Why you shouldn’t do a gift guide on your blog

Consider the alternatives

Perhaps I’m retouching my memories, but I swear that stores used to postpone hauling out Christmas decorations and promos until just after Thanksgiving. This year I saw them the second Halloween wrapped. And in the spirit of rejiggering the calendar to make the holiday shopping season as long as possible, PR companies started pitching me products to feature in my blog’s holiday gift guides at the end of July.

But here’s the thing: I don’t do a holiday gift guide on my blog.

Presents to represent a gift guide on a blog For one thing, I feel it’s a bit presumptuous to recommend gifts to my readers when I know little about them and less about their loved ones. For another, my blog focuses on style and I know from experience that buying clothing for other people is a diplomatic minefield: Buy the wrong size and wound someone’s self-image; buy the wrong item and look like you’re offering passive-aggressive style advice … just not worth the risk.

I understand that gift guides are important tools for many businesses, and would never declare that they should be universally banned. But if you’re on the fence about creating one for your blog or business, here are some reasons to come down on the “no” side.

1. Everyone does a gift guide

I dare you to keep count of the gift guides that you see or are sent between now and New Year’s. If the number is under 100, I’ll eat my laptop. Every website, company, charity, boutique, and artisan in the known world hopes to boost profits during the holidays, and many seem to believe that gift guides are essential to seasonal marketing efforts.

Think your gift guide will stand out in the crowd? It certainly might … but it might also get lost in the shuffle. Yes, you might feel some pangs of anxiety if you see competitors’ guides floating around, but breathe through them. The “everyone else was doing it” argument didn’t work when you were a teenager, and it won’t do you much good now, either.

2. It looks like a money grab

If you own a store or sell a physical product, a gift guide might look like a money grab — but it’s a completely reasonable and expected money grab. If you’re a blogger, on the other hand, posting a giant roundup of products and attempting to pass it off as super-helpful gift-buying inspiration that you’re sharing out of the goodness of your heart, might not fly.

Even if your guide is so spectacular that it does stand out, pushing random “gift-y” products on your audience can make you look like you’re trying to rack up the affiliate profits. And there are better, more authentic and helpful ways to do that.

3. Alternatives offer more value

BECAUSE gift guides are ubiquitous and BECAUSE they can seem a bit greedy, you might benefit more from creating a gift guide alternative.

  • Instead of just pushing individual buy-able items, round up your favorite holiday DIYs or recipes and point out where ingredients can be purchased.
  • Talk about one of your family traditions and work a few affiliate links into the text.
  • Offer decorating tips, and fold in a few hints about how your company’s products can help make holiday homes twinkle and sparkle.

The reason gift guides exist is because the holiday season can be overwhelming and everyone could use some suggestions for structure. Consider focusing yours on non-gift tips or practices.

If your gift guide is an essential revenue generator or consistently garners positive feedback, by all means keep it up! But if it’s just another item to tick off your holiday prep list, pause to consider if you can make better use of your time.

Image by: Josh Puetz via Compfight cc

Sally McGraw
Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She is the creator the popular daily blog Already Pretty, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a Huffington Post contributor, and the author of several books about style and body image. Sally is also a ghostwriter and editor who specializes in non-fiction books and book proposals. She believes that writing is like solving a living, breathing, ever-changing puzzle, and finds the challenge exhilarating. Her favorite word is "crepuscular."