The Importance of TOS and Compliance in Affiliate Programs

After seeing quite a few of my colleagues have their Amazon affiliate accounts closed the past few days I felt the need to write a quick post to stress the importance of making sure your websites are in compliance with Amazon TOS and the Associate Operating Agreement.

Amazon seems to be hitting it hard – because they have to.  Recent laws have been passed that require certain things in online TOS and Compliance in Affiliate Programsmarketing and if you do not comply you risk your affiliate accounts being closed or your site being de-indexed by Google.

It is NOT hard to comply with the TOS so it should be a top priority for every person or business building an online presence.

So what do you need to be in compliance?

It will vary depending on the programs you are associated with, but there are a few basics that every website should have to stay ‘legal’ with these programs.

The implementation of these guidelines should be the VERY FIRST thing you do when building a new website, and if you don’t have them on your existing sites – get them there NOW. Today! It is THAT IMPORTANT!

Privacy Policy

  • A privacy policy is required so that visitors to your site knows what information is collected and how it is used.  There are plugins available to create a ‘standard’ privacy policy that will work for most basic websites used in affiliate marketing.  I use one that is apparently not available any more, but here are a couple that are available for free in WordPress plugins.
    Auto Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
  • BuddyPress Activity Privacy
  • Create a page for this information (some of the plugins will create the page for you – read the documentation!) and make sure to link it as a menu item on your homepage and probably a good idea to have a link to it in your sidebar or footer.  You want it visible!

Make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that the Privacy Policy includes the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements. If it does not – add this paragraph to your Privacy Policy:

Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act Compliance

We are in compliance with the requirements of COPPA (Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act), we do not collect any information from anyone under 13 years of age. Our website, products and services are all directed to people who are at least 13 years old or older.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure

If you are an affiliate for the Amazon associates program you also MUST have an affiliate disclosure statement on your site. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you place this disclosure in a widget on your sidebar or footer so that it will appear on EVERY page you have an affiliate link. This is required by Amazon TOS and if you don’t comply you risk your account being closed without advanced notice.  Amazon wants specific wording in the disclosure statement, which you can copy from below.

Affiliate Disclosure

“[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (amazon.com or myhabit.com).”

I use the following statement on my sites:

The owner of [sitename] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com as well as other retail websites.

We do not promote products we do not own or would not buy ourselves. Our goal is to provide you with shopping choices, product information and our own personal opinions or ideas for any given product or category.

You should always perform due diligence before buying goods or services online. The Owner does not accept payment or merchandise as compensation from manufacturers in exchange for writing reviews at this time. 

You can personalize it a bit like I did here expressing how I approach my affiliate promotions, or you can leave it with the required statement from Amazon.com.  Just do NOT modify other than how they show in the above text that statement.

Compliance with Adsense Requirements

If you use Google Adsense to place advertisements on your website, you must have the Privacy Policy as shown above.  You risk Google removing you from the Adsense program if you fail to have this on your site.

Compliance with EU Cookie Consent Law

Even though many of us are located in the United States, I know we have many site owners who reside in countries around the world.  Recently the EU (European Union) passed a law requiring all websites to gain the consent of the reader before allowing cookies to be on the site.  Even if YOU don’t personally create tracking cookies, the sites we link to, our ads and other plugin type items DO use cookies and so we need to be in compliance for this as well.

I found a plugin that is very subtle in nature but does allow us to easily comply with the EU Cookie Consent Law.  You can find it at WF Cookie Consent.  You just have to install the plugin and activate it and you should be good to go.

Complying is EASY! Do it Today!

While this will take you just a few minutes to set up on your site it can save you a lot of headaches and the risk of lost earnings if you do not comply.

No matter what programs you join, always ALWAYS take a few minutes to read through the legal jargon and make sure that you are aware of what is expected of you when you are participating in their program. They make the rules – we have to follow them or potentially get booted out. It’s that simple.