5 Essential Elements Of A Great Gift Guide

It's officially holiday gift guide season! While gift guides are extremely popular during the holidays, gift guides can be useful at various points throughout the year. Today I am going to share five essential elements of a great gift guide so your gift guides can make a better impact for your blogs and for your readers.

Related Reading: 40 Holiday Blog Post Ideas

5 Essential Elements Of A Great Gift Guide | Do you want to create a gift guide on your blog? Gift guides can create valuable traffic and revenue for your blog, but how do you create successful ones? Check out my post for five essential elements all gift guides should have so your next guide will be a success.

1. Great Gift Guides Solve A Problem

First, your gift guides need to solve a problem for your readers. Your gift guides shouldn't be just a place for you to link up a bunch of products. What problems are you actually solving for the people who come to your blog? If you aren't solving their gift giving problems, your gift guide is irrelevant.

The Problem: Your readers have a lot of people to shop for but they have no idea what a great gift would be for them.

Your Solution: Provide your readers with a slew of specific gift guides filled with tons of actually useful items.

Do not stuff your gift guide with gifts that aren't actually useful. Take your time to select gifts that you think people would actually like to gift and receive.

Great Gift Guides Are Specific

Let's go back to that one one that I just used: specific. Why are great gift guides specific? Well, there are a couple of reasons:

  • When you create specific gift guides for various sets of people, you can create more gift guides.
  • When you create specific gift guides, your readers can find the exact guides they need, instead of wading through one long gift guide for a section that may or may not even be there.

So, don't make ultimate gift guides, make a few mini ones. These mini-guides save your readers time and patience.

Here are a few examples:

  • X Amazing __ (Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc) Gifts For Millennials (or any age group) Under $X: This is a great guide because you are identifying a specific set of people, a specific price point, and a specific store that most people have access to.
  • X Great Gifts For The Tech-y People In Your Life: This is specific in that you know it will be all about tech items. I wouldn't come to this list looking for clothing items (unless they were tech related clothing items) and I may be willing to spend more since I am checking out a tech related guide.
  • X Gift Ideas That Will Make You The Cool Aunt: Well, this is just a personal gift guide I would want. This guide is specific because it focuses on one group of gifters: aunts. You could include gifts for kids of all ages and genders, but this would be geared for people who want to be seen as the cool aunt for Christmas or other holidays like birthdays.

As you can see by these examples, specifity will make your gift guides resonate with a specific set of people. This is so helpful becuase that connection makes your readers more likely to purchase from your gift guide. Connect with your audience and provide gift guides that match them.

2. Great Gift guides Consider your Reader Demographics

Further, gift guides consider your readers and their demographics. You shouldn't publish just any gift guide. This blog is very focused on bloggers and solopreneurs. If I wanted to create a gift guide on this blog, I wouldn't create a just any gift guide, I would focus specifically on my reader demographics. So I might publish a gift guide for freelancers, a tech-y gift guide for starting bloggers, or something of that nature.

For example, if your readers are made up of 18-25 year olds, it wouldn't be smart to include $300 gifts on your gift guides. Sure, some of your readers could probably afford to drop $300 on one gift, but chances are your readers will look at that gift idea, scoff, and think that you aren't very in touch with their needs as a young adult.

As another example, if your demographic is women, but you have a million male oriented gift guides, that wouldn't make sense. Yes, one or two male centered gift guides would be smart, but your entire gift guide selection shouldn't be centered on what to get guys. Also, when you create those gift guides, you want to create a connection between your reader and the gift guide for guys. So, gifts for your boyfriend, husband, or father.

3. Great Gift Guides Include Affiliate Links

Your gift guides should earn you money. You put a lot of time and effort into them, and they need to return something for you. So, your gift guides should always include affiliate links where you can.

I know that affiliate links are rather annoying to add. They take forever and it can take a long time to add every. single. one. I love VigLink for creating affiliate links with ease. So, what does VigLink do?

VigLink is an automated linking service. First, you add their code to your website. Once that's added, you can customize your VigLink experience in the settings tab.

VigLink Options

As you can tell, there are three major categories on VigLink:

  • VigLink Convert: VigLink Convert converts your links to affiliate links. So, when you share a random link to any of their merchants, it's converted automatically to an affiliate link when your readers click the link.
  • VigLink Insert: VigLink Inserts notices when you mention certain words that are related to a shop or product and creates an affiliate link for that inserted link.
  • VigLink Shopping: VigLink Shopping is helpful because it sees when the links you are sharing are going to a place that doesn't have a budget or is down for any reason. Then it redirects those links to a shopping page for your readers to see similar products from merchants who actually have a budget for affiliate links.

With VigLink Convert you can include an unaffiliated link to your favorite products from any of their long list of merchants. In fact, here are just a few of the merchants you can link with VigLink:

  • Ebay
  • Amazon
  • Nordstrom
  • Nike
  • Alex and Ani
  • Blue Apron
  • Etsy
  • Kohl's
  • Macy's
  • and more!

Once you make that link, VigLink takes notice when your reader clicks and converts that normal link to an affiliate link.

VigLink is a 3rd party service. This means that you are not making a direct connection with the company like you might if you are working with each individual company on a place like ShareASale. This also means that VigLink takes a cut of your money. But, the great thing is that you get to save time when creating affiliate links, and make money on links that you wouldn't have necessarily monetized already.

VigLink is not a perfect solution, but it is a quick solution if you want to avoid linking every single product in a gift guide or in your day to day blogging life.

4. Great Gift Guides Include Pictures

Your readers shouldn't have to go above and beyond to see what your gift suggestions look like. I suggest that you download at least some of the items in your gift guide to create a collage to share with your gift guide.

This can easily be done on Canva, but if you have more advanced skills you could also do this on Photoshop. Here is a tutorial from A Beautiful Mess on how to use Photoshop to create product collages.

If you can, I encourage you to share pictures with all of the products you recommend, but if that is not possible I definitely understand. Select a few of your absolute favorites to share in your gift guide collage.

5. Great Gift Guides Create A Connection Between You And The Product

Why should I believe you when you say this is the absolute best gift for my friend? I love my friend and I don't want them to be disappointed with the gift I give them. Above all else, I want to make sure this gift actually works like it's supposed to.

When you create a connection between you and the product, you tell your readers that this is the best thing and I know because I have personally used it. Whether you got this item for free as a blogger or spent your cash on the product, having products you have actually tested can create a better gift guide. Obviously you may not have tried every single item, but the more you have tried, the better.

Also reach out to your friends and family. They may know of something they purchased from a store that they really adore. Even if you haven't personally tested the product, a vote of confidence from a family member or friend you gush about may be just as useful. People want to know why you are recommending the products in your gift guide and if they see that you actually know and love the products that helps.

Conclusion

Gift guides can be a great way to make money during the holiday season. With these five elements you can create a gift guide that wows your readers, makes you money, and helps your audience solve the problems they have with gift giving. I hope that this post shed some light on gift guides and how to make great ones!

11 Things You Should Be Doing On Twitter As A blogger

I am not going to lie to you today. Twitter and I are not the best of friends. I have never quite been able to crack it's shell, but I know enough about the platform since using it for as long as I can remember. I have had multiple accounts on Twitter over the years, and I am growing and learning every single day.

Twitter is a great platform for bloggers everywhere to connect with their audience and like-minded individuals. Now that you can say more with Twitter's release of 280 characters, what should you be doing to optimize your space and tweets on Twitter? Today on the blog I am sharing 11 things you should be doing on Twitter. If you aren't already, head over to my account and give me a follow so we can chat with each other while you are in the Twitter mood!

A week ago I shared some quick Twitter tips with y'all, but today on the blog I wanted to specifically chat about this platform so anyone who is interested in utilizing Twitter for their new blog can do so with ease.

11 Things You Should Be Doing On Twitter As A Blogger | Have you been considering your Twitter strategy as a blogger? Today on Amanda Cross Blog I am sharing my advice on eleven things bloggers should be doing on Twitter. Are you doing these things?

1. Scheduling Out Your Promotions As Much As Possible

Now, I am not going to lie I am not a perfect person when it comes to scheduling my promotions (in fact, my inner self is saying, "Girl, when do you ever schedule out your promotions?" Hush inner self.) This is a do as I say not as I do moment, y'all. I find that when I am actually on top of things and I schedule out my promotions, I get a lot more interaction from Twitter. Shocker, I know.

There are SO many platforms out there to help you with your scheduling. Platforms like Hootsuite, Buffer, SmarterQueue, and MeetEdgar to name a few. For a new blogger, I really like Buffer's simplicity. There are many to choose from, but I think I most often go back to that one.

2. Sharing Each Blog post As Many times As Possible (Especially On the First Day)

So many people share a blog post once on Twitter and get upset because like one person clicked on it. Yeah that sucks, but Twitter is not the platform for longevity. While a tweet lives on your profile forever, it doesn't survive on the Twitter feed that long. 

So, you want to continuously push your blog throughout the day and at different times throughout the day. Here are some ideas of what to share:

  • An initial post letting your readers know a post is live.
  • A few posts with quotes from the post.
  • A few posts with comments about the post if you have any.
  • Some retweets of other people sharing the post if you have any of those.

Share social proof and get people excited about reading and sharing your post for you.

3. Adding RT Accounts When You Post your Content

IMG_1997.jpg

Another easy way to get more views on your blog is by adding RT accounts to your tweet when you share it. The other day I sent out a tweet about my new post how to get over a blogging slump and I @'d my favorite RT account FemaleBloggerRT. This is a RT account for female bloggers of all types.

Mind you I have an audience size of around 200-ish on my Twitter for this blog.

As you can see with the help of hashtags (but mostly FemaleBloggerRT) I was able to get my impressions to be 5x the size of my actual audience. I got four retweets and four likes on this one Twitter post which allowed me to tap into the audiences of the people who retweeted me. Now, I only got five link clicks from this, but for an audience size of 200-ish, I think five link clicks on a single tweet is pretty impressive.

There are tons of RT accounts, and you can and should experiment with different groups to see which ones help you find your best audience on Twitter.


4. Taking The Time To Live Tweet Throughout The Day

Twitter isn't all about promo promo promo. You also need to take the time to give back to your audience and tweet with them throughout the day. It doesn't take a ton of your time, but it makes all the difference in any Twitter strategy. Taking fifteen minutes spread out throughout the day to share your day on Twitter is crucial. Share inspiration, share your witty/funny thoughts, share a story from your life, etc. Now that you have 280 characters per tweet you can really make an impact with the words you type there.

5. Using Your Twitter Analytics To See What Followers Respond To

Twitter Analytics is a literal goldmine for you as a blogger. You can really make an impact once you know what tweets you create that get a response as well as what your followers are interested in. The great thing about Twitter Analytics is that they collect them anyway, so even if you turn them on for an account while you are creating an article about Twitter, they will be there. Admittedly, I have used Twitter analytics more for my other blog The Happy Arkansan, but Twitter Analytics is so rich and valuable.

Not only can you see what your Twitter users respond to that you tweet, but you can also see what they are interested in generally. For example, here are the top five interests of my Twitter followers for this blog:

  1. Marketing
  2. Entrepreneurship
  3. Technology
  4. Tech News
  5. Startups

I also see that about 68% of my Twitter following is from the United States, 11% are from Texas (specifically), and 67% are female. All these stats will help me craft better tweets for my audience.

6. Adding Pictures & GIFs To Your Tweets To Make Them Stand Out more

You have the ability to use pictures and GiFs in your tweets, use them to the best of your ability. Make sure they are relevant, obviously, but in a world where everyone get's 280 characters, just creating longer messages won't always help yours stand out. So, say what you want to say, then add a relevant picture or GIF to it.

Pictures stand out and make people instantly want to click your link or check out your profile. Some people love to use Twitter cards when sharing their posts, and I think they are cool sometimes, but I feel like I get the most traction when I use an image for my posts instead.

7. Searching For Your URL to Find & Like tweets That Share your Site

Not everyone who shares your posts will tag you in the post. Things fall through the cracks and they may not know who to tag or care to tag you. So, a great thing to do is use the search feature to search for uses of your URL. I like to search through this every few days so that I can like and retweet other people's tweets when they share my blog posts.

This builds a relationship with your potential audience and gets them to notice your account just in case they didn't know about the existence of your Twitter account when they shared your post.

8. Replying To As Many Of Your Mentions As you can

If someone mentions you on Twitter, you should try to respond as promptly as possible. I understand that isn't always possible. Try to be on your very best Twitter behavior when it comes to replying though because the more you reply, the more messages you get back from other people.

When people see you actively responding to other people, they will want to chat with you too, so don't hesitate to take a few minutes out of the day to ask questions and get responses.

9. Joining Relevant Twitter Chats As Often As Possible

Twitter chats are a great way to meet new people, grow your audience, and influence. Twitter chats usually take place over an hour where you answer a set of 5-10 questions about predetermined topics. You can connect with other Twitter users and really grow connections with a lot of people. You don't have to join every Twitter chat each week, but I really like to join them when possible.

Here are some relevant chats for bloggers:

Remember, things change with the drop of a hat. You should always check these out to make sure they are still running and chatting each week. I will try to keep these chats as updated as possible.

10. Connecting with As Many Of Your Followers As You Can

Once you get a follower, connect with them, then continue to connect with them over time. You may want to create a few private lists so you can easily go through and connect with your followers or you may just want to take five minutes each day to go to your followers list, pick a few random people, and interact with their latest tweets.

Either way you slice it, you should be interacting with the people who choose to follow you and what you have to say.

11. Utilizing Popular Events & Hashtags To Amplify Your reach

Twitter has always been great about making sure that people knew what was trending on the platform. Do not exploit this but you should definitely utilize these things. When an award show is happening, live tweet with your audience. When you see a funny hashtag trending, make your own tweet on the subject (that is relevant to what you normally talk about.)

It is important that you get your profile in front of new eyes, and using the trending section to your advantage is a great way to do that. Don't piggyback off a tragedy, obviously, but there are so many other trending hashtags to utilize to get in front of new audiences and grow your influence on Twitter.

Conclusion

Twitter is a great place to make a connection with your audience. Now that you have 280 characters, you can have twice the fun on the platform. What will you do to fill up that space? I hope that today's article will help you create your Twitter profile and use it to the best your ability.

What is your best Twitter tip?

How To Get Over A Blogging Slump

We have all had those weeks.

You know, the weeks where you look down at your keyboard but literally no words are coming from your fingers. The weeks where you slam your laptop in frustration (secretly wishing harm to your computer but also not because no one has the money to replace a computer right now.)

Blogging slumps are the worst, especially if writing is a big part of your income (or what you hope will be your income.) We have all these people telling us that consistent work is what will build our audience, but what happens when we just can't make our brain blog?

Today, I am going to share my foolproof strategy for getting over a blogging slump because blogging slumps suck and getting over them is the best. So, grab a glass of *milk* and let's get started.

How To Get Over A Blogging Slump | When you depend on your blog so much, going through a blogging slump can be the worst feeling in the world. Click through for my foolproof strategy for getting through your blogging slump with grace.

1. Breathe

Okay, first things first, I am going to need you to take a deep breath. The world is not going to burn while you deal with your blogging breakdown slump. You will be okay and so will the precious blog that you adore so much.

But, I know that saying just breathe is easier said than done. What do you do right now while you don't have new content to share. Won't that make you irrelevant? No, because we are going to be smart about our absence, y'all.

Schedule Out Past Content

We are not going to leave our audience and potential audience hanging, y'all. I need you to look through your old content archive. Look for the following attributes of posts to collect:

  • Work that has done well on one of your social media platforms before.
  • Work that you are obsessed with and proud of.
  • Work that didn't do as well as you thought it should have.
  • Work that you think is super timely right now.

Create some sort of document or spreadsheet of these posts, and go promote as usual during your slump, but with this old content. Schedule social media shares, share these posts in Facebook groups, create new images to share them on places like Pinterest, and even try a new social media network with them. Go all out. Promote them just like you would any new content you produced this week.

Depending on and promoting your content archive is so important during a time like this. You should be able to depend on that content. You wrote it, it matters. Promote it like you just wrote it this week, and don't worry about what did or didn't get posted this week.

2. Get Some Inspiration

After you have averted your content crisis for the week, it's time to hunker down and get inspired. There are SO many places you can turn to for some quick inspiration during this time. Here are some places to start:

  • Your Fave Niche Blogs: We all have our favorite blogs in our niche. Go check out the feeds from those blogs and see what they are blogging about at the moment.
  • Pinterest (Specifically Group Boards): Pinterest is SO vast that you could be looking for inspiration for days. Start with your smart feed, especially if it's a dream like I taught you. Then head over to your niche group boards. What are your group mates pinning to those group boards? Check out their blogs, what are they blogging about?
  • StumbleUpon: StumbleUpon has MANY different categories for every type of blogger. Find a category related to your blog and stumble through a few pages.

You may also get inspiration from other places and not all of them will be online. You may get inspiration from just living your life without being always on. Just see what feels right for you as far as inspiration is concerned.

3. Do A Brain Dump

Ugh, taking in all that information and inspiration can be a lot to handle. So, now, I want you to take out a few sheets of paper and do a complete and total brain dump. Your mission, get out every single thing that's tickling your brain, down on a sheet of paper. That could be your worries, blog post ideas, bills you have to pay, anything and everything. Your brain should essentially be on that sheet (or sheets) of paper. The first time you do a brain dump it will probably be pretty focused (aka all blog posts or all bills that need to be paid, etc), but over time as you complete more brain dumps you will get better at letting it do it's job right.

Once you have let your brain rest from the brain dump go through your work. Sort those random thoughts into categories. What is a concern, what is a blog topic, etc. Something you think is just a concern could easily turn into a great topic for a blog post, though, so don't write off everything that wasn't specifically written as a blog post idea.

4. Take A Writing Week

Okay, so we have all these ideas, but how do we implement them without going insane? We take what I call a writing week. A week that you set aside to write with no strict deadlines. You aren't writing for your next blog deadline, you are taking it slow, and just trying to write a bit of content each day that week.

I find that I most often get in a blogging slump because I am fighting against this deadline I have given myself. I don't want to let my audience down, but this is a deadline I have given myself. There is literally no reason that I have to punish myself and my audience will understand that I needed a break.

So sit down at your computer, relax your shoulders, sip some of that *milk* from earlier, and remind yourself that you are not writing against a deadline. Take it one step (or keystroke) at a time. 

Find A Different Way To Create

The act of writing may also be a bit intimidating for you. So, you may want to experiment with a few other ways to produce content during your "writing" week. You may want to use text-to-speech for your content, create an audio version of a post, or even hop in front of a camera to create a post.

For example, some months back, I wanted to create a post featuring ten lessons blogging has taught me, but I just couldn't get myself in the mood to produce that blog. So, I sat up a camera and wrote down the basic outline of the lessons I wanted to discuss, and I created a video. This helped me produce a great video to go along with the post and eventually gave me a better outline for the actual written post that I wanted to create.

5. If Things Persist, Reach Out For Help

Sometimes our blogging slump pulls an Elizabeth Warren because nevertheless, it persists. If you can't find your way out of your slump automatically, reach out to some of your blog friends to see if they would like to create a guest post for your blog. They may already have something in their back pocket to provide for your audience or maybe they can whip up something really quick.

Other ways that you can get some help if your friends aren't quite up to that is to look in your inbox. You probably have a request or two for guest posts on your site. It doesn't hurt to see what those people have to offer, especially if you are itching for content. If you don't feel comfortable letting just anyone on your site, don't worry. It's going to be okay. Just schedule out some more content and keep going through these steps. Slumps have a way of getting themselves worked out with patience and persistence.

Conclusion

I totally get it, blogging slumps suck. I hope that today's blog post will help you when it comes to getting over slumps. Remember that you are not alone. Other people deal with blogging slumps. You are not the first or last person dealing with this issue.

So remember to breathe and persist the next time you find yourself in a blogging slump.