Have you made one of these 5 mistakes bloggers often make with their affiliate marketing disclosures? Find out what the 5 most common mistakes are with affiliate disclaimers and what you can do to fix yours today. There are only a few simple rules to follow, but SO many bloggers get this wrong! Don't be one of them.
It’s no big secret: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been catching up with the times lately. They’re getting hip to the more subtle ways that advertising works these days, including sponsored content, endorsements from social media influencers, and affiliate marketing.
They’ve taken action against some prominent influencers for failing to disclose their material connections to companies already. Technically, if you’re promoting affiliate products and failing to properly disclose your material connections…they could come after you, too.
Before you start freaking out and getting all paranoid, I’ve got some good news: all you have to do to avoid trouble is comply with their regulations for influencers and affiliates.
Don’t breathe too easy just yet. Despite greater scrutiny from the FTC and lots of information published on disclosures that comply with policies, I still see a lot—and I mean A LOT—of bloggers and business owners, both big and small, making mistakes with their affiliate disclosures.
These mistakes just might get them in hot water with the FTC, and I don’t want you to emulate their disclosures that aren’t up to par and end up in that hot water alongside them.
NOTE: I know: talking about this stuff isn’t fun or sexy. It’s a lot more fun to think about all the dough that’s supposed to come rolling in via your affiliate links, but it pays to make sure your rear is covered now vs. being in big trouble with the FTC later and losing all that cash you earned on commission.
So, without further ado…
The biggest mistakes I see other bloggers/biz owners making with their affiliate disclosures:
1. Putting them in the wrong place.
Your disclosures can’t come at the end of your post – they should be as near as possible to the beginning of the post and MUST come before your first affiliate link on the page. If you currently have your affiliate disclosures placed at the end of your posts (or anywhere after your first affiliate link), it’s time to go move things around!
2. Not making them clear enough.
According to the FTC regulations, you have to make the disclosure understandable to the vast majority of your audience. If even a significant minority—we’re talking a couple percentage points here!—of your audience wouldn’t understand your disclosure, it doesn’t meet requirements.
Along those same lines, don’t assume your entire audience is up on all your industry lingo (or on advertising lingo in general, like what “affiliate” means). When in doubt, spell everything out. 😉
3. Not including enough information in the disclosure itself.
It’s not enough to say “view my affiliate disclosure here” with a link; you have to tell your readers about your relationship/what you stand to gain in the disclosure statement itself.
For affiliates, this usually means that you tell your audience you may earn money if they purchase via the links on your site…and you must tell them that vital information in the disclosure statement on the post itself, not on a separate page that you link to or inside a collapsible text section.
4. Trying to hide their disclosures.
This is probably the mistake I see made more often than any of the other four, so pay attention here!
Per the FTC, your affiliate disclosure must be conspicuous and clear. More specifically, your disclosure shouldn’t be in smaller text, lighter in color, or otherwise obscured – it must be obvious and not draw less attention than your regular body text.
The FTC regulations even recommend making it more noticeable than your regular body text so that it doesn’t blend in: larger font, bolded or italicized, or a different color. They’re not kidding on this item, so don’t try to sneak one by them – it’s not worth it.
5. Their disclosures aren’t frequent enough.
Some bloggers try to get away with having one “blanket” disclosure statement for the entire site, commonly placed in the site footer or in a sidebar. According to the FTC regs, this is a no-no.
Your disclosure statement should appear on every page/post/etc that affiliate links appear on – one blanket disclosure for the entire site doesn’t suffice.
What’s the worst that could happen if you fudge on your affiliate disclosures?
Maybe you think that you’re too much of a small fry for the FTC to notice. Maybe you think the risk is worth the reward, or that lawsuits happen to other businesses but won’t happen to you.
Before you intentionally commit one of the disclosure mistakes above, though, let me ask you this: Do you really want to take the chance of getting in trouble over something so comparatively small and easy to do right?
Want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of the FTC regulations?
Check out some of the following resources:
- The FTC’s Endorsement Guide: What People Are Asking
- FTC Staff Revises Online Advertising Disclosure Guidelines
- FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising
- The FTC disclosure guidelines: An in-depth exploration of what affiliates and merchants need to know on Marketing Land
- iPage Affiliate Disclosure Requirements
A note from a creative attorney:
I am so glad that Easier Business Blogging is taking the time to educate its audience on the nuances of affiliate marketing. As an attorney for creative entrepreneurs and online small business owners, this is an area that I see affiliates getting wrong on a daily basis; and as mentioned above, those mistakes can land you in hot water with the FTC.
When it comes to affiliate marketing and FTC disclosures, I want you to keep three words in mind: clear and conspicuous. The FTC has been abundantly clear on what is required to market legally. As long as a reasonably prudent reader can reasonably ascertain that the link you are provided is an affiliate link (meaning you may receive a kickback for sales made through that link), then you are likely in compliance. That disclosure must be at the top of the post or immediately following the link; your must not have to scroll any further down the page to see the disclosure.
I have created a comprehensive guide breaking down everything you need to know to comply with the FTC when marketing your business online. From when disclaimers are required, to exact wording on what they should say, to how to disclose properly on all social media channels, you can find everything you need to know here: https://paigehulse.lpages.co/the-marketing-handbook/.
Want to make adding an affiliate disclosure to your blog posts even more quick and easy?
Easier Business Blogging includes an affiliate disclosure module you can use: just tick the checkbox on the post edit screen when you include affiliate links and your disclosure is automatically placed at the top of your post. Done and done!
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