Perhaps you want to make money blogging through affiliate marketing? Or maybe you’re a blogger who’d like to advertise someone’s product for some form of recompense? If either of these scenarios apply to you, you must provide affiliate disclosure.
You can make many different types of mistakes as a blogger. Some of them relate to your content and affect how engaging it is. Other more technical blogging mistakes affect your ability to rank in search engines.
Then there are other mistakes that can land you in legal trouble. A failure to disclose affiliate relationships is one of them.
In this post I’m going to explain what affiliate disclosure is and why you have to make sure you factor it on your blog.
A Definition of Affiliate Disclosure
Affiliate disclosures clearly identify commercial relationships or partnerships between entities, to potential consumers. In blogging terms, this amounts to being open about relationships where there is potential for payment, or where you receive some other benefit for mentioning and linking to products.
Affiliate disclosure is effectively a disclaimer statement that informs consumers or potential buyers that you are have a commercial relationship with companies or people you link to as an affiliate or advertiser.
Why is Affiliate Disclosure Required?
Primarily it’s because the FTC Act, is a legal instrument in US law, which protects consumers against commercial practices deemed unfair or deceptive.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll explain how the FTC Act and affiliate disclosure are connected.
Have you ever bought something because you trusted the recommendation of a friend?
If you did, your friend’s impartiality is the thing that probably persuaded you to make that purchase. The recommendation came from someone you know and trust, who’d perhaps used the product, and you felt comfortable to make a purchase as a consequence.
When we read product recommendations from people online, with whom we don’t have a personal relationship, we don’t know whether or not they’ve ever used (let alone seen) the products they recommend.
They might tell you these products are the best thing since sliced bread…but how do we know we can trust what they say?
Find out how you add affiliate links in WordPress.
Affiliate disclosures help us to balance product recommendations or suggestions we read about online, with the knowledge that someone is receiving (or will receive) some form of benefit from promoting that product.
In order to protect potential buyers online, organizations like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) monitor the online landscape to ensure that people who recommend products clearly state their commercial relationship to the products they promote.
By making it a legal requirement to disclose such relationships, affiliates inform potential buyers about the benefit they receive in return for discussing them, which gives a more complete context in which consumers can act on any recommendations or suggestions provided.
Wouldn’t you want to know if someone was being paid for recommending a product to you?
The FTC states that by NOT making affiliate disclosures when recommending products for which you receive an incentive, it’s actually a form of “deceptive marketing”, which is legally questionable.
What Are the Rules on Affiliate Disclosure?
Organizations like the FTC are very clear on this in their endorsement guides.
In general, your affiliate disclosure must be frequent, clear and conspicuous. It should also require no action on the part of your readers to find out you get kickbacks.
Your disclosure should appear on every page where there is content that promotes a product or service for which you receive compensation.
Such pages include:
If you receive compensation for products you promote, it must be totally transparent to the reader. You must outline clearly that commissions or incentives may have influenced the information in your content and don’t attempt to conceal it in any way.
Whenever possible, incorporate disclosure language directly into promotional claims and recommendations rather than putting it into a separate disclosure.
Additionally, disclosures about your incentives should be consistent with all other content on your blog.
For example, let’s suppose you’ve written an article that makes a specific claim about an affiliate product. That claim must be valid and you shouldn’t say something different about it elsewhere on your blog.
Your disclosure should be conspicuous so it is unlikely to be missed by your visitors
It must be clear and easy to see. Further good practice is to introduce it with the word “Disclosure.”
The font you use for your disclosure should be at least as large as the main text on your pages, with the size and visual contrast making it clear and legible.
Color too should help to highlight it rather than to conceal it.
Your Disclosure Should Require No Action from the Reader
Your affiliate disclosure must be immediately clear to any visitor to your blog, on any device and in any browser.
The fact you promote affiliate products should be easy for anyone to see without them having to hunt around your blog to find out if you receive compensation for products you recommend.
It’s pretty straightforward really… don’t try to conceal the reality that you have affiliate relationships.
What Can Happen If You Don’t Disclose Affiliate Relationships?
Despite hype suggesting otherwise, the FTC itself does not apply fines for those who break the FTC Act, which “prohibits deceptive advertising”.
However, it does run investigations, open legal cases and provides evidence for affiliate marketers who do not comply with regulations.
The FTC iѕ a large organization with over 1,000 employees. It carries out spot checks and continually rolls out new initiatives to crack down on affiliates who break the rules… and the size of the organization breaking the rules is irrelevant.
You could be a large established brand or a travel blogger, course creator or fashion influencer. If you break the rules…. you break the rules!
Many affiliates might feel uncomfortable about disclosing affiliate relationships for fear of discouraging buyers. However, if you think about it seriously, the risk in not doing so makes hiding affiliate relationships pretty much a false economy.
You could be fined, suffer reputational damage and be removed from affiliate programs or networks as a consequence.
For me, it’s a risk not worth taking
Imagine putting in a huge amount of effort into creating stellar content that ends up high in Google results. Let’s say you earn hundreds of dollars every month from one affiliate product as a result. Let’s also say it’s your top earner.
Without compliant affiliate disclosure on your posts, you risk expulsion from that very affiliate program, since networks and merchants have a duty to ensure compliance too.
Boom… you just lost your biggest revenue stream.
Furthermore, you jeopardize your reputation as a blogger by not disclosing affiliate relationships.
People are smart enough to know that bloggers get kickbacks from promoting products. If your readers see an affiliate promotion without proper disclosure, you risk losing their trust and a future relationship.
Several years ago, the FTC introduced online advertising guidelines that include rules on how affiliates should disclose their commercial interests online.
If you’re serious about making money through affiliate marketing, you should adhere 100% to FTC guidelines and make your affiliate disclosure clear.
As a member of affiliate programs, you’re responsible for declaring any affiliate relationship and any products or services you have a commercial connection to… or any you may be compensated for in any way.
While the FTC advises its regulations are for US-based consumers, many countries have similar guidelines.
The reality is that as a responsible blogger and an affiliate, you should abide by these guidelines for all your visitors, since you can’t control who reads your posts and in which country they read them.
In the interests of being reliable and transparent, be clear about your affiliate relationships and don’t act in any way to conceal them.
That’s all for now.
I’de love to hear what you thought of this post. Why not leave a comment below and let’s talk about it?