8 Questions You Must Ask Yourself About The New FTC Guidelines

I’ve had quite a number of members and subscribers ask me about what we should do as bloggers and information marketers regarding the new FTC revised guidelines on testimonials and endorsements in the USA. There’s quite a lot of information circulating about what to do, but it’s difficult to know who to trust. Even the lawyers are not certain of how the rules will be enforced as this is all very new.

My friend Jason from JohnCow.com has dived into the subject and offers the following advice for us based on his research into the FTC guidelines. Just remember none of us are lawyers, so if you want to be absolutely certain about any legal matters, check with the people who specialize in this stuff.

Now, here’s what Jason has to say…

With the new guidelines from the FTC that came into effect on December 1st, a lot of people are wondering if their site is compliant. In my previous post on the new FTC regulations on JohnCow.com, I gave some general examples and definitions but now I want to help you take action. I’ve put together some questions that you need to ask yourself in regards to all your websites (it does not matter if it is a personal blog or commercial storefront).

While I recommend that you go check out the actual information from the FTC itself at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm (warning, it’s a boring read but it’s always good to go straight to the source), the following checklist should help considerably…. but remember we are not lawyers and are not offering legal advice, this is simply a guideline to consider.

  1. Are all endorsements, whether by you or someone else for one of your products, fully disclosed?
  2. Are all of your testimonials indicative of the average customer experience, not the extraordinary?
  3. If you have any before/after pictures, have you disclosed any other factors which influenced the result?
  4. Have you fully disclosed any affiliate products on your site that you will receive any compensation from?
  5. Are all of your photos beside testimonials pictures of the actual person who wrote the testimonial?
  6. Are any affiliate pages you have written from an honest point of view and have you actually tried the product if you claim to have?
  7. Have you disclosed any relationship you have to other sites that you link to from your site, whether you own them or have any other kind of relationship to it?
  8. Have you disclosed any compensation you received for either mentioning or reviewing a product, even if all you got was a free sample?

Answer ‘no’ to any of those questions? Then you have some changes that you need to make in order to be fully compliant with the new FTC guidelines.

If you answered ‘yes’ to all the questions, then you’re in pretty good shape.

Remember that overall, the intent of the new guidelines is to promote transparency and honesty in advertising, specifically when it comes to testimonials and endorsements. If you’ve already been operating from an honest position, then these new FTC guidelines shouldn’t affect you too much.

The biggest change for the non-spamming, non-sleazy internet marketer is the new guideline that calls for testimonials to be indicative of the average experience, not the extraordinary ones. This means that even if you’ve been using real testimonials, if it’s the best in the bunch, you may need to change it, and simply putting a “results not typical” disclaimer isn’t good enough anymore.

So don’t freak out about the new FTC Guidelines. Be aware of them (forewarned is forearmed) and simply continue to run your business in an honest way. Remember that these new guidelines are not meant to punish all online marketers, but rather to stop a small select few that have been blatantly abusing the system.

Jason Katzenback is the voice of JohnCow.com and also helps people build massive traffic to their websites at Web2Mayhem.com.

P.S. Yaro here – If you want even more information on this subject, check out this teleconference recording I was referred to that you may have seen me tweet about recently – Easy FTC Compliance Seminar – What You Need to Do, Step-by-Step by Robert Skob.

About Yaro Starak

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  • Great information Yaro. I am new to blogging and can use all the help i can get. I am getting ready to update my testimonials with clients pictures so this was a timely post.

    Roy Paeth
    Chicago First Time Home Buyer

  • While I feel that the new FTC guidelines are a great step forward in creating more transparency in advertising for the consumers point of view, I still feel like some of them will be hard to maintain like #2, but I am sure that marketers are innovative enough that they will find ways to still get their best foot out there and be able to generate the sales that they need to.

    Till then,


    • If you haven’t done so yet, it’s either you’re playing hardball or you’re not a celebrity blogger or endorser popular enough for the FTC notice your practice and actually goes after you.

  • Thanks for the info Yaro. I guess we will be seeing more and more regulation over the coming years.

    • @Entrepreneurs Blog, sadly such is the trend in the world we live in…

      Till then,


  • ‘…run your business in an honest way’.

    Enough said!

    Yaro/Jason, thanks for the easy to read break down.

  • I enjoy your blog and as an” old reader” it’s never too late to learn.

    I’m thinking in the long terms it levels the playing field for new affiliates to find success in the industry.

  • As always we said “Great article Yaro :)”
    i ve checked Robert Skrob’s blog too.
    İ ve found something nice in there.
    thanks a lot.

  • For fear of sounding like a “great post” commentor, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

    I know a lot of bloggers like myself have been wondering if we are being compliant with the new regulations, but aren’t up to the task of reading legal jargon to figure out what it is we need to do.

    Timely post, with simple instructions for compliancy, thanks again.

    (p.s. I’m looking forward to the possible interview with you! Thank you for your response, and I’ll be sending you the info you requested today. I’m a long time reader of your blog, and (prepare for cheesiness) it’s an honor to be able to interview you.)

  • The thing is how can the FTC prove that you did not receive any payment in cash or in kind for a product that you are reviewing if you can just place a disclaimer saying that you did not?

  • These guidelines really makes situations very hard for affiliate marketers but i think FTC has taken the right step because affiliate marketer are also making fools of people by selling products using flogs and all.

  • I totally agree with Jean. I think the new FTC guidelines are helping to protect the consumers and although will be more troublesome for bloggers and information marketers, it will definitely help to keep everyone in line and true to their words.

  • Two questions:

    1) Is it true that if you wrote an honest affiliate review PRIOR to December 1, 2009 you do not have to go back and update with language like “Per the new FTC guidlines, the above links are affiliate links and I will receive a commission of any purchase made after clicking the above links?”

    2) How does this affect people who use Twitter to quickly promote affiliate offers once in a while? Does putting #sponsored link or #affiliate link provide enough notice?

  • This was probably the most helpful breakdown of the implications that I’ve read, so thanks a lot! I think my blogs are fine, but since I’ll be expanding into different areas in the future it really helps to have a list like this to refer back to. All in all I think I’m quite glad about the new rules, since they will help crack down on scammy marketers who don’t believe in what they sell.

  • I have just started blogging and I need to be aware of all these rules. But I think this is far from being something bad. To be honest for sure help us sell our products. And these guidelines push people to market real information.

  • It just the FTC’s way of making us marketers jump through hoops lol. But I definitely agree with the comment above run your business honestly, and there will be no problems. Enough said!

  • Unless your a spamming, sleazy no morals Internet marketer, then the FTC guidlines don’t affect you that much.

    Just watch the testimonials you use or better yet, don’t use any at all.

  • Rob

    To be honest, i just a read a post on john chows blog and it is of course full of affiliate links.

    As long as nothing happens to him, you can still do whatever u want i guess.

    • Remember, John Chow is based in Canada, so the FTC guidelines don’t apply to him.

      • Brian – It doesn’t matter where in the world you live if you are selling products or services on the www then you will more than likely be working through the US. Near the beginning of the millenium the FTC made an agreement with most of the major countries of the world (and most certainly Canada) to enforce their rules and regulations worldwide. The premise being that if you are doing business on line you are doing business in America and the rest of the world seeing the US as a front runner in www politics ratified the agreement. If your interested read more here http://www.autoweblaw.com

        Oh and by the way Jason, Len say’s hi!!!

  • I remember my hosting company sending me through details about this and I still haven’t looked at it.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • thanks for the information brother … I’m just starting to run a business on the internet and hopefully I can track my brother 🙂 😉

  • Everyone engaged in internet and affiliate marketing must always remain aware about FTC guidelines. i have read them all, but there is nothing to worry for honest marketers who sell quality products and do not scam customers. but these guidelines were necessary to nail down people like acai berry and get rich quick schemes.

    BTW good information

  • The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides were last updated in 1980.

    • I would say it was about time for an update then! 30 years is a long time in the normal world, and a couple of centuries in the internet world. Legislation just never seems able to keep up with technological progress.

  • Thanks for sharing this FTC rules and I know about Johncow, he is awesome guys and I also know that he is absolutely awesome marketer.

    Regarding the FTC rules, it is not so hard to follow and no to so easy to avoid, that is the reason Google started to banned many adwords people to protect from spammers.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  • Hi Yaro
    I don’t really see any real problems with FTC guidelines. It can only increase the amount of trust the average consumer has in purchasing on the net. The honest and genuine sites will hardly be impacted.

    I while back I had an Ebay store and I confirmed what I thought that if you are open, transparent and honest you will quickly get far more sales than the competition.

  • Transparency creates authority, which leads to trust, which leads to the skies the limit. This is a good thing!!

  • Overall, the new guidelines are self explanatory. However, I’m wondering about item #4:

    “Have you fully disclosed any affiliate products on your site that you will receive any compensation from?”

    I use popshops.com to create a data feed (sort of) of items form several merchants. The items are displayed within my site in the form of a store. Does this mean I must have some sort of statement on my site indicating I receive commission on the sale of any item within my site?

    • Jason katzenback

      My “opinion” is that as long as u have a general disclaimer that says u are an affiliate for thar store (create a seperate general disclaimer page) you are covered. I recommend also putting a disclaimer at the very footer of your site too, sort of a summary. But to be honest, 99.99% of us will be fine,the FTC is notgoing out on a hunt… They can’t… Too many sites to look at. Just don’t decieve or trick so u don’t get reported and u will be good.

  • Seeing that Johncow is getting mentioned, I strongly suggest going to vist John Chow and to read his disclaimer…..you guys will love it!

  • Quite exhaustive for just guidelines! Thank you.

  • The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.

  • Jon

    How did this affect those who own and promote their own product from their blog?

  • great information yaro, but i don’t know about it, but your information still great for me 🙂

  • I’m at least glad number 6 came in (about having at least tried the products). I see so many people claiming so many things when its obvious they haven’t tried the product, and it really annoys me.

  • Yaro, your rock the big one! The last time I saw your site was a year ago, and you only had 25,000 readers. This is amazing job. I think these guys need a little help: http://www.blogcatalog.com/discuss/entry/lets-all-face-it-were-not-going-to-make-any-money-blogging

  • Yaro, you rock the big one! The last time I saw your site was a year ago, and you only had 25,000 readers. This is amazing job. I think these guys need a little help: http://www.blogcatalog.com/discuss/entry/lets-all-face-it-were-not-going-to-make-any-money-blogging

  • This is an excellent post with lots of great information. Thanks for sharing the information.

  • The other thing I need to watch out for is Affiliate links, offten I will recomend a product on my blog or to my customers with an affiliate link. Do you need to mention its an affiliate link every time?

  • […] reviewing all the information above, check out this post: 8 Questions You Must Ask Yourself About the New FTC Guidelines for a quick checklist to take yourself through to know if you’re in compliance. var ecov = […]

  • Thanks for the heads up, they will probably start regulating more and more as time goes on.

  • […] and internet marketers.  How will they enforce the new FTC guidelines you ask? After reading Yaro Starak’s post covering this subject, I was compelled to share my thoughts with my WAHM and mompreneur […]

  • I just fear that like with most laws, the ones that should be targeted do not get targeted and those who have minor issues are the ones who are going to get into the most trouble. While I agree it is necessary to start ridding the internet of these predatory style advertising campaigns, I don’t know if this is the right way to do it!

  • I’m at least glad number 6 came in (about having at least tried the products). I see so many people claiming so many things when its obvious they haven’t tried the product, and it really annoys me.

  • If you haven’t done so yet, it’s either you’re playing hardball or you’re not a celebrity blogger or endorser popular enough for the FTC notice your practice and actually goes after you.

  • […] for those who are prepared to go further than simply towing the line. Yaro Starak created a simple 8-point checklist to ensure that your sites meet the laws laid […]

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