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In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission put out a guide called .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising. These new guidelines from the FTC still aren’t being fully followed by many bloggers. It’s a long guide, but luckily we’re here to give you all the important info you need to know. So here’s exactly what the FTC says that applies to you and some advice on how to follow it.
Clear and Conspicuous
The most important thing you need to know about disclosures is that they “must be clear and conspicuous.” While this doesn’t tell you exactly where and how to disclose, there is some additional help. Here’s rule #1: disclosing at the end of your post is not okay. The FTC specifically uses this as an example of what not to do. So what is okay? When and how to disclose in a post? There are factors to consider, including:
Basically, you have to make your disclosures obvious to your readers. No pop-ups, nothing that won’t be visible if viewed from a mobile device, and you have to keep disclosing even if you’re an ambassador or have a series of sponsored posts.
What to Disclose
Disclosures are needed when you get any compensation received in exchange for your post. This includes payment, product, gift cards, or discounts.
Linking to Disclosures
The short answer: not okay. There are specific circumstances where you can link to a disclosure instead of putting it right there in your post. A link is only acceptable when there is additional complex information you can’t convey right there.
The good news is a lawyer doesn’t need to write your disclosures. They don’t have to be fancy. They just have to make sense for a regular reader. Or, as the FTC says, “The average person who visits your site must be able to notice your disclosure, read it and understand it.” So much of the FTC guidelines have nothing to do with bloggers and have a lot more to do with your typical ads. And luckily for us, that means the FTC has encouraged creativity. It encourages using graphics and trying different sizes and colors. However, this doesn’t mean you should be creatively hiding your disclosures. They should still be obvious but making your own graphics for sponsored posts can make the disclosure fit into the voice and look of your blog.
For some more straight talk from the FTC, you can also check out their Q&A on their revised guidelines which are a lot simpler than the guidelines themselves.
What Are Nofollow Links?
In the world of the web, where you rank in search is a big deal. Those rankings are determined by a few factors, but one important one is who links to you. It’s a big enough deal that people started paying websites to link to them. This made Google angry. You shouldn’t be able to pay for links to cheat the system. And thus the nofollow link was born.
A nofollow link is a link that sends a message to search engines to ignore them. It means that the link won’t be considered when Google is trying to figure out a site’s rank in search.
A nofollow link should be used when a link is tied to some form of compensation.
If you’re a blogger working with brands doing reviews, you need to be in the know for nofollow.
Why Do Nofollow Links Matter?
Google tries its best to give people what they want when they search and it uses links to do that. More links tell Google you’re useful. But Google is paying attention. If they think you have been paid for links, they can penalize you by reducing your page rank. If Google penalizes you, you’ll find you don’t show up in search results which can be a big blow to your traffic.
How Do You Make Links Nofollow?
When you add a link you get this nice little box:
That nice little checkbox at the end will make your link “nofollow” and you’re all done.
In WordPress and Squarespace:
WP: While there are plug-ins you can use, in my experience they tend to stop working after a while which leaves you exposed. So if you have a plug-in make sure you still check on your links regularly to make sure you’re good.
SS: You’ll need to use a code block for a link instead of a link block. Then follow the coding instructions below.
Everyone: The best bet is hard-coding them.
So how does coding for a link work? Let’s take a regular one like DaySpring. It would look like this in code.
This link is NOT nofollow. It’s just the default. To make the link nofollow the code should look like this:
<a href="http://www.dayspring.com" rel="nofollow">DaySpring</a>
It’s that simple. Just the addition of the rel=”nofollow” text before the closing > will take care of you.
When to Make Links Nofollow
Nofollow links should tie to compensation, whether it’s product, discounts, or payment.
Here are some helpful examples:
You Need Nofollow
Sponsored post with DaySpring compensated by payment, gift card, or product.
Posting about an item you received for free from DaySpring.
Links to any off-site content you were paid for if adding the link was part of the contract.
You Don’t Need Nofollow
Linking to a DaySpring guest post.
Posting about an item on DaySpring you paid for.
Linking to DaySpring items you want in a non-sponsored post.
Linking to the DaySpring Homemakers program in a non-sponsored post.
Linking to DaySpring for a giveaway in a non-sponsored post.
What Code Means
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1 Thess 5:11 CSB