FTC Guidelines Include Affiliate Links

New-FTC-Regulations-Are-You-Following-The-Rule

In October, Robin highlighted the key points of the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for disclosure for bloggers. The new guidelines went into effect December 1. As an avid blogger and blog reader, I have seen bloggers in blog posts when they are financially compensated and/or given free product for reviews, saying things like: This is a compensated review by BlogHer and HP. I have also seen a shift in disclosure policies- bloggers adding more details about affiliate links, financially compensated reviews, free products, etc.

The one thing that I haven’t seen is disclosure in blog posts when affiliate links are used. Affiliate marketing rewards people who are associated with a product, service or company for leads or clicks that they generate. The reward can be cash or product. Yes, most bloggers do have a statement in their disclosure policies that says their blog uses affiliate links. However, I have never seen a specific blog post say “compensated affiliate ” or something to that effect.

Since we have a client who is considering launching an affiliate program, we wanted to be sure we were clear on the law, so we did a little investigating. Our understanding of the law was that the disclosure was necessary, but since we didn’t see anyone doing it. Were we missing something?

After a bit of research, we found a webinar with Jim Edwards and Rich Cleland, Assistant Deputy at the FTC talking specifically about affiliates and the law. In the webinar Mr. Edwards asks, if a blogger uses the phrase: Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate on every post with affiliates, is the blogger in compliance with the law? Here was Mr. Cleland’s answer, which he emailed to Mr. Edwards: “The disclosure must be sufficient to alert the consumer that of the connection between the endorser. In this case it is an affiliate marketer. Your disclosure would appear to meet this requirement. The most important aspect of this kind of disclosure will be whether it is clear and conspicuous. Consumers must be able to see the disclosure when they are viewing the endorsement and at the point of the link to the seller’s website.” (Emphasis mine.)

This statement makes it clear that a blogger stating that they use affiliate links in their disclosure page is not enough. According to the FTC, a blogger must disclose within the post when they are endorsing something.

To gain further clarification, I called Mr. Cleland and asked him about affiliate links and when disclosure is necessary. He was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking with me about the matter. He said that a disclosure must be made when a blogger is recommending something and using an affiliate link. He went on to say that “the recommendation triggers the disclosure requirement.” He added that some affiliate marketing is clearly advertising and in that case a disclosure statement is not necessary. It is, however, necessary when the post includes an implied or overt recommendation.

It will be interesting to see how bloggers continue to apply these new guidelines to their blogs. What do you think about the guidelines as they apply to affiliate marketing?

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19 Responses to FTC Guidelines Include Affiliate Links

  1. Alicia says:

    I have a question….say I link to Amazon for a book description, is that an affiliate link? I guess I don’t understand what it means. I don’t get paid to do any reviews, but I always link to Amazon so that people can learn more about the book. Is this wrong?

  2. Marci says:

    Great post! I’ve been wondering about this for the past few weeks and could not find a straight answer.

    Alicia, if you have an Amazon affiliate account, meaning you get paid when someone clicks on your link and make a purchase, then you would need to make that be known. It appears to me that this is not your situation and you are not getting paid from the link itself, so you are fine. Hope this helps.

  3. Thanks again for all the great information, Jessica!

  4. Lindsay says:

    Wow, this is so timely- I just joined ShopStyle as an affiliate today! Now I know how to word my disclosure. Thanks Jessica!

  5. Christi says:

    Any suggested verbiage for the disclosure from the FTC? I just recently started using affiliate links…I want to be sure I’m doing it right.

  6. I have affiliate links in my posts. I also have Kontera ads that automatically link certain words or phrases. Do I have to disclose that?

    Sometimes I link certain words or phrases to my amazon affiliate links in just a normal post when I am mentioning a product…not endorsing or recommending it.
    Do I have to disclose that as well?

    The new laws are a bit confusing. MANY bloggers have automatic links in all their posts. Would a blur at the end of EVERY post be sufficient?

  7. Jessica,

    Thank you for going the extra mile and doing that research for us! Great article that helps make things a little more clear.

  8. Thanks for the information! I’d rather be careful than careless about it.

  9. IMO if the FTC wants bloggers to follow their guidelines they need to word them more clearly (with less legalese!). I’ve been disclosing affiliate links since the guidelines went into effect. Picked up an unobtrusive way to do it over at WantNot.net. I explain how in this BlogCoach.org post: http://bit.ly/bvOYkt.

  10. Thanks for the information Jessica, very helpful.

  11. Pingback: Using Affiliate Marketing to Earn Income from Your Blog | Organizing Your Way

  12. Great post! I have been searching for more information about this new law. The FTC site is rather vague, do you know if this new law imposes more strict standards on opt-in e-mail marketing as well?

  13. Anonymous says:

    “He went on to say that “the recommendation triggers the disclosure requirement.” He added that some affiliate marketing is clearly advertising and in that case a disclosure statement is not necessary. It is, however, necessary when the post includes an implied or overt recommendation.

    I read this as if you just have an affiliate link in your body copy to the product page, but you are not specifically endorsing or recommending the product in the body copy, then disclosure isn’t necessary. For example, your post is about dogs and you have a link like “…it can be hard to train a dog if they don’t…” in your post text, and the aff. link goes to a dog training product on Amazon, but you don’t mention the product in the post anywhere.

    But I am curious if the FTC would see the link (in my example) as an implied recommendation…

  14. In your place I would have done differently. Do not stop and visit my site about mini games.

  15. Pingback: Affiliate Marketing & Disclosures on Your Blog | Work Your Way

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