FTC Guidelines for Advertising
The FTC requires bloggers properly disclose when they are getting paid to work with a brand.
In 2013 they updated their advertising guidelines to give clear guidance on how bloggers should disclose their relationships with brands, including examples for us on social networks like Twitter.
The bottom line here is that if you're an Influencer who is getting paid by a brand, you need to be clear to your users about it:
All disclosures should be:
- Proximate to the information so the consumer does not have to hunt for it
- Of at least the same size as the message
- In the same format as the message
- Accessible on all platforms used
- Understandable by the consumer
So before you apply to a campaign, make sure you're aware of your responsibility to be transparent to your readers and followers about the relationship. Brands require it, Triberr requires it, and the government requires it.
Google Webmaster Guidelines
In addition to the FTC, search engines have certain quality guidelines that webmasters should follow when working with brands.
Here is a relevant excerpt:
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
Now as a blogger, it's perfectly fine to accept money for advertising on your site as long as you disclose the relationship, and take certain steps to make sure that any links in the paid content do not pass PageRank.
If you clearly tell your readers that you have a paid relationship with the brand sponsoring your content, and any links back to the brand have the rel="nofollow" attribute, there is no need to worry about any issues with search engines or the FTC.