What Every Affiliate Blogger Needs to Know about the FTC Disclosure Guidelines
By Andy Shal December 19, 2017
No affiliate marketing program is the same. The terms and conditions may vary from one program to the next.
But there’s one rule that remains the same across the industry: You must comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s affiliate disclosure guidelines.
Whether you receive a commission, flat fee payment, free products or discounts in exchange for endorsing a product in a post or video, the FTC requires that you properly disclose your relationship. If you don’t, you or the business you’re promoting could get slapped with a fine.
Why you need to include an affiliate disclosure
While the FTC isn’t spending all its time monitoring blogs for noncompliance, they take affiliate disclosure seriously and will investigate complaints. That’s because the FTC’s rules are in place to make sure there’s transparency between all parties involved.
For instance, if an affiliate blogger promotes a new vacation resort on their blog, the FTC believes the consumer has a right to know the writer is being compensated to endorse the resort. Once the consumer has all the information in front of them, they can properly evaluate the blogger’s recommendation.
Any active affiliate program should follow these FTC disclosure guidelines. Here at AWeber, we require all of our affiliates to adhere to these rules completely because it fosters openness and accountability with our customers. Here are four key tips we give our affiliates to make sure they’re in compliance and creating the best experience possible for their consumers.
(Are you an AWeber affiliate yet? Sign up for our affiliate program and start making money today!)
1. Placement is everything
The reader shouldn’t have to search for your affiliate disclosure.
The full message must stand out in a way that is easily noticeable. It should be revealed at the “top of the fold” on the page, which means the reader shouldn’t have to scroll down the page or click a separate link to see it.
Simply having a link at the top of the page that says “click here for my advertising disclosure”, and/or a full statement at the bottom of the page, won’t cut it.
The example below shows a disclosure that follows the FTC’s guidelines.
It’s placed at the very top of a blog article between the subject header and the body of the message. The light grey background provides contrast to make the text stand out. Plus, the message is clear: The blogger gets paid when you click. While a link is present, the disclosure still provides an appropriate level of context without it.
2. Disclose everywhere
The FTC’s rules apply to any online medium including articles, blog posts, social posts, video content, podcasts, webinars, infographics, and illustrations.
In video, the affiliate disclosure must be at the beginning and on the screen long enough to be read and understood. You are not allowed to put the disclosure outside the video in a description or related text field.
For audio disclosures, you must speak at a cadence that is easy for consumers to follow and in words consumers will understand.
If character limits are a concern in a social post then adding a short disclosure like #ad or #sponsored will likely be effective provided that any subsequent landing pages contain the full disclosure as outlined in number one. Below is an example of how to properly disclose a relationship via a Twitter post.
3. One size doesn’t fit all
While a disclosure’s placement must be at the top of a page, there’s some flexibility when it comes to the actual wording of the disclosure.
However, no matter how you phrase the disclosure, don’t try to fool or confuse the reader. The FTC requires that you use plain and unambiguous language.
So you could say something like, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.” It’s short and clear.
You may provide additional context, too. For example, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. This is to help support my blog and does not have any impact on my recommendations”.
The first part completely satisfies the FTC requirements, while the second part explains why you are posting the links. It’s not necessary, but it may help to reassure your readers that the opinions presented are free of influence.
4. Banners don’t count
The FTC states that banner ads do not need to be disclosed, as most people can reasonably understand their intent. You can think of them like commercials on TV.
It’s important to note that posting a banner on the same page as editorial content with affiliate links does not exempt you from posting the disclosure as outlined in number one — regardless of whether or not the banner relates to the article. You still need to add a prominent disclosure.
Below you can see a banner ad followed by the blog affiliate disclosure. If this banner ad were to appear on a page with no affiliate links, you would not need to include the disclosure.
Questions or concerns about your disclosure? Leave a comment below!
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