Writing & Blogging

How To Make a Gift Guide

It’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the holidays, but we are! Hanukkah starts on December 2 and Christmas is (as always) December 25. People are starting to think about gift shopping, so gift guides are great to have on your blog. I’ve been doing them for 4 years, and while they can be a lot of work, they’re really fun. But how do you make one? I’m going to answer that today for you new bloggers or bloggers who have never made one before.

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Gift guides are great tools for bloggers. They can bring traffic and money. But how do you make one? Boston blogger Kate the (Almost) Great shares her strategies for making a gift guide. #giftguide #blogger #blogtips #growyourblog

On Gift Guides

What is a gift guide? A gift guide is a blog post that provides gift ideas for people. Generally, they’re focused around a topic or theme, but that theme can be as general as “gifts for men.” I like to do gift guides that are a big more focused than that, as they’re easier to make and I’m able to make them for people who are struggling to shop for people who like a certain thing. Additionally, lots of bloggers and websites make gift guides, so by making really specific ones, you can hit what fewer people are doing. Which brings me to my next point: gift guides are generally aimed as people who are shopping for gifts, although they can be used to find the gifts you want, too.

Why make a gift guide? There are a couple of reasons to make these posts, which generally take more time than regular posts. One, people like blog posts that solve a problem, and gift guides do that. Which brings me to two: these often bring in more blog traffic. And three: if you use affiliate links, you can make some money off of these posts. Blogging is great, it’s a fun creative exercise, but it can also be expensive. Affiliate links can work in a number of ways, depending on the site you use. For some sites, you make money for every click (usually cents, so not a ton of money). For others, you make a percentage of every purchase made through the link, which is often dollars. Again, it’s generally not a lot for each post, or even each link, but by making several gift guides, you can make a sizable amount of money. Some sites that you can use are Shop Style Collective (5 cents for every click), Skimlinks (earnings per click and commission rates vary by merchant), Amazon, and more. But make sure you include a disclosure in your post, like the one I have up above. It’s required by the FTC (in USA). Even if the FTC doesn’t come after you for not having a disclosure, Google might. My entire blog got kicked off of Google search results a few years ago because I didn’t have disclosures, and I didn’t have nofollow links in my sponsored blog posts. I had to go back through all of my posts to add disclosures and nofollow links, which took hours. This dramatically affected my blog traffic. Don’t make my mistake!

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How To Make a Gift Guide

Now that we’ve covered what these are and why you should consider having one, I want to walk you guys through my process of making a gift guide. I’m going to stick to one gift guide and not walk you through the process of making a bunch of them, which is what I suggest you do for maximum success.

Brainstorm – First things first, you need to brainstorm. Come up with a topic or theme. This could be gift ideas for 10-year-old boys, for moms, for bloggers, for beauty lovers, etc. Make sure that it’s something that you know you could grab 10-20 ideas for, especially at a variety of price points. You don’t want to assume that your readers could afford to buy a $100 gift for one person, so even if you have a few gift ideas around that price, you should also have cheaper options.

Research – Now that you have your topic, it’s time to do some research. You should research specific gift ideas, what sites will work with your affiliate of choice, and keywords for your blog post. I also suggest entering your chosen topic into Google and seeing what you’d be up against. For example, if you search “gifts for men” in Google, 746,000,000 results appear. That is a LOT to compete against! If you really want to write a gift guide for gifts for men, then find a more specific topic and/or go with a different SEO keyword. (You can learn all about SEO here.) This is also when you should be researching ideas of gifts to include in your guide. You can look for reports of the most popular gifts, best reviewed gifts, and more. I have a note in my Evernote for every gift guide that I’m doing this year, and there I’m recording ideas for each post. This way, I can keep track of my ideas, which can also help me research the best places to get these gifts.

How to use Evernote for blogging

Grab images and links – Now that you’ve figured out what you want to include in your gift guide, it’s time to start pulling it together. Go to the website you want to get your products from, save the images to your computer, and start collecting a list of the links to those images. Some websites won’t let you save an image, so make sure you choose your product source sites wisely! And some websites carry products of brands that won’t let you save images. For example, when I tried to save images from J. Crew, it wouldn’t let me save them as jpeg, jpg, or png files. But Nordstrom carries J. Crew products! I’m not sure if they’re the exact same products, but I can still get images and links from Nordstrom.

Make gift guide image – For years, I used Polyvore, but it has shut down now. There are some replacements out there, but I’ve decided to stick with Photoshop Elements, which I’ve used for my blog images for years. Lots of bloggers prefer Lightroom or InDesign, so go with what works for you. You can also get Creative Cloud, which is another Adobe product. Creative Cloud gives you the entire collection of creative tools for your desktop, like Photoshop, Illustrator, IndeSign, and Adobe Premiere Pro. I tried using Canva to make my images, but it was way more complicated than using Photoshop Elements.

As for how to make the image itself, go through and save all the images you want to be in your gift guide image. It’s best that they have a white background, as that’s easier and cleaner to work with. It’s also most helpful if they all come from the same website, as that should make it easier to put them in one image. To help explain this process, I made an example gift guide image. First, I saved images of a bunch of shoes from Nordstrom. Then, I resized the images so they were smaller and easier to deal with. After that, I started a new image in Photoshop Elements. I went with a vertical image because these do way better on Pinterest than horizontal ones. Then, I copied all of the images and pasted them into the new image.

My process for making a gift guide

Once I did all of that, I added a new layer and made it white, to match all of the photos. Next, I added a title to the image, as Pinterest generally doesn’t show you the comment on images any more unless you click on the image. This way, people browsing will see this image and know what the post is about, making them click over. I made sure to choose a title that would grab attention.

I then added my url to the image and merged all the layers. I added the url because it gets my blog out there and also reduces the chance of people passing off my image as their own. I merged the layers of the image because that is what is needed when taking a Photoshop file from a psd file to a jpg file. Once they were merged, I saved it. I saved it to be 600 pixels wide, which is what all of my blog images are, and I saved another version of it with a width of 1400 pixels. This way, it’s a good size for Pinterest.

How to use Pinterest for blog traffic

Here’s what it looked like once I finished:

Example gift guide

Make image affiliate links – Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to put in your gift guide, it’s time to make affiliate links. Do you have to have affiliate links for your gift guide? No, but it can make a big difference. Gift guides take more time to make than most blog posts, so you might as well make a few bucks from them. There have been plenty of times that I’ve found a gift at a retailer that wasn’t supported by an affiliate site that I use, and if I think that gift should really be included, I’ll include it without an affiliate links. I make so many gift guides each year (it’ll be 6 this holiday season alone) that I don’t mind having 1 of them have little to no affiliate links. But if I’m going to put in hours more than I usually do for a blog post, I want a reward.

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Upload – It’s time to upload everything to your blog! Don’t forget to use your SEO keyword in your post, post title, and link, as well as your image titles and alt text. (Learn more here.) I always put the links for the products in the image(s) underneath the image in order of where they are in the image. I title the links with their official name via the website. This will help make your post cohesive and followable.

Write post – Now to write the post! I like to include why I’ve included a product, which gives it a more personalized feel and also helps your readers feel like you’re not purely trying to sell them things. You explain why you chose one product over another, the benefits of something you’ve included on your list, why you chose that theme for your post, etc.

Share your post and make sure your post is easy to share – This is SO important! If you want to get as many eyes on your post as possible, you need to share it and make it easy for your post to get shared. Once you’ve finished your post, schedule social media shares. I use Buffer for Twitter and Facebook, and for Pinterest – the site that brings me more than 60% of my blog traffic – I use Tailwind. In Tailwind, I schedule all of the images in my gift guide to my Pinterest boards, the group boards I’m a member of, and the Tailwind tribes I’m a member of. Tailwind tribes are kind of like Pinterest group boards except they’re in Tailwind, so they’re not visible on Pinterest itself, if that makes sense.

So let’s say that you’ve scheduled promotions of your post. Now you want to make it easy for people to share your blog post when they’re at your blog post. There are a couple of ways to do this. One, have buttons on your post for people to share your post on social media. At the bottom of this post, you can see buttons labeled with “Share this.” I have this through WordPress, and your hosting site may have the option to add these to your posts. Two, I use the WordPress plugin Sumo to add sharing buttons that remain in one place as you scroll. This way, when someone wants to share a post, the button is right there. Three, I use the plugin Better Click to Tweet to add pre-written tweets that only require the reader to click on them to share them. If you scroll down, that’s what’s at the end of this post! Four, I have it set up so if you roll your mouse over an image, a button comes up so you can pin that image. On self-hosted WordPress like this blog, it’s a plugin.

How To Use Pinterest for Blog Traffic

How to make a gift guide Click To Tweet

Are there any other blogging topics you would like me to cover or explain?

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