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How To Disclose Affiliate Links

If you’re a member of any affiliate programs (including the Lyrical Host Affiliate Program!) you’re responsible for declaring any affiliate links and any content you have a commercial connection to or may be compensated for.

Several years ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) introduced requirements for online advertising that include rules on how affiliates should disclose their commercial interests online. While the FTC advises that their rules are in place for US-based audiences and consumers, many countries have similar guidelines. The reality is that as a responsible website owner and affiliate, you want to abide by these guidelines for all your visitors and followers because you can’t control the citizenship of the people seeing your posts, and in the interests of being trusted and transparent.

The good news is that compliancy is straightforward and easy. This blog post explains what you need to do, so let’s get started!

 

The four disclosure requirements

You must properly disclose any affiliate links you use. Your disclosures must meet four requirements:

Frequent: Your disclosure must appear on every post or page that has a review, recommendation, comment, or article that promotes a product or service for which you may receive compensation or have done in the past.

Clear: It must be immediately obvious that you may receive compensation from the links or content included on your page. If you are reviewing, comparing, or ranking brands and commission or conversion rates affect the order or your placement of them, you must clearly state this and not imply or convey neutrality.

It must be clear that a commission is paid for purchases made through links in the page or post. You’re not allowed to use vague statements in your disclosure, such as “We may include links to websites that help support our own.”

Conspicuous: The disclosure must be clear and easy to see, with no scrolling required. It should begin with the word “Disclosure.” Prominently and permanently display disclosures so they are unlikely to be missed by your visitors, and ensure the size and visual contrast are reasonable. For the disclosure to be considered clear, the font should be at least as large as the main text on the page, and clearly visible in terms of color.

Require No Action: Your disclosure must be immediately evident to a typical visitor viewing your content on any kind of device, using any operating system or browser. A visitor should not need to scroll, click, tap, hover or perform any other action to learn that you may receive compensation. If you do include a clickable link or additional information on hover over, the text of the link or preview itself should disclose the fact that you may receive compensation.

The same guidance applies any time you endorse a product through affiliate links, whether it’s on your website, someone else’s, on social media, or in any other context.

Never assume that your relationship with the brand is “obvious” and therefore doesn’t need disclosing. Always disclose.

 

Disclosing affiliate links on your website

As an affiliate you must clearly disclose commission and commercial relationships with any businesses that appear on your website, in every instance they appear. That means every post containing affiliate links must have a clear disclosure stating such; it’s not enough to make generalized statements or have a link to your disclosure or privacy policy on its own.

The closer your disclaimer is to your recommendation, the better. Your readers shouldn’t need to scroll to read your disclaimer after your affiliate links appear on the page. For that reason, we’d recommend putting your disclaimer at the top of your post rather than the bottom for total transparency.

Simply stating a link is an “affiliate link” is not enough. A “Buy now” link or button is not adequate disclosure either.

Here’s an example disclosure you could include at the top of your blog posts (feel free to copy and paste for your own website – please note we are not lawyers and this isn’t legal advice!):

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. For more details see my disclosure policy [LINK] and privacy policy [LINK].

 

Please note that some affiliate programs, e.g. Amazon’s, have very specific rules on what you can and can’t say in your disclosure. Always refer to the specific requirements of any affiliate programs you participate in to check you comply.

 

Disclosure & privacy policies: To create your disclosure policy, try a generator like this one: http://disclosurepolicy.org/generator/generate_policy. You will also want to find a similar generator for your website’s privacy policy if you don’t already have one; ideally you want one which is GDPR and CalOPPA compliant. Again, some brands may have specific statements you need to include.

Adding disclosure text to posts: You can do this manually for your affiliate posts, or for WordPress, you can use a plugin such as Add Custom Content or FMTC Affiliate Disclosure to add the text to your posts automatically.

(Please note we don’t officially endorse the links or plugins provided on this post; they are just pointers to get you started!)

 

Disclosing affiliate links on social media

It’s a common misconception that you don’t need to disclose your affiliate links on social media. You need to disclose affiliate links to products and services to clearly show your followers that there is a commercial connection. A photo showing a product, service, or something related to the brand still requires disclosure if you may earn compensation from affiliate links, have been sent it for free, or have already received some kind of compensation from the brand.

Don’t assume that built-in disclosures on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, via branded partner tools, are sufficient disclosure. You must still disclose properly in addition to using those tools.

The context is also important; for example someone scrolling quickly down Instagram may not notice a disclosure in a caption or comment, so you’re best off putting your disclosure on the image itself as well so it’s super clear. You have the ultimate responsibility for making sure your disclosure is hard to miss.

FTC Affiliate Disclosure Infographic

Good examples: AD, #ad, or #sponsored.
You can also supplement the above in your descriptions with additional clarification, for example “[BRAND] gifted me this product in order to review it”.

Bad examples: #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon, or #ambassador.
Avoid ambiguous disclosures and abbreviations.

On image-heavy and image-only platforms, superimpose your disclosure over the picture in a clear font that contrasts sharply with the background.

 

Frequently asked questions

If I link to or reference a company or commercial website when I’m not an affiliate or receiving any payment or goods from them, do I still need to disclose?

You don’t need to disclose if you’re including links to brands or retailers to help your readers when there’s no chance of you receiving commission or payment of any kind.

If a company sends me something for free, without paying me or asking me to post about it, do I still need to disclose?

Yes, if they send it to you because you’re an influencer of any size, or for a review.

If I’m sharing a link to a blog post with an affiliate link in it on social media, do I still need to disclose?

If you’re sharing a link to a blog post with an affiliate link within it, you don’t need to disclose in the social media post. For example you can link to your “Why I chose Lyrical Host” post without using #sponsored in your tweet. However, your blog post itself must have the affiliate disclosure.

Do I have to disclose in text?

You may use an image instead of text to disclose as long as it’s unavoidable and clear to read. On your website, make sure your ALT and title text contain the same information for people using screen readers.

What are the rules for reviews?

If you include consumer reviews or feedback about listed brands:

  • You can’t offer inducements to a customer in return for a positive review, pretend to be a customer, or write fake reviews about your own or other businesses’ goods or services.
  • Advertising and paid promotions must be clearly identifiable to readers as paid-for content.
  • If you allow review submission or collate reviews: you must clearly state how reviews are obtained and checked; publish all reviews (including the negative ones) provided they are genuine and lawful; and explain the circumstances in which reviews might be edited or not published at all (for instance if they include abusive language or defamatory remarks).
  • You should ensure that there is no unreasonable delay before publishing reviews, and have appropriate procedures in place to detect and remove fake reviews.

I have a question that’s not answered here, who do I contact?

Drop your question in an email to endorsements@ftc.gov and they’ll be able to advise.

 

Additional Reading

 

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How To Disclose Affiliate Links

Jenni Brown
Co-founder of Lyrical Host, Jenni has been in the web hosting industry for years and specializes in social media, copywriting, search engine optimization, and email marketing. She loves cats, baking, photography, and gaming. You can find her personal blog over at byjenni.com.

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