Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard something about the new FTC changes that are set to affect the way bloggers, affiliate marketers and info product marketers do business online.
I was hesitant to even post about it up until now because for me, being a non US affiliate and online marketer, things are even more complicated than for everyone else. Now finally I feel like I understand it enough to be able to at least share some of my thoughts with you on how it will affect your business and what you need to do about it.
First let me offer the token and obvious yet necessary disclaimer:
I am not a lawyer or legal expert of any kind and before you take any action related to these changes you should consult with a lawyer of your own.
I was fortunate enough to be invited as a presenter to a webinar last week with Jim Morris of NicheBOT.com discussing the FTC changes and in particular, good practices for affiliate marketers and bloggers in light of these changes.
The webinar was fantastic and you can actually download a copy for free from this link.
In my opinion, here’s what you need to know/do about all this.
1. This one would be a DO… and can be summarized in a word: RELAX!
Yes, this is a big change, it will effect us, but the sky is NOT falling! Some people are talking about giving up affiliate marketing, changing their business model completely, or flat out quitting online business.
None of those things are needed and here’s why:
a) It has to be noted that what’s been announced by the FTC are changes to REGULATIONS. These are not LAWS that if you break them, you’ll be charged. They’ve made changes to the way they RECOMMEND affiliate promotions and testimonial marketing should be done online, that’s all.
That doesn’t mean you can ignore them but it does mean you can relax and not worry so much.
b) The FTC representative has openly said that they AREN’T going to be patrolling the blogosphere like Big Brother and that they’ll be mostly filing lawsuits against offenders on the basis of complaints.
c) Even then, they’ll be operating on a “strike” type system where you’ll get 2 warnings before striking out and having them bring the pain… so to speak.
Again, I’m not saying that this means you can IGNORE what’s happened, but it does mean you don’t have to make any stupid rash decisions about your business because of it.
2. Understand The Regulations
Make sure you watch the webinar to understand the new changes completely, but basically there’s 2 parts…
First, affiliates have to disclose relationships they have with merchants. So if you promote a product as an affiliate, you have a relationship with that merchant and you have to tell your readers about it. In essence what they want is something akin to saying “if you click this link and purchase, I’ll make money”.
And second, product merchants who use testimonials have to disclose with each one, what is the AVERAGE result likely to be obtained by using their product. (ridiculous when you think about it…)
3. Be Careful With Your Affiliate Promotions
Now for what you need to NOT do as an affiliate or blogger …
a) In your affiliate pitch (presell), blog content, or articles, DON’T make any claim about the results of using the product.
Like I said in the webinar, this is something you shouldn’t ever do as an affiliate ANYWAY.
If you’ve got a piece of content promoting a product as an affiliate where you’re saying things like:
“This cream will solve your eczema once and for all” – You’ve gotta quit it, and really you should never have been doing it in the first place.
Your job as an affiliate is to REVIEW the claims of the product seller, not MAKE them. It’s to share your experience or your research on the claims, not to confirm or deny them. It’s preselling 101… you remain neutral and informative and let the MERCHANT do the selling. Making these changes you’ll probably find your conversion rates increase too because you’re not pissing off your readers by sounding like a salesman instead of a reviewer.
b) Cut out testimonials completely
If you had any testimonials in your affiliate pitch/presell content, just cut them out. They’re another thing you shouldn’t have been doing in the first place (they’re not PREselling) and now they’ll flat out get you into trouble, so quit it. End of discussion.
c) Disclose relationships
The big concern with this one is that including some text somewhere that says anything like “I get paid if you click here” is going to kill affiliate link click through rates. And that’s highly possible.
In the webinar Jim gave some great tips on creatively integrating a disclosure of relationship into an affiliate pitch in a way that may NOT have the above effect, but the bottom line is, it’s up to us to TEST.
It’s unfortunate that they haven’t made a specific request about HOW they want you to disclose a relationship and where but we can make some reasonable judgements on it and hope for the best until more information is released.
For example, you could integrate a disclosure into your affiliate pitch content itself OR leave a short note below your affiliate link or banner. I think the TEXT of your disclosure will be important too. Whether it’s “mysite.com is associated with xyz product and is compensated for customers who find xyz through our impartial reviews” or something similar, it’ll be important to portray the relationship you have with the merchant in a positive light rather than “I’m a slimy commission seeker who wants you to buy from this link before anywhere else so I get paid”.
So the wording and the positioning will be important, and something for those more inclined than me to test thoroughly for their effect on click through rates.
d) Offering Incentives
Where it’s allowed (many promotions don’t allow incentivized traffic) you can give the people a tangible reason to buy through your link so they don’t even CARE if you get compensated from their purchase.
Again, this is something that’s just a staple of good affiliate marketing anyway, but now, it could offer a good way to retain more of the people who may have been otherwise offended by your new disclosure.
e) If you DO want to use testimonials
Another thing I mentioned in the webinar is that if you DO want to use testimonials, there’s a type that’s less offensive in the FTC’s eyes and that might just improve your CTRs. That is, a testimonial for YOU rather than the product.
There’s 2 types of testimonials someone can give me:
One is “Andrew, I made XYZ dollars with Firepow in the past month and I LOVE IT!”
That’s the type that’s gonna be a pain from now on.
The second kind is:
“I’ve bought every product Andrew has ever released and I find him to be a marketer of the highest integrity. Anything he does is top notch and I’d trust him with my life etc etc”
It’s a testimonial to your character, your credibility. How can anyone argue with that? It’s not making a claim about results, it’s just saying that you’re a good guy.
Particularly if you’re an affiliate, this kind of testimonial can be helpful. Eg “AndrewsReviews.com is a source I always trust when it comes to looking for credible info on ABC”. That raises your credibility and doesn’t make any claims that could get you in trouble.
Once again, the conclusion I’m taking from all this is that it’s not time to quit affiliate marketing but we do need to make changes to our approach.
At the end of the day, like we discussed on the webinar, if you’re committed to this business, this news should be a reason for celebration rather than fear. Because it’s another thing that will kick a few of the less committed folk out of the game and leave more room for those of us who are serious about their business 🙂
I hope you’ve found this valuable. Any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll try to answer.