On December 1, 2009 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) clarified and updated their guidelines regarding deceptive advertising.
For all the official details, read the FTC documentation and head over to the FTC website to watch their videos.
You should know that the FTC Act is not new. In summary, it prohibits deceptive, misleading and unfair acts in commerce. These guidelines have already been in effect for offline advertising, and even for some areas of the online world (e-mail/spam, etc.)
As Rich Cleland of the FTC states in this interview, The December 1st update is just an interpretation/clarification of the Act for bloggers, affiliates and other online marketers. It is not a new regulation.
Confusion Among Affiliates
What’s frustrating for many affiliates is there are no specific guidelines for how every affiliate site/blog should handle this. Is a blanket disclosure statement enough or should you add a disclosure statement to every link?
While some guidelines are still a bit vague, the example presented in the audio clip seems to suggest that a blanket disclosure will be enough for many sites, but others may need more.
According to the FTC, “The disclosure should be clear, conspicuous and aiming to “alert the reader” that there is a “connection between the endorser and the seller.” I also found great disclosure advice on Geno Prussakov’s affiliate marketing blog.
My personal opinion is that the FTC will mainly go after the giants and malicious sites that have clearly crossed the line of deception, but that doesn’t mean they won’t punish smaller affiliates and turn them into examples.
There’s also been confusion over who these guidelines are for. The FTC website seems to focus on bloggers and not website owners. But remember, the guidelines have been updated to include bloggers, social media participants, etc.
So please don’t assume you don’t have to comply if you do not own a blog. Website owners, e-mail marketers, etc. should be disclosing as well.
So What Should You Do?
The first thing you should do is read the FTC documentation. I know it’s a lot of legal jargon that can get monotonous, but the bottom line is, if you are getting compensated for your recommendations (i.e. through affiliate marketing), you should be disclosing your affiliations… period.
How detailed and specific you need to be will vary from site to site. Yes, the guidelines are not incredibly specific. So in many cases you will have to use your best judgment and common sense.
Also make sure you listen to Jim Edward’s interview with Rich Cleland of the FTC. It’s always good to go straight to the source when it comes to things like this.
And lastly, one thing’s almost certain…
You won’t be penalized for over disclosure. So when in doubt, disclose as much as you can where you feel it’s necessary.
Start with a blanket disclosure statement. See the one I created for this blog and go from there. Don’t just copy my statement. I think you will benefit from developing your own unique message that’s relevant for your own site and voice.
I wanted to write about the FTC guidelines much sooner, but as many of you know, I’ve been taking some much needed time off due to my RSI injury that I blogged about a few weeks ago. I’m recovering slowly but surely. Thanks to everyone for your kind messages.
I will be taking it easy for the rest of the year and hope to come back 100% next year.
Tricia Meyer says
Have you seen the newest guidelines that state that a disclosure at the end of blog posts is not adequate?
Anirudh Bahadur says
Could you please share the link to the new guidelines ?
Tricia Meyer says
Sure thing! http://www.ftc.gov/os/2013/03/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf
Anirudh Bahadur says
Anirudh Bahadur says
Could you check my FTC disclosure and let me know if it is okay, please?
I got it from a website.
Once again…THANKS Lisa! It is your contining “mentor hand” that guides me through this “web” of uncertainty and you have such a gift of making and keeping it “real”.
Tim Hicks says
Thank you for this wonderful article. I had posted disclosure statements on my websites when the law was first passed.
I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails recently advising that a disclosure must be made on each page that has an affiliate link. Have you been hearing that?
All the best,
I haven’t been getting many notices, but others here have said they have.
Penny Ray says
Thanks for the info. I’m curious to know how I should disclose my affiliations when sharing links through my social networks. ie:Twitter & Facebook. Any suggestions? Thanks for your time and effort.
Joanna @ Earn Money Online says
Thank you. That was very helpful. It’s definitely better to err on the side of over-disclosure, than not to disclose enough 🙂
Martha the Premade Scrapbook Lady says
Thanks for posting this. I just started my own premade scrapbook blog, and want to have affiliate links, but I’ve been a little confused about what I need to say. Your example, and the links have helped.
Backyard Wrestling DVD says
It is so very hard to get invaluable info on the web. Thank god, I have discovered your the web site. I loved reading your piece of writing. I think you present helpful info. Congratulations, and store posting to us.
PowerPoint Templates says
Appreciate the sample disclosure statement, can we use it as a starting place?
Yes you can use it as a starting point.
John Bryant says
I am beginning to build my website. I wanted Sitesell to host my website.
I have checked BBB for company info and have only recvd
P.O. Box 55071, C.P. Mackay
Montreal, QC H3G 1S0
Would you have any info as to real address in Montreal?
Over all, if you use the products that you promote, I doubt you will have any problems. This is to crack down on all the spam and scam that there is online. Be straight up, no worries:) Great video on the Youtube background. I had no idea I could do that. Changed it right after watching your vid…
.-= C.Jines´s last blog … Marketing Video- Local Business Web Ranking =-.
Couldn’t agree more.
Anderson Goncalves says
I was reading about this here and there online and was still uncertain of what I should do and how it could affect me. Your post makes it so clear and easy to understand. I will be writing an article from what I learned here and post it on my blog.
Keep up the great job!
P.S. Hope you get better soon. Blessings.
.-= Anderson Goncalves´s last blog … My TOP Advertising Lists =-.
I meant Ratified
According to the document, the new bill was passed on Jan. 18th 2007 and rectified Dec 1st, 2009.
PPC Ian says
Thank you so much for this information. It’s incredibly important and while I have thorough Ts & Cs and Privacy Policies on my sites, I’m making a point of adding an Affiliate Disclaimer as well. Really appreciate this.
.-= PPC Ian´s last blog … Rap Music Drives My Online Marketing =-.
Ms. Freeman says
I wonder what the ruling is on post published prior to Dec. 1 will affiliate bloggers need to go back and add a disclosure statement to each and every one of those posts. It is my hope that that is not the case and that a blanket statement would suffice
.-= Ms. Freeman´s last blog … Google Takes Scammers to Court! =-.
Thanks Lisa. I didn’t even know about this. I do have a question though. Does this only apply only to affiliate advertising or do I have to have a disclosure statement on sites that only use Adsense?
Wayne Farley says
As a non-US based affiliates, I think we can be best served by following the guidelines as a “best practice”. Maintaining high ethical standards is all part of building the trust of visitors to our websites.
That’s a good idea.
I think the EU, Japanese & Canadian agencies, etc. are going to start making regulations at some point or another, and they will likely use the US regulations as a staring point.
.-= Digitivity @ The Digital Life & Tools Blog´s last blog … How to Claim Your Blog on Technorati =-.
.-= Graeme´s last blog … Stumbleupon Traffic Surge =-.
Thanks for the information about the FTC. I am new to internet marketing (actually just learning but feeling a little overwhelmed with all the information out here online. And I am not sure where to start). I found your post to be very helpful and something that I will be bookmarking!!
You said, “I will be taking it easy for the rest of the year and hope to come back 100% next year.” I have faith in you that you will come back 100% “plus” next year! You do this so effortlessly =)
I really appreciate the information that you share so freely and your honesty, keep up the wonderful work! God Bless you!!!
Lisa, one of your biggest strengths is the way you encourage honesty and business ethics on the internet. You really inspired me to stop clicking my own ads a good while ago, and I think this post shows once again that you operate on the internet with a clear intentions. It just further builds your trustworthiness, so thanks for being a great example!
.-= Grady´s last blog … New And News: This Week Brings Disney’s First Black Princess Nelson Mandela; Coincidence? =-.