How To Incorporate Affiliate Statements Into Your Website And Social Media Posts – The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires an online disclosure accompany affiliate links if they are included on your website or promoted on social media. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to think about to ensure compliance, from integrating your affiliate statements to being upfront about promoting social media products.
What are affiliate programs?
Affiliate links are custom hyperlinks that act as advertisements for another business and are placed on your online properties, such as your social media accounts and website. When users click on these, they will be directed to a third-party website that will introduce them to products and services related to your topic or market. When you create affiliate links, you’re establishing a business relationship with a third party that allows you to profit from the traffic you send their way via your site’s links.
If a sale is made after a visitor clicks on your link, you will be paid a predetermined commission. It is sometimes a dollar amount per sale, and other times a percentage of that sale. You may be given points or discounts that you can use to purchase the company’s products or services in some cases. Every affiliate program is unique.
If you’re thinking about becoming an affiliate for a product or service, make sure you follow the FTC’s guidelines. These are the rules for disclosing your status as an affiliate when promoting other people’s products on the internet.
Using affiliate statements
By having a visible or audible disclosure, the FTC wants you to clarify to your site visitors or social media fans/followers what your relationship is with the product you’re promoting. Native Advertising: A Guide for Business, published by the Federal Trade Commission, outlines 17 scenarios in which bloggers and website administrators must clearly state that content is being used for marketing purposes.
Basic rules of affiliate statements
For more information, consult the FTC’s guide, but in general, affiliate disclosures must:
- Have clear and straightforward language
- Use a font that’s easy to read
- Stay long enough on the screen to be seen, read, and understood (for video ads)
- Be prominent on the page and as close to the ads as possible
- Utilize a color that stands out on the page
- Speak in a clear, easy-to-follow cadence, using words that your audience will understand (for audio disclosures)
Furthermore, any advertisements you place on your owned properties must be accurate, not misleading, and backed up by evidence (“substantiation”). Above all, affiliate statements must be clear, relevant, and understandable. Ads on search engines, for example, are identified by green “Ad” boxes (see below) placed before the URL. It’s difficult to miss this, and users quickly realize it’s a commercial.
Including affiliate statements in blogging
You must also disclose your affiliation when writing blog posts where you review or write about a product or service from a company with which you have a relationship. Include a clause in your posts that specifies your compensation. It could say something along these lines:
Then link to your affiliate statement page, where you explain your affiliate program participation methodology in greater detail. For instance, you could explain your position to users as follows:
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Because studies show that online browsers scan rather than read, you may want to take an extra step. Consider adding “= AffLink” inline right after an affiliate link in your content to ensure affiliate links are clearly identified and to meet the FTC guideline (“as close as possible to the native ads to which they relate”). Visitors can’t miss the disclaimer after the embedded affiliate link if they don’t read it.
In the primary navigation of my websites, I also include a link to my affiliate statement.
What about social media?
Affiliate statement rules do not apply to social media posts. You must be upfront about your intentions if you are promoting a product or service and then providing a link to a third-party website for possible compensation. Using “Ad:” or “Sponsored:” before your text on any social network is the best way to include a disclosure. After that, you can use the hashtags #ad or #sponsored.
Affiliate program requirements
It’s a good idea to read the Terms of Service before signing up for affiliate programs, so you know what the product or service provider expects of you. Providers specify how, when, and where you can promote their products, as well as their specific disclosure requirements. Your partnership may be terminated if you do not adhere to these terms.
The following rules are frequently found in affiliate programs:
- Affiliate links cannot be used in spam emails
- Disclosures should start with the word “disclosure” and be clear and easy to understand.
- Without the user having to navigate to your disclosure page, your disclosure link must make it clear that you are being compensated (which is for additional information)
- Link and disclosure fonts must be the same size and color as the rest of your text
Key takeaways for using affiliate disclosures
Participating in an affiliate program can be a simple way to profit from your online presence, but make sure you follow the program’s rules and keep your users informed. When writing, posting, tweeting, or pinning something in exchange for a free product or service, a discount, or a potential commission, always be transparent about your relationships. Review the following basics before adding any affiliate links to your website or social media accounts:
- Proximity, placement, and prominence matter.
- Be clear and obvious when including affiliate links in your website content.
- Include a formal Affiliate Disclosure page that lists the specifics of your collaborations.
- Use hashtags on social media to note you are posting ads or sponsored tweets/posts.
- Read an affiliate program’s Terms of Service before publishing links.
Your visitors will appreciate your honesty, and you will gain credibility if you follow these guidelines and have a detailed affiliate statement on your website.