Links are the foundation of affiliate marketing. As such, some marketers may add paid-for links to their blogs and websites freely, without a thought to any repercussions. Unfortunately, undisclosed links of this kind can create a legal nightmare.
That’s where affiliate link disclosures come in. This practice enables you to link to affiliate sites without worry, and protects you – and the consumer – from unethical business practices.
In this post, we’ll first introduce you to affiliate link disclosures, including what they are and why their use is necessary. Then, we’ll provide you with three best practices you can easily apply to your website and blog.
Let’s get started!
What Affiliate Link Disclosures Are (And Why They’re Necessary)
Affiliate link disclosures are an FTC-mandated practice. Essentially, whenever a link is used on your website that results in a commission, you must disclose this information to site visitors. This extends beyond affiliate links, and must also be done for endorsements, sponsorships, and the like.
While this may seem like a hassle, there are two very big reasons that disclosures are necessary:
- They ensure fair business practices. This gives all marketers an even playing field, and gives buyers the chance to purchase from marketers they trust.
- They provide transparency to your site’s readers. Trust is important for marketers, and can only be achieved through complete transparency.
Remember, disclosures aren’t punishments. Instead, they’re a practice used for the benefit of consumers and marketers alike.
3 Best Practices for Affiliate Link Disclosures
Affiliate link disclosures are fairly easy to implement, but there are ways to optimize their use. Let's take a look at three practices that – when used – result in FTC-compliant disclosures.
1. Place Disclosures in Obvious Areas
'Obvious' can be quite subjective, but all this means is that any disclosures on your site must be in open view, easy for visitors to see.
For all blog posts containing affiliate links, Michelle from Making Sense of Cents places a basic disclosure at the top of the post.
This practice builds trust. Disclosures that are hidden in page footers or on a separate page look as if you’re trying to comply without actually doing so. This doesn’t fly with the FTC, and it won't go down well with a lot of readers, either.
To ensure that you’re following this practice, here are two key tips for disclosure placement on your website or blog:
- Always add your disclosure at the top of blog posts. This gives the reader a chance to bounce from the page if they aren’t fans of affiliate links, and it protects you from accusations of deception.
- Place a reference to your disclosure near affiliate links. You don’t have to interrupt your post’s flow to do so. Simply add an asterisk or other indicator near the link, then repeat the disclosure at the end of the post.
Your readers shouldn’t have to do any extra legwork in order to see the disclosure. If you keep this in mind, it’s fairly easy to determine the best placements on your site and blog.
2. Be Proactive in Disclosing
You may sometimes find yourself wondering whether a disclosure is necessary. To avoid legal troubles, it’s best to be proactive and disclose.
Here's a few guidelines to help you determine when to disclose:
- Disclose when you’ve been paid. This includes sponsorships, paid reviews, and links to products that aren’t your own (i.e. an affiliate product).
- Disclose on each page a link is used. Even if you’ve previously disclosed a particular affiliate link, it’s necessary to do so again when it’s used in a different area of your site.
- When unsure, disclose anyway. This won’t cause any harm, and may actually prevent legal headaches down the road.
The main takeaway is that proactive disclosing is best. You should disclose whenever possible, and be open about your practices from the start.
3. Use Clear Language
Clear language ensures that your site's readers understand the relationship you have to affiliate sites.
Again, this really comes down to transparency. Clear, direct language shows that you respect your readers, while complex language can confuse and drive away potential customers.
To ensure that you’re writing clear affiliate disclosures, here are a few key points to keep in mind:
- Be direct. Keep the disclosure short, and don’t beat around the bush.
- Use 'trigger words'. It’s best to use words that let your reader know immediately that you may receive compensation from your links. These words include "compensation" and "commission".
- Avoid niche jargon. Avoid the use of words that the general public may not know, such as "affiliate", "pay-per-click" (in reference to ads), etc., unless you also provide a direct explanation for them in your disclosure.
You can also create a disclosure template, enabling you to provide readers with a consistent experience across all website pages.
How Pretty Links Can Help You Disclose Your Affiliate Links
If you’re ready to implement affiliate disclosures on your site, then Pretty Links can help. More than just a link shortener, this WordPress plugin has plenty of features to help you manage your site’s links. These include the abilities to redirect and share your links, as well as automate the processes involved in their use.
The best part is that setting up affiliate link disclosures is simple. In just five steps, you can have this feature set up across your site.
Affiliate link disclosures are a legal necessity, but their use can also build reader trust in both you and your affiliate products. With a link management tool such as Pretty Links, you can create affiliate disclosures for your website in minutes, and you can even automate the process.
In the above post, we provided you with three affiliate disclosure best practices. To recap:
- Place disclosures in obvious areas.
- Be proactive in disclosing.
- Use clear language.
Do you have any questions about affiliate link disclosures or how to set them up with Pretty Links? Let us know in the comments section below!