Use gift guides!
In this blog post, I want to share everything you need to know about creating gift guides. I’ll also show you how to make a fancy-looking gift guide with Canva. But, in case you’re too busy to make one from scratch, I have free templates you can download below.
In this post:
What is a Gift Guide
Technically, a gift guide is pretty self-explanatory: A guide to amazing gifts, or in other words, a list of product recommendations.
You may have come across gift guides on sites like Self Magazine, Popsugar, Buzzfeed, etc. Personal bloggers also use gift guides to sell products they love and recommend. You often see a surge in these gift guides around special occasions and holidays like Valentine’s Day, Christmas/new year holidays, etc.
Why should you create a gift guide
It’s a great opportunity to recommend products you love and connect with your audience.
Better yet, a gift guide is another way to sell more of your affiliate products. If you recommend the right products to the right people, then there’s money to be made. Affiliate income is, after all, one of the best and easiest ways to make passive income as a blogger.
The different types of “gift guides”
A gift guide refers to any list of products meant to be given as gifts. But you can apply the same concept to things beyond gifts!
Technically, any list of product recommendations acts similar to a “gift guide.”
Here are some examples:
- If you’re a fashion blogger, you may recommend a list of “fall essentials.” These are not gifts, but they’re still product recommendations. You can create seasonal product guides to keep things fresh and timely.
- If you’re a food blogger, you can create a product guide for “kitchen essentials.” Or, similarly, for things like, “baking essentials,” vegan essentials,” etc.
- If you monetize your blog with Amazon Associates, then you can create a monthly “product hunt” or something similar where you recommend monthly Amazon product finds.
- If you’re a self-improvement blogger, you may recommend something like “Top 10 Must-Read Books for Self Improvement.”
- If you teach a skill, you can create a recommended tools/resources guide.
- If you’re a lifestyle blogger, you may simply create a list of products you personally like. This “beauty finds” from Caroline Donofrio on a Cup of Jo, for example, is a blog post of her personal favorites.
- And of course, there is the good old actual gift guide! If you’re a lifestyle blogger or mom blogger or relationship blogger, you can figure out a way to create brand new gift guides for something or the other every single month of the year!
I’m sure you get the picture by now.
The different formats used for “gift guides”
These are the typical formats most of us bloggers use to share gift ideas and product recommendations:
- Inside blog posts. For example, take a look at this gift guide from Buzzfeed, where the author shares great gift ideas that are available to purchase on Amazon.
- A dedicated page on the blog. My Blogging Resources page is a good example of a list of recommended products and services perfect for bloggers, to increase their efficiency and productivity.
- A PDF guide that your audience can download. What’s best, now you can create a downloadable PDF document with your affiliate links using Canva.
Oh, and in case you’re too busy to create a PDF gift guide or recommended product list, I have just the thing! A completely FREE Canva template with four (4) distinct gift guide/product list templates. Just sign up using the form below:
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What You Need Before Creating the Gift Guide
Before you set out to create the gift guide, you’ll need to figure out a few things:
Decide on a theme and compile a product list
If you’re creating a gift guide for a special occasion, you can use the concept (for that occasion) to curate a list of gift ideas.
If you’re creating a general-purpose gift guide — for example, anniversary gift ideas, bridal shower gift ideas, gifts for newborns, gifts for new parents, graduation gifts, etc. — you can promote them year-round. Others may be more seasonal and time-sensitive, such as Valentine’s day.
Once you’ve decided on a theme for your gift guide or product recommendation list, compile a list of products you’ll be recommending.
Figure out the type and format
I’ve already outlined in the previous section what the different types and formats are; not just for gift guides, but for any list of product recommendations.
Is it going to be a resource page that’ll reside on your website at all times? (Example: The resources page on this blog.)
Is it going to be a blog post of seasonal product ideas?
Is it a monthly roundup blog post + downloadable catalog of some of the “greatest finds” for example? Pro tip: Do not link to Amazon Associate products directly from a PDF guide, they don’t allow it. However, if you must, I do have a workaround I’ve shared below 😉
There are plenty of different types and formats, so find out what best suits your needs and goals. And depending on that, you may need additional things.
For example, if you’re creating a gift guide within a blog post, then you need to have a blog! But that’s probably too easy 🙂 I mean, why else are you reading this if you don’t have a blog?
But, what if you decide to create a gift catalog that your audience will be able to download? Then you’ll need something that can help you create a PDF catalog. Something like Canva or Adobe, for example. You could also use Google Docs, but hey, that’s too boring! At least sign up for a free Canva account! (← This link gives you 45-days of free Canva Pro trial.)
Become an affiliate and/or reach out to brands about sponsorships
Nobody’s stopping you from promoting any product you love. But to make money, which is often the primary goal of such gift guides, you need to be an affiliate for those brands and companies.
In case you’re new to this: Affiliate marketing refers to an affiliate promoting products using their unique affiliate links. Upon a successful lead/purchase, said affiliate earns a small commission.
Aside from being an affiliate, there are a few other ways you can benefit from a gift guide. Some companies may be willing to pay you separately to add their products to your guide, regardless of whether or not you make a sale. While some companies, especially those without a budget and an affiliate program, may be willing to give you free products instead.
In any case, I recommend you do the following:
- Decide which products you want to add to your gift guide or product list.
- See if the brands have affiliate programs, and if they do, apply to be one. Just google “Company Name affiliate program” and if they have one, it’ll most likely come up on Google search.
- You can reach out to companies to be a sponsor for your gift guide for more money, but do keep in mind that this will add significant work on your part, and many companies wouldn’t want to pay extra for product placement in gift guides from bloggers unless they have a lot of website traffic + overall audience size.
- Local and small businesses may be willing to give you free products in exchange for product placement in your gift guide. You can reach out to a company and see if they do that.
The good news is that most companies are generous with their affiliate program, even if you have a brand new blog and no audience to speak of. So, definitely make sure to apply for the affiliate program at the very least. Even if a company sponsors you and pays you upfront, you still have the potential to make even more money if you’re an affiliate.
For example, recently I wrote a sponsored blog post (no, that’s not a gift guide, but the idea is similar,) about a certain company. So they paid me a few hundred bucks for writing that post. But, I’m also an affiliate for the company, and I sprinkled my affiliate link throughout the post, and that lead to some successful purchases. This allowed me to make even more money from that one blog post.
Procure product images
Some products don’t need photos, such as certain types of digital products, software, and services (I mean, I don’t need a photo to sell SiteGround hosting, see? ← That’s an affiliate link!) But if you’re going to promote a wallet, or a camera bag, or a watch, or some other physical product, then yeah, you’ll want photos.
The problem with photos is that they’re copyrighted material, so you cannot just screenshot a product photo from a company site and use it on your gift guide, even if you’re linking back to their product. It’s illegal.
The good news is that most companies have resources for their affiliates, including images. But if you’re unsure, reach out to the affiliate point of contact, or email support. They can help you out or point you in the right direction.
Another way to get photos is to take them yourself. This is useful if you’re promoting products you already own, and you’re a decent photographer.
Finish up the prep work
I find it useful to have a list of all the products and relevant info as I’m working through the prep work.
Ideally, I make a list on my blogging journal with multiple columns for relevant info, such as:
- the product name,
- the brand/company name,
- whether I’m already an affiliate or not, and if not, I know to remedy that before I start making the gift guide (because I’ll need the affiliate links)
- whether I have product images or not (if I need them, and I don’t have them already, then I’ll note to reach out to product/affiliate support and get those before creating the list)
The list looks something like this:
Want this printable? Click the button below to download a PDF that you can print out with any home printer.
A word of encouragement:
This may sound like a lot to many folks, but it’s really not.
In the beginning, you may be waiting on becoming an affiliate for the companies or emailing back and forth with support about which images you can or cannot use. But once you’re an affiliate for your favorite brands and companies, the process becomes relatively quicker and more straightforward.
Also, most companies actually make these things super easy too. Once you’re an affiliate, you’ll find that many already have all the resources you could need available in their affiliate dashboard. So, don’t get discouraged by the initial work you may have to put in before you start your affiliate marketing journey 🙂
How to Create a Gift Guide
Now that you have everything, let’s start putting everything together.
Gift guide or product recommendation essentials
An affiliate disclaimer: You must disclose affiliate link information inside any post or page where you’re linking to affiliate products. You should place this information towards the top of the page before your audience comes across them. The disclaimer should clearly state that the post/page contains affiliate links, which means that if anyone purchases something following these links, you’ll earn a commission.
An affiliate disclaimer can be something simple like the following:
“This page contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase following these links, I’ll earn a small commission, at no cost to you.”
A photo of the product: This is essential mostly for physical products. But if you’re recommending digital products or services, then you can do without images.
A description of the product: This is essential for products without an image (digital products and services.) If you’re recommending a physical product, then depending on the format, you may or may not need a product description. For example, if you’re creating a mini-guide (a one-page catalog) and the images are self-explanatory, then you don’t necessarily need a product description. But if you have room (like on blog posts and pages) then you should add a product description in your own words.
A product description also helps when you’re recommending a lot of similar products, to distinguish them from one another.
Do not copy and paste product descriptions from the original source; they’re copyrighted and you could get into trouble. Always write a description in your own words.
Product price: This is optional, but recommended (so people have an idea what they’re looking to pay.) Also, if you’re recommending a list of similar products (For example, a list of cruelty-free facial toners) then adding the price allows your audience to decide what’s more in line with their budget.
Text or button linking to the product: This is ideally the affiliate link. You can access these links in your affiliate dashboards. Make sure to add “nofollow” rel tags to your affiliate links on websites, like this:
<a rel="nofollow" href="https://example.com">Get this product</a>
A “nofollow” rel-tag is unnecessary in gift guides created as PDF catalogs. Basically, Google treats links from PDF files as though they were nofollow links. (Is it even possible to make PDF links dofollow or nofollow??? Don’t think so…)
How to create a gift guide within a blog post or page
This is easy. There are two ways to do it:
- Simply list one item after another, like you create any list-type posts. Add your images, write a short description in your own words—why you recommend it, what’s so good about it, etc.—and then add a link to the product. This is, ideally, your affiliate link. For example, check out this holiday gift guide from Popsugar.
- You can also do this in a tabular form. WordPress, for example, has a built-in table widget that you can use in its Gutenberg editor. Look at the image below for an example of what a tabular list could look like inside a blog post or page.
How to create a gift guide in Canva
This is where you make something like a catalog. This can be a multi-page PDF document or just a one-pager with quick recommendations. The best part about this is that your audience can download these guides or catalogs, and save them on their devices for offline access.
Also, because you can insert hyperlinks on PDF documents, you can still make money if a click results in a successful purchase.
The only caveat of using PDF documents is that not all companies allow offline affiliate marketing for their products. Amazon, for sure, doesn’t allow this. (However, I have a workaround that I’ve shared below.) But many other companies do. All you have to do is ask a brand/company’s support team. Shoot a quick email if you’re in doubt.
This may seem like a lot of work, but once you know which companies do and don’t allow offline promotions, you won’t have to keep making these inquiries in the future.
For your convenience, I have already made four (4) variations of gift guide templates in Canva. You can sign up below to get these customizable Canva templates. (Click the image below, or use one of the embedded forms in this blog post.)
The essentials of PDF gift guides
These are the information you’ll need to add to your gift guide:
- An affiliate disclosure as stated earlier.
- Product images if they’re physical products. (If you don’t have images, write something that properly describes the product.)
- Product names.
- A short product description if they’re digital products or if they don’t have accompanying images.
- Optionally, you can add the product price for reasons shared earlier.
- Your website URL (since this is a PDG guide, add the URL to your site so people know who is recommending these products.)
- Affiliate links to the products, so you can make money from the sales.
PDF gift guide dimensions
Ideally, a PDF catalog made with Canva (or any PDF maker) will contain the same essentials as stated above. You can make these in US Letter or A4 size documents, or, in standard presentation format which you’ll then save as PDF.
– US Letter: 8.5 x 11 in
– A4: 21 x 29.7 cm
– Presentation: 1920 x 1080 px
Put together the gift guide with Canva
Here’s a step-by-step video tutorial for creating a gift guide in Canva:
But what if I really want to add Amazon products on a downloadable gift guide?
OK, fine, you win…
There is a workaround to creating a downloadable PDF with Amazon Associate products. Here’s how:
Step 1: First, set up a page or post on your website with the Amazon products like any web-based gift guide. OK, I can almost hear you screaming… “BUT THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A DOWNLOADABLE PDF!!!” Yeah, dude, hold on for a sec…
Step 2: Next, create a PDF guide as per usual. Do note that you cannot use Amazon’s product images, so you either have to use only texts, or, use photos that you’ve taken yourself (if you own the product you’re promoting.)
Step 3: Finally, instead of linking each product in your PDF guide to the Amazon product page directly, add a link to the post or page you set up in step # 1. So, basically, your audience will still be able to download a PDF gift guide (cuz that’s just so much fun, and cool!) but when they click the link in the PDF, they’ll first land on your website, and from there, they can click on individual products that will take them to Amazon.
A pretty smart workaround, if I do say so myself.
Some Gift Guide Pro Tips
- Amazon Associate is a popular affiliate program. Because Amazon offers such a wide range of products, it’s easy to incorporate them within your blog, regardless of your niche. As in, you’re bound to find products that’ll be useful to your specific audience.
- Use Amazon Affiliate links only on your website. Do not link to Amazon products directly from your PDF, instead, follow the steps I’ve outlined above.
- Do sign up for companies outside of Amazon Associate because you might find that other companies (or when you sign up for an affiliate program directly through the company) offer better commission rates.
- Always make sure you have the right to use the images. Don’t just save photos from company websites; you could get into serious trouble. Get photos through your affiliate portal, or ask their support which images you can or cannot use and where to get them.
And, that’s all!
Have you ever made a gift guide for your audience? Would you consider creating one after reading this blog post? Let me know in the comments!
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