Affiliate marketing isn't just about helping advertisers and publishers, it's also about helping consumers find the products and services they want. Part of serving consumers means being honest and clear about whether relationships exist between a website and a brand they link to, especially if compensation is involved in transactions using that link.
Disclosures help consumers understand when there are financial relationships before they click and allow them to make more informed purchases. Disclosures are also required and monitored by Google and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Learning the Ropes
To learn more about how to use disclosures effectively, you're best off going straight to the sources: Google and the FTC.
Google has generally discussed disclosures mostly for paid placements and free product, simply requiring they be present and recommending they be near the top of a post.
The FTC is much more rigorous and has extensive guidelines and recommendations. For advertisers and publishers, the most relevant documents are:
It's worth noting that Google generally takes disciplinary action through search penalties and targets publishers. The FTC usually targets advertisers. Recent penalties that provide guidance include actions against Lord & Taylor and LeanSpa.
Next Steps: Publishers
A standard disclosure, that can be adapted for affiliate links, placements, product, and sponsored content, can help you quickly update old content and easily add disclosures to new posts and pages.
Make sure you also remember that disclosures may need to be included in social media as well.
Next Steps: Advertisers
CJ allows advertisers to form their own policies for FTC compliance with their legal teams. Advertisers can choose how to instruct publishers on disclosures and how to message them. Some advertisers choose to include requirements for FTC-compliant disclosures in their Terms & Conditions. Others include disclosure recommendations or sample disclosure language in newsletters or other messaging to publishers.
In addition to developing a disclosure policy, it's also smart to monitor your publishers to make sure that policy is properly enforced. When publishers don't comply, reach out and remind them of the policy. If you see repeated violations, consider removing them from your program.
If you have additional questions about disclosures, feel free to reach out to your Account Manager or contact our Support Center at 1-800-761-1072.