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The summer months can suck for bloggers because people just don’t want to be on their computers. (Not that I can blame them!) The summer traffic slump is real and it’s a bummer. Thankfully, those days should be coming to an end as school begins and temperatures begin to drop, and people begin spending more time on their computers again. This is great news for bloggers utilizing affiliate marketing on their blogs, because the uptick in traffic comes right before the fourth quarter (Q4), which is the biggest retail time of the year.
Retailers go crazy for Q4 because this is the time of the year that many of them make the most money. There’s a reason you’ll see sale upon sale upon sale as we head toward Christmas: Retailers want to get people shopping! While they will often spend big money and rely on traditional advertising venues to get the word out, retailers can be quite generous with their affiliate partners as well. Saying bloggers should attempt to make the most of Q4 to line their own pockets and/or meet their own revenue goals for the year would be an understatement. If you rely on affiliate marketing to make money blogging, then you should go gangbusters for Q4.
Q4 for Bloggers
Technically Q4 for bloggers is October, November, and December, but you should start putting your plans in place immediately. Yesterday, actually.
To help you get your Q4 game in order, here’s a rundown of everything you need to do to make the most money during the craziest time of the year.
Develop a Game Plan
Not only does the end of summer mean that people are back on their computers, but they’re looking for gift ideas, decorations, holiday outfits… AKA they’re SHOPPING.
That’s good news on its own. The other good news is that affiliate programs generally have more money to spend during Q4, thanks in part to that old adage that you need to spend money to make money. The affiliate programs might spend the money on bonuses, increased commissions, and even sponsored posts.
So how do you make the most of all of this? You need to come up with a blogging game plan.
Some things to consider:
• How can you capitalize on the shopping/spending fun while creating posts that fit within your niche?
• How many posts do you want to write about any specific day? For instance, do you want to talk about Halloween? Veterans Day? Thanksgiving? Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Christmas? New Years? Once you know what days you’re going to cover, start thinking of specific post ideas.
• Have you joined the right affiliate networks ?
• Are there specific affiliate programs that will be ideal for whatever you’re planning on writing? Check out these ShareaSale affiliate programs that are notoriously blogger-friendly and frequently offer sponsored posts, review products, and more.
• Write out a posting schedule (editorial calendar). Remember that you don’t want to post about Christmas on Christmas Eve. Always plan to post a few weeks to a couple of months ahead of time to give people plenty of time to shop.
Take some time to plan now and enjoy the rewards over the coming months!
Put Together a Media Kit
After you’ve taken some time to plan out your Q4 coverage, you’ll want to start thinking about reaching out to brands with whom you might like to partner.
Before you get to that point, though, I highly recommend putting together a media kit. There’s no one template that a media kit should follow, although at a minimum they should all have:
• your photo
• a brief description of your website
• your contact information
• social media follower counts
• monthly page views
• unique monthly visitors
A one-page media kit will typically include the information above, while a two-page media kit will usually include your advertising rates.
You can find plenty of examples of media kits online. I know lots of bloggers make theirs in Canva, and I have personally made mine in Photoshop before. Putting one together can take a bit of time, so last year I bought one on Etsy that I love. There are tons of different media kit options on Etsy, with most costing $10-$20. You’ll just need to update it with your own information.
One word of warning, however, if you go this route: Make sure you have the software needed to complete any edits. I don’t want you to pay for something you can’t edit!
Write Your Pitch Letter
So you’ve got your editorial calendar planned out, and you’ve updated your media kit.
Now, in my opinion, is the time-consuming part. It’s time to write some pitch letters to companies with whom you would like to work. A pitch letter generally requests samples you would like to receive and/or payment for coverage but there are other options:
• free product
• giveaway items
• increased affiliate commissions*
• increased affiliate cookie length*
• custom coupon codes*
* You can generally only request these items from affiliate programs. If you wrote directly to a company and asked for an increased affiliate commission there’s a chance they wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
In your letters, be specific about what you want and/or need. Most companies aren’t going to offer you all of the above, so try to be strategic and also remember that *almost* everything can be negotiated. So let’s say you’d ideally like a company to send you a product + pay you a straight fee, but they say no to the fee. If you’re working with an affiliate manager you can always turn around and ask for an item to review + a commission increase. There’s generally less risk involved with a commission increase because you’re only paid more when items sell, versus a flat fee where you get paid regardless. Be ready to negotiate and pick your battles.
In your letters, be specific about the coverage you are offering. Do you want to include an item in a gift guide that you will then review? Do you require a product for consideration for inclusion in a gift guide (i.e. they may send you a product but you might not do anything with it)? Are you going to run a 25 Days of Christmas promotion and you’d like an item to review and giveaway? Be sure to plan this out before contacting companies.
Once you ask for what you want and/ or need, butter up the company. How is giving you a product and/or money going to help them? What type of promotion are you going to offer? Will you be sharing everything constantly across your social media channels? Will you be writing blog posts? Tell the company what’s in it for them and sell them on why they should work with you.
Finding the Right PR Contact
So how do you find the people to contact? If you’re in an affiliate program, contact the affiliate manager. I’ve been told many times that the affiliate manager is the best person to go to – they want to help you make more money! If you’re not in an affiliate program or the company doesn’t have one, Google their PR firm. If you can’t find a PR firm, try to find a “media” email address on their website. I’ve also been using the free Clearbit Connect extension for Gmail the past couple of months. You enter a company’s domain and it gives you a list of public email addresses. It has definitely come in handy! Finally, if all else fails, use the contact form on their website.
Important: Before hitting “send” on your letter, be sure to include your media kit!
Doubly important: Put your best foot forward and proofread your email before sending it. I highly recommend installing the free version of Grammarly on your browser. It’s an invaluable tool, in my opinion. I’m not sure I could write without it at this point!
For more info on pitching brands, I highly recommend checking out the Blogger’s Guide to Pitching Brands.
Affiliate Network Placement Opportunities
I love approaching affiliate managers directly with sponsorship inquiries. Companies that are looking for extra placement opportunities may be willing to pay you a flat rate IN ADDITION to any commissions that you earn. Not only that, but some will even send you products for review.
I can’t stress this enough: THIS is the time of the year that brands have extra money to spend. It’s often said that you have to spend money to make money, and most brands will spend a little extra if it means extra exposure for them. Companies want your traffic.
Another option you can take advantage of in the affiliate realm is the “placement marketplaces” that some affiliate networks, including CJ, Affiliate Window, and Pepperjam have available. These marketplaces allow you to share any placement opportunities that you have available, and then the merchants themselves can get back to you if they think you’d be a good fit. A placement opportunity can be anything from space for a banner ad on your site, to a request for full sponsored posts, to increased commissions for increased holiday coverage… YOU set the terms in these marketplaces.
Be sure to write cohesive plans for what you are looking for what and what type of opportunities you have available. For instance, if you are offering banner ad space on your site, be sure to note if you want a flat rate or an affiliate commission, as well as how long each ad will run. The same is true if you are using placement opportunities to write content. As with a pitch letter, the more information you are able to provide, the better.
Add Affiliate Links to Your Posts
As I’ve said before, affiliate marketing is about shopping or convincing your readers to buy something. While that may not be the point of your blog, writing a shopping-related post needn’t be scammy.
Here are a few post ideas by niche to help get the juices flowing:
Frugal living bloggers: Gifts under a certain amount of money, how to host a holiday party for less, how to create holiday decorations for less, how to save on gift wrap
Travel bloggers: How to plan a New Year’s Eve getaway for less, where to find the best Thanksgiving flight deals, gift ideas for your favorite world traveler, travel accessories you’ll need in the new year
Fashion bloggers: What to wear on Thanksgiving, what to wear on New Year’s Eve, gifts for your fashionable BFF, fashionable Halloween costume ideas
Recipe bloggers: Christmas cookie cutters everyone needs, homemade edible gift recipes, New kitchenware aspiring chefs should put on their wish lists
Mom bloggers: Gift guides for the kids or anyone else in the family, how to dress comfortably and stylishly on New Year’s Eve, matching pj’s for the family, holiday books to read together as a family, holiday movies to watch together as a family
DIY / Craft bloggers: How to create your own holiday decorations, how to make your own holiday cards, how to make your own wrapping paper, homemade gifts anyone will love
Whatever posts you come up with in Q4, don’t be afraid to liberally use your affiliate links! I don’t mean that every word in your post should be a new affiliate link, but where possible, add a link. For instance, if you were writing about creating your own wrapping paper, include a link to kraft paper on Amazon. Also, be sure to use a variety of links. Include both text links and image links because you never know which link someone would prefer to click.
Whether you’re writing a gift guide or a recipe, you should be able to add affiliate links to any post.
Promote, Promote, Promote
The key to gaining traffic and making money in Q4? Promote your content! Many say that blogging these days is 20 percent content creation and 80 percent promotion. Therefore, you should really go into promotion overdrive during Q4 if you want your content to stand out from the masses.
Before you begin promoting, make sure that all of your blog posts have shareable images. Images are SO important these days, especially if you plan on getting traffic from Pinterest! My favorite graphics editor of the moment is Stencil, which allows you to create fantastic social media images ridiculously quickly. In just one click you can change your image from one that’s designed for Pinterest into one that’s sized perfectly for Twitter.
Once your posts are written and your images are ready, I highly recommend investing in a social media scheduler. While they’re certainly not a necessity, it can make promoting your posts so much easier! Buffer is a great free option, although the free plan only lets you schedule so much. Recurpost is another free option that I like. Hootsuite is another one that lets you do quite a bit. An up-and-comer in the field is ContentCal. Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention CoSchedule.Check out my Coschedule review for all of the details.
Ways to promote your Q4 content:
Pinterest is one of the biggest traffic drivers to blogs, which means that you should make sure all of your content is on there and that you are pinning regularly. Make liberal use of Pinterest Group Boards and Tailwind Tribes to try to get your posts saved and shared by others.
If your Pinterest game isn’t up to snuff, I highly recommend checking out Melyssa Griffin’s course, Pinfinite Growth.
Try to find ways to create Instagram images that relate to your blog posts. If you are reviewing items, post a photo of said item to Instagram, along with a link to your post.
It goes without saying that you should promote all of your Q4 blog posts on your blog’s Facebook page, and perhaps even on your personal profile. If you haven’t yet, you might want to consider starting a Facebook Group for your blog.
If you’re not sure which is better, check out this post about Facebook Pages vs Facebook Groups.
As with Facebook, be sure to share all of your posts on Twitter. Also, remember that the lifespan of any single tweet is approximately 10 minutes, which means you can share fairly frequently on this platform.
Send Regular Updates to Your Email List
Don’t spam your followers, but if you’re writing something special don’t be afraid to get it in front of your readers ASAP! For instance, on my main site, I do most updates via RSS feed, but I always send a special email with my holiday gift guide.
If you don’t yet have an email list, this is the time to start growing one! I personally use ConvertKit, though for new bloggers I’d recommend starting with free accounts from MailChimp or MailerLite.
Tag Companies in Your Social Posts
ALWAYS tag a company when you are sharing something about their products on social media. You never know when they may share your post with their followers!
Ask People to Share
It never hurts to ask people to share your content. For instance, if you’re hosting holiday giveaways, make sharing an entry requirement. If you’ve worked with PR people to secure placements, send them your posts and ask if they’d be willing to share with the company’s social media followings.
For more ideas on how to promote your content, check out 30 Places to Promote Your Blog Post for Free.
Follow Up With Partners
There’s no denying that Q4 for bloggers can be crazy, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really end on January 1. Even though you might be tired and in desperate need of a vacation, take some time to follow-up with all of the companies that worked with you over the past few months.
Send them links to any applicable posts, as well as social media mentions. Tell them how much interaction you were able to garner. Send them traffic numbers.
Is this part a necessity? No, not necessarily. Some companies will ask for it while others won’t. BUT, taking the time to follow-up with partners will leave them feeling good about working with you. This could perhaps lead to more collaborative opportunities in the future.
Do Tell: What else would you add to this Q4 for bloggers list? Anything that you plan to do… or not do?
Keep Calm & Promote, Promote, Promote!
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