Amazon Associates Link Disclosure Compliance

A few days ago, Amazon sent out an email to all associates reminding them about FTC disclosure requirements and compliance with Amazon Associates’ own Operating Agreements.

There’s been a lot of chatter about what this means, and what associates need to do in order to stay compliant.

A lot of the chatter has shown that Amazon’s email and the FTC requirements have been misunderstood.

This makes sense, since Amazon’s email was a little confusing/vague:

One of the higher-ups at Amazon reached out to me to give some further clarifications.

Since we are planning to make changes to our own sites, plus those of our partners and investors, I decided to write this post to give some more information to the general public to help spread the word.

The TL:DR – Having an affiliate disclosure in your footer is not sufficient.

What Is The Compliance Issue?

Amazon received complaints to the FTC surrounding the Prime Day promos earlier this year, and how the majority of product recommendations made by associates were not fully disclosed as being paid endorsements.

In other words, people were being spammed with non-disclosed affiliate links.

You can read about the specific complaint here.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Based on this complaint (which came from the Consumer Protection Bureau), Amazon is in the cross-hairs of the FTC, and wants its associates to be more compliant.

What Do We Need To Do About It?

They can’t tell us exactly what to put on our sites, because it’s the FTC who writes and interprets the rules, but they’ve given us some examples and guidance, which I’ll go into below.

Footer Links Not Enough

I suggest you read the FTC’s guidelines on the matter, which can be found here.

Here’s a line from the article:

If you disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement.

A footer blurb about being part of Amazon’s associates program isn’t really clear and conspicuous.

As for where to place a disclosure, the guiding principle is that it has to be clear and conspicuous. The closer it is to your recommendation, the better. Putting disclosures in obscure places – for example, buried on an ABOUT US or GENERAL INFO page, behind a poorly labeled hyperlink or in a “terms of service” agreement – isn’t good enough. Neither is placing it below your review or below the link to the online retailer so readers would have to keep scrolling after they finish reading.

Do We Need To Mark Every Single Link?

That much is probably overkill, unless you’re sharing on social media. For example, an instagram post with just one Amazon associates link in it? Yeah, you’d want to mark that as a paid endorsement.

A blog post with 10 Amazon links in it? You just need to make it clear that your content is paid endorsements, not necessarily every single link on that page.

Again from the FTC article:

In some instances – like when the affiliate link is embedded in your product review – a single disclosure may be adequate. When the review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need. You could say something like, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.”

Two Good Examples

The two articles below show two different ways of disclosing links that are “probably” fine. I can’t say for sure how the FTC interprets the rules, but it looks hard to argue that the examples below are not clear. Notice how both of them contain disclosures at the top of the articles.

1.) https://kinjadeals.theinventory.com/mondays-best-deals-instant-pot-smart-trtl-travel-pill-1839223309

2.) https://www.buzzfeed.com/jasminsuknanan/things-to-help-make-your-room-more-adult-even-if-youre

As you can see, there’s more than one way to disclose, and you can do it in a way that is personable and builds trust, you don’t have to be a robot about it.

I Don’t Live In The US – Do I Need To Care?

It’s not relevant where you live. Amazon is the one who receives the complaints from the FTC and is in their cross-hairs.

If an Amazon associate isn’t FTC compliant, what do you think Amazon is going to do to their associates account?

Make Sure You Update Your Sites

Taking no action is a mistake. Amazon sent out these emails as a direct reaction to a complaint about them, and it’s not a simple reminder email.

How will this affect conversions? I’m actually fairly skeptical it will actually affect your conversion rates. In fact, it might just help build some trust with your audience and may IMPROVE your conversion rates.

Either way, it’s a mistake to do nothing, and we will be updating all our sites accordingly.

19 thoughts on “Amazon Associates Link Disclosure Compliance”

  1. Thanks Dom, very helpful indeed. What would be an easy way to update all your posts quickly? I have a site with 200 posts. I can’t imagine doing this one by one? Any tips?

    1. Just use CSS or HTML to add the same text to the same place in every post. A cheap upwork developer can do this for you.

  2. The vagueness of the Amazon email made it seem like a standard reminder and much else. The fact that you talked with someone at Amazon to get more information that wasn’t publicly shared by Amazon Associate Program itself is part of the problem that leads to the noncompliance and the complaints, they need to provide clear information and instructions to everyone in the program, big or small, so that there is consistency and compliance in a way that makes sense for affiliates and consumers alike.

  3. Another way you could do it is to make a “hook” which is a feature of a number of themes (like Astra), then select it to display on pages with a custom taxonomy, category or tag. We managed to get it up on over 400 blog posts across multiple sites within an hour this morning. Fingers crossed this pleases our lord!

  4. Great final points Dom, turning lemons into lemonade.
    Disclosure, trust and honesty can definitely help your cause as an affiliate. Especially if you take the time to think, then frame things in the context of benefits.

    1. Yeah, the huge sites have already been using these disclaimers and they are clearly not worried about conversion rates.

  5. Hey Dom,

    Thanks for the heads-up. This was not on my radar at all! I also really appreciate you providing the examples.

    I have a lot of work to do across my sites.

    One tip for people like @Martin above. If you’re using the Gutenberg editor, you can create a reusable block with your disclosure in it to make it really simple. Below is how to create reusable blocks:

    https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/how-to-create-a-reusable-block-in-wordpress/

    If you have a lot of pages, or sites, the reusable block is still perfect, because you create it once and, as Dom suggested, hire a VA to simply add that block to the top of all of your articles. Dead simple!

    All the best,
    Kris Phelps

    1. It’s really a case of asking yourself “Can the argument be made that this is a clear disclosure, or would be reader have to dig for it?”

  6. Do you think text at the top of the post that saying something like “Advertiser Disclosure” that has more text when you hover over it is sufficient?

  7. Thanks for this, Dom. Yet again the information I was given before – even people who got it from Associates reps – wasn’t reliable.

    This whole disclosure thing is a huge, confusing mess but I appreciate your clear information & suggestions!

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