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When writing blog posts, you need to be aware of many different rules, sometimes rules that are simply “good practices” and other times these rules are legal requirements. Blog disclosures are part of the rules that are legally required for you to have.
As a blogger or an online creative who creates content, whether these are blog posts or other forms of content, you will surely recommend some products and services to your audience.
Today’s post is going to explore affiliate and sponsored work relationships and the disclosures that you’ll need for these.
Legal requirements for blogs
Before we get into the specific disclosures for your blog posts, let’s quickly take a look at legal requirements for blogs in order to be legally compliant and protected.
The next policy that you must have on your website is the Disclaimer Policy that will also include necessary disclosures. The Disclaimer Policy is a requirement for anyone who monetizes their site, even if they just made $1 from it.
The best way for you to get your legal policies would be to hire an attorney to write them for you. However, this can get expensive real fast and can cost you upwards of thousands of dollars.
The best alternative would be to get your legal policies from an attorney who writes them as templates. Templates are basically a complete policy and agreement, but it’s not specifically customized for you.
A good policy will include good directions and tips on how to customize it for your specific business. You can get all the legal policies and contracts you need from me at a reasonable rate that most if not all bloggers and online entrepreneurs can afford.
What is a blog disclosure?
Disclosures are statements about a certain topic that discloses a material fact to your audience. Most, if not all disclosures are legally required to guarantee transparency and fairness.
The reason for having and enforcing disclosures is to protect consumers from unfair practices, being taken advantage of and more.
Therefore, the necessary blog disclosures naturally will disclose things such as whether or not you receive money for promoting a certain product or service. Or, if you’re talking about a certain product or service, and providing a link for people to buy, will you benefit from those purchases.
In other words, the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines require disclosures about affiliate and sponsored content.
Why do you need to have blog disclosures?
The main reason why you and every other blogger must have blog disclosures is that it’s required by law under the FTC. Every blogger and entrepreneur must disclose affiliate and sponsored relationships. It will be more helpful to think less in terms of labels such as blogger, entrepreneur, influencer, but more in terms of the activity and action.
If you’re someone who uses an online platform such as blogging, YouTube, social media sites, and others, and you have a financial gain either through partnerships (sponsorships) or affiliate (referral) networks, then you must disclose to your audience that you stand to gain monetary or material benefit.
The reason for this is transparency, trust, and information. Your audience has the right to know why you recommend a product or service. It doesn’t’ mean that you’re lying about your opinions, but that you may be influenced by the fact that you stand to be compensated if they purchase those products or services from you.
You can always let your audience know that your opinions are your own, but they still have a right (both moral and legal) to know about any affiliate or sponsored relationships.
where do you need to include disclosures
Knowing you need to have disclosures in place as a blogger is one thing, knowing when you need those disclosures and where you need to include them is another thing altogether. Many bloggers know that disclosures are important, but try to hide them somewhere where their audience might not notice this. However, this is exactly what you’re not supposed to do as a blogger.
According to the FTC guidelines, your disclosures must be stated in a clear and easy to understand language, they must not be ambiguous, and they must not be hidden. So if you include disclosures in your blog posts, but try to hide them, it defeats the purpose. It bears knowing that FTC is very happy to bring lawsuits against big and small businesses alike.
The rule of the thumb is that whenever you mention a product or service that you’re getting either compensated to mention or that you will get a commission if someone buys that product or service through your link, then you must provide disclosures beforehand. If you’re writing a blog post, then your disclosure must be before you offer any links and also be very close to the links. An accepted method of disclosing affiliate relationships and links in the blog post is having an affiliate disclosure statement toward the top of your article before you start the main content.
This disclosure statement can be either the very first thing you say, or it can be in the introduction section, before the first subheading.
An affiliate disclosure statement would typically be at the beginning of the blog post or right before starting the first subheading. I like to put my disclosure within the introductory section as the last paragraph. I don’t try to hide this statement in any way. I used to draw attention to it before, but you don’t have to do it, as long as you’re not trying to hide it.
Sponsored Post Disclosure
Aside from affiliate disclosures, there are also sponsored post disclosures that you need to think about. If you do any sponsored work for other businesses and brands out there, then you need to have a sponsored work disclosure.
Now, first, let’s understand what is a sponsored work and how it works. You’ve probably heard the term “influencer” a lot. These are people who large following, social media presence so they use the platform they have those big numbers on and partner with brands and businesses to promote, review or talk about a certain product or service.
If you do any kind of sponsored work, you need to have a Sponsored Post Agreement to protect yourself and your business. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. Get my Sponsored Post Agreement template for one low price right now.
Sponsorship compensations can either be monetary compensations or free products/services that you get from the brand and or company. These perks, whether a monetary or free product, must be disclosed. So when you write a blog post where you review a product or service for which you were paid to do so, you must include sponsored post-disclosure. It does not have to be complicated and can be very simple, as long as you convey that you were compensated in some way to create the post or video.
Blog disclosures don’t need to be long or fancy or even include any legal terminology. As long as they are clear and concise and the reader will know that you were compensated for that post, then you’ve done your part to be legally compliant.
If you do sponsored work, then you absolutely should have a Sponsored Post Agreement.
Get an attorney-drafted Sponsored Post Agreement template from my legal shop and be protected.
Keep in mind that certain affiliate networks or companies will have their own unique requirements as to where they want you to place affiliate disclosures or even a specific language that they want you to use. Always read the terms & conditions for any affiliate network to be sure that you’re complying with their rules.
How Do You Write a Disclosure?
So now that you know what kind of disclosures you need in blog posts, and where they need to go, it’s time to think about how you can write your disclosures.
Now, as mentioned in this article previously, when it comes to disclosure statements for your blog posts or videos, the important thing is to use clear and concise language that explains what it means and gets the point across.
You don’t need legal terminology for blog disclosures within your posts. In fact, I want to discourage you from using legal terminology as it might not be clear to some of your audience what you’re saying and what the purpose of your blog disclosure is.
Remember, use simple and clear language that leaves no room for ambiguities.
Here is an example of an affiliate disclosure that I use for my blog posts:
Affiliate Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links in it. This means that if you make a purchase by using one of the affiliate links provided in this article, then we will get a small commission at no extra expense to you. We only promote products we love and believe in.
As you notice, it’s stated in simple terms, I am not using any legal “language” there because I want to make sure that an average person will understand what it means.
Your disclosures are not the place to get fancy and try to sound smart.
As we also discussed, there is also such as thing as sponsored post disclosure for when you do sponsored work.
The same rules apply to the sponsored post disclosures as to the affiliate disclosures above. Use simple and easy to understand language. Do not try to hide anything or state something in a “smart” way that an average person might not understand.
Here are some examples of sponsored post disclosures:
This is a sponsored post on behalf of XXX company/brand. All the opinions are my own.
I was paid by XXX company to review this product (or service). However, all the opinions are my own and represent what I really think of the product.
As with other blog disclosures, keep them simple, use clear language, don’t be ambiguous. Avoid finding creative ways to phrase your blog disclosures as they might only create confusion for the consumer.
Blog disclosures are not only necessary for ethical and transparency reasons, but they are mandatory by law under the FTC guidelines. The reasoning is that a consumer has the right to know whether you stand to gain any monetary advantage by recommending a product or service.
According to the FTC, a consumer’s behavior and actions might change once they find out that information. Therefore, they have a right to know.
As the blogger or influencer who stands to benefit, you have a legal obligation to disclose such relationships.
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