FTC Fake Bait & Disclosure

IANAL so I am not going to offer anything material to any conversations about the new FTC guidance.

But this annoyed me yesterday

Clickbank has required for some time (at least 2 years) that affiliates comply with FTC recommendations for WOMM. That could just be looked at as a legal “out” but it is there in writing.

There is lots of noise (and some signal) over the last couple of days about the FTC, so affiliates are using it in headlines for email promotions. I opened one and the link was a Clickbank promotion, I opened a second, and it was to a genuine blog post.

Here is what the person promoting an affiliate product sent

BREAKING NEWS: Making Money Online Illegal??


It no longer matters if you are struggling to make your first
buck or if you are already killing it on the internet…

EVERYBODY is going to be effected by this…

This blog just broke the story and it is THE most important
information you will ever read this year…

[Go here now] and see for yourself:

No optin needed. This is a shocking blog video news post that
was just published a few moments ago.

It will change the way you look at your ability to make
money online…

[Find out here now]. Fast.

This is the scoop: There have been A LOT of changes
online recently and now the big question is “Has making
Money Online Become Illegal?”

The answer might shock you…

This WILL change everything. [Get the full story here:]

To your success,

  • This was pre-written email copy supplied to JV partners as I have seen this email sent by 2 different unrelated email lists.
  • The links in the email I added square brackets and are in bold like [this is a link]
  • The deceptive headline did get me to open it, but a smart copywriter would have added some truth to the content
  • The links proclaim a blog post
  • You click the links and end up on a sales page
  • The sales page itself is full of elements that are probably extremely dodgy now, and the biggest insult is probably the fake “trust marks”.
Fake Trust Marks

Fake Trust Marks

If someone is using fake trust marks, would you:-

  • Believe their income claims?
  • Actually trust them in any way?

Notice any similarities between legitimate trust marks provided by Trust Guard, and the fake ones?

That is an affiliate banner, and I have chatted with Garrett the affiliate manager in the past regarding my larger project. Trust Guard is one of the most affordable legitimate trust mark providers, and possibly the cheapest for things like PCI compliance though it has been a while since I did my research.
If you like what they offer, do your own due diligence and end up becoming their customer, there is a small chance if you haven’t cleared your cookies and the tracking works and countless other potential problems, that I might earn an affiliate commission.

Oh, and I have just lost trust in the people who sent me the email, and the chances of me promoting one of their products in the future, or even remaining on their email list are remote.

I wouldn’t want my readers to be sent dishonest emails if I referred them and they ended up on their list.

Real FTC Commentary From Marketers

There has been lots of coverage on technology blogs and “social media maven” blogs but I just want to highlight a few I have read you might have missed.

Michel Fortin has some great commentary about testimonials and vendor liability for the actions of affiliates.

The FTC’s Feebie Rule on Fashionista – included because sometimes I get free samples to review, and free samples I don’t end up having time to even look at, or find unsuitable. I also sometimes get free access to things based upon previous affiliate performance. I used to work in the games industry – do you think logos of hardware manufacturers end up on product boxes without some quid pro quo?

How much are PC adverts subsidized if they include Intel and Microsoft logos? How do they disclose the financial arrangements of pre-installed sample software?

Testimonials… does it really change how they look on a page to add disclaimers. Have a look at this sales page Howie just posted for one of his programs and look at all the disclaimers in the testimonial boxes. I am not using an affiliate link and am linking because it is the first example I have seen since the new rulings… I am not sure this is the best method – I think a “speech bubble” on mouse over might work better.

John points out us Euros have had to live with this quite a while (I have covered it a lot myself in the past) along with some sound tips – I suppose I should disclose that John leaves great comments and has been known to tweet my articles.

Don’t forget my old post defining 32 kinds of Blogging and Linking Payola – the FTC should really have addressed every form and more – I probably only covered half of them.

Lets finish up with a question… if I updated my old disclosure policy plugin to work with current versions of WordPress, would anyone actually use it? (well I know a few people who might for monetization as it was really effective)
I have had a few enquiries, and the download stats over the last few years suggest there may even be people using it still, though it only supported up to WP2.2 officially.
The plugin was contextual so now for instance Matt Cutts has a full disclosure policy finally he could add the plugin, and on every historical post where he mentioned Google, it could add a short disclosure with a link to a full disclosure policy, or even a specific disclosure policy about Google, both on the page and in his feed.

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  1. TK Pandey says

    I will be visiting more often as you have done a good job, keep going..

    MCR, a company providing a full suite of custom business intelligence services including – database management, sales lead generation, loyalty program management, tele-prospecting/ telemarketing, market research, and CRM solutions. All our services are tailored to specifically address our clients’ critical business requirements. We at Machwan Communication & Research (MCR) deliver information that matters at the right time, right place and right cost.

    • says

      Here is some information at the right time, right place and right cost.

      Machwan Communication & Research (MCR) are comment spammers and as such shouldn’t be trusted for business intelligence services including – database management, sales lead generation, loyalty program management, tele-prospecting/ telemarketing, market research, and CRM solutions.

  2. says

    Hi Andy,
    I found this post while searching for the new FTC guidelines.

    I’m thinking about changing my disclaimer/disclosure pages and ran into your ‘old disclosure policy plugin’ that I’m not familiar with.

    I downloaded and installed it to see what’s in there, but it resulted in an error. Hence ‘old’ I guess! :-)

    Does it result in a page like yours (http://andybeard.eu/disclosure-policy) , or, if not, can you give an example of the end result?


    • says

      It worked along the same lines as the now defunct alinks plugin, plus many of the affiliate link plugins.

      You would define keywords, and block of text that correspond with them.

      When words appeared within a blog post, the blocks of text would appear in the footer of a post.

      The plugin could be used for anything… disclose was the initial purpose, but being contextual could also be used for internal links, external linking and all kind of advertsing and affiliate marketing. The format of the text blocks was extremely flexible and one friend using the plugin for advertising did report it being much more effective than inline links for things like Clickbank and other products.
      I will take a look at the code and se how easy it will be to get working – it is old, and lots of things have changed with WP since then both internally, and with included libraries. It was one of the first plugins to use Ajax extensively.

  3. Hebden Bridge accommodation says

    I have never really been a fan of click bank, I seem to earn better from adsense ads.

    • says

      Just think about what you are doing

      This is among other things a SEO blog run by a British online marketer, who could just turn around and decide he wants a change of pace with some SEO clients and you are spamming my comments with links to your clients.

      At the same time I have lots of SEO friends in the UK who would be only too happy to have some of your business.

      Comment spamming for clients is risky, both for your own reputation and that of your clients.

      Blog commenting

      Bloggers allow their readers to comment on blogs they have written.
      In doing so you can link back to your website for theirs for free.

      This is one of the best techniques for off site seo. When leaving a comment you enter your name
      and your website address along with your comment.
      Your name then becomes the link to your site,
      like an anchor text. In our service we will post relevant blog comments to 50 different blogs
      and use a selection of your chosen keywords as the comments name.
      This excellent technique can also increase traffic while increasing keyword rankings.

      Your client is B2C yet you are not them, thus your comment could possibly be in breach of the consumer protection act.

      It was certainly in breach of my comment policy.

      Time to remove one of your service offerings… permanently

  4. says

    I found your post while trying to look up the most recently published list of companies in my industry that have been snagged by the FTC. You have a lot of really good information here and it’s information that I had never really considered. I wish it wasn’t so difficult to be competitive in the market. I guess there will always be people that attempt to get around the system.

  5. Make money says

    Blog posting is confused with blog spamming.Testimonials or proofs are welcome if they are true.But without ethics how can you be in the business for the long term?Too many spammers exist.And seo copywriting is difficult.At least add some value to any comment.Avoid tricks.

  6. says

    It’s unfortunate that such dodgy tactics are in widespread use, but I think the sad fact of the matter is that they are rampant because they’re repeatedly and consistently effective. The average internet consumer probably doesn’t know the difference between real and fake trust marks, and a pretty picture probably looks legitimate enough. All you can do is be honest with your own marketing, and hope that others can respect your efforts.

  7. Dane Morgan | Experimental Blogger says

    Hey Andy,

    I’m casting my vote, or throwing my hat in the ring, or something.

    I’d love to see the plugin brought current and made available. I know I wasn’t interested last time around, but now the chicken has cme here to roost, and it all makes a bit more of an impact.

    I think this is something more and more bloggers are going to realize they need and I think you’re probably in as good or better a postition to provide it and provide it well as anyone.

    Perhaps you can even leverage it into a remote paid service application to help manage this stuff on blogs like blogspot and others that don’t have the plugin functionality.

    • says

      The writing was always on the wall, just people opted to ignore it.

      I have so many irons in the fire that adding one more doesn’t help, but doesn’t necessarily hinder either. Once your time is divided between 20 things then one more added to the pile isn’t necessarily a problem.

      But it isn’t something I am prepared to do unless there is huge demand… it looks like there isn’t yet, but may be if I attract enough attention to the possibility. That is planned as well, just have to find the time… you know how it goes.