Nowadays, if you have a blog, chances are you also have an affiliate relationship with at least one other website. It doesn't matter whether you started your blog for the purpose of developing an income or if you started your blog more to give advice -- if you receive any sort of compensation in the form of free or discounted products and services, commission, or giveaways, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires you to disclose this to your readers.
Most of the time, when I talk to someone about the need to write an affiliate disclosure for their website, they completely understand. What's less obvious is how to write that disclosure and where it needs to be posted to stay compliant with the laws.
In fact, there has been so much confusion and so much misinformation floating around about how to post your disclosure that the FTC hosted a chat on Twitter where they could clearly explain the law as well as give recommendations for how to follow the law across your channels on social media. So let's take a look at what the FTC has to say about your affiliate disclosure.
The exact wording of the FTC requirements regarding affiliate marketing is available on their website. The guiding principle behind this law is "if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed." In other words, some people might perceive your recommendation differently if they know you are being compensated for it -- and if that is true then you must give them this information before they click on that link to purchase that product.
What does your affiliate disclosure have to say?
Your affiliate disclosure must accomplish two things:
- It must identify that the link is an affiliate link, and
- It must explain what that means.
What about a disclosure policy?
Can you have a full disclosure policy posted on a separate page? Absolutely!! But such a policy is not a requirement. Still, it's probably good practice to make sure you have one set up.
Can't you just link to the disclosure policy?
Nope -- that's not enough. In an effort to keep everything fair and transparent, the FTC wants to make sure that the reader has all information available prior to deciding to make a purchase. That includes the information that you are receiving some sort of compensation for making the recommendation. That's why the disclosure must appear before the link in question. Simply including a link to the full disclosure policy with no other details does not give the reader all the information they need to make an informed decision before clicking that link.
Can't you leave the disclosure in a sidebar or in the footer?
You can have your affiliate disclosure posted in your sidebar and in your footer, but you must also include it prior to the link in question -- and that means at the beginning of your post or in the actual paragraph itself. Personally, I prefer the beginning of the post -- I find that pausing to include the affiliate disclosure in the middle of the paragraph makes the blog harder to read and detracts from the experience of readers who aren't clicking on the links.
If you place your disclosure only in the sidebar or footer of your site, then there is a strong chance that your reader will not be able to see it before finding the link or choosing to click on it, which means they have not been given all available information needed to make their decision. This is especially true when readers access your site via their smartphones or mobile devices, which usually push the sidebar content down to the bottom of the page.
It all comes down to this...
Your affiliate disclosure is an important piece of information that may influence a consumers choice to purchase a product or service. And in today's world, consumers are demanding transparency above everything else. The FTC's laws regarding affiliate disclosures are serving this demand by making sure bloggers and online influencers provide this information to their readers before the links. Your disclosure statement must be full, obvious, and cannot be hidden or masked in any way. To do otherwise places your blog at risk.
Please note...I am not a lawyer. And none of this should be taken as legal advice. And I am, by no means, an expert when it comes to affiliate disclosures. If you have further questions, I urge you to review the FTC's hosted chat on Twitter or refer to the FTC Guidelines for Endorsements and Affiliate Marketing.
The Best Way to Write an Affiliate Disclosure
Here are the exact steps that I took to write an FTC compliant affiliate disclosure policy for this blog.
First, I went looking for Wordpress plugins that would work for what I needed. And hands down, the best one is WP Affiliate Disclosure by Mojofy. There is both a free version and a premium version available.
Yes, I do use the premium version, but the free version probably has everything you need.
Second, I wrote out my full affiliate disclosure policy as a separate page and assigned it the slug "disclosure." Even though this is not a legal requirement, I wanted to be able to have the full disclosure available for linking in the future steps.
Third, I created a tag and called it "This post contains affiliate links" and assigned it the slug "affiliate-disclosure." You could probably also do this as a category instead of a tag if you wanted to.
Fourth, I created a redirect and pointed https://helpmenaomi.com/affiliate-disclosure (the tag) toward https://helpmenaomi.com/disclosure (the page).
Fifth, I created my rule inside the WP Affiliate Disclosure plugin settings. I named my rule "Post Tag" so that I would remember that it was the rule especially for this tag on blog posts. I also wrote in my affiliate disclosure the way I want it to appear at the top of those blog posts. Then came the fun part: telling the plugin to show the disclosure at the top of only certain posts.
As you can see in this screenshot, I selected to have the disclosure appear at the top of any blog post with the affiliate tag.
How it all Works Together
Now, on any blog post in which I've used affiliate links, the disclosure will appear before the content, which is what the FTC requires. But now if someone clicks on the tag "This post contains affiliate links" they will also be taken directly to my full affiliate disclosure, rather than being taken to the tag's archive page. It's a way to make sure my disclosure is available in both places without having to weigh down my blog post with even more text.
Did you enjoy this article? Here are some more posts on affiliate marketing you may like: