FTC Disclosure Best Practices for Affiliates

Affiliate managers wear many hats and are asked to manage many tasks on a daily basis. These include affiliate recruitment, affiliate activation, compliance policing, optimization, and communication. Compliance policing is often an overlooked task, but it should be taken as seriously as the rest. In terms of compliance policing, paid search and coupon policing are two of the main activities affiliate managers engage in on a daily basis, but what about FTC disclosure compliance?

Why are Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosures important? Short answer, they aid online users in determining if the endorser (or reviewer) has a connection to the brand which they are talking about. The FTC can fine both the endorser and advertiser for not properly disclosing their relationship in a product review or sponsored post. The fine can be upwards of $11,000 per infraction. The FTC requires that endorsements use clear and unmistakable language and should be easily visible. They cannot and should not be hidden or tucked away. The last place a brand or blogger wants to be is on the FTC’s radar.

Last month (September 7, 2017) the FTC updated their endorsement requirements, so the post today will discuss the updated best practices for affiliates, outlining how to comply with the FTC’s rules while marketing on social media and via blog posts.


There are multiple acceptable ways to disclose on Facebook, but having it too long may be counterproductive to your goals and turn off your audience. Here are a few examples of how you may disclose the connection:

  • Ad: XYZ is a great computer that is perfect for a small business owner. @XYZ
  • Sponsored Post: XYZ’s computer has helped to keep our business more organized.

Take into account that the phrase “affiliate link” may not be accepted as an adequate disclosure. So using something similar to this at the bottom of the post will be satisfactory:

Note: I am using an affiliate link below which means that if you buy something via this post I may receive a commission.


This one is a little more challenging of a context, as there is a 140-character limit; but disclosing still must be done when you are endorsing/reviewing a product via Twitter. Here are a few examples of how to disclose:

  • Start the Tweet with “Sponsored” (uses only 9 characters)
  • Start the Tweet with “Paid Ad” (uses only 7 characters)
  • Use #Sponsored #Ad at the beginning of the Tweet.

Using one of the above options is sufficient, but it is also strongly recommended that you tag the brand in question.


Tricia Meyer noted in her latest “FTC Updates Endorsement Guidance” blog post that the FTC requires that all Instagram disclosures are located above the “more” button (to avoid being pushed down the feed) or on the image itself. Here are examples of disclosing:

  • “Ad” or “Advertisement” placed at the beginning of the post
  • “Sponsored” placed at the beginning of the post
  • “Paid Ad” placed at the beginning of the post+

Snapchat/Instagram Stories

Disclosures can be overlaid on images but should be easy to notice on the image(s) and clearly worded. There should be no confusion on whether it is a sponsored post or not. Also, making sure ample time is given to followers to view the image(s) and comprehend that it is a sponsored ad.

Additionally, while disclosing that your social media post is sponsored does not have to be at the beginning of the post, the disclosure must be easily noticeable and understood. This is why, the beginning is, generally, a good place for it.

Blog Posts

The key here is to disclose upfront that there is a relationship between the post and the brand. It should be obvious to the reader that it is a sponsored content that they are going through. The reader should not have to guess if a person is being compensated. The disclosure must appear before the first affiliate link, above the fold, and be easy to find. Do not wait until the end of the post to disclose, as it may be considered misleading. Here is an example to place at the beginning:

This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you purchase something mentioned in the below post.

At the end of the post, the disclosure may be reiterated by writing:

I receive(d) compensation in exchange for writing this review/post. This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you purchase something mentioned in this post.

Recommended, but not required is to add a link to your self-hosted “full disclosure statement” page at the beginning of the post. The more transparent the post – the better it is for the blogger and the brand.

Actively managing affiliates and influencers to ensure their compliance with the FTC disclosure requirements is an extremely important task for affiliate and influencer managers. Both the brand and the endorsers must be sure that the FTC disclosures are being complied with.

We also recommend you read the FTC’s .com Disclosures document here. It should answer additional questions you may have.

An Overview of CJ Affiliate’s Cross Device Tracking

Affiliate Marketing continues to evolve and CJ Affiliate has recently introduced (and long overdue) a new technology solution called Cross-Device Tracking. What is it? Why is it important? How does it work? All of these questions will be answered in this post.

What is Cross-Device Tracking?

CJ Affiliate’s Cross-Device Tracking solution gathers all impressions and clicks from all devices a customer uses during a single transaction. Up to this point only one device was trackable, but now customers can use multiple devices (computers, smartphones, tablets) and the final device will be attributed to the sale. This will also allow affiliates to feel better knowing that they will get credit for their hard work even if the sale does not occur on the originating device.

Here is an example: A customer clicks on a CJ Affiliate link today from their tablet and then decides to not continue with checkout, but a few days later (given the cookie is still valid) they use their smartphone to continue the transaction and ultimately purchase. The CJ Affiliate Cross-Device Tracking will track the entire path and credit the appropriate device and affiliate.

Why is it important?

Cross-Device Tracking allows merchants to study customer behavior and market to them more effectively in the future. Understanding why it is important for the merchants is essential, but also understanding why it is important for affiliates is equally as important. When affiliates now promote CJ Affiliate merchants they can be assured they will be credited with transactions if they are completed using one device or four. Happy affiliates will continue to promote merchant’s products and this is one technology solution that affiliates are excited to see.

How does it work?

Currently, this technology solution is unique to CJ Affiliate and connects customers to all of their different devices. They lump together first and third-party data and then create customer ID’s, which enables them to track customers from device to device without losing them after the first one. It is labeled as the most accurate tracking solution in the industry, but it can recognize more customers than any other affiliate network in the world.

If you are a CJ Affiliate merchant and want to learn more about this or enable the technology solution you can contact CJ Affiliate directly or follow the following steps:

  • Navigate to the main navigation bar and click Account > Settings > Account Integration Settings and then locate “Cross-Device Tracking
  • Click “Enable

Simple, right? From there a support ticket will automatically be generated and a CJ representative will be in contact with any next steps or integration instructions. Some merchants are automatically enabled, but check with CJ Affiliate to ensure it is operating properly.

Manually Cancelling Affiliate Orders in Rakuten Affiliate Network

In my last post, I detailed how to manually credit affiliates for sales that did not track through the Rakuten Affiliate Network, so today I going to show you how to manually cancel (void) orders. Cancelling orders is not something affiliate managers want to do, but it is part of the game. Orders can be cancelled for various reasons including: customer refunds, PPC bidding, unauthorized coupon code use, and the list goes on. Below is a step-by-step approach to manually cancelling orders (one or multiples).

Step 1 – Navigate to “Transactions” Page

In order to get started you need to go to the “Account” tab and then click the “Transactions” link. It will bring you to the page where the cancelling process begins.

Step 2 – Click “Manual Cancellation” to Begin the Process

This page should look familiar to you. This is where you can manually credit affiliates for sales. To cancel an order, click the “Manual Cancellation” link.

Step 3 – Cancel by Single Order ID or Multiple Order ID’s

If you have just one order to cancel, simply put the order ID in the box and click the radio button to the left of Single Order ID. If there are multiple orders to cancel, then you must select the Multiple Order ID option or you can upload a cancellation file and the orders will be canceled. If you want to upload a cancellation file (which I recommend if there are more than 10 orders to cancel) you must click the “Upload Cancellation File” and it will show you the format it must be in and the fields that are required. For the purpose of this exercise I am cancelling a single order.

Step 4 –  Confirm the Order to Cancel

After the order ID to be cancelled is input and “submit” is hit, you must verify the action. Once everything is verified and correct click “Submit Selected Items” and the action will be processed and be reflected in the account within 24 hours.

After the orders are cancelled I recommend following up with a network representative to ensure they processed and the commissions were cancelled. Cancelling orders should be done as frequently as possible so that they do not pile up and then require a lot of time at the end of the month.

Creating Text Links in Rakuten Affiliate Network

Are you a merchant with a program on Rakuten Affiliate Network? Do you have questions about the interface and not sure how or where to ask your questions? Over the next few months I will be publishing posts centered on the Rakuten Affiliate Network interface and giving merchants a better understanding of how to effectively complete their daily tasks within it. The first in the series is how to create text links. This may sound like a simple task, but believe me merchants do not properly set up text links and it hurts the effectiveness of the affiliate program.

Step 1 – Click the “Links” tab

Once logged into the merchant interface you will click the “Links” tab, where it will bring you to a page where all the different link options will be presented. In this case you will click the “Text Links” button.

LS 1

Step 2 – Add New Text Links

All you do in this next step is click “Add New Text Links”. If you do have current text links live you can edit them here by using the search function shown in the screenshot.

LS 2

Step 3 – Create the Text Link

Here is the part where you create the text links. Put in the link text (i.e. Save 10% on all orders), landing page URL, name (can be the same as the link text), category, start date, end date, and assignment to publishers (the link can be assigned to all or a select group of affiliates).

Note: If your deals/coupons have coupon codes associated with them then the code should be included in the “Link Text” portion of the set up. The text link should look something like this: Save 10% on all orders – Use code SAVE10. Since there is no specific place to put the code like there is in CJ Affiliate and ShareASale you want to put it in the text of the link.

LS 3

There it is a simple tutorial on how to create text links in Rakuten Affiliate Network. Please remember to be as detailed as possible when creating the links. There should be no confusion on the offer or message with affiliates.

Booking Paid Placements Through CJ Affiliate

Getting additional exposure for your brand is the number one goal when employing various marketing strategies, but some work better than others. Affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that has numerous ways to get your brand exposure, it could be through content, social media, and/or coupon deals. The three strategies mentioned are popular among affiliates, but there is one that is often over looked by advertisers and it is paid placements. Paid placements allow advertisers to become more visible on affiliate sites and assist in the brand reaching a wider audience. Paid placements can either be paid in a flat dollar amount, a commission increase, or a hybrid of both fee and commission increase.

Where do you go to get paid placements? In the past, you would have to look up the affiliate and their site, reach out to them and then ask them if they are accepting paid placements and get all the information that way. Recently, CJ Affiliate has added a tool to their merchant interface that will allow you (advertisers) to locate and book paid placements without leaving the merchant interface. This is truly an innovative move, which will make the lives of all affiliate managers easier. Please keep in mind that this is still a new tool/service, but I am going to show you how to use it to book future paid placements. You still may have to reach out to affiliates, but this new tool is to aid in booking placements.

Step #1 – Go to “Placements” Tab within the CJ Affiliate Interface

CJ 1

Once you are logged in to your CJ Affiliate merchant account, click the “Placements” tab. A drop down menu will then appear and you will then select where to go next.

Step #2 – Select What Section of Placements to Visit

CJ 2

This next step allows you to look up opportunities that affiliates are offering, review insertion orders from previously booked placements, and review reports from past placements (if any were booked).

Step #3 – Review Placement Opportunities Available

CJ 3

Instead of contacting the affiliate directly to get all the information about the placement, it is all here is one place for an easy analysis. Not all affiliates use paid placements and even some of the larger affiliates have not participated yet, so you still may have to reach out to an affiliate if they are not listed.

As you can see, the available placements are listed with the amount of money it will cost, the start/end dates, and where it will be placed (mobile, email, social, etc.). On the left side there are filters to help find attractive placement opportunities. You can narrow it down to your publishers only, opportunity type, date range, promotions, price, and affiliate network earnings. I would strongly encourage using the filters, especially the affiliate network earnings because you want to be working with affiliate that have a following and have earned commission in the past.

Step #4 – Review Total Cost of Paid Placements

CJ 4

Once the placements are booked and run you can you the “Reports” tab to view the exact cost of the placements. The placement has a fee and CJ also collects a fee as well. This is a good place to review your overall spend and determine if the placements yielded ROI.

Booking placements with affiliates just became easier. CJ Affiliate created a much needed tool ot help merchants book placements without a lot of the tedious work. All the available placements are now visible within the CJ Affiliate merchant account. I just have some words of wisdom, do not just book a placement on any affiliate site. Do research and ask questions, because the last thing you want to do is throw a significant amount of money away to an affiliate that has no real following or ability to produce and yield a positive ROI.


New Placement Finder Tool – CJ Affiliate

With Q4 only one (1) week away I would like to discuss a new feature in CJ Affiliate that will help merchants find opportunities to promote their brands during the busiest shopping time of the year. CJ Affiliate now offers merchants a way to purchase placements with affiliates directly through their interface. Talk about making it simple.

This new feature will not completely eliminate the outreach to affiliates about placements, but it has made merchants lives a lot easier. Not all affiliates are participating in this, but many of the top “super” affiliates are and getting additional exposure is just a click away. In this post I will present a step-by-step guide to using the new “Placements” feature in CJ Affiliate.

Step 1 – Click “Placements” on Main Navigation

CJ 1

Once you (merchant) are logged in, navigate to the “placements” tab in the main navigation. When clicked it will bring you to landing page where you can now browse and choose what placements to pursue.

Step 2 – Review Available Placement Opportunities

This feature is similar to the recruiting feature CJ has in that it allows you to filter in many ways. For example, if you are looking for placements from your affiliates only, there is a way to do that. What makes this feature awesome is that it gives you the ability to recruit new publishers for Q4 too (not directly, but you will have their contact information).  Other ways to sort placement opportunities is by date range, seasonal events, promotions, price range, and by affiliate network earnings.

Once you have the filters set you will see a list of potential placements shown. It will list the affiliates name, the cost of the placement (dollar amount or commission increase), a way to contact the affiliate and the website it will be placed on.

CJ 2

Step 3 – Learn More About the Placement

By clicking the “website” box you will see what type of creative is needed (sizes included), the placements position (where it will be listed), and contact name and email address.

CJ 3

Step 4 – Book the Placement

All that is left is to book the placement and ensure you have additional exposure for Q4 and to be in front of more new customers. Simply click the envelope to email the affiliate and confirm listings.

CJ 4

This new feature CJ Affiliate added came at the perfect time. No more searching for affiliates and their contact information, no more guessing on the size of the creatives needed, and no more guessing on the amount of money (or commission increase) they are looking for; it is all there in one spot. When reviewing the placements available, remember this could be an opportunity to recruit an affiliate you have been looking to partner with.

Affiliate Banner Ads: Requirements, Sizes, Examples

Banners are an integral part of any affiliate program, but in some instances merchants do not understand how important they really are. Banners and text links make up an affiliate programs creative inventory that affiliates used to promote merchants products or services. Affiliates use them in a variety of ways and require them in multiple sizes.

When we at AM Navigator either take over management of an existing affiliate program or start one from scratch banners are among the most popular issues/topics we discuss with clients. In a few instances I have seen banners not include a sales message or a call to action; so what is the visitor supposed to do? The key is to make the banners entice the visitor to click and buy. Many merchants are unsure of the protocol for creating affiliate banners, including the key elements to an effective affiliate banner and the sizes they should create. Examples of quality affiliates banners can be found by clicking here.

I will go over the 3 main elements an affiliate banner requires and provide a list of banner sizes (and quantities) that we recommended when running an affiliate program.

All affiliate banners require three elements:

1.       Clear Visual Elements

2.       Concise Message

3.       Call to Action

Without the three above elements the banners will not be attractive to affiliates and they will not convert.

Affiliate banner size recommendations (with recommended quantities):

88×31 px button – 2-5
468×60 px – 2-5
125×125 px – 2-5
120×600 px – 2-5

160×600 px – 2-3
120×240 px – 2-3
234×60 px – 2-3
254×331 px – 2-3
728×90 px – 2-3
250×250 px – 2-3

720×300 px – 1-2
300×100 – 1-2
300×250 px – 1-2
180×150 – 1-2

The banner sizes above are broken into 3 groups based on demand from affiliates. Even though the list includes all the most popular sizes, affiliates may still have special requests for custom sizes, so you must be ready to create additional ones that may include different color schemes and images.

The 88×31 is by far the most popular size among affiliates because it can be used in different ways. It is the most popular with coupon/deal oriented affiliates. We recommend having at least 2 created in different styles.

Affiliate banner creation should be taken seriously and include the 3 elements outlined above and most of the sizes discussed. Without quality banners available to affiliates, the less likely they may be to promote your product/service. Next week I will discuss mistakes to avoid when creating affiliate banners.

Managing Advertiser Expectations for an Affiliate Program

This is part of two of the series on managing merchant expectations for an affiliate program [see Part One here]. In Part Two, expectations for a launched affiliate program will be discussed and why it is important to make sure the merchant’s expectations are in line with those of their affiliate management team’s.

Managing expectationsThe merchants affiliate program is live, but expectations are still unrealistic; what needs to be done to reign them in? It is all about communicating and educating them on best practices and previous experiences? If I had a dollar for every time a merchant asked why they are not seeing sales immediately I would be pretty well off. Maybe I am exaggerating a little, but you get the point. When expectations during the launch phase are unrealistic that tends to carry over to the program once it is live. Merchants must understand that affiliate marketing is different than other forms of marketing in that it takes months, not days to build a successful program.

Not seeing any sales?

Give it time; asking why there have not been any sales in the first week is not fair. In my post last week “Managing Pre-Launch Expectations of Affiliate Program” I wrote that it is best to give a program 1 – 2 months to gain traction and start producing consistent sales. Many merchants do not understand that recruiting affiliates (either passively or actively) takes time. The process usually includes an email inviting them to join the program, possibly a follow-up email, accepting them into the program, and optimizing them. Depending on the affiliate, this process could take a month or longer. Ensuring your affiliates are armed with the necessary tools to be successful is the most important part of managing an affiliate program. Rushing this process or giving up too soon because sales are not coming through at the pace expected will do more harm than good.

Affiliate Program = Marketing

Another key to a successful affiliate program is including the affiliate management team as members of the marketing team. This sounds obvious, right? There have been times when managing affiliate programs where merchants have marketing campaigns set up for other channels (email, SEM, Social Media), but do not share them with the affiliate management team, and if they do it is at the last minute and it makes it more difficult to ensure success with the affiliates for the campaigns. The top affiliate programs are successful in part because they treat affiliate marketing the same as the other channels, and that includes aligning their marketing campaigns with affiliate marketing to ensure the most exposure for their campaigns.

Be Open to Change

The strategies outlined pre-launch are being executed and are successful, but something unexpected comes up, what should the merchant do next? The answer is simple – ADAPT.  There may be certain marketing campaigns that were not successful with affiliates, so adapting to what is happening around you in critical. Use competitive intelligence (which should be occurring daily) and create similar promotions to that of the competition so affiliates are equipped with high converting deals/promos. Another reason to be open to change is that the merchants website may not be converting well and changes may be needed, so being open to change is not voluntary, it is mandatory.  Affiliates, the most valuable asset to your program, may have requests like customized banners, exclusive coupons, sample requests, so being flexible and open to doing things differently than planned will assist in creating a quality affiliate program that quality affiliates will want to join.

Set merchant expectations for the affiliate program immediately, so that everyone involved in the management of the program can be given all the necessary tools to succeed and build a program they can be proud of.

Your comments/feedback are welcome in the section below.

Managing Pre-Launch Expectations of Affiliate Program

This is part of one of a two-part series on managing merchant expectations for an affiliate program. In Part One, managing program pre-launch expectations for merchants will be discussed and why it is important to make sure the merchant and the affiliate management team are on the same page.

ExpectationsWhy do some merchants have unrealistic expectations for their affiliate programs? For some affiliate marketing is a new venture, or they have heard how other merchants have had great success with their products/services using affiliates marketing. Either way, the merchant must understand the difference between unrealistic and realistic expectations and defining them up front is essential to the success of any affiliate program. It begins with the set up process of the affiliate program.

Overall Expectations

When initially communicating with a merchant, one of the first things to be discussed is their expectations for the affiliate program. Are their expectations in line with what the affiliate management team is capable of doing? If their goals for the program are too high they need to be informed and an attempt to lower them to a more acceptable level is needed, but that is not always as easy as it sounds. The reason being is that they may have heard other programs had great success at the beginning and they are expecting the same results, however, the merchant needs to understand that every affiliate program is different and comparing theirs to other programs should be avoided even if they are direct competitors.

Website Expectations

The next topic to discuss with the merchant in the set up process is their website. It is the most critical piece to an affiliate program. It should be functional and all landing pages should be optimized to their fullest. With that being said, some merchants do not realize that their site could be the largest roadblock to affiliate program success, but refuse to make recommended changes because they like the way it looks. No matter how nice the site looks, if the landing pages are not optimized properly, traffic sent by affiliates will not convert. Managing website expectations is vital to a merchant and their success in affiliate marketing.

Revenue Expectations

The third topic to discuss with merchants in the set up process is their expectations of sales. Two of the biggest questions asked by merchants before their program goes live are: 1. When will we start seeing sales? 2. What are your projections for the program? Let’s start with question # 1: It all depends on how quickly affiliates are recruited into the program, activated and optimized. Once affiliates are active, optimization is needed to ensure they are motivated to keep promoting their product/service. The previously mentioned steps take time and merchants need to understand that it takes approximately 1-2 months to start seeing results from affiliates.

Now onto question # 2: Making projections for an affiliate program can be slippery slope, but it all comes back to expectations set forth by the affiliate management team hired to oversee the program. The biggest piece to the projection puzzle is the website. If it is new or does not convert well, then projections may not be what originally expected, therefore, showing the merchant everything that is involved in starting and managing an affiliate program is essential to the success for everyone involved. Affiliate programs take time to grow, which may be scary for some merchants, but it is just a fact.

Check back next week for part two of Managing Merchant Expectations for an Affiliate Program, where 3 more critical pieces will be outlined to ensure merchant expectations are kept in check once their affiliate program is launched.

Affiliate Management: Common Misapprehensions, Definitions

With this being the very first post on a brand-new blog, I cannot think of anything better to devote it to than to the core subject of the blog. Since this website is fully devoted to all things affiliate management, let’s start right from affiliate management itself.

Having worked as an “affiliate manager” since early 2000s, I have taken note of several different definitions of “affiliate management.” Here they are – together with the reasons why, in fact, they all represent nothing but misapprehensions about the subject.

Approach #1: Affiliate management – the process of overseeing and managing affiliates.

Flaw: By the very definition of the term, affiliates are independent, self-managed online marketers, generally not accountable to merchants for performance, and free to choose what affiliate programs to promote, and what programs to drop, what merchants to push more aggressively, and on what merchants to spend less effort.

Approach #2: Affiliate management – the practice of supporting, supervising, and controlling the company’s relationship with its outsourced affiliate manager.

Flaw: While the previous definition/approach aimed at going deeper than necessary safely possible, this is one is surprisingly shallow. No company should ever equate their “affiliate management” approach to mere vendor management. Handling vendor payments, reviewing their routine reports, and managing your contract with them has nothing to do with affiliate management.

Approach #3: Affiliate management – the process of managing the company’s relationship with the affiliate network.

Flaw: While, similarly to approach #2, this one equates affiliate management to vendor management, it may end up being even more disastrous than approach #1. Presuming that all you need to do is keep positive affiliate network balance, while the rest will be taken care of by the network can be deadly. The network’s job is provide you with the infrastructure for running your affiliate program. The rest (affiliate recruitment, compliance policing, and other affiliate management tasks) is extremely rarely included by default.

Having said all of the above, here is what I suggest as the definition of (and the approach to) affiliate management:

Affiliate management – common shortening for affiliate program (or marketing) management, or organization and coordination of affiliate marketing activities of a business, as well as full support of its affiliate program with the purpose of equipping affiliates with the tools and knowledge they need to market the business efficiently.

Since in most cases it involves management of a specific program, wherever possible/suitable I try to call it affiliate program management. It is also because of this that I included the word “program” in the very domain name of this website.

More articles on the subject to follow. Stay tuned…

Oh, and if you have something to add to the above, the “Comments” area below is all yours! I’d love to hear your thoughts too.