New FTC Guidelines 32 Comments
New FTC Guidelines

Hi Everyone,

With the new FTC guidelines kicking in Dec 1st 2009, I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts and the practical steps that I am taking with my sites to ensure I am coming into line to what the FTC require.

Before I do though, I must say that I am not a lawyer and therefore the information provided in this post is my opinion only and not legally binding. It is solely your responsibility to ensure you interpret the FTC guidelines for yourself. Here is a link to the FTC site for you: FTC Guidelines and also read the guidelines here: FTC PDF

The first thing that I want to say is that I personally think that what the FTC are doing is a good thing, and I support it. After all they are essentially cleaning up the internet and removing dodgy non-transparent websites.

I don’t think it is fair when you read a so called testimony about someone’s experience with a product that is either completely false, or an extreme example and no way likely to be the result the average user would experience.

The classic copy writing technique of telling a story along the lines of “I struggled with XYZ also, and I tried everything but nothing helped, then I tried AFFILIATE PRODUCT, and it fixed XYZ immediately, you should try it too!!”, I feel is now a thing of the past, and rightly so.

Everybody, and I am sure you included, want a fair deal and to be told the truth, and this new policy from the FTC demanding transparency is only going to create that for us all.

Although the Big Gun websites will most likely be the target of the FTC first, it does not mean that small affiliates are exempt, and if you do get a fine from the FTC they are $11,000 each violation, so not something you really want to be messing with. However you do get a warning first apparently, but best not to go there I think.

Just in case you live outside of the United States like I do, please don’t be fooled into thinking that these new rules don’t apply to you, because if you are marketing to someone in the United States then you are liable.

What Am I Doing?

Well to be honest with you, my affiliate sites never used falsified examples and testimonials, because I never felt right about them. However I did have, until recently, affiliate links in the pages of my sites that did not clearly explain my relationship to the merchant, ie. that I get commission from this relationship.

Therefore from what I understand of the FTC new guidelines, is that they require affiliates to disclose all their links and inform the visitor that their links are in fact sponsored links, and also disclose if they have never actually used the product they are recommending.

Here’s a video from the FTC themselves:

Sounds fair enough to me. So what I have done on my websites is place a sentence underneath each affiliate link that says: ‘The above link is a sponsored affiliate link, the owner of this site is not a bona fide user of this product” I must also give credit to Mark Ling from who helped me with this process.

So if you have not actually tried a product then you must make that clear so that the visitor to your website is aware of that, and they are also aware that you get paid commission from the merchant for recommending their products.

If you are a product owner then there are some more things that you need to know and once again I encourage to read the guidelines for yourself. However one key thing that I took from the guidelines is that the use of testimonials has changed. You are no longer allowed to include a testimonial and simply state that the result may not be typical, and the FTC now require ‘Generally Expected Results’.

From what I can gather ‘Generally Expected Results’ are scientifically proven, with data, and reflect an average result for a certain number of people tested. So you can no longer place any testimonial you like on your websites, and instead must do the required testing, and if you can, then include ‘Generally Expected Results’.

Check The Merchants Out!

As an affiliate you can also be held liable if the merchant that you are recommending is not meeting the guidelines of the FTC. So make sure that you review the merchants claims and ask them also if they feel they are inline with the FTC rules.

What Sites Should I Be Updating?

The most simple and safe bet is all your sites. Whether they be on social media sites like Squidoo, or Twitter posts, or WordPress blogs, it doesn’t matter, you still must be transparent.

However if you have banner ads on your site, that are clearly advertising then apparently these are fine and do not require any further disclosure, because they are considered obvious advertising and one would assume that the website owner is receiving some form of payment for including the advertisement.

That’s all from me, and once again I am not a lawyer so please read the guidelines for yourself.

All the best


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17 Comments to New FTC Guidelines

  1. December 1, 2009 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Although your recommended disclosure method is VERY safe, it is not very realistic (IMHO) unless you are excited about sales prevention.

    Look, the ultimate solution is to market your own products (time for a product creation, product?).

    And instead of back-end affiliate payouts, we just do what every other commercial vendor does. You hold inventory, collect the money and pay the manufacturer (product owner).

    Although I believe that that intent of the FTC is sound, they are definitely becoming part of the sales prevention force. This ruling really only impacts the smaller affiliates.

    An $11k fine isn’t going to stop an offshore affiliate making $50-100k a day using unethical methods. Like drug dealers and pimps and such.. the laws don’t apply to them.. until they get caught.

    It’s kinda like the “war on drugs” in the U.S.. It does not end just because you assign a task force or change a law. It just raises the stakes, the payouts and forces extreme creativity.

  2. December 1, 2009 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your post. I have been trying to find a simplified version of the guidelines, and not one filled with jargon. Thanks for providing that version.


    Jonathan Lake

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Jonathan,

    No problem,


  3. Manish's Gravatar Manish
    December 1, 2009 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,
    As usual thanks for the great post. Does this rule apply even if my content about a product is not a review style but talks about the features of the product e.g. a squidoo lens where I talk more about the features and general information about the product,history etc???

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Manish,

    From what I can gather from the guidelines, you must disclose if you are an affiliate for a product, and also if you have never actually tried the product then you must be honest and transparent about that so the reader is informed.

    Once again I encourage you to read the guidelines carefully for yourself.



  4. December 1, 2009 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt

    Can you please tell me how,I can obtain links from edu and gov sites
    I have tried entering inurl;gov+inurl;blog into google they all seem to be no follow any advice

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Steve,

    Just sent you an email,



  5. December 1, 2009 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Nice job Matt,

    Your explanation was simplistic! I am tired of these “Made $45K in 45 days” marketers. While this may be true, they leave out the $24K in PPC expenses to achieve the $45K “gross”. Or, how about the beta uses maketing “x” amount in 30 days. I would like full disclosure and no how many beta users it took for this one user to be successful.

    Thanks again Matt.


    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Richard,

    I can’t agree with you more, I am also sick of all the over hyper claims that are really quite misleading,



  6. December 1, 2009 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks Matt, finally I find a clear method of one great internet marketer and blogger like you.
    What I found until now were connections to paid program.

    You deleted all my latest hesitations about FTC guidelines, so tonight (Italian time) I will adjust all my websites in time.

    Thanks again and Goodbye,
    Alessandro Zamboni

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Alessandro,

    Great to hear from you again, and glad I could help. Make sure you read the guidelines yourself also, as this is just my take on it.

    Keep up the good work


  7. December 1, 2009 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Its interesting that you still promote Google Sniper, which blatantly suggests creating false persona and false testimonial as one of the main ways to “snipe”! In his videos George blathers on about making stuff up without any ethical concerns (obviously made pre FTC and I’m assuming haven’t changed). If I recall his own case study site was about wedding speeches – with a false character and story.
    Apart from people promoting such a product, how does this affect Clickbank (its one of their top sellers!)?!

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi David,

    Good point that you raise here, and the fist thing that I want to say is that I build Sniper sites because the technique for building a site and doing the SEO etc…are very good and have worked for me, BUT I don’t use fake persona’s as I don’t think that is fair, and I now disclose all my links on these website very clearly straight below the affiliate links. So from what I can gather is that at the end of the day it is the user who is building sites and it is up to them to make sure they are FTC compliant, like I have.

    Great comment by the way!


  8. December 1, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    Is putting a note “The above link is a sponsored affiliate link, the owner of this site is not a bona fide user of this product” really required? I mean I have no issues with complying as I have always been a law abiding citizen (I’ve never even had a ticket in my life!), however won’t the note to be placed under each affiliate link kill the sales?

    Please advise.


    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Renato,

    I know what you mean, and I do share the same concerns, but I have done this on my sites, and although early days, I have not noticed a drop in conversions. Although I do expect so drop, it will be ok, just need to get some more traffic to make up for it.

    I am not sure if you need a statement under every link, or if you could have a clear sentence at the top of page, but for now I am making it as clear as I can.



  9. Wendel's Gravatar Wendel
    December 1, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt,
    Whilst there may be some credit to the new FTC Guidelines. I think it’s gone a bit over board. In other words they are saying to consumers let me do the thinking for you, you the consumer can’t spot a sales pitch or a hyped up product or service. It’s like pushing a healthy guy in a wheel chair saying to him you don’t need to walk I can push. In my view it’s really weakening people. It’s a bit of socialism creeping in. Not good in my view.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Wendel,

    You raise a valid point, however the internet is a difficult medium for customers to see all the information they need, and can easily be disguised, so I think this has benefits, but I do like your thoughts here.



  10. December 1, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi Matt
    New FTC Guidelines – ‘The above link is a sponsored affiliate link, the owner of this site is not a bona fide user of this product”
    WOW – this is a serious turnoff for a potential buyer on your site isn’t it?
    As usual, I can only see that the small, honest marketer is going to suffer from this, like you put up a website, promote it, and then when you get a visitor- you have to do your best to tell the potential buyer, that after all your work – you will get a commission (and maybe you don’t use the product anyway?).
    Fortunately, I only recommend products on my site that I have used and recommend in good faith. (No hype on my site!!).
    I shall put a note on the bottom of each page of my site shortly.
    Graham in UK

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Graham,

    I don’t think it will effect sales that much to be honest. It will have a small effect, but not as big as some people make out. I personally wouldn’t care if someone made a commission from recommending a product to me, after all it happens everywhere else in the off line world, cars sales, telecommunication sales etc…I make an informed decision before I buy and the price doesn’t change for the buyer just because someone gets commission. Its all about the angle you take when you write your copy. If you position yourself as someone who has been through the exact experience as the person, then you are going to struggle with placing the disclosure as it will show you as a liar, and rightly so, but if you give great thoughts on why you think the product is good AND bad, then I think it will work, and just disclose that you don’t use it, after all you are not saying it worked for you, you are just giving you analysis of it from your own research. Do you think that when you buy a car or a new cell phone at a dealer that the sales rep owns all the cars and phones themselves? I don’t think so, they just know a lot about them.

    Hope this helps


  11. Becca's Gravatar Becca
    December 1, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s great to know this stuff.
    Thanks for making it so clear!

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Beeca,

    No problem and thanks for stopping bye


  12. Jelly's Gravatar Jelly
    December 2, 2009 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    How bout adsense? It’s clearly stated there as “Ads by Google”, do we still need to disclose that? Thanks.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Jelly,

    At this stage I am not sure about Adsense, so where I have adsense I have put a line of text that says “sponsored links” however I assume Google would have addressed this if there was a problem, but I prefer to stay on the safe side and disclose everything



  13. Joaquin Kenyon's Gravatar Joaquin Kenyon
    December 2, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Matt. You just give the straight goods as always. Also I thank Mark Ling for this FTC guideline too.
    AND I’ve really expanded my online marketing knowledge with your high quality, no bull… free training videos.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Joaquin,

    Thanks for your feedback and kind words, glad I can be of help to you



  14. December 3, 2009 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    I just started learning this business this year. I think these rules are good. There is too much false advertising not only on the net but tv is full of it. This will help people like me who are willing to buy a product that I am going to promote, or make my own product, and give my own honest opinions about it. I did buy Google Sniper also and I don’t have a problem using a pen name but I don’t think you should make up a story about the qualifications of this “person”. I will have at least a disclosure page, maybe even in the footer of each page.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Bill,

    Great thoughts there, I have to agree with you

    Thanks for your input also


  15. December 3, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the suggested statement. Really helpful.
    Once they’ve clicked the link, do we have any responsibility if the testimonials on the vendor site are way above ‘Generally Expected Results’? I don’t know how we would know in the first place?
    Any thoughts?

  16. December 21, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Hi Matt

    This info is really useful. I have used the option of putting a FTC Disclosure page on my site. Not sure if it is acceptable but I will see how it goes.
    My site promotes nothing at the moment and will probably not be doing anything of a review type nature. No testimonials.
    I guess I will see whether to opt in to the style you are using.
    Great to hear another Aussie in your videos by the way.

    Matt Carter Reply:

    Hi Sharon,

    Great to hear from, and to be honest I am not 100% sure what is required by the FTC so I play it safe.



  17. Eddy Rush's Gravatar Eddy Rush
    June 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I think the FTC rules concerning testimonilas for people who have their own products are just way too limiting.

    Anyone who’s been in internet marketing for any amount of time knows the sad statistic in internet marketing that 90% of people who buy even a top quality product will not have any success with it.

    This is down to their own failings and lack of drive etc rather than any fault with the product but how can you say this on your site.

    I’m all for transparency but It’s really unfair to product owners.

  1. By on December 1, 2009 at 2:39 am

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