So you got your website up and running but you want to make sure you are keeping everything on the up and up. You want to ensure you are in compliance with everything. You want to set yourself up so that you can start building out multiple streams of income. Which means you will need to include blogging disclosures and others on your website.
Just so you know, this post may contain affiliate links. Meaning I receive commissions for purchases made through those links, at no cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with 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. You can read my disclosure policy for more info.
Before you go slapping affiliate links or forms to sign up to your email list all over your site you need to include the proper policies and disclosures on your website.
You have to let your readers know what information you are collecting from them and why. As well as if you have any vested interest when it comes to links. It’s not only required but it helps to build trust with your audience. Since you are being, upfront, honest, and transparent, you're audience can trust what you have to say.
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What policies and disclosures you’ll need to include on your site will depend on the type of website you have. As well as what you are doing with the site.
Since we are talking about disclosures I need to go ahead and give you one. So here is an example of a disclosure/disclaimer:
While I am an attorney, I am not your attorney and nothing on this website or downloads available are to be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, nothing in this site or resources made available are to be considered legal advice. The author is not liable for any losses or damages related to actions or failure to act related to the content in this website. If you need specific legal advice consult with an attorney who specializes in your subject matter and jurisdiction. The information included hearin are for informational purposes only.
If you go to my Legal page, you will also see this disclaimer listed there as well. You may have also noticed that at the top of every post and page I’ve included that “This page may include affiliate links, please see my disclosure for more information.” Certain practices on a website, such as affiliate marketing, require specific disclosures.
The FTC regulates how you must disclose your affiliate relationship and give notice to your audience. If you are not following the rules (at least here in the US) you could be forced to give up the money you earned through the misleading links. Since the rules also apply to your affiliate partners and they could also be fined. They may even drop you as an affiliate if you are not complying.
Additionally, some affiliate programs have specific requirements in the disclosures they want you to show.
One well known example would be Amazon affiliates. Amazon requires that you have very specific language in your disclosure on posts or pages where you include affiliate links. As well as on the page where you outline your legal policies. Amazon is also well known for not allowing cloaking of affiliate links. Meaning you cannot use PrettyLink for Amazon Affiliate links.
Now that you know why disclosures are important, let’s dig into what should actually be included in your disclosures on your posts as well as your “legal” page.
First, to ensure I have the necessary disclosures showing where I do use affiliate links, I use the plugin Ad Inserter. Yes, you can use it to manage your ads on your site but you can also use it to make sure your disclosure shows at the top of every post.
Admittedly, I did not come up with this idea on my own. WordPress Guru Grayson Bell of iMarkInteractive gave me that gem of a tip. Though I figured out how to use it for my Amazon disclosure, myself.
What you do is you type in the disclosure including the link to your disclosure page and then you set the display rules.
However, since I don’t always have Amazon links on every page or post, I only show it when I enable it for the specific post.
Because another very important aspects of your disclosure is that you’re not hiding it. It has to be above any links. You must see that disclosure before you see anything that is going to make you money. If you’re hiding it, by, for example, putting at the bottom of the post after the links then you’re violating the law.
So we’ve covered why and where to place disclosures, now let’s dig into what language and information you need to include.
Disclosures must be clear and conspicuous. Which means above the fold and easy to see and read. They must also use plain language. The FTC has specifically said that the language, “affiliate marketing” might not be understood by your intended audience. You need to spell it out. Be open and honest about your marketing and affiliate relationships.
Think of it his way, if it wouldn’t be easily understood by your Grandma, it probably wouldn’t pass the standard required by the FTC. Being clear and concise is the perfect way to use "legal jargon"
Again, here is the language I use:
THIS PAGE MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. MEANING I RECEIVE COMMISSIONS FOR PURCHASES MADE THROUGH THOSE LINKS, AT NO COST TO YOU. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
For example, if you use Google Analytics, you are collecting anonymous information. This information includes where the user is from as well as demographic information such as their age and gender.
If you collect email addresses through forms, you need to say you are collecting the personal information (name and email address) that they submit on the form in your site. As well as the purpose of that information. It is used to provide the freebie promised and communicate via email, etc.
Remember disclosures are all about being upfront and honest with your audience, so any information that is being collected and used must be disclosed.
When you do affiliate marketing or are just sharing links to other websites you need to ensure your users know that you are not responsible for the content of those other sites. Additionally, you need to let your readers know that those sites will likely have their own privacy policies that the reader should take note of.
You’ll also want to include any specific disclosures required by affiliate partners. Such as Amazon’s requirement that you include:
[site] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
If you write on a topic of which you are not a licensed professional you need to say so. For example, on my personal finance website, as I am not a financial advisor, I share in my disclaimer that the site is for informational and entertainment purposes only. That I am sharing my personal experience which may not be applicable to others.
If you write on a topic for which you are a professional, you will likely want to include a disclaimer that you are not writing in the capacity of your profession. For example, on this site I include a disclaimer about being an attorney, but that I am not your attorney and the content provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Depending on how your website is run, you may also want to include some terms and conditions for your site. Generally, you can type the phrase “terms and conditions generator free” into Google to get you started.
To ensure your blog or website are on the right side of the law, being upfront and honest through disclosures is an absolute necessity. You don’t want to lose the money you earned, simply because you forgot to include a disclosure in your post. Fortunately, technology makes it easy to ensure you are sharing the proper disclosures when necessary.
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Michelle is an affiliate marketing maven. She regularly makes over $50k a month from affiliate marketing. I bought her course at the end of Nov. 2016 and mid-December 2016 while I'm still working to implement everything I've learned, I've already seen an increase in my affiliate marketing income. She really knows what she is talking about and the Facebook community that accompanies the course is a terrific resource. Learn more about Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
Elizabeth Stapleton is the founder and voice behind Less Debt More Wine and ElizabethStapleton.com. She is a Pinterest marketer, online entrepreneur, and recovering attorney whose writing has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, Budgets Are Sexy, Credit Sesame, and Magnify Money. Additionally, she has been quoted in articles on Business Insider, Student Loan Hero, and Nerd Wallet.