I absolutely love the holiday season as an affiliate marketer. September through December is always my highest earning period of the year. People are online, credit cards in hand, ready to shop. Positioning your recommendations (and affiliate links) in their line of vision is one sure-fire way to increase your affiliate commissions this time of year. The perfect opportunity to get that done is a gift guide.
What is a gift guide?
A gift guide is simply a list of suggestions for people in need of purchasing a gift. These can be really fun to create and shouldn't take a lot of time and research as you are usually speaking from experience and including things you use and love.
So, how do you get started?
Step 1: Choose your subject. Who's reading your blog? Who's your avatar? Who are they buying for? What's their budget?
I don't have a shopping-centric blog so I don't talk much about what my readers can buy for other people. I do create a gift guide of things they can buy for themselves, however. You can go either way because let's be honest, we are all going to treat ourselves a little this season too. And because my site isn't really focused on budgeting, I let my gift suggestions go where they may. You may choose to stick to “stocking stuffers under $15 for millennials” or “holiday gifts under $50 for fashion-forward 40-somethings.”
Whatever you do, stick to your target market's wants and needs and put a little spin on it. Rather than putting out a guide of just $25 gifts, get creative. $25 gifts for the low carb kitchen. Holiday gifts to make your step-kids feel special. Holiday gifts for Alzheimer's care-takers. If you are passionate about a subject, you can speak to it better than anyone.
Step 2: Choose your gifts. Think about the things you have or are purchasing for the gift recipient you are speaking about. Do you have an affiliate partnership with the merchant? If not, can you get signed up quickly?
One of my favorite merchants to link to this time of year is Amazon. The commission percentage may be on the lower side, but you just never know what's going to happen once people get over there. I have had links to $3 Kindle books turn into $1,500 purchases. That's a nice surprise!
Not every gift on your list needs to be an affiliate link. If something is awesome, include it. Also, know that many merchants have separate commission rates – or no commission rate in some cases – for gift cards. While it's still nice to include the recommendation if it fits, you may not want to make an entire gift guide around gift card suggestions if you aren't going to get paid for any of those sales.
Step 3: Explain it. Gift guides that are simply thumbnail images of stuff just don't do it for me. Tell me why I should buy it. Tell me why my gift recipient is going to love it. This is what sells. This is why it's so important to choose things you are familiar with.
Step 4: Include some images. Not every gift on your list needs to include a picture, but you should have some. If you are including things you have around the house, feel free to take your own pictures. If that's not an option, refer to your merchant affiliate program's terms of service. Some programs allow you to use any of the products images from their site in promotion, others do not.
Step 5: Don't forget to include those links! Seriously. I can't tell you how many times I have published a post and forgot my affiliate links. And if you have a good relationship with an affiliate manager or merchant of something you will be promoting, reach out and ask if they have any coupons available or any sales coming up that you can promote to your audience.
Step 6: Create a great Pinterest & Facebook image. I use Canva for creating my blog post images. They have a template for Pinterest available. When it comes to the images to include in your Pins, you can use what's free or available for purchase from Canva. I get my stock images from Styled Stock Society. They have been releasing so many pretty holiday images.
Step 7: Promote it on social media and to your newsletter list.
Step 8: Don't go overboard. This applies to both your single gift guides and gift guides in general. Keep your gift suggestions to around ten to keep people from getting overwhelmed (nobody wants to read through 100 suggestions). Also, don't create gift guide after gift guide after gift guide hoping something will stick. Especially if your site doesn't normally revolve around shopping. Stick to your regular editorial calendar and add in one or two shopping guides this season.
If your blog is small right now, you may not hit it big with your first gift guide. But, it's still powerful in other ways. It will get you familiar with selling in an authentic and helpful way if you are including products you know, love and are certain will help your readers. Creating your first gift guide now is also going to help you out next year when your traffic is bigger and you are ready to start reaching out to brands for product samples and gift guide partnerships. Many will ask for an example of a buying guide you have created. So, create one!
Advanced Tip: If you are an experienced affiliate marketer, it's time to take things to the next step. This year, add tracking IDs to your affiliate links. This will allow you to see exactly how much money that gift guide – or email, or review – is generating. I talked a bit about sudIDs in this post. Tricia Meyer has a great cheat sheet here.