One of the worst things that can happen to a website owner is to break the law.
As the internet continues to grow at breakneck speed and the rules of the game constantly change, it’s important to stay informed about what’s going on and make sure that your website remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if having a digital presence is an essential part of your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your website for profit, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure 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 – Better Business Bureau)
The new laws affect several online business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including contextual ads
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
Without legal pages on your website (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank won’t allow you to list digital products, PayPal may close down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook will suspend web applications, and you will not be allowed to promote most advertising or affiliate marketing networks.
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your website(s) are required to comply with legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern online businesses, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of other providers whose products or services you may be selling on your website, and that there are solutions for WordPress site owners that can help your website become more compliant, such as the plugins listed further below.
Does Your Site Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with the law wherever your business is based.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- Someone has a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness workout.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate gives someone allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you’ll do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your site and puts it up on their site.
- You haven’t advised your visitors that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you could earn an affiliate commission if they buy using your link.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Your visitors claim your testimonials are misleading and try to sue you because of it.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult-related information and you didn’t take sufficient measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider also the real examples of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up personal information to complete a debt reduction offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% were in breach of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were breaking at least two 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 notices or lose access to the Google program with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being exposed to litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your online business has the right legal pages and clearly accessible to your site visitors.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Complying with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your site visitors know that your website complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you engage with online.
Google requires you to display certain information if using many of their products. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your WordPress blogs with Google AdSense online advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell information-based products using merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add various legal pages to your site before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements digital product vendors selling via ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and disclosures on your site, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are 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 site owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by making sure that your site complies with all FTC guidelines.
Many business resource sites provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. See the additional references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to develop social networking applications for your site users, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services on your site using affiliate marketing, or generate revenue with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or using Google AdWords pay-per-click ads to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to provide on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
Common Legal Pages To Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your website or blog is lacking in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your website should help keep your business out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and external service providers, and avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above pages, you may want to look into implementing one or more of the following pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the right disclosures to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets site users know that you are not receiving compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Disclosure that informs your visitors that you may derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through one of your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets your readers know that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product you’re writing about by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs your visitors that you were compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs readers that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once this has been done, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server using FTP)
You can then add links to your legal pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly visible to your visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website or blog) so that users can access the information from all of your web pages …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your site’s pages)
If you need help adding links to pages on your sidebar, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted internet forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting websites like the ones shown below:
Another option is to purchase a package of cut & paste legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates new Federal Trade Commission regulations brought into effect on March 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page for every legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your web server as described earlier.
WordPress Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste templates, another option for adding legal pages to your site is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal WordPress plugins you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If setting up legal pages manually feels too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any WP page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When the user agrees to your legal terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear in your main WP dashboard area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, niche websites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type menu)
You can also select from various pre-written legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – Pre-configured 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 for more information about the benefits of using this great plugin:
total website compliance and disclaimer solution …
Learn more about this plugin here:
(Legal Suite Pro)
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 Plugin For WordPress – 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers 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 one minute or less and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites.
Go here for more details:
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford legal services.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal documents, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator allows you to quickly generate essential legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of business online (or plan to), you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by 3rd-party products and services that you may decide to promote or offer online. Your website or blog must comply with a number of laws and regulatory guidelines, some 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law pertaining to your business.
Below is a time-saving list of additional sites we recommend you visit to better understand what may be required of your site to comply and meet legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC 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
- US Patent and Trademark Office
- US 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
We hope you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your site.
"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