As a website owner, the last thing you want to do is to learn the hard way that you have done something illegal.
As the cybersphere continues growing at breakneck speed and rules constantly change, it’s absolutely essential to stay on top of what’s happening and to make sure that your site remains legally compliant, especially if having a digital presence plays an important role in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, then you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the (US based) BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The introduction of these new laws has legal implications for several online business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
You may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
This guide explains the importance of having a legally compliant website and shows you inexpensive solutions to help make your website or blog compliant in minutes.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. Do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all laws and regulations wherever your business is based in.
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Is your business at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be if any of the following were to occur:
- A user has a heart attack after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone who purchases from your link allergic reactions.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement that lets subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t defined what you will do with it.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog letting your site visitors know that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you will derive a commission if visitors purchase the product using your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms and conditions of your refund and return policies.
- Your visitors claim that your testimonials are fake and decide to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult information and you didn’t take sufficient measures to restrict access by underage children.
Consider now the actual case studies of costly compliance breaches described:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’re now required to give everyone he does business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping Users IDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% were breaking at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in breach of at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had breached at least three of Google’s policies. Although the website owners could technically be sued by Google, more than likely what could happen, is that they would be issued with warnings or lose access to the Google program whose policies they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being targeted for litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords User
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s vitally important to ensure that your website or blog has the right legal pages and clearly accessible to all site visitors.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies
Compliance with third-party companies terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your website complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you interact with online.
Google requires websites to display legal information when using many of their products or service. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue online with your blogs using Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell digital products via merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will be required to add legal pages before they will approve your products for sale in their network …
(Policy requirements product vendors selling through ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially if you plan to sell or promote products and services using testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Site Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this often ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any type of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your website complies with all FTC regulations.
Many business resources provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. See the additional references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you plan to develop social networking applications for your website users, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services online using affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or driving visitors to your site with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to display on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
Essential Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site
If you suspect that your website or blog is lacking in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your website will help your business keep out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and 3rd-party service providers, and even help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider adding one or more of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you allow media downloads on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right type of content disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs users that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers know that you may receive compensation if they purchase through your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets site users know that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets visitors know that you have been compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets your visitors know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Content To Your WordPress Site
Ideally, you should consult lawyers and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on your web server and uploading your legal pages to this folder via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then add a link to these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu admin area …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are up-to-date and clearly visible to all site visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the WordPress sidebar (or the footer of your site) to ensure that visitors have access to legal information from all your pages …
(Display links to legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar menu here:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and internet forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting sites like the ones shown below:
Go here for more information:
Another option is to purchase a package of cut and paste website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with search and replace to insert your own business name and URL, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new FTC regulations brought into effect on March 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use: includes inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new page for each legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described earlier.
Legal Pages – Plugins
In addition to using cut & paste templates, you can simplify things by using a plugin.
Here are some legal WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If the idea of manually creating legal pages for your site seems too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site much easier and save you time.
Some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the legal pages you need in around 3 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When users agree to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will appear inside your main navigation menu …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view your legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites, niche sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
Select from various pre-written legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Pre-configured Legal Templates)
Legal page templates include:
- Linking Policy
- External Links Policy
- Terms and Conditions
- Refund Policy
- Affiliate Disclosure
- Affiliate Agreement
- Earnings Disclaimer
- Antispam Policy
- DoubleClick DART Cookies Policy
- Disclaimer Template
- FTC Disclosure Statement Template
- Medical Disclaimer Template
- Testimonials Disclosure – As per FTC guidelines
- Amazon Affiliate Disclosure Template
- DMCA Policy Template
- California Privacy Rights Policy Template
- Digital Goods Refund Policy Template
- Blog Comments Policy Template
- Newsletter Subscription Policy and Disclaimer Template
- FTC Disclaimer Widget
Go here to learn more about the benefits of using this great plugin:
Compliance Bar is a total compliance & disclaimer solution for your digital business …
Learn We’ve written an in-depth review of this plugin here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
This plugin lets you easily install professionally-written legal pages such as:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Social Media Disclosure
- Medical Disclaimer
- Terms & Conditions
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro – Professionally-written legal forms)
- Drag & Drop FTC Disclaimer Widget: Add an FTC Disclaimer to any WordPress sidebar or widget area.
With just one-click you can install almost all of the legal pages your site needs and these professionally written legal pages can be created in your theme and/or as a standalone page outside of your theme.
The plugin developers secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them into a plugin that can be installed quickly on any WordPress powered site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites.
To learn more, go here:
If using the services of lawyers to create your online legal documentation is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some form of basic legal protection on your site until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your business to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-drafted legal page templates, or a WordPress legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you make money online (or are planning to), it’s important that your site is found to comply with all government laws and regulations and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines required by third-party services and products that you may be promoting or recommending online. Your website or blog must comply with a whole set of laws and regulatory guidelines, many of which you may not even be aware of.
Non-compliance puts you at risk of suffering both financial losses and the loss of your reputation. Why risk your money and reputation, when you can protect yourself so inexpensively?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice on our website. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements in your country or region.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a time-saving list of websites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to stay compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program
- Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising
- Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act
- CAN-SPAM Act Guide
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule
- FTC Regulatory Review Web Page
- FTC Rules and Guides Currently Under Review
- The Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force – Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework
- FTC Staff Report: Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising
- FTC Final Guides Governing Endorsements and Testimonials
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- United States Copyright Office
- Analytics Help – Policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features
- Google AdSense Program Policies Explained
- Google AdSense Help – Required Content
- Google AdWords – Information Collection And Use
- ClickBank – Creating Your First Product
- Facebook Platform Policies
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add legal pages to your website using simple and cost-effective methods and resources.
"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group