23 Nov 09 10:56 am
Some really good questions there.
1. Writing like an expert in your niche: You can still take an authoritative tone as long as you've actually used the product. If you haven't, you need to say so very clearly, plus you can't make any claims about the product that cannot be substantiated by the product owner's market research data.
The important thing is not to get carried away and make sweeping statements that go beyond what the merchant actually claims.
2. Yes your anchor text has to be transparent. Most affiliates seem to be in two camps (1) Those who are going to just come right out and say they are an affiliate and that's how they make a living - and be really upfront about it, and (2) Those who will just use the text "Sponsored link" next to their affiliate links.
3. It will still be possible to review a product that you haven't used, as long as you make it clear that you’re not a bona fide user.
BUT obviously, if you haven’t tried the majority of the products you review, you're going to look a bit silly (especially when you try and build up a long-term relationship with subscribers). Going to the effort of actually using the majority of the products you review is really what will separate the professionals from the amateurs.
If you do write a review without using the product, then make sure you just stick to the facts. For example, a lot of affiliate reviews are like this: http://www.jiffyspanish.com/
- basically just descriptions of what the course contains - and not much more. As long as you added something like "I haven't used this product myself, but after thoroughly reading the sales page and going through the free mini course, I felt X is a stand-out winner.", you should be covered. (NB: In a longer review you'd need to say that twice, because it has to be obvious, even to skim readers).
4. No! Quite a few people have asked this, but I think it’s going to be WAY more difficult for merchants than affiliates under the new FTC rules. Merchants are going to have to fork out for market research to support all their claims, follow up regularly with all the people who have given testimonials to make sure they still use the product (or at least still agree with their testimonial), plus make sure their affiliates are toeing the line and not making any misleading claims.
As far as I can see, all affiliates really have to do is make their affiliate links transparent, make sure it's clear whether they are a genuine user of the product or not, and avoid making any dramatic claims that can't be supported with market research data from the merchant.
Hope that helps :)