Affiliated or sponsored content – disclaimers, ethics and styling

Just to be clear – there are no affiliate links, sponsored content or anything similar in this post.

Recently I started taking the JavaScript for WordPress course and would highly recommend it. Not long after I received an email from them promoting their affiliate system – help advertise the course and you get a kick-back. This isn’t something I’ve ever considered before – I dislike obvious and obnoxious product placement in general and have seen too much bad practice around a lack of disclaimers online. But in this case it made me stop and actually consider it. I like the course and am enthusiastically recommending it in person and online anyway. Is there anything wrong with being part of the affiliate scheme if I’m open about it? What do you think?

Clear styling

Aside from my personal decision about whether to sign-up, I thought it was worth adding a style for disclaimer boxes to this theme – I can think of all sorts of uses for this, not just related to sponsorship / affiliation. The next paragraph shows an example of the styling.

This paragraph is styled as a box, but still within the flow of content as I consider it an important part of it and relating to what comes before and or after it.
Personally I would consider that if this related to affiliation or sponsored content, it should always go at the very start of an article and not be buried at the bottom.

This method works well for blog posts (and content embedded within them), but what about other channels? This post on Bloggy Law has a good range of examples and some good guidance.

The law

If you’re in the UK you should definitely be familiar with the clear guidance from the Competitions & Marketing Authority (UK) over sponsored content, but I haven’t seen anything specific about affiliation / referral schemes. Let me know in the comments if you have seen any.

Conversion worries

Circling back to where this post started – will using affiliate links hurt my content? If I decide to become an affiliate it won’t be because I need the income stream, and likely there would only be a single blog post containing the link with perhaps a link to the post on social media. I would only be posting the article as I believe the content could be interesting or useful to others. Being read is the point. Would you still want to read a blog post here if it contained an affiliate link? Would you view the validity of the content any differently? It would be interesting to compare the effect on readers of a disclaimer box versus an inline warning – up front honesty versus just-in-time honesty.

However when it comes down to it this is all academic for me. I may or may not go ahead with this scheme, but this dilemma would rarely come up – in fact, this could be the only time.

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