When you placed your first affiliate link on your blog, did you ever wonder if you should tell your readers about the nature of the link? Many bloggers do wonder if it’s the right thing to do. Others feel that disclosing their affiliate arrangement could impact their revenue.
Should we just let every blogger decide what to do based on their own gut? Turns out, it’s not that easy. Continue reading to learn if you should disclose affiliate links and how.
Do You Need to Disclose Affiliate Links?
If you live in the United States, the answer to that question is undoubted YES. The FTC has set forth guidelines that regulate how to disclose endorsements. Basically, any time you receive a free product to review, include an affiliate link within your content, write a sponsored post, or receive any other sort of compensation, you must include a disclosure.
The FTC’s disclosure guidelines apply to both blogging platforms and social networks. If your blog or social media accounts receive complaints about you not following these disclosure guidelines, you could get in trouble with the FTC and be taken to court.
What if You Don’t Live in the US?
The FTC is a US-based organization, so if you don’t live in the United States, you are outside their jurisdiction. However, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about. Start by checking with your area’s guidelines on endorsement disclosures. Don’t have any guidelines regarding this issue? Again, this doesn’t mean these guidelines won’t affect you.
Let’s say, for instance, that your affiliate links are endorsing a US-based company but you’re based outside the US If you get enough complaints, the FTC could go after the company you’re endorsing because they’re advertising through your site and the ads do not follow the FTC’s guidelines.
Let’s not even consider the guidelines for a moment. Disclosing affiliate links may still be a good idea. Why?
It helps build trust with your audience.
If you’re interested in building trust, it’s worth including a disclosure, especially if much of your audience is from the United States where disclosing affiliate links and sponsorships is becoming more common and ethical. If done right, your audience may choose to support you through those affiliate links, which would boost your revenue.
How Do You Disclose the Links?
Now that you have a better idea if you should or will include disclosures on your blog and social media accounts, let’s take a look at how to disclose endorsements and sponsorships.
While the FTC guidelines don’t give a one-size-fits-all approach, they do outline several things you should and shouldn’t do.
The main thing is to make disclosures clear and conspicuous.
In making a disclosure “clear and conspicuous,” the FTC advises in their .com Disclosures document that bloggers “place the disclosure as close as possible to the triggering claim” and “take account of the various devices and platforms consumers may use to view advertising and any corresponding disclosure.” When hyperlinking to a disclosure, it’s advised that you label the hyperlink and make it obvious. You should not make readers scroll to find the disclosure, nor should you allow them to make a purchase before seeing the disclosure.
Let’s consider a few examples.
NO: You include an affiliate link in a blog post and include a disclaimer at the end stating that the post may contain affiliate links.
This would not meet FTC guidelines, especially if there are hyperlinks between the affiliate link and the disclosure, which could easily distract a reader before he or she makes it to the disclosure. It’s also not clear which links are affiliate links, and you have not placed the disclosure close to the triggering claim (the affiliate link).
Yes: You include a statement within the blog post directly after an affiliate link, such as, “Disclosure: This is an affiliate link, which means that if you visit Example.com through this link and purchase this product, I’ll get a commission. Don’t worry–the price is still the same for you!”
Granted, there are a lot of ways to word your disclosure. The point is that this disclosure is placed immediately next to the link so that readers can’t miss it.
No: Within your blog post, you direct readers to check out your disclosure page and then link to it.
This will generally not suffice. You need to disclose the link directly in your blog post and make it clear which links are sponsored.
Yes: Directly after an affiliate link, you mention, “Note: This is an affiliate link, which means I receive compensation if you purchase a product through this link. Visit my disclosure page for more information.”
In this case, you have your disclosure close to the triggering claim, and you’ve been clear about the link’s nature. Linking to your blog’s disclosure page is optional, but you can do this if you want to elaborate without being too wordy within your post.
No: You include a blanket disclosure in your sidebar, hoping to cover any instance of affiliate links on the site no matter what page or blog post a reader is on.
Unfortunately, this example is still a no-no in the eyes of the FTC. They do not want your disclosures to be separated by your trigger term through unrelated graphics or information. If your site visitors are reading your blog on a mobile device, the sidebar is often separated from the content and is unlikely to be seen.
YES: You disclose the affiliate link and then point readers to the full disclosure. Example: “This is an affiliate link, which means we receive compensation for items purchased through this link. Please view our sidebar disclaimer for more information.”
As the FTC states, “When scrolling is necessary, use text or visual cues to encourage consumers to scroll to view the disclosure,” so this is an acceptable way to lead readers to your disclosure.
Bonus tip: If you’re sharing affiliate links on Twitter or Facebook, you can make sure readers understand the nature of the link by including a statement such as “Ad,” “Affiliate Link,” “Sponsorship,” or similar disclosure before introducing the product.
For more disclosure examples and information on sharing endorsement information with your blog readers, be sure to read through the FTC’s .com Disclosures document.
How do you feel about disclosing affiliate links? Do you do it? Do you feel bloggers should have to? Let us know in the comment section.