The Christmas season is big business for publishers: on average in our network, a publisher doubles their commerce revenue. 

Gift guides form the backbone of publishers’ commerce strategies in this time. In some instances, top publishers including BuzzFeed and The Verge, operate dedicated landing pages to collect their huge volume of gift guides together in one place. 

This is an important time of year for publishers, so they’re more selective than usual about the brands they include in their commerce content. 

Fortunately, our experience working with over 48,000 merchants means we’re well placed to help advertisers get featured in seasonal gift guides. 

Share your editorial calendar and offers plans in advance of key events 

Publishers plan their content for key events way in advance. 

In the case of the festive season, they’ll typically prepare in the summer and have most content in place by early autumn. This is driven by a focus on achieving preferential SEO ranking, to be able to take maximum advantage of higher search traffic volumes through Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas holidays. Traffic will start to increase sharply from November 1. 

To align with publishers, advertisers need to make information available as early as possible. Ideally share your editorial calendar, so publishers can understand when you’ll push your promotions and what offers will be available for the articles they’re writing. You can also share further product information, such as the top-selling product categories, best-selling items or exclusive collections, which will help make your case for content coverage. 

Few publishers update content during the Cyber weekend, so if you don’t have information with them beforehand, it is unlikely you’ll make an impact in gift guides. 

Embargos are standard practice with publishers that create commerce content, so there’s no danger of them spoiling your holiday plans early. 

Optimise with existing partners first 

When advertisers think about their Christmas strategy, their focus should be to reward existing partners first. Off the back of higher traffic November through January, these publishers are likely to drive even greater performance than normal. 

That’s not to say that brands can’t experiment, but to be sure of strong performance in this key season they should look to optimise with existing partners. This could mean offering established partners exclusive rates (15% for existing partners vs. 10% standard rate), or a bespoke offer (an exclusive discount code for a publisher). 

The key is to optimise with these trusted partners and make your offering more competitive relevant to peers in the same vertical. You should typically aim to have your commission rate be in the top 10% for your vertical. 

Be flexible to requests from publishers 

Publishers want flexibility from advertisers. 

At such a critical time of year, publishers want to make sure they put relevant content in front of their audience. Typically, publishers will know which types of offers their readers are more likely to respond to: Free shipping, for example, is popular with publishers because it has a 5.5% conversion rate. 

Other publishers will be looking for other kinds of offers – exclusive codes, discounts, buy one get one free etc. – so in an ideal world, the advertiser should bring a range of options to the table for publishers to consider.

Think about the Christmas season as an entire period and optimise accordingly 

The festive season has a wealth of e-commerce opportunities and publishers tend to approach them differently. 

During Black Friday, for example, many shoppers are actually looking to buy items for themselves rather than others. That shapes coverage as publishers write about big-ticket items people want to invest in before the festive season takes place. 

At Cyber Monday, technology products are traditionally the top performers, and most content focuses on this vertical. The event is starting to broaden out though  – three of the top ten performing Cyber Monday articles last year focused on fashion – so there’s an opportunity for brands to factor this into their promotional strategy. 

Content created for the Christmas season after Black Friday sees another shift towards gifts for others and decorations for the home. Publishers will publish content the whole way through to Christmas, ranging from gift guides for particular family members to guides on how to buy the perfect artificial Christmas tree. 

For Boxing Day, publishers will create content to cover the best sales in the market, which to the point about early warning is a key date for brands in the UK to communicate on.

Play the long game

Ultimately sustained the growth of an affiliate program is a long game. Publishers can help you scale, and drive great results in the holiday season, but in the past, we have seen brands who only optimise for the holiday season, then cut commission rates afterwards in Q1 lose out in the long term. In fact, short-term increases in our network typically result in an almost 5% decline in performance.

Publishers want to work with long-term partners that their audience will love. It provides a poor experience for publishers to constantly cycle through the partners that they work with. To be successful, have the right publishers writing the best level of content across the peak time of year, ensure your CPA increases are in place for at least six months. Merchants that increase commission rates can see an over 25% increase in order value year-on-year. 

So the best tip for gifting content is to increase your commission rates and maintain a higher rate over a longer period, so publishers have the opportunity to drive significant performance. 

To conclude 

In the festive season, publishers are well placed to help advertisers drive performance through gift guides. The name of the game for advertisers is to:

  • Communicate proactively
  • Think about current partners first
  • Be open to publisher requests and 
  • Look at the festive season as the gateway to long-term performance. 

This can be a mutually advantageous time of year and with these tips, advertisers will be well placed to get featured in gifting content.