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FTC Regulation Change WEF 1 Dec 09

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siahsc
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Joined: 12 Nov 09
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FTC Regulation Change WEF 1 Dec 09

Hi

We all have heard about the FTC regulation change that is effective 1 Dec 09.
Would like to post my thoughts here and appreciate comments.

1. When we create our website for a niche, can we still write like an expert in that niche ?
Will this appear to be misleading the audience and hence not complying to the regulation ?

2. When we use anchor text with the affiliate link, do we have to be transparent to the audience ?
If yes, what is the preferred 'professional' way to do so ?

3. How can the affiliate include a product review if he has not used the product. Eg if I do not even have a dog,
I should then never try to promote 'dog training' products.

4. With all these affiliate 'constraints', should we turn to product creation and start selling our own instead ?

I feel that the affiliate will end up negating all the selling that the affiliate is trying to do with just simply a statement saying that .....'I am not a user of this product'.

My intent is to see what do we need to adjust to the affiliate blueprint that we have learnt to continue to make money through affiliate marketing while at the same time stay compliance with the FTC regulation.

Appreciate if Mark can share with us his expert opinion too.

Thanks.

Frankie
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graceharman
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Hi Frankie,

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 :)

Grace
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siahsc
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Hi Grace

Thanks for your replies.

As an affiliate, do we have to make sure that the merchants whom we are promoting
their products, actually comply to the FTC regulation ? Is Clickbank going to do anything to help
facilitate this ?

In my opinion, it will be not easy for the affiliate to be actually the user of the products that he is promoting as
more often than not, we are looking for niches that we may not be familar with. In some cases, it may not be
practical to purchase the products to try them out before including the review. I foresee that this is likely going to be
scenario that will happen to many affiliates.
I do agree with you that this is going to separate the professional vs amateurs. And I would like to add... the full time affilates vs the part-timers.

We can't change this anyway, except probably to generate even more traffic.

Thanks.

Frankie
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graceharman
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Hi Frankie:

Yes to both questions. According to the guide affiliates do need to check that the merchants they promote comply with the FTC regulations. (However, most people are expecting that, in practice, merchants will cop most of the blame).

Basically, that they have stats supporting their claims, and that the testimonials on their site either support generally expected results, or have a statement below explaining what generally expected results are.

Sites that don’t comply shouldn’t be too hard to spot. They’ll tend to have overinflated, specific claims, no obvious proof, and rely on very specific testimonials. In other words, they’ll be the merchants with the ‘too-good-to-be-true’ sounding sales pitches.

Clickbank has introduced a new Vendor agreement that means all Vendors have to comply with FTC regulations before they can be listed in Clickbank. http://www.clickbank.com/help/vendor-he ... -a-vendor/
You might find these videos useful for more info: http://ftc.gov/multimedia/video/busines ... uides.shtm

I understand that it might be difficult and time-consuming to buy and try all the products you review, but it's still something to aim for. I suspect some affiliates will also go a bit left of field and interview someone who has used the product, or something similar, rather than writing a traditional review.
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cctek1
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I noticed in the beekeeping website Mark used as an example for FTC compliance does not have the disclosure on all pages. Some of the pages do not contain the disclosure after the link. Is that just an oversight or is it good enough to have it on some pages but not required on all?
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graceharman
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I think Mark may have missed a couple of pages. As far as I understand it, a disclosure has to be on each page, so that even skim readers and people not reading every page would notice.
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grenkuts
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Joined: 26 Nov 09
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Hi Grace,

For newbie affiliates starting in, that want to mostly blog for Adsense and ShareASale purposes, should every post that person makes of an article have a disclaimer, or a disclaimer and a sponsoring link, and if they do, and still get reported by the FTC, what could be their safe haven? Also, could the disclaimer help or hurt one's profits coming into affiliate marketing?
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graceharman
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Hey grenkuts,

From what I understand, either every post needs to have a disclaimer OR you can make it generally known that you make money from your recommendations (e.g. in the profile or about me side bar that appears alongside the latest post). The main thing is that it has to be obvious to everyone what the situation is.

Whatever you decide, I think it would be wise to put 'sponsored link' (or similar) in front of every affiliate link at this stage, until some cases actually come up and it becomes clearer what is and isn't acceptable.

The good news is that if someone reports you to the FTC, or you come under the spotlight in some other way, you do get a warning and a chance to set things right before you are actually fined.

Mark has said that his sales actually go up when he tells people to buy through his affiliate link. I think that in most cases people simply won't care, in fact, they will appreciate your openness and honesty, and that will make them even more likely to trust you.

Hope that helps :)
Grace
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