Website Design, Strategy, Social Networking, SEO, Susan Pomeroy, Ph.D.

Affiliate Marketing and the New FTC Disclosure Rule

by Susan Pomeroy

ftc seal

There’s just been some big news for bloggers and other Internet writers this month. The FTC has decided that “bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service,” or face a fine of up to $11,000. That’s a sizeable incentive to come clean about paid product endorsements, paid reviews, free products, and affiliate marketing. (For those who don’t know, an “affiliate” receives a percentage of the sale price when someone buys a product or service online using one of their special tracking links. For example, as an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small percentage if you go directly to Amazon from one of my links and purchase something. )

I think it’s wonderful. Affiliate and other paid relationships have long been a gray area on the Internet. As a reader, I want to know someone’s relationship with a product they’re touting. As a writer, I feel scuzzy and sleazy if I don’t disclose my own relationships.

This has always felt a little weird for me, since most of my colleagues and peers have never disclosed. For years, I ducked whole the issue by refusing to affiliate at all. Particularly since the amount of money that an affiliate gains from any one sale is often minuscule.

But then two things happened. First, I noticed that I was recommending the same products over and over to my clients. They were products I had rigorously researched, tested, compared, and used. So I wasn’t being fully dispassionate, anyway. Some products are simply better than others.

Second, a couple of clients actually asked me to send them my affiliate link before they purchased products I’d recommended—because they out-and-out wanted me to get my “cut.” It was a revelation to me that, far from diminishing my credibility, being an affiliate sometimes enhanced it.

Now, I’ve got a special page on my site on which I list all of my affiliate relationships. They also happen to be all of my favorite, most used and trusted Internet tools and services. Full disclosure… it feels so good.

What do you think about this issue, whether as a blogger, consumer, or product rep? I’d love to hear from you.

 ftc ruling on affiliate links

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