How to Properly Disclose your Affiliate Links

Listen running an online is an incredible way to make a living.

However, everything you built could be shutdown in an instant. So you need to make sure to read everything here that way you’re not shut down.

If you have a business online and make money with affiliate links, reviews, or are getting free products and services, you would need to disclose such to your readers, as required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC’s rules can be confusing at times, so you need to understand them completely if you’re in this type of business, otherwise the FTC will come after you.

Not properly disclosing may end up in your business getting shut down, so pay close attention to the information I have shared in this article.

Things I will cover in this article:

  1. What exactly is a disclosure?
  2. Why do I need to have a disclosure in the first place?
  3. What power does the FTC have?
  4. Won’t disclosing have an effect on sales and profits?
  5. Do I have to disclose on every platform (e.g., social media, my blog)?
  6. Examples of disclosures.

What exactly is a disclosure?

Don’t let the word “disclosure” scare you away. The definition of the word “disclosure” is “to uncover or reveal.”

The reason why you have to disclose your affiliate links is because of the FTC.

The FTC’s job is to keep people safe by enforcing laws that ensure products and services are described truthfully online.

If you like, you can check out the FTC (.com Disclosures).

The FTC has set rules in place to make sure that the customers and people who buy products online know what they’re actually paying for without unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

I will give you some examples later of what’s unfair or what constitutes deceptive acts or practices so keep on reading.

Why do I need to have a disclosure in the first place?

I’m sure you’re asking yourself “Well, I am not the one who is actually selling the product. Why should I disclose the affiliate links within my content?”

The truth is that the FTC doesn’t want people to be deceived. For example, people insert their affiliate links claiming something that’s not true about the product or service.

Here’s a real-life example from someone named Ted:

Welcome to Ted’s amazing product reviews

Here’s this amazing product that you can get 100% off when you use my PROMO CODE “free.” Just go through my link: www.linktoproductsite.com

Now this seems pretty harmless, doesn’t it? And it sounds like a good deal too! Who doesn’t want a free product?

Well, the truth is that the promo code that Ted posted on the site doesn’t exist. What Ted is doing is flat out lying to you to get you to click his link so he can get a commission when you buy from that page later on.

What happens is that once someone clicks the link, their computer saves a cookie. The cookie is a tracking mechanism for the affiliate (Ted) to earn a commission if the person (customer) buys in a certain amount of time.

Now if the customer buys and they later find out that the only reason they were told about the product is for Ted to make a commission, they will be pissed off.

That’s because the customer initially signed up because they got a promo code that never worked, but they still bought it because of everything they were told by Ted and his website.

It’s terrible to do business this way.

Ted lied to his readers when he told them there was a promo code when there was none. He also lied by omission when he didn’t inform his readers that he would make a commission when someone buys the product after clicking through his link.

When this sort of thing happens, it makes people angry because they feel tricked, scammed, or ripped off .

It’s just bad business, and it’s what the FTC wants to prevent with their rules regarding disclosure.

What power does the FTC have?

To be as accurate as possible, the FTC has the power and the ability to do whatever they like when you don’t follow the law and the rules they set forth regarding affiliate links.

For example, the FTC announced on August 9, 2012 that Google Inc. agreed to pay a $22.5 million civil penalty to settle allegations that the company had breached default settings on Apple Inc.’s Safari browser by placing tracking cookies and serving targeted advertisements to users in conflict with Google’s specific, public representations to the contrary.

This is a prime example of how you can use technology to your advantage without the consumer knowing. The FTC looks down on this type of stuff.

In the industry I am in, I have heard a lot of people’s online businesses getting closed down.

The FTC has seized everything they own due to their willful or inadvertent violation of the FTC’s rules and regulations.

In short, the FTC can basically do anything they see fit, so it’s important that you read this entire article. Knowledge is power my friend. It can also mean your business!

Won’t disclosing have an effect on sales and profits?

This is one of the reasons why affiliate marketers end up not disclosing their affiliate links.

They assume that disclosing affiliate links in their content is going to affect sales and conversions.

I can tell you from my own experience that telling people they will be going through your affiliate links and that you earn a commission when they buy after clicking through your link is going to make you more money at the end of the day.

Data and research has proven that disclosing your links will yield you more income and commissions.

You will appear honest to your readers, and they will love you for it. Plus, if the product is really as good as you say it is, your readers won’t care if they are affiliate links or not!

Do I have to disclose on every platform (e.g., social media, my blog)?

Putting a disclosure next to every link can be time-consuming (not to mention look unwieldy). There’s a better way.

A lot of affiliate marketers place a small note on pages that have affiliate links on them. For example:

This content uses referral links. Read my disclosure policy for more info.

They have a full description laying out everything in their “disclosure policy” page.

By doing it this way, they don’t have to keep pasting their disclosure for each page that has affiliate links in them.

Actually, having a disclosure next to each link is too much. It can even be annoying after a while. It’s also going to come off like you’re warning people not to click when you have a disclosure text next to each link.

The facts: Readers are smart and most people understand that when you mention it once, it already means that your whole site may have affiliate links in some pages. It is then unnecessary to put a block of text disclosing on each link within the page.

Examples of disclosure

There is no standard format when it comes to disclosure. It depends on the content or what platform it is going out to.

With that in mind, I am going to give you some real-life examples that I have used and some others have used to successfully disclose affiliate links.

Before that, however, here are the different types of platforms you can post your content on with affiliate links.

1. Blog/Website
Anyone who wants to run a business online should have a blog; if you don’t, you’re missing the opportunity of a lifetime.

How do you put a disclosure on your blog without making it come off too sale-sy or too scammy? Well, a simple mention that some of the links on your site are affiliate links will do.

You can also add “affiliate link” or “Affiliate” next to the link itself which will let people know it’s an affiliate link of yours. More on this later below.

2. Video
Video is a great way to deliver affiliate links, but you shouldn’t just post it in the description like most do on YouTube. Your video can be embedded anywhere on the internet and if they don’t put your disclosure on the newly-embedded page, you might be held accountable.

It sucks, but it happens to the best of us.

Not to mention if you don’t include the link URL in the video itself, your video can be posted somewhere else and no one will be able to see or click through your link.

The entire point to creating a video is to make sure people are performing your Call to Action so it’s best to place the link inside the video itself. That way, no matter where the video is embedded, your link is displayed.

The best thing you can do for video is to simply state that people can go through your affiliate link and show the link on the video. That way, if your video gets posted anywhere else, you can also have people know that the link you’re talking about is an affiliate link.

The tool that I love using to make my own custom links is Pretty Links. This handy little tool turns affiliate links like this:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EN27U9U/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00EN27U9U&linkCode=as2&tag=climonnet-20

into a link that looks like this:

http://scotthurtado.com/Wacom

True bliss if you ask me.

Both links take you to the exact same place which is the Amazon affiliate buy page for a Wacom Tablet. However, it’s much easier to show the second link on a video than the first one. No one (not even myself) will be able to remember the first link.

I highly recommend the Pretty Links plugin for your website. Indeed, it’s a life saver!

Download the PrettyLinks Plugin (PrettyLinks Affiliate Link)

3. Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc…)
It’s one thing to let people know you have affiliate links within your site, but letting people know on social networks is an entirely different ball game.

Why?

Well, for starters, unlike in blogs or websites where you have an unlimited amount of characters to work with when disclosing, you have a limited space when posting to some social networks.

Take Twitter, for example. With Twitter, you only have 140 characters to work with whenever you create a tweet.

That means that every time you tweet, you have to put in the content of the message, the link (if applicable), some relevant hashtags, and then a disclosure that it’s an affiliate link.

That seems too much to input into a 140-character update, isn’t it? So how do you disclose on places like Twitter when you have limited characters available?

Simple, you can start your tweet like this:

Ad:
Sponsored

Or you can use these hashtags:

#Ad
#Sponsored

You can also put something like this before your link:

Affiliate link: _______
Sponsored link: ________

It’s going to take up far less space than writing your full disclosure.

For other social networks like Facebook, you can use up a little more real estate because you’re not limited to such a limited number of characters like Twitter.

Here are some examples of what you can post on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn:

http://clickmoneynetwork.com/SumoMe (SumoMe Affiliate link)

The “(SumoMe Affiliate link)” is more than enough to let people know it’s your affiliate. When you go into full disclosure on any social network, it’s going to turn people off.

A simple “(product name Affiliate link)” will do the trick.

4. Newsletter/Autoresponder
Within your emails and autoresponder, you can also put forth a simple “(product name Affiliate link)” because just like in social network, people’s time is valuable and you don’t want to go into huge depths on letting them know about your affiliate links.

It’s a waste of your time and the reader’s time to read a full description.

The FTC doesn’t tell you how to disclose because what is important is that you do so. Disclosure, after all, means the action of making new or secret information known.

Remember: how to disclose is not as important as disclosing in the first place.

5. Everything else
It’s really not hard to know when or when not to disclose.

Why?

Because it all comes down to whether you’re using an affiliate link or not. If you’re not using an affiliate link, you can link to the product site like this:

Download the SumoMe Plugin (it’s free!)

If it’s an affiliate link, you can do something like this:

Download the SumoMe Plugin (SumoMe Affiliate link) or Download the SumoMe Plugin (Affiliate)

You can clearly see that the second one is showing it’s an affiliate link.

Pro Tip: Don’t try to get around disclosing your affiliate links because it will come around to bite you in the butt. If you’re an affiliate to a product or service and you’re too uncomfortable to disclose about your affiliate links, you probably shouldn’t be using them within your content in the first place. I personally believe in the companies I am an affiliate for; I use their products and services myself. I don’t promote crap just to make a buck; I promote stuff I use within my business. That’s how you should approach affiliate marketing because you will have so much more success than if you were to promote products you don’t believe in just to make a quick buck.

An affiliate disclosure that I like to use either before or after the content within my site is something I picked up from Pat Flynn, who (like myself) isn’t afraid to show the world what he does online.

I did change some of the disclosure, but it gets the point across in a great way. Let’s take a look:

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

As you can see, this disclosure is hitting all the right points and it’s letting people know they don’t have to purchase unless they feel it will help them.

I love it when people don’t just promote products to earn a buck. I only know a handful of them and Pat Flynn is one of them.

Conclusion

The challenge for most newcomers in affiliate marketing is that it’s hard for them to disclose their links because they’re either embarrassed or they might think it’s going to take away from their sales.

In the online world (as it is in the real world), no one likes a scam artist and no one likes being tricked.

I see people all the time trying to scam and trick people into getting commissions for themselves and I am happy that the FTC is here to stop them.

If there were no rules in affiliate marketing, I can’t imagine what would happen. It would be like the Wild West where people would start killing each other over nothing. I am glad that the FTC is here and you should be too, because it helps you do business better.

In plain English

The best thing about disclosing your affiliate links within the content you create is that some people will go out of their way to make sure you earn your commission from their purchase.

In their minds, they would rather have you earn the money than pay it to the company. Petty cool, if you ask me.

Heck, if you guys buy a car from a salesman, they earn money. However, lots of car dealers say that if you refer your friends and family and they buy a car after you refer them, they will pay you as much as they pay their sales people.

Who would you rather earn the commissions? A family member or friend, or some salesman who will never tell you that he will earn something when you buy a car from him?

I love putting my affiliate links within my site and tell people that they are affiliate links because I stand 100% behind the stuff I promote.

Like I said, people will go out of their way to make sure you get your commission and there is nothing better than that.

Disclaimer: I really appreciate you reading this article. However, this article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute legal advice. I am not a lawyer nor do I claim any expertise in this area at all, so if you have specific questions on this subject, your best bet is to either talk to a lawyer who specializes in FTC laws or study FTC laws for your own judgment. Any recommendations are based on personal, not professional, opinion only.

Just use your common sense and don’t try to be a scam artist online because being truthful in your business will get you way further than you can ever get by scamming people.

My approach to affiliate links is very simple: Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.

If you don’t want to disclose affiliate links on each page or link, then at least put a site-wide disclosure in your terms and conditions or create a disclosure page that outlines your disclosure policy.

Thanks so much for reading this article. Please share your thoughts below in the comments section if you have a specific disclosure dilemma.

Stay golden my friends,
Scott