Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

If you were in the middle of a high stakes Poker game and ran out of cash, would you risk betting your blog or business to keep going?

Probably not.

But by failing to blog without a proper affiliate disclosure, you’re gambling with your professional assets every single day.

That’s why it’s vital that you, with help from this article, create or review your affiliate disclosure today. This will ensure legal actions aren’t taken against you and the blog you work so hard on. Let’s get to work, you little gambler…


** Important Disclaimer:  I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. With that in mind, please understand that the information shared in this blog post isn’t a substitute for legal advice. If you have concerns about your unique situation, consult with a lawyer about it. This blog post has been developed with U.S. based FTC guidelines,which can change at any time. If you are located in another country, these rules may still apply to you but you are also encouraged to seek out the appropriate local organizations to assist you.


What is an affiliate disclosure?

An affiliate disclosure is a disclaimer statement that informs consumers or potential buyers that you are in a paid relationship with the company or person you’re linking to as an affiliate.

Here’s a short-form example from my site:

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

All types of blogger disclosure statements became really important in 2009, when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its outdated policies to include new media – setting fines at up to $11,000 per violation for anyone endorsing a company or product without proper disclosures present. The most recent guidelines were released in 2013, followed by an FAQ style section in 2015.

An affiliate disclosure statement is very similar to the sponsorship disclosures you’ve probably seen on popular blogs, like this one from my favourite party blog Oh Happy Day:

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now


FTC in the media

You’ve possibly read a few crazy FTC stories in the media. I use a Google alert to track new stories and always love when famous people are involved (ha!) like these:

America’s favourite red sweater model Ken Bone unintentionally violated FTC rules when he tweeted an ad for Uber without stating his paid relationship with the company.

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

The media noticed his FTC faux paux and called him out:

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

He was quick to make it right so the FTC probably didn’t go after him:

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now


The Kardashian family, including Kylie Jenner and Scott Disick, have also come under fire for failing to include proper disclosures in their product endorsements on social media. Which resulted in a third party reporting them to the FTC:

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

If you’re super nosy like I am, you can sift through FTC press releases to read about various settlements – like this one where Skechers had to pay $40 Million (!) to settle FTC charges.




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Why do you need an affiliate disclosure?

There are several key reasons to disclose, including:

1. As mentioned, you could be fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you do not properly disclose your affiliate relationship.

Think it won’t happen to you? Think again!

The FTC is a large organization with over 1,000 employees. They do spot checks and continually roll out new initiatives to crack down on bad behavior. Maybe it’s big brands today but tomorrow it could be travel bloggers, course creators or fashion influencers.

What really scares me about disclosures is this: anyone can report you. That includes your competitors, your followers and even your affiliate manager. Don’t risk it!

2. You may be removed from certain affiliate programs if you lack proper affiliate disclosure statements

Imagine spending hours (or more!) creating a stellar affiliate post that ends up #1 on Google for your desired keywords. You’re earning hundreds of dollars every month from that one post, for one product. Pretty sweet, right?

Without an affiliate disclosure on that post, your affiliate manager could boot you out of their program without warning – eliminating your sweet income stream overnight. That’s because merchants are more often penalized by these FTC policies, so they won’t think twice about removing you if you fail to properly disclose when you promote them.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never personally removed anyone without giving 24-48 hours notice, but every manager operates differently.

3. You put your personal reputation in jeopardy by not disclosing.

People are savvier than you think. If someone in your audience sees an affiliate promotion without a proper disclosure, you risk losing their trust and their business.

Location Tip: If you’re located outside of the United States but are targeting or have a U.S. based market, the FTC guidelines probably still apply to you. Suffice to say, properly disclose regardless of location.


Tips for crafting your affiliate disclosure

The guidelines below were crafted based on the FTC guidelines I felt were most relevant to affiliates. However, I will say again that I am not a lawyer and therefore this is not a substitute for legal advice. I highly recommend you consult with a lawyer and/or read the full guidelines with corresponding FAQs to ensure you’re fully covered.

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE DOS AND DON’TS YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW

A few more things to think about:
Mediums – These tips apply to every medium or platform you use. That means if you’re promoting a product in a video or podcast as an affiliate, you need to verbally state your disclosure before you mention the product. You also need to disclose properly via email and on social media sites.

Space Constraints– If you don’t have room for a full disclosure (like on Twitter), that doesn’t give you a free pass to skip it. Experts say #ad probably meets disclosure requirements for affiliate links. That’s the hashtag I personally use and recommend my affiliates use as well.

I’ve seen affiliates use #affiliatelink, #affiliate, #sponsorship, #sponsor and #paid hashtags as well. However, the affiliate ones probably don’t meet the requirements because as mentioned, not everyone knows what that means. Check out this Best Practices post by Chrissy at BloggyLaw as it has tons of examples for different social media sites.

Mobile – Ensure your disclosure placements aren’t obscured when viewed on mobile devices. That’s why a sidebar placement isn’t ideal – it may be above your affiliate links when viewed on a desktop computer, but will be below them on a mobile device.


Iffy affiliate disclosure examples

PC Mag:

PC Mag is known for their tech product reviews and comparison product pages like the one below. Some of the product buttons contain affiliate links but there’s no affiliate disclosure near those links.

While they could place it at the top where the intro paragraph is, they opt to put it at the very bottom of the page (in light grey!) after you scroll past the grid, an additional 1,500+ words and ads. The majority of visitors would have left the page via affiliate links before ever getting to that disclosure, which is why I call this IFFY.

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

Dr. Axe:
This one hurts my heart because I LOVE Dr. Axe and his entire brand. However, I take issue with the affiliate disclosure found in their blog content.

Let’s break this down:

At the top of most blog posts, there’s a tiny grey link that says “Affiliate Disclosure”:

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

That link points to a full disclosure page that meets affiliate disclosure guidelines:

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

So why is this on the iffy disclosure list?

Before I explain my thinking, I will say again that I’m not a lawyer so this isn’t legal advice to anyone, including Dr. Axe. If Dr. Axe is reading this (hi, I love you, don’t hate me!) and has additional info (or makes changes) that would debunk what I’m saying, let me know and I’ll gladly update the article.

I’ll use the FTC’s current guidelines to explain why this disclosure (in my honest opinion) doesn’t quite cut it:

FTC guideline:
When a space-constrained ad requires a disclosure, incorporate the disclosure into the ad whenever possible. However, when it is not possible to make a disclosure in a space-constrained ad, it may, under some circumstances, be acceptable to make the disclosure clearly and conspicuously on the page to which the ad links.

Corresponding issue:
Dr. Axe’s team could technically make a case that by using the little space in between post title + post content, he didn’t have enough space to put a full disclosure. However, I feel this guideline is more for banners / visual media, not a blog post. There’s no reason a fuller disclosure statement couldn’t be placed at the beginning of the article instead.

FTC guideline:
When using a hyperlink to lead to a disclosure,
– make the link obvious;
– use hyperlink styles consistently, so consumers know when a link is available(…)

Corresponding issue:
Dr. Axe’s regular hyperlinks are a striking blue colour but the affiliate disclosure link is a light grey. The grey link is also smaller than the regular hyperlinks.


Great affiliate disclosure examples

Amy Lynn Andrews:

One of my favourite weekly newsletters is The Useletter from Amy Lynn Andrews. Near the top of each one – well before she uses any affiliate links – there’s a strong affiliate disclosure that clearly articulates what it means if they click on her affiliate links (“I may receive a commission”). She goes further by linking to her full disclosure policy at the end of her disclosure too. Go Amy!

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

By the way, I chose to keep this post focused on affiliate disclosures only, but if you’re interested in all types of blogger disclosures (i.e. sponsorships, affiliate, free products and other types of endorsements), Amy has a stellar post on the subject you need to check out.

Pinch of Yum:

Lindsay from Pinch of Yum also does a fab job with the affiliate disclosure located at the top of her resources page. I love how she goes in depth to talk about her values (“recommend them because they are companies that I have found helpful and trustworthy”) and even invites readers to contact her if they have any questions.

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now


Affiliate disclosure action steps

To help you take action on the information in this article, I suggest you complete the following action steps:

1) Short affiliate disclosure

Develop a 1-3 sentence blurb that will be placed above or near your affiliate links when creating blog posts, pages, social media posts and emails.

As long as you’re following proper guidelines (ex. it explains what “affiliate link” actually means), don’t be afraid to infuse some life into your statements so they represent your personality and vibe. Copyblogger has fun advice for turning your disclosures into a selling point.

Pro tip: If you want to include emojis or stylized items in your disclosure, I recommend creating a draft blog post and placing the HTML code in there so it’s easily accessible whenever you’re creating a new blog post or page.

Here are some well-crafted short disclosure examples:

Via Megan Minns

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

Via Meera Kothand

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now

2) Full affiliate disclosure

Here you will write a few paragraphs with a full or expanded affiliate policy to place on your website. Some people create a page dedicated to their affiliate policy, while others incorporate their affiliate policy into a page that includes other legal policies as well. Remember to link to this page in either your top or footer navigation area.

To jumpstart this task, use your newly created short affiliate disclosure as a starting point for your fuller policy. From there, go deep to highlight your affiliate philosophy and values – such as what you do & do not promote, why you’re an affiliate and so on.

You can also include important things you want readers to understand about affiliate marketing – such as how compensation works, that the company handles product fulfilment and so on.

Remember, you want people to feel good about trusting you so be as transparent and straight-forward as possible. Here’s a few great example pages for inspiration (not copying!):


Affiliate disclosure recap

  • An affiliate disclosure is a disclaimer statement that informs consumers that you are in a paid relationship with the company or person you’re an affiliate for.
  • Stay current on FTC guidelines (or those local to you such as the ASC in Canada) by checking here, here and here periodically. If you want automatic notifications of FTC updates, consider setting up Google alerts as well.
  • Regardless of your location or promotion type, always disclose the affiliate relationship.
  • Get started by creating a full disclosure statement for a page on your website and use it to develop a shorter disclosure statement for use on pages and/or posts.
  • After reading the official guidelines as well as this post, the entire process of crafting your disclosures should take no more than 30 minutes so remember: take action.




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Are your affiliate disclosures good to go or do you need to make some changes? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

Affiliate Disclosure DOs and DON'Ts You Need To Know Now