Legal Agreements for Affiliate Marketers
Affiliate marketing is now recognized as a form of advertising, and its regulated by the FTC. That means the wild, wild west of affiliate programs is over and your business isn't protected unless you've put together three key legal agreements for your website that participates in affiliate marketing:
- A Disclaimer for Affiliate Marketing
- A Terms and Conditions for Affiliate Marketing
These three agreements are in some cases required for participation in these lucrative programs, but they're always good business practice. Creating transparent legal agreements helps you get customer loyalty and sets you apart from the cowboys who continue to flout the law.
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We've put together a guide to the three legal agreements you'll want (and need) if you want to be an affiliate marketer.
- 1. Disclaimers for Affiliate Marketing
- 1.1. Affiliate Disclaimer Examples
- 1.2. Fast Read: 3 Key Takeaways for Affiliate Disclaimers
- 2.1. Examples of Privacy Policies
- 2.2. Terms and Conditions for Affiliate Marketing
- 2.3. Examples of Terms and Conditions
- 3. Conclusion
Disclaimers for Affiliate Marketing
An affiliate marketing disclaimer discloses your use of affiliate links to your customers and to the FTC. It's a simple statement saying that you make money when a visitor clicks or makes a purchase from a link shared on your website.
You need an affiliate marketing disclaimer for three reasons:
- Programs like Amazon Associates require it
- The FTC demands it
- It's good business practice
It doesn't matter if your website makes $0.00 or $100k. If you share affiliate links, you need an affiliate disclaimer.
Remaining compliant with the FTC means creating a disclaimer that follows the three C's:
- Close to the link
The language of the disclaimer can't be ambiguous. You can't say you "might" make money. Nor should you say you "sometimes" use affiliate links. Use words that trigger the consumer to associate you with money, like "commission" and "compensation."
Place the disclaimer in an obvious spot. Don't hide it in the sidebar or a jumble of graphics. Don't wedge it between the author bio and the comments section.
Even if you create a single page for the legal terms, add the disclaimer to every post including and especially the posts that contain affiliate links.
Want to be totally transparent? Add the affiliate disclaimer close to the links themselves as a reminder to people clicking them that you'll be compensated for the clicks or purchases.
Affiliate Disclaimer Examples
Danielle Walker's Against All Grain is a food blog full of the author's original recipes and lifestyle tips. Although Danielle sells her own cookbooks, she also participates in affiliate programs by linking directly to the products she uses at home or products she's marketing as part of a brand partnership.
Here's her disclaimer:
Against All Grain's disclaimer is placed at the bottom of her home page underneath a list of logos of companies she has been featured by. Although it's at the bottom of the page, the lgoo list of recognizable media outlets draws the reader's eye, so the disclaimer is considered conspicuous enough.
The Points Guy is a travel hacking blog dedicated to all things travel points. The team reviews airlines, hotels and credit cards to help even infrequent travels make the most of loyalty programs and earn freebies.
Reviewing and marketing credit cards is a tricky business and The Points Guy has to be careful in the way it portrays credit products, particularly because he can earn a hefty commission for referring people to certain cards.
Its affiliate disclaimer is also located at the bottom of the home page:
You can see how careful the site is because it refers customers with any concerns directly to the site's Advertising Policy page.
The disclaimer is also found on blog posts that include affiliate links.
There are three things to note:
- The language is clear
- The disclaimer is conspicuous
- The disclaimer is placed directly above the affiliate link
Fast Read: 3 Key Takeaways for Affiliate Disclaimers
To recap, there are three main things you need to know about disclaimers:
- You need an affiliate disclaimer BEFORE you make your first dollar
- Your disclaimer should be clear, conspicuous, and close to the affiliate links
- Your disclaimer will build trust with customers
More importantly, your visitors have a right to know how their data is used - and you have an obligation to tell them, particularly if you're generating revenue from their patronage.
More and more customers expect to know what data you collect and how your site uses it. They don't just expect it - consumers make purchasing decisions based on privacy.
- Disclose the use of third party cookies
- Provide options for users to manage cookies
- What data you collect
- How the data is used
- Who the data is disclosed to
- How the data is stored and managed
Examples of Privacy Policies
There's also a clause for advertising that mentions the use of third party cookies (such as those from Google AdWords):
Gal Meets Glam is a fashion and lifestyle blog that participates in both affiliate programs and advertising schemes.
The site contains a very general policy regarding data collection. However, the creators have added a "Links to Other Sites" section that covers both the affiliate program and any third party links it shares:
This clause is optional and could be well-used by blogs that don't collect data beyond Cookies via AdSense and other third parties.
Terms and Conditions for Affiliate Marketing
A Terms and Conditions page for affiliate marketing isn't legally required, but it's very highly recommended. That's because it's an essential part of any website that generates content.
It doesn't matter whether you generate the content or whether you host user-generated content or members-only content. Your Terms and Conditions agreement will outline your relationship to your users and your users' relationship to the content on your site.
If you don't have Terms and Conditions, you put yourself and your site at risk of misunderstandings and create uncertainty between yourself and your customers. Creating a Terms and Conditions is as much about holding your business accountable as it is about informing your customers.
What you include in your Terms and Conditions is determined by the kind of site you run, the kind of content you post, and what affiliate marketing programs you participate in.
At the very least, your T&C should:
- Define your service
- Outline any guarantees
- List prohibited conduct
- Set forth the terms of the agreement
- Claim your intellectual property and copyrights for yourself
Don't forget to make sure your Terms and Conditions are user-friendly. Customers can't abide by the terms if they don't understand them, so skip the legalese.
Here's a quick example of how you can customize your T&Cs for your unique brand:
Examples of Terms and Conditions
If you accept content from users in any format from articles to message boards, you'll want to outline the relationship in your Terms and Conditions.
The Penny Hoarder does a good job of this. While most of the content created for the site is created by paid staff, the site does accept user contributions when working with promotions, contests or sweepstakes, which often come up in affiliate marketing.
Finally, the site also includes a brief section on third-party links and advertisers:
- Your Disclaimer lets customers know you'll make money based on their purchases.
- Your Terms and Conditions establishes the relationship between you and your customers by outlining each of your responsibilities.
Not only will you ensure you remain on the right side of the FTC's watch dogs, but your honesty and transparency will earn you points with customers. At the end of the day, you'll set yourself apart from the cowboys and develop a stronger relationship with customers, which is what running a business is all about.