Let’s be honest: holiday shopping is stressful, especially if you’re shopping for someone with specific interests that you don’t know much about. That’s why shoppers turn to gift guides during the holiday season.
A gift guide is a curated list of items recommended by someone who knows a specific category well. As a blogger, publishing a gift guide helps your readers get their holiday shopping done and feel good about what they’re buying. For example, my husband is a fan of craft beer, and this December I would be so grateful to come across a Craft Beer Lovers Gift Guide made by an awesome beer blogger who could show me exactly what to buy him for the holidays.
A gift guide serves readers, but it can serve you as a blogger, too. With a combination of affiliate links and optimized images to generate Pinterest traffic, a holiday gift guide can earn passive income for you throughout the holiday season and beyond. The key is to create a gift guide that is appealing to the right audience, reaches that audience, and generates affiliate income.
Gift guides are typically organized thematically. When choosing a theme for your gift guide it’s important to keep two things in mind. First, be sure it’s appropriate for your readers. Is there a particular kind of product that readers often ask you about? Try building a guide based on their questions. Alternatively, choose a particular type of person as your theme; “Gifts for Modern Art Lovers,” for example.
Affiliate expert Justine Grey says bloggers often fail to narrow down their gift guide themes enough. “With more traffic comes more affiliate commissions. So think of SEO as affiliate marketing’s best friend. But how do you get search traffic from sites like Google and Pinterest when there are millions of results for ‘holiday gift guide’? You get specific,” she explains. “Think creatively to come up with a unique angle to your gift guide in order to stand out and capture long-tail or non-seasonal traffic. Think ‘Cozy sleepwear picks for every child on your list’ or ‘Feminine office supplies for creative entrepreneurs.’”
At the same time, though, remember that your goal is to use Pinterest to bring in more visitors than a typical blog post might. It’s also important that your gift guide have broad enough appeal to give it a shot at being profitable.
It’s best to choose a holiday-specific title for your gift guide so that it feels relevant to readers, but to not include the holiday in the URL. That way you can make a note on your calendar to go back and retitle the post to make it more neutral after the holiday season is over. Christmas 2016 Gift Guide for the Confident Tween could become Gift Guide for the Confident Tween and attract new readers shopping for birthday gifts or gifts for other holidays throughout the year.
To create your gift guide you’ll need to choose 7–15 items that compliment one another and fit your theme. A gift guide with 50 or 100 items is likely to feel overwhelming to readers, resulting in a lower click-through rate, so keep it manageable. If you find yourself at a loss for items to include in your gift guide, try asking friends (in real life or online) for their product recommendations. Search for other gift guides with the same theme to get ideas for products in categories you might have overlooked. Be sure to check that each item you’ve included is in stock and ready to ship.
Look for items with a range of prices. While paper lovers might enjoy a new Cricut machine, which retails at close to $200, they’d also like a new set of rubber stamps for $35. Your gift guide users will appreciate having options at different price points. Prices are subject to change, so it’s best to not include them in your gift guide. Instead either give a range (gifts under $50) or use symbols to denote price categories ($, $$, and $$$).
Amazon is a great place to look for products to include in a gift guide. Amazon offers a 24-hour cookie which means that you get a commission on everything a customer purchases on Amazon within 24 hours of clicking through your affiliate link, even things you didn’t link to. Most people are comfortable shopping on Amazon, which means they’re less likely to back out before completing their purchase than they might be when visiting an online shop they’ve never seen before.
Some states don’t permit bloggers to participate in the Amazon affiliate program, and some products aren’t carried on Amazon, so it’s worthwhile to join other affiliate programs as well. (See our resource on monetizing your blog for a linked list of affiliate programs.) And remember, Etsy has an affiliate program of its own so you can definitely include handmade items on your list.
It’s vital that you disclose that the links in your gift guide are affiliate links. According to Federal Trace Commission guidelines, the disclosure must be before the link and as close as possible to it. It should also be above the fold (meaning before the reader needs to scroll down the page) and should explain how affiliate marketing works, such as, “The links in this post are affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you purchase something mentioned in this post. See more details here,” with “here” linking to a page on your site with a your full disclosure policy. (Try a policy generator to create a disclosure policy if you don’t have one yet.)
In order for people to connect with your gift guide and trust your recommendations, be sure to add an image of each item as well as a short explanation of why you’re including the item in your gift guide. Your personal recommendation is what makes your gift guide trustworthy for your readers and powerful as a source of passive income for you.
Once you’ve put a gift guide together, create several Pinterest-optimized graphics to promote it. Use a vertical image and include a text overlay with the title of the gift guide. Having more than one graphic means that you can pin the guide multiple times, generating new traffic to the post each time. Pin the image to your own boards and to group boards that relate to the theme.
If you’re going to be publishing multiple gift guides, create a page on your website with a list of links to all of them. Link to that page at the end of each gift guide so that readers can easily click over and see all of the guides you have to offer. Create a Pinterest graphic for that page, too!
Most gift guides are straightforward list posts, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Grey says videos can be a highly effective way to present a gift guide. “Did you know videos may make up 74% of all internet traffic in 2017? With that in mind, go beyond collage visuals and incorporate video into your gift guides. Besides increased content distribution that comes from publishing your video to additional sites like YouTube and Facebook, you can also use your affiliate links across multiple platforms to increase chances of affiliate earnings.” She recommends trying a product-unboxing video, an interview with the product company, a product review video, or a tutorial video using the product.
A thoughtfully composed gift guide that’s smartly promoted will earn passive income for your blog for months and even years to come.