You see them on Blogs- Holiday Gift Guides! I don't typically write Blog Resource posts as I am a healthy parenting blog, but this will be my 4th year doing a Holiday Gift Guide (year 1 I worked with another Blogger) & I want to share what has worked to make my guides successful. I will break this post into categories that you can read depending on your own questions or curiosities you have. There is a lot that goes into a Gift Guide and I want you to leave feeling you have everything you need to give it a try this year. When should you start pitching? NOW!! August and into September as your guide should be live in October!
Style & Theme
There are 2 main styles of gift guides. If you are ebook or publisher savvy, you can do an actual guide. This is where you create 1 downloadable guide (think JC Penny catalog) and have an image, short write up and link to the brand and break the guide into chapters. You can use this guide as a Free Download you send to your readers. Brands may enjoy this, but they also know it will not produce an actual review post and you cannot hold giveaways through this style. One idea (I have never done this style) is write your product review posts as normal AND create a guide downloadable for your readers. More work for you, but you can also charge brands to be in the guide on top of the review for revenue. Just make sure the guide is FREE to your readers.
The second style (the one I use) is an entire section/label on your blog for your Holiday Gift Guide. You will solicit brands and post reviews. This style would mean that as a reader lands on that post, they KNOW this is a Holiday Gift Guide post. Create 1 high quality Holiday Gift Guide image and make it your top image in every gift guide product post. Use your Holiday Gift Gift title you choose (mine is '2014 Happy, Healthy Holiday Gift Guide') and use this title in every post title, image and within the first paragraph of your post. As well, use this same image that is in all posts as a sidebar image linking to the labels that contain these posts and don't forget to add a 2014 Holiday Gift Guide label to your header. Look above, because I titled my label to start with 2014 it is first in my labels.
Connecting with Brands
Oh, the most asked question! Every blogger you ask may have their own sites and own sources and I still find new avenues myself. However, the right way to ask is "How do I get brands to notice me?" There are over 20 million female bloggers right now and you are competing for the brands attention. Soliciting is easy. You google 'media contact for______' and find a name. You keep an eye on PR sites and post inquiries through PR Newswire or Coyne. You browse Tomoson or other review sites. I am also a member of many sponsored posts groups-SoFab, SITS Girls, MBS and more. Those are great connections to brands, but that brand still has to say Yes to you! Before you start anything at all in a way of a gift guide-clean up your webpage and make sure you are writing in a ratio of about 30% sponsored posts and 70% organic posts. I say this and have to keep reminding myself too! I get so buy with sponsored campaign requests, I wait too long to post organic content in between. Brands want to know you have enough organic content to keep your readers engaged for the reason you write!
Cleaning up your sidebar and header is something I do every quarter or even more often. Make sure your header is in correct dimension to your Blog and that the header image has words-a descriptive of your blog. If I look at your header I should know that I can come to 'ABC' Blog and find 'ABC' content! Have labels! If you are soliciting clothing brands, make sure that they have no doubt your blog works for them. By this I mean that if I were selling jewelry and I visit your blog and you have a label a reader can go to and find all of your jewelry posts, I am more likely to think my product will not get lost n your blog in time. My labels run horizontally below my title image. Up top and easy to find and click on. Fonts are easy to read and colors are consistent throughout my blog background and images. Get those spammy ads off your sidebar or at least create categories-put them all in one section and move that section to the bottom of the sidebar or footer. Many bloggers who are ad junkies may disagree, but if you write for content, you cannot spam your sidebar! If you notice on my sidebar, I have 1 adsense in header using colors I customized to blend well with my site. I have another adsense near upper sidebar and all the rest are shoved to the bottom.
Now you are ready to pitch. I mentioned some sites above to connect with brands. As you read blogs and see products that fit your guide theme then google media contacts for that brand or use their contact from their website! That's all I do. I know these products already work with bloggers as that is where I discovered them. Like a product? Pitch them. I recently was at a Mariner's game and we were handed samples of a delicious snack and I went home and email them using the contact from their website. I have more product on the way to me as we speak from them. They responded. Why? I told a story and made sure they knew that I don't just share their product, I tell a story and have high quality images. That was all I said! I do not send quotes, just a short paragraph introducing my Blog and niche, how I found them, how I organize my posts and a link to my media kit for them to visit. I just connected with them, told them what to expect and invited them to my Blog. It is really that easy!
Maintaining your Gift Guide
No matter what Gift Guide style you choose, make sure you commit to each brand. Use high quality images and tell a story. Have share links available to your readers can easily pin or share your post to their own files for reference later. Communicate often with the brands. Once I receive their product, I give a quick email telling them I have it and invite them to send images, hashtags, links they want used. Make them help you work. You are partners now and let them bring the information to you! NEVER copy and paste a thing-nothing! Your post should be your words! A brand will pick up on this and you will most likely never work with them again!
Create a folder in your email to hold all Holiday Gift Guide correspondences in one place. You can use this folder next year to connect with these brands again!
After your post is live, email your post link and invite them to tweet, share your post from their social sites. Many brands have more followers than you and if you remind them to share also, your post is getting around to a relevant audience. ALWAYS tag the brand in every social share and state (twitter mainly) if your post is sponsored. Posts payed with product are NOT sponsored, but any money that is exchanged is and needs to be stated (use something like Ad: or Spon: right before the link to your post). Schedule your post in all social media to be shared at least 3 times or more during your campaign. ( I use Hootsuite except for FB-I only schedule right from FB).
I hope these tips help you feel more confident to give a Holiday Gift Guide a try! Pick a theme, clean up your site, pitch away and follow through many times with that contact! Remember, as I stated above that you are 1 in 20 million females bloggers (more if you add the men). Communicate often and have an attractive site!