BEWARE of Posting Affiliate Links on Your Blog!

Unless you want the FTC to come knocking on your door, that is! ;)

This may sound rather funny but it is true: FTC is planning to crack down on bloggers, licit and illicit, who use affiliate links in their posts, UNLESS the affiliate either discloses the fact that he is receiving compensation through that affiliate link OR proves it through "scientific means" that the product has indeed helped him (in case of a make money product, a Paypal screenshot might do ;) ).

Here are some links where you can get more information:

FTC plans to monitor blogs for claims, payments (notice the irony: just below this article you would see Google ads promoting money making schemes, with no disclosure or proof whatsoever!)

Here is the common man's perspective:

FTC Going After Bloggers = Epic Fail

But probably the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard is, the US government is trying to protect us, "internet users"… from cookies???

Cookies Be BANNED!

Notwithstanding the fact that most modern day browsers are sophisticated enough to protect the average internet surfer from cookies, good or bad!

When will government realize that people are NOT stupid? :D

Just reminds me of Paypal trying to freeze accounts of internet marketers for selling resell rights products, when they don’t even know the meaning of the term "resell rights"! ;)

True, to an extent we internet marketers ARE responsible for what we promote, and to that extent, I think the regulation is fine! At least it would rid people of the 100s of tainted affiliate pitches that flood their inboxes daily! But beyond that, I guess this is just a superfluous regulation!

Personally, I don’t use too many affiliate links and on the footers of pages where I have affiliate ads, I include a link to a standard disclaimer statement. But guess that is not going to be enough now. Looks like now you would have to make your declaimer statement bigger and bolder than your affiliate endorsement (which in turns means a considerable drop in conversions)!

Your thoughts?

UPDATE: After posting the above article on FTC cracking down on affiliate bloggers, I received a ton of comments and emails, lol. One subscriber emailed me asking whether the rule applies to static websites as well, while another said she deleted her blog post containing the affiliate link!

Well folks, from what I am seeing, FTC is planning to start with blogs because they are much more popular than static sites. But I am sure that over time it may just apply to non-bloggers as well! Changing your content publishing platform is not the key!

I would suggest that you include a short disclosure statement underneath the blog posts containing affiliate links, and also create a separate page with a longer disclaimer and link to that page from the footer of your website.

Below I have posted two sample "disclosure" statements you can use on your blogs. The short one should be used just under the blog post containing the affiliate link, while the longer one maybe linked to through a separate page. Hopefully it helps! :)

NOTE: Replace "Blogname" with the name of your blog, and "productname" with the name of the respective affiliate product!

-----------------------
Long Form Disclosure:

"Blogname hereby discloses the fact that it contains endorsements for third party products, and that it receives compensation for such endorsements. Although Blogname is interested in presenting you with advertisements for quality products and services, it cannot spend the time to do the due diligence it takes to ensure that only reliable services and products are advertised with us.

So you should understand that Blogname does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any of the advertisements in our blog or the quality of any products, information or other materials displayed, purchased, or obtained by you as a result of an offer in connection with any advertisement.

Blogname encourages you to do your own due diligence before purchasing any product, whether it is offered here or anywhere else for that matter, before purchasing. Please use your own judgment and carefully check out those products that interest you."

NOTE: If yours is a "make money product", you may also want to add the following:

"The testimonials and examples used are exceptional results, don’t apply to the average purchaser and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.  Each individual’s success depends on his or her background, dedication, desire and motivation.  As with any business endeavor, there is an inherent risk of loss of capital and there is no guarantee that you will earn any money."
--------------------

-----------------------------
Short Form Disclosure
:

"Disclosure: Blogname hereby discloses that it is affiliated to the productname and that it receives compensation for the above endorsement. However, Blogname does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of the above endorsement, neither would it be responsible for any consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from the use of this product. Reader is asked to do their own due diligence before purchasing productname!"

NOTE: If yours is a "make money product", you may also want to add the following:

"The testimonials and examples used are exceptional results, don’t apply to the average purchaser and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.  Each individual’s success depends on his or her background, dedication, desire and motivation.  As with any business endeavor, there is an inherent risk of loss of capital and there is no guarantee that you will earn any money."
------------------------

As with any "template", you should customize the above disclaimer statements to suit your blog, product and niche! ;)

There is no need to stop blogging because of this rule. Personally I think FTC's proposed rule doesn’t hold enough water to get it legalized; not to mention that it would be quite an impossible task for FTC to crack down on hundreds of thousands of bloggers, with hundreds more cropping up almost everyday! But we bloggers should take the necessary precautions should the contrary happen!

Oh, and here is one personal suggestion. Whenever writing an affiliate product review, try to make it an honest review and not a biased one, okay? Think about it, if you were the consumer reading the "tainted" affiliate product review and purchased the affiliate product only to get disappointed, would you feel very nice about the affiliate who wrote that review? ;)





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26 thoughts on “BEWARE of Posting Affiliate Links on Your Blog!

  1. Wow! Thanks for getting this news out to everyone.

    I agree that the Government needs to stop trying to protect people from themselves to the nth degree, but no doubt there are plenty of B.H. operators online that are (as usual) creating enough grief to spoil affiliate marketing for the rest of us.

  2. I might be being a bit daft but as a UK user, what implications does this have for my websites? And what is this 'FTC'?

    The internet is a world wide decentralised resource - are the US government going to block all sites that don't comply from being viewed from any US user (hmmm, reminds me of the great firewall of China)? Or are they going to go on originating IP address? My sites are hosted in the US, but are predominantly .co.uk ones. And what is 'disclosure' - all my sites that use affiliate links have a mention in the privacy policy - is this enough? Or if it's okay as far as the UK government is concerned, will I have to have some geo-ip script that redirects US users to a 'sorry, you aren't allowed to view this site' page? Sounds ill-conceived to me.

    Emma

    p.s. Anyone got photoshop skills to mock me up some PayPal 'earnings' screenshots??? (Joke!!!)

  3. Thank you for posting the information. I have just started blogging and have been recommending things I found useful and in some cases have become an affiliate of. Will have to rethink. Off to research further.

  4. I hate the fact that the government is doing this and they should stay out of business matters, but the auto-bill and auto-ship programs like Acai Berry are a big part of what brought this on.

    I'm hoping that the regulations that are put on IM'ers are like the ones infomercials are forced to put on TV; those are so small that many people barely know they are there.

    Actually, what I'm really hoping for is a determination that the whole deal is unconstitutional, but I doubt that will happen.

    B

  5. @Emma

    FTC is a government organization setup to protect consumers from unfair trade practices. I am sure UK has something similar, I just cannot recall it. You can get more info on FTC here: http://www.ftc.gov/

    >>My sites are hosted in the US, but are predominantly .co.uk ones.

    As long as your servers, or in general, the businesses you work for (say, Clickbank, eBay, etc.) are based in US, you do fall in the FTC "trap" ;)

    The 'disclosure' basically means you have to disclose the fact that you are making money from your affiliate links (I think lifehacker blog is already doing this for sometime). I think if you are already a US tax-payer then perhaps you are exempt from this regulation!

    This is of course my opinion. An attorney would be able to help u better ;)

    That said, I would not bother too much about this. I have diversified my stuff and affiliate marketing is just one of them. Moreover I think this is just a "publicity gimmick" done by FTC to boost its popularity among consumers, much like the way Opposition works in India! :D

    Let us all wait and watch!

    @Scott

    Have you checked the three links I gave in my blog post? They are the "sources"! In fact, there maybe many more than that - you just have to Google ;)

    Arindam

  6. Arindam,

    We have the OFT - Office of Fair Trading and they dictate distance selling regulations that online merchants have to abide by, much the same as physical/high-street retailers. However, they are not able to dictate the content of a website as long as it is legally compliant.

    We also don't have the FDA-style hoops to jump through for disclaimers on websites selling health products.

    I think the FTC are in for a struggle - other than hosting my websites through a US company (and I can change that to a UK one if I really wanted) most affiliates that I promote are UK-based (Clickbank? I can't afford to have the USD cheques paid into my UK bank account and still make money!!!), so I'm probably okay.

    If there is regulation though, surely it should come from within the industry - there are new rules for coupon code websites in the UK for example, which are self-imposed and are working well.

    We'll wait and see what happens!

    Emma

  7. This was a very informative post. I'll be sure to pass it along. However I'm not suprised at the government intervention. In today's world it seems like here in the US things are going towards a socialist society. Who would have guessed!!1

  8. Hi Arindam

    Many thanks for that important information.

    I also have sites hosted in the US.
    We shall see what transpires.

    Yes you are in the same boat as me with regard to Clickbank cheques.
    It costs me an arm and a leg to deposit them in the UK

    Thanks again

    Hamant

  9. Herm.. I'm about removing my spot from wordpress self host into the blogspot. I made this moving because Google love more blogspot then wordpress. But this FTC have make trouble with everybody in the world.

  10. Well, I don't leave or work on USA, but I suppose my English sites must contain the disclaimers, because some of my readers are from USA.

    FTC "pretends" to protect customer with this weird rules, they must to understand that almost every single product the customer buy from our links include a satisfaction guarantee for 30 or 60 days on the case of digital material or manufacturer and store guarantee as well on physical products, so the affiliates lose our commission if the customer request a refund, so we can't "steal", "cheat" or nothing illegal here.

  11. Hey Arindam

    Many thanks for this critical update.

    Things keeps changing every day especially on the internet and we actually need regulators to give us some form of security, whether on bloggers,customers or internet marketer.

    We shall see the impact when the law or rules when it go through.

    Thanks again for this update.

  12. I think the Feds are a bit off base here. They are acting as if Americans are the only bloggers on the planet. American blogs represent only a fraction of the blogs and sites using affilate links all ofver the world.

    Evidently, they are so nieve to they think they can pass rules and laws that will require disclosure by all of the sites and bloggers worldwide.

    What are they going to do when a site in Hong Kong, Germany, or Russia refuses to abide by their rules?

    Sounds like Dumb and Dumber went to work for the Feds.

  13. I don't think it's just a publicity gimmick and I would imagine that the rule will extend beyond bloggers fairly quickly.

    However, the FTC is notoriously understaffed and underfunded, so even though I don't think it's a publicity stunt it's going to be hard for them to really execute on it.

    And if they do execute on it and go after legit bloggers while ignoring the thousands of more notorious scams going on I think it will end up as a huge embarrassment for them if that fact gets out to the general public which I'm sure it would.

    A couple of resources I didn't see mentioned et:

    DisclosurePolicy.org which has a disclosure policy generator.

    and

    FTC policy statement on deception which is a good starting place for learning how the FTC thinks about deception before moving onto their guidelines in specific areas.

  14. I just read through your source material and the proposed guidelines too. There's a LOT to take in there.

    But in the meantime, if anybody wants to offer ME a laptop, a cruise or $3000 to write a blog post for them, PLEASE let me know :)

    Honestly ... let me know!

  15. Thank you so much for this posting. I've just added by your suggestion the disclaimer to both my blogs. I'm grateful to have the advance warning. I've sent your message out to all my follower/subscribers.

    1. Thanks Nancy :) Glad it helped! I am also looking at disclosurepolicy.org based on Paul's suggestion above. It looks like a good start for newbies, although you might have to do some customization to make it suitable for your website! But it looks quite simple and free from the usual legalese ;)

  16. Yeah, I agree with you, Helene. On one hand, the Black Hatters ruin a BUNCH of stuff (they've even ruined my product). However, trying to have the government solve the problem sometimes opens a bigger can of worms than what the issue was in the first place. First of all, you have people using the internet that are NOT within the US Government's jurisdiction. Then, you've got the problem of the government trying to enforce the new rule.

    Yeah, it can be much more trouble than it's worth, but I appreciate Arindam letting us know it's coming. :)

  17. Arindam, you do open interesting cans of worms. ;)

    "Legally compliant" is the keyword. If the FTC dictates a rule for websites, and that rule is not applied to a certain website, then that site is not legally compliant.

    If the OFT isn't yet regulating websites, then you're lucky not to be bothered with this just yet, as long as your business and business associations originate outside the US.

    As to how far this rule might reach, as pertains to foreign based companies doing internet business in the US, is not completely clear yet, but you do raise some interesting questions that highlight just how complicated a matter this is.

    On the other hand, maybe it isn’t that complicated…I just remembered something.

    Addressing the general readership now...

    When we consider that it was The United States government that developed the internet for its own use, and generously opened it up to the general public, and later approved it for commercial purposes, we have to allow that they also have the right to regulate it. Even to shut it back down again, should it ever come to that. That, as well as the fact that government is just now stepping into the arena in question, and, so far at least, only for the purpose of public protection is worthy of a little reflection.

    Of course, other countries have now developed their own systems and markets, so in the event of US regulations interfering too much with outside businesses, their citizens can simply revert to those markets.

    We all tend to blame the government for everything we perceive as interference - and believe me, I'm screaming in protest at our federal government's current extreme liberal agenda even as I write - but the office of the FTC came about because of an overwhelming need to protect consumers from predatory practices that were running rampant at that time…(have they ever not been)? It was a moral imperative that the government do something to stop the preying on our most vulnerable and susceptible citizens, the old, and the poor.

    In fact, doing so is mandated by our Constitution in the opening paragraph where it states the reasons for the union’s charter and the foundation of its governing law, the Constitution itself, "to...establish justice...promote the general welfare.”

    There is no more important way to promote justice and general welfare of a people than to protect the most vulnerable from predators.

    So it is not the government that is at fault in wanting to set parameters for affiliate marketing practices. It is the fault of the predators that have ruined for honest people every field of endeavor ever known to mankind.

    Therefore, I'm thankful if a simple disclaimer is all that's being required. I would certainly rather do without it, but it is minimally invasive, and seems fair enough to me.

    The problem of protection, of course, is the never-ending battle of where to draw the line of protection for a reasonably intelligent, adult public. Unfortunately, the loudest "mouths," the ones that never shut up with the ridiculous rhetoric, are at either extreme, when common sense tells us that somewhere in the middle, where the most people gain the greatest benefit from the least amount of regulation, is where policy should be made

  18. With the newest google slap and the existing and proposed FTC Rulings only the serious affiliate marketers will survive and bank a lot of money.

    I already have a "Consumer Notice" in my sidebar. Check it out.

    I suggest that all marketing will be pushed by ppc networks, ad networks, and FTC to have an affiliate (review) website that adds value to the product purchase (much content. It also must have good quality score and mid/high PR Linkbacks and out going links.

Comments are closed.