Affiliate Marketing and the FTC
You get quite a few blended reactions regarding how an internet site needs to use marketing disclosures. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled a nice guide titled, “How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising”. You can review this guide to get a better understanding of the disclosure requirements to see why disclosures are vital for SEO. The industry of affiliate marketing and the FTC play a role in the arena of marketing disclosures.
DISCLAIMER: Because I am discussing the Federal Trade Commission requirements in this article, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not a legal professional. I have no experience as a Legal Analyst, Attorney, Paralegal or any other profession that deals with legal issues, civil or criminal. I am not providing any legal advice here.
Many bloggers and influencers no longer use them because the FTC goes after the brand instead of the bloggers. But, hold on because Google threw a monkey wrench into disclosing relationships earlier this year also.
Google launched some new procedures stating that you have to follow the FTC advertising disclosure guidelines if you receive products or review them for merchants. It’s basically directed to bloggers and those whose websites are essentially review sites.
We can bet that Google will probably revise their procedures to broaden their scope to include affiliates and other websites that receive compensation. This revision could very well include other websites that use affiliate links but do not disclose their relationship with the merchants.
Google first announced the marketing disclosure guidelines on the Google Webmaster Central Blog on March 11, 2016 for blogging sites and websites that write product reviews. The difference between the FTC Guidelines and the new Google requirements is that the FTC is slamming the brands but, Google is penalizing the bloggers, affiliates and the influencers who do not disclose their relationships with advertisers (merchants).
If you depend on traffic from Google and don’t comply with the FTC and Google’s guidelines, you may be subject to a manual penalty from Google, which is very difficult to get over turned. This will cause your traffic to tank and could ultimately be the death of your website.
The Importance of Disclosure Placement
Now that Google has jumped on the band wagon with FTC, you may want to take a concerted effort to place your disclosures properly. Google is forever updating and changing the algorithms and how the search engines crawls websites and maps the patterns and similarities that it finds while crawling.
Google looks at code and how it looks to the users. For that reason, placement of your disclosure is crucial. If you are hiding the disclosure at the bottom of your article or down in the footer, you may be hankering for a penalty down the road.
That is exactly what the FTC says should not be done. And, it appears that Google is backing the FTC’s guidelines. That is a good enough reason to ensure that you are in compliance with disclosures as per the FTC guidelines in addition to the placement of it.
Ways Google Can Tell if You are Compensated
Because Google reads code, it can be determined where the disclosures reside on your website. They will be aware if you try to hide them in drop downs or footers.
Google can crawl and follow links and it looks at the page you are sending visitors to. Even if you are using cloaked links Google can still see what you are doing and you can still be mapped.
Certain words used in your content such as “advertising disclaimer” and “FTC disclosure” can result in you being grouped with others. So, you should whether you are using “do follow” or “no follow” on the older articles with affiliate links where you are compensated.
It may be a good idea to add disclosures even when you are not doing any paid reviews, but have associated yourself with a website that is doing product reviews or you can be grouped and can be mapped for that group.
It’s a good idea to be proactive rather than reactive in the event that Google does decided to implement manual penalties for disclosures.
Be Ready if Google Decides to Issue Manual Penalties
First, don’t sweat over the requirement to disclose your compensation relationship with merchants (advertisers). It’s not a big deal. Basically, simply follow the guidelines of the FTC and Google and you should be in compliance.
If you feel unsure of yourself in this area, you can always hire an attorney to prepare the disclosure verbiage and you can outsource and SEO expert to coach you on where to place the disclosures or have then expert place the disclosures for you to ensure you are in compliance with the guidelines.
Once you have conceded to implementing the appropriate disclosures it is time to create a brief and straight forward statement that clearly acknowledges your relationship regarding compensation from advertisers (merchants) to promote their products and or services.
The final action is to make certain you have created a Google Search Console account. Make sure your website is listed there because you can obtain some details about your site. Most importantly, this is the tool where Google will let you know if you have received a manual penalty. This is a free Google tool so take advantage of it.
I can’t wait to see how Google reacts to disclosures being compliant and accurately placed. There are boat loads of large websites owners who have monetized sites, but are not in compliance with the disclosure guidelines. Affiliate marketing and the FTC along with Google all on one accord working towards the compliance of marketing disclosures is a good thing.
In the near future, we could see another flourish of changed algorithms from Google in reference to the adherence of proper disclosures. The new algorithms could tank a lot of the large websites that have not conformed to the guidelines. It has happened before!
At the expense of the larger website owners, this can be a massive chance for smaller websites owners to take advantage of the opening to progress in the page rankings and also expand their brands in the process.
Compliance with the FTC and Google disclosure guidelines is vital to search engine optimization because if you fail to implement the necessary disclosures and manual penalties are implemented by Google, you will lose Google traffic and your page rankings will tank. Pop goes the weasel (if you get my drift)!
Please feel free to contact me if you need help with anything. Just make a comment below or you can always get in touch with me through wealthyaffiliate.com (here is a link to my profile).
Founder of Mom’s Trusted Affiliate