Before you get too far into the development of your new blog or website, it’s important that you understand what the affiliate marketing disclosure laws are surrounding those precious affiliate links.
A Little History
Back in the day, the FCC did little to govern the presence of affiliate links on blogs and other websites.
You could write a post and casually link to a product, with no disclosure whatsoever that the link you were providing could result in a financial reward for the blog owner.
This began to change in 2010, and the change was actually triggered by social media. As people began to tweet and post affiliate links within status updates, the context of these links implied that the recommendations were not motivated by profit.
That, the FCC deemed, was misleading to the consumer. This sparked the change that led to where we are today.
Today’s Affiliate Marketing Disclosure Laws
As of the date of this writing (Fall 2014), all sites that include affiliate links within their content must disclose the presence of that link to their visitors.
For starters, you should include a full page disclosure, like the one I have here, that is readily accessible from anywhere on your site. That means putting it either within one of your navigation tabs or within the footer of every page.
Secondly, you may wish to disclose specific affiliate links on the pages in which you include them. This is not a black and white requirement, but the intent of the law is clearly to make sure that all affiliate links are considered obvious to the end consumer.
For links that appear within the middle of a post, for example, the intent of the link (and the fat that there is a commission-based transaction occurring “behind the scenes”) may not be obvious to the reader, in which case further disclosure is merited.
On the other hand, product review pages, or links included within widgets, a sidebar, or other areas outside of the primary written content, are usually more clear about the motives of the link.
To be safe, if you’re ever in doubt about whether you need to disclose a link, you should probably disclose it.
That said, as long as you’re not trying to trick your reader or otherwise game the system to get users to click your links and you have a disclosure page on your website, you’re probably ok.