definitely not least, make sure that you are disclosing to your audience that the links you’re sharing are affiliate links. You don’t have to do anything dramatic, or plaster your blog with warning signs, but disclosure is the law.
Here’s the disclosure that automatically gets shared on all of my blog posts:
If you are using affiliate marketing regularly (highly recommended) you should add a disclaimer to every post and have a clear policy. If you need help with this, I suggest using a pre-made legal template that you can just plug your blog information into to cover your bases.
Gift guides don’t have to be just for December holidays either. You can create one for any gift giving opportunity. Think Mother’s and Father’s Day, Easter, summer birthdays… you’re only limited by your imagination!
Be creative and selective, and your audience will thank you!