One of the most common concerns we hear from publishers who are looking to monetize their blog or email list through advertising is that they will undermine their credibility. In reality, there is no need to feel that way, as long as you maintain integrity as a content creator.
The best way to assure your readers that you are doing exactly that is to disclose your work with advertisers through a blog disclosure or advertising disclaimer. (Plus, at least in the United States, it’s illegal not to disclose your work with advertisers.)
Whether you’re working on your blog disclosure or advertising disclaimers, we’re here to help. Read on for the information to be sure to include in your disclosures to keep your readers’ trust in your editorial ethics.
Of course, while we aim to simplify your sponsored content strategy at every level, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with a lawyer about legal decisions for your business—after all, we here at Paved don’t know your specific situation.
Now, let’s jump in.
Blog Disclosures for Sponsored Content
Blog disclosures, in addition to being legally needed in the United States, will help you show your readers your editorial integrity. By letting them know which posts are sponsored, and therefore which ones are not (ie, those without a disclosure), you’re letting them know that they can trust you to tell them when an advertiser may have influenced your opinion.
Since it is such a new profession, there is no gold standard yet in the world of blog disclosures. Generally, bloggers include a short disclosure on every sponsored post, and sometimes a longer disclosure is housed on a separate page on their website.
You don’t usually need to include any particular language as long as your relationship with the advertiser is clear. For instance, “[Company] gave me free product to use…” is generally a clear enough disclosure—and yes, you should include a disclosure for free products as well as paid relationships.
The FTC states that you don’t have to list the details of how you were compensated, so if you were paid, you can simply state that you were paid, without saying how much.
It’s a good idea to include a note that, even when a post is sponsored, you will still share your real opinions. That way, readers know that they can trust your content not to be swayed by a particular advertising partner.
For example, here is an example of the disclosure that Paved publisher One Good Thing included on a recent sponsored post.
You also should disclose when a link is an affiliate link. Some sites disclose affiliate links once at the bottom of a page, like TheSkimm does in this note that appears at the bottom of a long list of links.
Others, like Smart Passive Income in this example, disclose after each link, with a note or sometimes an asterisk or other symbol that lets readers know a link is an affiliate link.
No matter what form your blog disclosures take, the most important thing is to make it obvious to readers which content is earning you money, and which content is not. Since there’s no set standard in the blogging world (at least not yet), your disclosures can still be unique and on brand for your site.
There’s no need to make apologies—readers will understand that your blog is your job—just to make a distinction.
Blog disclosures like these will help your readers maintain trust in your brand and faith that you do not let advertisers sway your content.
Email Advertising Disclaimers
Advertising disclaimers in emails vary just like blog disclosures. Though the content does not live on your site or social media profile, it is still necessary to disclose which email content is sponsored.
Especially if you regularly send link roundups, or share your favorite products you’ve been using lately, it can be confusing to readers if they aren’t sure which endorsements are sponsored. So, it is always important to distinguish for your readers which endorsements are paid.
The form that these disclosures take varies. In the case of dedicated email ads, it is generally obvious that the placement is paid for, but you should still include a disclosure.
Not only does this example disclose the relationship with the advertiser, but it also lets the recipient know why they got the email—in this case, because they are a subscriber of Everyday Family. Dedicated emails can be confusing if it isn’t immediately clear why the recipient is receiving it, so a header like this is a good idea.
For sponsored emails, you can similarly identify sponsored content in a way that is upfront and obvious, like in this example from Paved publisher The Seattle Times.
The “advertisement” box allows this column in their newsletter to stand out instantly, meaning there is no doubt in a reader’s mind about which material is sponsored and which is not.
Disclosing Social Media Sponsorship
Advertising disclaimers do also apply to sponsored social media posts, including posts that are compensated with free product, discounts, or contest entries.
Here’s what the FTC has to say about social media sponsorship:
If you write about how much you like something you bought on your own and you’re not being rewarded, you don’t have to worry. However, if you’re doing it as part of a sponsored campaign or you’re being compensated – for example, getting a discount on a future purchase or being entered into a sweepstakes for a significant prize – then a disclosure is appropriate.
Social media sponsorship disclosure is still a hotly contested debate, but it is generally agreed that your disclosure must be obvious to your average reader.
That means that hiding “#ad” among a long list of tags is not an acceptable way to disclose an advertising relationship. Neither is disclosing on your website, but not in the post itself.
The advertising disclosure needs to be both clear and “in close proximity” to the claims you make about the brand you’re working with.
The easiest way to do this is to begin your social media caption with a note that the post is sponsored, like fashion blogger Poor Little It Girl did in this example by beginning her caption with #ad.
#ad Pretty in head to toe pink please! Love creating monochromatic looks like this for spring, especially with lightweight off the shoulder like this one from @joseph.a.fashion! || CLICK the link in my Insta-profile to shop more Joseph A. pieces and the rest of my look! || #ShopStyle #shopthelook #SpringStyle #josepha @shopstyle #poorlittleitgirl #petitestyle #springsweater #atlantablogger || 📷 @be_atlanta
Your disclosure doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning of your caption, but it’s your best bet for it being easily read and understood.
Remember, you aren’t just disclosing a relationship with an advertiser to cover yourself legally—it’s about editorial integrity and ensuring your readers’ trust in you.
When you think of it that way, you want it to be obvious right off the bat.
Create a Disclosure Policy That Works for You
Clearly, there are a variety of ways to disclose your work with advertisers. The most important thing, to ensure both legality and the continued trust of your readers, is to make it clear what the relationship is between you and a given brand. The best bet is to create a consistent disclosure policy for your brand, for instance, adding #ad to the beginning of every sponsored Instagram post, and stick to it.
When in doubt, ask yourself: if you were new to your blog or social media profile, would it be clear which things are sponsored and which aren’t? If so, you can rest easy knowing your authority and reputation are safe.
Want to see how easy sponsored content can be? Sign up for Paved today to create a profile that helps advertisers find you, share details and creative in one place, and even get paid the same day you send.