I watched this video last night… slept on it, and listened to it again today.
This video was originally posted on the Google Adsense blog, and the presenter is Laura from Adsense Support.
Now I should point out that Google have been very clear in their wording with all the recent correspondence relating to Adsense changes, which in some ways makes this even more extraordinary.
The interesting bit in regard to financial declarations starts 1min:30 from the start.
It should be noted that this wasn’t recorded live, as you can see from the out-takes at the end, is in response to reader emails, and it seems that the responses were prepared prior to recording.
Here are some quotes:-
You should feel free to recommend and promote a product you are displaying a referral button for, but please don’t use language that implies that users should visit your referral site, or benefit you financially.
A later example also allows you to use the word “click” and give a strong recommendation – Word of Mouth Marketing
I use Firefox and use it to browse the web
I love Picassa, click here to get this great software
An example that would not be appropriate would be
click on these links to help me earn money
Now it was only a month or so ago that there was a huge amount of blogger attention regarding a letter issued by the FTC in regards word of mouth advertising. Many bloggers directed their attention to various paid blog post monetization models and said that this legislation was directed at them.
Many lawyers however also pointed out that this affected various forms of affiliate marketing.
Adsense Referral Unit (potentially) = Affiliate Marketing = Word of Mouth Marketing
So based upon that theory, anyone using Adsense Referral Units, and who in any way reviews a related product, or encourages someone to use a product that is part of the Adsense referral program showing on a page, should make a disclosure of some kind.
How This Might Affect You?
This actually depends on how you normally declare affiliate links when you are recommending a product.
Some of the recommendation links are very normal looking such as
Firefox with Google Toolbar (btw that isn’t a referral link)
Now I know many bloggers who would write something like this. They do that with every other affiliate link, so they should do the same for a Google one.
I Love Firefox, Click this link Firefox with Google Toolbar (aff)
But their readers understand that any link with (aff) after it helps to support the blogger. It isn’t quite “Click on these inks to help me make money”, but it is very close to that situation I am sure on many blogs, forums etc which have a very honest and open disclosure policy.
How about if you have a more general disclosure policy such as I have, or maybe a statement that your site is advertising funded, or a visit our sponsors section?
Adsense referral buttons are fairly inviting
You can obviously refrain from writing reviews about Adsense products, but it seems Google want to encourage WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing).
If Google want to use WOMM, they have to allow their affiliates a free reign to declare they are being compensated for any referrals, however they like with no restraint.
I am actually quite happy with many of the changes that have been made with the Adsense guidelines. The Adsense team have been very forthcoming with information
I also know that a little guy is going to be more worried about complying with the Adsense policies and terms that this could easily be a major stumbling block in widely adopted disclosure.
Remember, I have a toolbar buttons site. One of the ways I intend to monetise that site is the referral buttons, especially when the new Firefox Google Toolbar comes out of beta.
Update: Google’s Dan Friedman has written a clarifying post on referral units that I had hoped would clear up this issue, but in all honestly it makes things even more confusing.
Clickbank now require affiliates to disclose, and Google seem to prevent that.