Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV. The best way to get information about disclosures is directly from the Federal Trade Commission.
If you have never actually read the FTC Guidelines about disclosure, you should! Go here to read their guidelines.
This isn’t meant to replace legal advice, but simply highlight the importance of bloggers disclosing affiliate links and suggestions on how to go about it. Also to emphasize additional situations where a disclosure is necessary for bloggers.
If you’re a blogger, you probably already know about the importance of disclosing affiliate links on your website. But information on how to disclose properly often comes from group advice, rather than directly from the FTC Guidelines. While the blogging community is extraordinarily helpful, it is still important to go back to the actual Federal Trade Commission for accurate legal guidelines.
Very few people forgo proper disclosure because they are actually trying to hide a paid relationship from their readers. But if you get caught by the FTC, you could be fined, whether your lack of proper disclosure is purposeful or not.
What Posts Require You to Disclose Affiliate Links?
This means if you’re selling something that’s from another business (or blogger) and you’ll earn a profit or commission, you need a disclosure. It doesn’t matter if the product is physical or digital. It can be anything from products from Amazon or handmade items from an Etsy Shop to an ebook or a course about blogging. I like to think of it this way:
If you’re earning, you disclose!
If a company is paying you to write a post, no matter how short the post or how many links you provide to the company’s website, you must add and FTC Disclosure.
If the company is paying you, you disclose!
Product Review Posts
Oftentimes bloggers get products for free in exchange for a review or write up about the product or company. You might be paid (in which case it would also be a sponsored post) or get the free product only. Either way, a disclosure is needed.
Many times when we promote products for free (which not all bloggers agree with but hey, that’s a totally different post) we also link to a place to purchase them. And if we’re an affiliate of that company or say the product is on Amazon, then those become affiliate posts as well.
Bottom line, even if you get the product for free and are not paid to post about it and aren’t including affiliate links, you still have to disclose that you got the product for free because that’s your method of payment.
If you are receiving product instead of money as payment, you disclose!
Disclosing Affiliate Links properly
The FTC requires clear and conspicuous disclosures.
What the heck does that mean?
Well, it’s different depending on the circumstances.
A few rules of thumb in making sure your disclosure is following the FTC’s terms:
- Make sure you use language the average person who knows nothing about online business can understand. Be straightforward, no subtle suggestions or implications.
- Your disclosure should be on the same page as your affiliate link, sponsored post or advertisement, not on a separate ‘About Me’, ‘Terms & Conditions’, or ‘Disclosure’ page only.
- Nothing should distract attention from the disclosure (so like don’t put your disclosure right underneath a big, flashing button).
- It should be written in an easy to read font and in a color that stands out against the background of your blog.
Important: Display disclosure prior to purchase. That means, if you’re selling anything in your blog post, there needs to be a disclosure before the purchase link.
Many bloggers are disclosing, but not until the very end of their blog post. This is a no-no!
Sponsored posts are the same. If you are paid by a company to promote their products or services or include information about them in your post (even a simple website link), you need a disclosure at the beginning of your post letting people know you were paid. Otherwise, it could be considered misleading as the reader could, in fact, click away to the company website before reading the entire post.
Once again, the topic of bloggers disclosing affiliate links can be confusing. I highly recommend visiting the FTC to read up on disclosures for yourself. They have an updated list of questions and answers you can find here.