BEWARE of Posting Affiliate Links on Your Blog-Part 2
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Now, the sky is certainly not falling, but it pays to keep yourself updated on the latest news!
As a matter of fact, much of what is being touted to you as "FTC guidelines" (including what I am going to say here) are not the actual guidelines; from what I know, the actual guidelines would come up on 1st December of the current year. That would indeed accentuate the shivering cold of winter for all of us! To lessen your "pain", it is a good idea to start "feeling" it right from today!
Here is the original article:
The Hammer of FTC (which is even more powerful than all the Google penalties combined)
And here are links to some more "related articles" you may find helpful:
How the Common Man is Doomed (A fellow internet marketer's explanation of the guidelines)
Some other articles that may be helpful to you:
Mass Control Guru Speaks (poor soul! )
Izea Offers Some Helpful Perspectives That is Worth Reading-Whether Or Not You Use Them:
Izea=>The same folks who are behind projects like disclosurepolicy.org and payperpost.com (unless I am wrong); btw, here is one interesting article on PPP that seems to be related to the topic at hand - that is, "full disclosure of compensation received by the affiliate".
The battle between affiliates and FTC is scheduled to begin on 1st December, when the finally guidelines are supposed to come out for everyone to see…gotta see who wins and who loses (kidding)
I only hope FTC does not nudge me to add disclosures to the affiliate links of my old posts and articles. If they do then that would worse than even the day job! It is not about disclosure, it is about the amount of time I would have to spend without any additional compensation in return, not to speak that pinpointing all the affiliate links on just one blog (this one, that is) containing over 100 posts…hmm…
My Personal "Nuttie" Views-Testimonials:
Anyway, per the new update, FTC plans to crack down not just on the affiliate marketers but also the IM gurus with all those over-the-top testimonials, such as: "I was able to make $1m thanks to [my guru buddy's] product"!
Hmm, now that really gets interesting, considering that FTC is grossly understaffed to battle with the 100s of IM gurus alone (with a couple of new "gurus" born everyday), not to speak of the army of affiliates! We will wait and see. Maybe they would outsource part of their job!
Will this put an end to practices like "testimonial begging" or "JV for testimonials" indulged in by some internet marketers? Maybe the gurus would soon come up with a report called: The Death of Internet Marketing (and Rise of Offline Marketing)
Personally I am happy and relieved about one thing: this would be (hopefully) the end of gurus' over-the-top, hyped-to-the-core, testimonials we see on the salespages of other gurus; IMHO these testimonials tend to make an already painfully long salesletter even longer (okay, maybe wishful thinking but I really hope these testimonials are wiped out)!
Now, for us little guys-as far as getting testimonial from customers goes-one thing I have learned (I am not sure if my Nuttie option holds water here but I would say it anyway) is that - if you overdeliver at every point you are bound to get UNSOLICITED testimonials.
Maybe you would get fewer unsolicited testimonials, but they that are 1000 times more valuable than the testimonials you get by begging your guru buddies. Those testimonials are not only FTC compliant (I am not a lawyer but this is what I believe) but also your precious business assets! By all means, after you are done with delivering the product, ask, ask the customer for a testimonial...
The rule pf thumb here is: Don’t make an indiscreet effort to get a testimonial from your customer, like begging, twisting arms, offering cash/non-cash incentives, etc. Do everything discreetly, such as - have a link to a testimonial form just below your product download link, ask the customer for a testimonial in the product thankyou email, etc. Here is one more method that almost always works; however I don't get time to do it as often as before:
Every time you receive the "Notification of Payment received" email from Paypal, promptly email the customer asking him about what he felt about the product. NOTE: Esp. in IM niche, personal emails are far more effective than autoresponders. If you cannot handle this job yourself, it maybe a good idea to outsource it (provided that you get someone with a cool temper and winsome disposition)!
Now, when you personally email the customer asking about product feedback, chances are that he would either:
a) Not reply to your email at all (which may mean that he may not be happy with his purchase, not motivated enough to give you a testimonial right then, or perhaps he never received your email request in the first place because it got filtered as junk mail before reaching his inbox), in which case, another followup a few days later may do the trick!
b) Send a positive reply. Guess you are a lucky fella! Now, you can use this positive reply as testimonial, though I would ask for his permission first (99% of the times you would get the permission, but still it is a safe bet) as a courtesy.
Very few customers indeed would come up and say that: "Hey chap, I don’t like your product man. What a cr*p!" " They would much prefer asking for a refund (which may or may not be any indication of your product quality, based on the nature of the refund)!
To be honest, the number of testimonials on a salesletter really doesn’t matter as far as sales conversions go; in fact one of the top converting Clickbank™ products called Fatloss4idiots doesn’t even have testimonials at all (last time I checked it)! Hmm, I suppose it is time to copy them!
Also, unlike what Frank says, you don't need to give chunks and chunks of free content upfront (it is good if you do it, but it is not mandatory) to notch up your sales. I know many top marketers (in non-IM niches) who do nothing more than sending pitches and pitches; and I would assume that they make plenty of good money or they would not have been in business for so long! Even one of Frank's non-IM lists is just like that-little "useful" free content and more "pitches"; while I am not sure about the conversions stats of that product, I do know that many people are bitching about that product in forums.
My Personal "Nuttie" Views-Affiliate Marketing:
So what is it that an affiliate marketer could do to get around this FTC rule? Disclose your affiliate compensation. Sounds simple, but it needs to be done in a creative manner! As Brian Clark points out, the disclosure should fit in nicely with your product review rather than looking something out of place; at the same time, you need to make sure that the disclosure does not hurt your sales conversions. Depending on your niche, you may word your disclosure in many different ways, such as (texts with blue color indicate hyperlinks):
a) Lose Money Fast (affiliate link)-This one works pretty well for IM niche! (kidding)
b) Discover how to Lose Weight Fast
(Note: that is my affiliate link. If you don’t want to buy from my affiliate link, here is the direct link)
c) Productname is our top recommended antispyware software for keeping your PC Healthy and Spyware-free!
Disclosure (this can be added at the end of your product review): Even though xx.com (your blog's domain name) is affiliated to productname, the above review is fair and accurate to the best of our knowledge.
d) Click here to Lose Fat Fast with Hoodia X
That is my affiliate link. The commission I get from your purchase is what keeps me alive and kicking, and gives me power to continue churning out good (or cr*ppy) articles like this. If you don’t want to compensate me for my hard work you can use this direct link instead!
e) Here is a tackier one:
Autopilot Cash-Click here to make $1000 per day!
(I just wanted to disclose the fact that it is my affiliate link. If you buy from my affiliate link, it earns me enough money to keep my a** intact, and helps me churn out even more free great tips for you. To keep this site running for free, I would request that you buy from my affiliate link. In case you want to buy from the direct link, here it is.)
f) Click here to discover the secrets to making $100 everyday from Adsense™ on autopilot and start living that easy life that you deserve!
Disclosure: Xx.com is affiliated to productname. However, that does not (and would not) in anyway influence the content of our review. Whatever we have posted above is accurate based on our own knowledge and belief. Xx.com however advises the reader to do due diligence before making any purchase decision based on our recommendation!
g) Best option: Get your own custom disclosure policy from: http://disclosurepolicy.org/generator/generate_policy
Other tools that maybe useful:
a) Keep your product reviews neutral and "politically correct"; write them in an objective, "reporter-style" tone. Don’t go overboard with your reviews unless you want to face FTC crackdown.
b) Same goes for posting customers' testimonials on your product salespages: it is perhaps best to avoid the testimonials that look like a bit "above-the-board", the ones that specially mention results such as "I lost 70 pounds with the help of your product" or that "I made $1000 with the tips you shared in your ebook", etc. Here is why! (BTW I don’t blame you if you cannot understand the mumbo-jumbo of FTC's press release; even I could not!). If you are active in the diet niche (esp. as a product vendor), you may also want to read: Results Not Typical' Banned From Diet Ads
c) IF you can afford it, connect yourself with a local attorney-preferably a "cyber lawyer". In India finding a lawyer who is well versed with cyber laws is a tough deal; hopefully you would be more lucky!
Now, perhaps those who are not from US are wondering: "But why am I reading all these? I don’t care about FTC. It cannot do a thing to me because I don't live in US".
Neither do I, but can you offer that excuse to FTC when they chase you? Good luck to you fighting with them! In my opinion, IF:
a) Your domain registrar is based in US (Solution: Move all your domains to a non-US registrar, but not before estimating the costs of domain transfers);
b) Your web hosting/server/datacenter is located in US (again, solution is as simple as moving out and relocating to a different country);
c) The vendor/affiliate network you are promoting is based in US, such as Clickbank or CJ (again, the solution is: switch your vendor relationships from US to non-US vendors);
d) A majority of your bulk traffic comes from US (solution: block all US traffic with the IP deny manger of your control panel, and be happy losing tons of money everyday (unless yours is a local business site), because internet has not penetrated anywhere else as deep as it ahs in US, if my web stats are anything to go by);
Then you are better off complying with FTC than trying to find "loopholes" in their ruling! Most certainly, you won’t be slapped with a lawsuit; you would probably surrender out-of-court (unless you happen with be a big gun with fat wallets and hefty bank balance; however FTC is more likely to go after the "little guys" who can be more easily and economically subdued than the big cooperates), but what would suffer in the end is your business - the months or years of hard work and sweat that you invested to built it from scratch would all go waste!
Think about it - is not it much simpler to add the required disclosures on your website and comply with FTC guidelines than losing your business? Hmm, you have to decide that!
I don’t know about you, but I am seeing a positive side to this ruling too (just as I saw it in the testimonial guidelines above): It would potentially wipe out a ton of competitors from your respective niche, because a lot of your competitors are simply affiliates trying put up dishonest reviews, MFA sites and other cr*p in the hope of making a quick buck. Like it or not, a majority of these sites rank on the first page of Google™!
Most of these folks guys are unlikely to be honest and upfront as required by FTC; if they were really so honest would not they have built an honest and credible business right from start? The end result would be that: many of them would probably quit even before being struck by the FTC hammer! On the other hand, the honest guys would continue doing business with appropriate disclosures because they have nothing to hide.
As the old saying goes- when a ship starts sinking the rats leave first while the captain leaves at last!
Therefore, if these guidelines have some downsides they also have some upsides, as you see. If indeed FTC is able to go forward in enforcing this ruling on all affiliate bloggers (for product reviews) and IM gurus (for the "solicited" and insincere testimonials they receive from their JV partners and friends), the web would be a much cleaner and credible place!
I am one with Brian Clark (see above for the link this article) on one thing - IF your blog content is useful to the readers (and not some piece of "sh*t"), then I don't think they would mind affiliate links. If at all, they would want to support you for the long hours you spent on writing the helpful articles or product reviews; they know everyone needs money for paying off bills and sustenance.
Certainly, a few customers suffer from the typical entitlement attitude (sometime ago Paul Myers had posted a useful thread on the Warrior Forum regarding this topic, and it got a huge number of responses from other forum members) and believe that the whole world should be gifted free to them on a silver platter; sure enough, they are not the right customers for your business!
Speaking of entitlement, I believe that since I wrote such a boring post, I am entitled to a nice comment from you, am I not?
Of course not! However it does not hurt to ask, so here I am asking you to post a nice comment below in order to compensate me for my hard work as well as motivate me to continue churning out more boring cr*p in the coming Saturdays! (kidding)
By the way, if you managed to read this long boring post without getting bored, your results are not typical! The average reader starts yawning right after reading the first paragraph, and goes to bed even before they are able to reach the first half of the article!
UPDATE: The following blog posts (from Paul Myers and Michael Fortin respectively) are also worth reading:
NOTE: If Michael is to be believed, more than the "unethical" affiliate marketers, the vendors whose products these affiliates are promoting (esp., if the affiliate's site happens to be an authority for the respective vendor's product, or an authority in product reviews in general, such as the Techcrunch blog) are at risk of being hounded by the FTC.
It is not a cause of concern for me, however, because affiliate traffic counts for only 10-20% of my overall site traffic. If asked, I would be the first to raise my hand and say that I am neither good at affiliate recruitment nor affiliate marketing!
It remains to be seen how far these regulations indeed help FTC achieve their "aims"!
When the Can Spam Act came out in 2003, people thought it would spell the end of spam. Guess how WRONG they were! 4 years on and spam has only increased manifold. Spammers seem to be getting away by offering fake "unsubscribe links" and a fake "optin info". In a nutshell, it did nothing more than complicating the lives of legit email marketers
Post-Can Spam, you would either need to display your home address in the footer of all your emails (which are being read by all your subscribers; thus opening yourself to possible stalking), or get a post box address.
In India (especially, if you live in a remote suburb), getting a post box is one hellish experience.
After waiting for a year for the post box I had no option but to get a US post box address, which costs almost 4 times the amount required for an Indian post box. Hmm, still all the better considering that you are safe from stalkers...well, hopefully! Did I tell you I never got any refund from the Indian Postal authorities; all I received instead is "promise" of a post box!
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That is why, I wonder how far these new "FTC guidelines" will be able to wipe out dishonesty from the online media (as well as crippling the honest marketers who use the internet to eke out a leaving)!
If nothing else, once again it is a reminder in favor of diversity: don't put all your eggs in one basket. This means that don't do only affiliate marketing, only plr selling, or only info product creation; rather, do ALL of them, or do as many of them as possible for you! Diversity is the key to success in online marketing.
If you are not shy and lazy like me, and possess persuasive power, you can even do some offline marketing!
FTC Reassures Bloggers - Big Brother Isn't Watching (NOTE: THIS IS STRAIGHT FROM HORSE'S MOUTH- it has nothing new to offer that except for some twists and misleading facts and statements; all in all a must read. If you thought that Google™'s algo is the vaguest thing, you are terribly WRONG!)
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