It’s Gift Guide Season! Tips for Bloggers and Retailers

This is the busiest time of the year for most bloggers and retailers as we come up on the holiday season. Bloggers are preparing for the big push and smart bloggers are also including affiliate marketing as part of their promotions.

Not only are you looking for gifts for your family, pets, friends, neighbors and more, your readers are looking for ideas too. So if you can both get gifts that people on your list will love AND that will help your readers then you have a winner.

Here are some tips to help you create a killer gift guide.

holiday gift guide tips for bloggers and brands

Feature Products that You Love and Will Give

Some gift guides are pay for play. You send the product and you pay for inclusion. While it might work for larger blogs, you may consider not charging and requesting product and using affiliate links instead. I prefer to feature products that I know and love. How do you know if you'll like something? Ask for a sample in exchange for featuring the item. That way you can test it out first.

These are gifts you would actually or will actually give people in your life. Teacher gifts, toddler gifts, gifts for your husband, etc. The more specific and relevant to your audience, the better. For example, instead of a gift guide for kids, you might be a thrifty blogger and make a list of cheap gift ideas for the cheap skate in your life. For me it might be the best gift ideas to send your clients.

Brainstorm Gifts Ideas and ideally choose gifts that you can get through a retailer whose affiliate program you belong to. Look at your affiliate relationships and products that you'd like to feature in a holiday gift guide. Email your affiliate manager or their PR rep and offer to include their product in exchange for inclusion. That way you can not only include it but you can review the product in a future blog post.

Products You Could Include in Your Gift Guides

  • Jewelry from Jeulia Co. for your mom (join Jeulia on ShareASale)
  • If someone on your list loves the Seattle Seahawks, you could feature a Seattle Seahawks blanket. Fanatics is a top ranked program that has all sorts of team products (join the Fanatics affiliate program here).
  • For pets, join the TruDog program.
  • Want to feature homemade gifts? Etsy is a great choice. They are on Affiliate Window. To make life easier, be sure to use their WordPress plugin that automatically turns your links into an affiliate link, per my post.
  • Food bloggers could include Lobster Anywhere (links to their affiliate program) or California Wines.
  • For science type gifts for kids, check out Marbles.
  • One King's Lane for home decor gifts.

Affiliate manager Stephanie Robbins says you can also reach out to affiliate managers for ideas that might fit your blog:

“October is a great idea to reach out to the affiliate managers you have an existing relationship with. Many times, managers have gift guide ideas specific to his or her brand as well as other brands. For instance, in the wellness space, I can recommend multiple brands for the hippie in your life.”

Affiliate Kim Rowley had a great idea. Go through affiliate networks have in place to pitch brands. Commission Junction has an offering inclusion where you can create a placement opportunity to work directly with brands. If you're not a member already, sign up for Commission Junction's Content Certified program here and use 4403305 as the Referral Code (thank you if you do). They have a Facebook group so be sure to join because there are exclusive opportunities for sponsored posts. They also pre-approve you for programs that fit your blog's niche and other perks.

Affiliate Window also has a marketplace where you can request a partnership with a brand.

Holiday Cookies, Yum!

The holiday season is the best time to get as  many cookies as you can. By that I mean that people are in a shopping mood and if they click on an affiliate link, it sets a cookie on their computer for a predetermined number of days. You get a commission off anything they buy during that timeframe. So if you link to a book on Amazon and someone buys a $200 Zoom digital recorder (this is a popular one on my blog and is great for journalists or public speakers) then you get paid on the recorder.

Don't Just Ask for Free Stuff – Show Value

Ideally if you want product, you have an existing relationship with an affiliate manager. That's why I love putting on my affiliate conference or attending them – because you can network with affiliate managers and find ways to work together.

Affiliate managers don't want to be looked at as a source for free gifts for bloggers. If you approach it that way then you will likely get a no. There must be value exchanged on both sides. Ideally, the brand sets up some guidelines and bloggers can apply for samples through a form so you can decide where the best partnership opportunities are. Still, if they say no, just move on and ask another brand or go through the public relations department, says Becky Mansfield of Your Modern Family (here's her gift guide). Her blog is very popular and I wondered if bloggers with less reach could be successful at this too. Here's her response:

“I just keep trying- I find different companies that will work with me. I've been doing this since the beginning. Even now, companies will say no, so I just move on to another one. I find someone similar and find their media contact and email them.”

Promote Your Gift Guides

You can advertise that you're taking submissions for your gift guide and let sponsors come to you. Tabitha Philen posted about her gift guide sponsorship on Facebook (smart) and in a blog post. It's a great example of how to show value and not just make a request. She gives her pageviews for the holiday season, her gift guide themes are very specific, and she tells you EXACTLY how she plans to promote the products she features on her blog.

She mentions that she gets an average of over 400,000 page views each November and December for the past 3 years. She dedicates a post to each product in her guide, does a Facebook Live broadcast, includes original photography, pins your item on Pinterest, sends it to her newsletter, and more. There is a lot of value! Plus she is quite specific in who she is targeting and sets a deadline.

Here are the categories Tabitha mentions, to get an idea of being specific and creative, especially with the community and service gifts!

Categories available include:

Gift ideas for mom, dad, tweens, and/or children (ages 5 to 12)
Gifts for children with Autism
Educational (but fun) gifts for children (ages 12 and under)
Gifts for the family
Gifts for families who love travel
Technology gifts for the family
Community and service-based gifts

Here's another example from Pinterest – it's a gift guide that's specific to people who own a Cricut. That's a great product to link to.


SEO: Do Keyword Research

I did some quick research with my favorite keyword research tool Long Tail Pro. The phrase “business gift ideas” is a high volume but highly competitive term that would apply. I may use it anyway but look for some other long tail phrases and check Google Trends to see what terms are most popular now. Make sure to see what terms you should use to maximize your guide. Use the phrases in your post title and throughout your post. I love the Yoast SEO plugin to help me make sure that I have done a good job of targeting my main phrase.

This screenshot of Google Trends for the last 12 months, in the United States, for Google Shopping (search is similar but the numbers aren't as high). It shows the searches start a sharp rise at the beginning of October then climbs dramatically until mid-December. Right now is the most popular time to search for gift ideas. So looking at this data, I'd make sure your gift guides are published by the end of September. Your readers might think it's too early but people are interested (or post now and update the post each year with your new guide so you gain authority.

Also interesting that every time I've done the research, the term Christmas beats out xmas or holidays. So even if you're not speaking to a Christian audience the data says go with Christmas. It shows the regions where there are the most searches (which you can target/test in your Facebook ads). I didn't see any interest for “gift guides” so I would name the title of your post “Christmas gift ideas” instead of “Christmas Gift Guide”.


Design and Promote Your Gift Guide

I'm not strong in design so I'd just hire it out for around $25 on People Per Hour, my favorite way to get freelancers for design, marketing or programming tasks. That's how I finally redesigned my blog after years of hating the look. It still needs some fine tuning but it's SO MUCH BETTER. You can also design it in Powerpoint and save as a PDF so people can print your guide or save it for future reference.

Once you create your guide, promote it (Tabitha is a great example to follow).

  • Share in Facebook groups (be sure to check the rules first and make sure if/when you can promote).
  • Share on social media.
  • Link to guides from related posts.
  • Consider paying to boost it or create an ad on Facebook.
  • Pin the cover image. I noticed that on Pinterest it's more popular to create guides rather than gift ideas (they tended to be neighbor gifts or DIY type ideas).
  • Put it on Instagram.
  • Do a Facebook Live video or YouTube video about it and preview some of your favorite items.
  • Make an ad for your guide and put it in your sidebar or home page of your blog all season.


Don't Forget Smaller, Less Well Known Brands

Some of my favorite collaborations are with smaller businesses because there can be less competition and the satisfaction of knowing you're helping a small business. They often don't get asked as much as the larger brands.

For smaller retailers, the holiday season is a great time to work with bloggers, especially if you can make suggestions that fit the topics of a blog and offer to send product. It's not very expensive to set aside a set amount of product that you can give for this purpose. If you have an affiliate program, mention that too. Don't wait though, we don't have much time left before bloggers will be too busy to respond and you'll have to catch them the next holiday season!

Also, you can create and share gift guides that you create to inspire bloggers.

No matter what sized company you have, if I can help you organize an influencer outreach program for the holidays, please reach out to me here.

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