So, I've been blogging for nearly three years, and one of the things that probably irks me more than most is this little thing called disclosure. So I thought I'd write a post to explain disclosure, blogging and what you need to know.
What is disclosure?
The answer to that is simple, disclosure is the act of letting your readers know about any relationships that impact on something you write, review, photograph, use or advertise. These relationships take different forms as a blogger, it could be that you were invited to an event, it could be you were sent something to review, you could be offered a discount to pass onto your readers or you could be paid to write the post or do a promotion or giveaway.
Why do you need to disclose?
Realistically, you legally have to disclose these relationships. Even if you never earn a cent from them, you have to disclose them and can be fined for not doing so. If that isn't incentive enough, allow me to give you another reason. People come to your blog and they read it. You start to build a readership and people come back. They VALUE your opinion, and they deserve the opportunity to know when your opinions are being influenced by a benefit that is given to you.
Google also penalises undisclosed relationships. Ads, sponsored and affiliate links should have a rel nofollow tag to show that they are paid and therefore not passing google love on. If you need more info on follow and no follow links check out this post. If you need a plugin for no follow links: I use ultimate nofollow.
How do I disclose a relationship?
I use the term sponsored, meaning that someone has paid in some way for the featuring of a product or service, event etc. It might be paid in contra or in actual money, but either way it's paid. For things where I earn a commission I use the term affiliate and I explain that with a line like this one: affiliate link (this means following this link earns me a small commission but you pay the same). Basically it's an affiliate link even if you never receive any payment...if that link is trackable and traceable back to you...it needs disclosing.
On facebook in all probability you need to use the branded content tool, on instagram using hashtags such as #sponsored or #gifted or #affiliate suffices. But you might want to also write something along the lines of "hat kindly supplied by brand x" or "I was guest of Brand x at this event". Make sure wherever you promote it, that you are using the information, as even if you promote it in a closed facebook group, you have to inform people that it is an affiliate link or sponsored post.
But...not everyone does it...so why should I?
Well, going back to the previous reasons, being fined and also the relationship you build with your readers are at stake as well as being penalised by google. It is up to us to follow the rules and to help other bloggers to understand the rules. If you see someone not following them, then give them a gentle nudge by tagging them in this post.
But what about if a brand asks for a follow link?
Oh gosh they can be cheeky. But be firm. Say no. Tell them that you don't do it and you don't want to be penalised or fined and stick to your guns. No follow links are still helpful to brands, but they are seen as useless by them for some reason. But your brand is at stake as well and maintaining its reputation means sticking to these rules.
But they are giving me things...not money...do I have to disclose?
Yes. Then it's a contra relationship. You can call it #gifted if you like, but you still must disclose and give nofollow links! Even if you are given products for a giveaway..DISCLOSE! Even if they are giving a discount to your readers...you need to....can you guess? Disclose! Because that has influence over your post.
I wrote a review of their product that wasn't sponsored but now the brand wants to work with me...what do I do now?
Personally, I would change the links to nofollow and rewrite the intro on the original post saying that you now work with them and that the content is sponsored. All content from now on with the brand will be sponsored and needs to be disclosed.
Got any burning questions? Ask them below!