Blog disclosures are a part of running your website. You can’t get around using them as they are required by law. So, what is it you need to have on your site so you know you are legal?
Blogging is a fun business. Think about it — you are in control of what you say and do. No boss. No one to answer to. If you decide to take the day off, you can just do it! You get to be in complete control.
Or do you?
Sure, you can decide when you want to work. And, while the content you generate is up to you, there are some things you absolutely must include (if you live in the United States). Not because you want to, but because they are required. These are called blog disclosures.
(Disclosure: I am not an attorney. The information presented here is not to be construed as legal advice. If you are unsure about if you need to disclose certain situations, you should seek legal counsel).
THE DISCLOSURES YOU NEED ON YOUR SITE
WHAT IS A DISCLOSURE?
A disclosure is a written statement that informs your reader of your relationship with the products, brands, and partners you mention on your site. It shares that there is a monetary partnership that exists between you and what you promote.
WHO REQUIRES THEM?
Blog disclosures are rules established by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). They ensure that your readers fully understand that you will be paid (or have been paid) for sharing the information contained in the post. I will cover some of the key points below, but it is very important that you read the full report so you understand what is required by law.
WHAT TYPES OF CONTENT MUST HAVE DISCLOSURE?
Anytime you share a product, brand or company where any money has exchanged hands, or could exchange hands, you must include blog disclosures.
Disclosures are a must on all sponsored posts. Since you were paid to write the post and talk about your client, you must advise your readers that it is a sponsored post. They must know that the relationship exists. This must be on every sponsored post you put onto your site.
Affiliate marketing is where you can make money on products you share — should your readers happen to buy. Since there is a reason for you to share the product (other than the fact that you like it), your reader must know that if they make a purchase, you will make money.
That means, if you have links on social media or on a blog post, there must be disclosure included. No exception.
HOW DO YOU DISCLOSE?
Blog disclosures can be simple. They should share that there is a relationship between the parties. In the instance of an affiliate partnership, they should educate your reader as to what an affiliate link means.
Most of us had no clue what the word affiliate meant before we started blogging. That is also the case with your readers. They don’t have any idea what that word means either. So, if you only say, “This is an affiliate link” your reader will have no idea what you are telling them. They don’t know the terminology.
However, if you say, “This is an affiliate link, which means I make a small commission if you buy this product” then they do. But, putting that long wording onto every post may not quite be the wording you want.
In the case of the sponsored post, you have to let your readers know that it was either sponsored or you partnered with them to share the content.
WHERE DO YOU DISCLOSE?
Blog disclosures must be as close to the link or the content as possible. The reader must see this before they read or click. That means you cannot just put wording at the bottom of your post or in your footer. If that is where you’ve got yours right now, you will need to work on moving it. Soon.
Since you were paid to write the post, your reader must know about this before they get too far into your post. Here are two samples as to how you can disclose your relationship.
This post has a disclosure before the content. It simply states that it was sponsored and that money did not influence what was written – all opinions were mine.
This one also discloses, but because it was a recipe, I took the partnership angle:
Both posts properly disclose that there is a relationship between the sponsor and me. However, they do it in different ways. Each one is acceptable. The difference here was with the sponsor. One of them wanted the first one and the other was fine with the partnership disclosure wording.
In addition to having the disclosure on the post itself, it also must be disclosed when sharing to social media. The simple way to do this is with the #sponsored or #ad hashtag (note that #spon is not acceptable as that term is also too vague for people to understand).
The reason you must use the hashtag is that the reader must know that you were paid to write the post before they click to read. After all, that is why the brand wanted the article written, for people to read and learn about their product. It is a full ad and so you must let people know the relationship before they read.
For both Twitter and Pinterest, using the proper hashtag is enough. You do not need to do anything more than that. However, Facebook has different requirements.
Just recently (March 2017), Facebook launched its branded content requirement. If any money exchanges hands (via money or even product review), you have to follow their policies. Failure to do so can result in the post being removed or your account being shut down (YIKES)!
The first thing you must do is apply to have branded content on your page. It will only take a minute to do and then you have to sit and wait. Here is how you do this:
- Visit the Branded Content Tool page.
- Select the page you want to use the tool on.
- Hit send.
It will take up to two business days for them to get back with you. When you prepare a video for the sponsored posts, you have to follow the requirements outlined in the branded content policy. Make sure you carefully read this so that your video does not violate its terms.
You also have to share the affiliate link partnership with your reader. As stated above, just saying “this is an affiliate link” is not enough. It is too vague.
What many bloggers do is create a longer affiliate disclosure page and link to this via a simple sentence on the blog posts. This allows you to include your own wording, in addition to the wording that may be required by specific affiliates.
For example, Amazon has its own disclosure statement that you must use on your site. They will suspend or deactivate your account in a heartbeat if they do not see this is done properly. Review the Operating Agreement, Section 5, where they share the content that you must include. That is pretty lengthy and so putting that into a post doesn’t always work.
The way to work around this is to create a full disclosure policy on your site. You can see the one I have on this site. Since TracieFobes.com does not promote Amazon links, that disclosure is not required. (Please do not copy this disclosure. You can purchase a disclosure policy here.)
You can see that I am very honest about the fact that I will make money. I don’t feel shame in saying this either. This is my business and affiliate sales are one of my income streams.
I then connect that page to every post on my site, where they could be an affiliate link. I placed a simple disclosure and link at the very top of my post, directly beneath my title. This way, the reader can see this before they even read anything in my post, and certainly before they would ever click on any of my links. They can click on the link to read the entire policy.
You can add such a statement to your site rather easily. If you have the Genesis Theme, you can do this in your hooks. If you do not, you may want to look into using a plugin, such as FMTC Affiliate Disclosure. You also do not need to put at the top of your post such as this, but it must be stated at the beginning of your post before you share any links to your products.
It is also common practice to share affiliate links on social media as well. Once again, a hashtag will work. It can be #affiliate (do not abbreviate to #aff). This works on both Twitter and Pinterest. And, while it can work on Facebook, it is not a good practice.
Facebook has algorithms that read what to show and what to not. The word affiliate is one of them that happens to lower your reach on products. But, of course, you have to disclose the relationship, so what do you do? Rather than be blunt, you can use creative statements instead. Some I’ve seen include:
“We share things we love with all of you. If you happen to buy, you support the ladies who run this page.”
“If you buy any of the products we share, you keep our cups filled with coffee.”
“We adore sharing things we love with the Quirky Momma FB community. These aren’t our products or companies that we are working with, but we thought it might be something that interests you. We do get a cut that keeps us in enough coffee to run this page 24 hours a day!” (Quirky Momma)
Get creative with your own statement, but just make sure you disclose the relationship in some way.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER BLOG DISCLOSURES OR POLICIES I NEED ON MY SITE?
Actually, there are more blog disclosures you must have on your site. If you plan to work with any type of ad network, you will also need a Privacy and Disclaimer policy.
A disclaimer policy shares information about the content you have on your site and what they may see on links you include directing them from your site. It advises that the information you post is done in good faith and without intent to allude. Purchase your disclaimer from an attorney.
When it comes to your site, you still have 100% control over what you want to say. But, there are some regulations you also must be aware of, so you are complying with local laws.