As a business owner, you do not want to find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes products and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law won’t protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, then you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau, also referred to as BBB. 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)
These laws has legal ramifications for various business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including inline advertising, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If there are no legal pages on your website (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank or JVZoo will not allow you to list digital products on their network, PayPal may suspend your account, Facebook will suspend web applications, and you won’t be allowed to promote most advertising or online marketing networks.
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
This guide explains why it’s important to have a legally compliant website and how to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress website or blog.
Is Your Site Legally Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. As stated previously, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal requirements in accordance with federal, regional or local laws that govern business online and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of providers whose products or services you use
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Consider for one moment what the implications to your business would be if these situations were to take place:
- A person has a heart attack after using your online workout program.
- The skin cream you promote as an affiliate gives someone allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you’ll do with it.
- Someone steals your content and publishes it on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website making your visitors aware that you are an affiliate for the product you’re marketing and will receive financial benefits if they buy it.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms and conditions of your refund or return policies.
- Your visitors claim your testimonials are fake and decide to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you have received a free copy in your product review.
- Your site contains adult information and you didn’t take sufficient measures to restrict access by underage children.
Consider now the following documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal information (including credit card information to complete his offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing private information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes UIDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% had breached 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 broken 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 entirely to the Google program whose policies with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk becoming a target of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA, CPC or PPA Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
You need to make sure that your online business is legally compliant.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in many countries emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of service providers.
You are obligated to let your site visitors know that your website complies with all necessary laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you engage with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information when using their products and features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your blogs with Google AdSense online advertising …
(Google AdSense ads - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell information-based products via companies such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add certain legal pages before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements product vendors using ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially if you plan to use product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As documented on their website, this typically prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute site owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with FTC regulations.
Various resources online provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(It’s important to structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you plan to create applications that will integrate with your site, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others will require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products on your site using affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, ads for Amazon or eBay products, or using Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, 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 to avoid having your accounts suspended.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
What Compliance Information Does My Website Need To Be Legally Compliant?
If your web site falls short in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website should help your website stay out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and third-party providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above, you may want to consider implementing one or more of the following pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you promote or sell affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right web content disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your visitors know that you will not receive any kind of payment for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Informs your readers that you may derive some form of financial or similar type of benefit if they purchase through one of your affiliate links.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets readers know that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product you’re writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs users that you have been compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with 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 Legal Content To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been created, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in typical web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory in your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then add a link to your legal pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can insert these into your sidebar (or the footer section of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors can access legal information from every page …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar or footer in WordPress here:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and forms and agreements by searching online, or going to sites like this one:
To learn more, visit this site:
Another option is to purchase a set of cut and paste legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages)
These templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple search and replace to insert your own business name and URL, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new Federal Trade Commission regulations and guidelines that came into effect in 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
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 your legal pages to your web server as described previously.
For more details, go here:
WordPress Legal Page Plugins
As well as using copy & paste templates, another option is to use plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress-driven sites that you may be interested in checking out:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin)
If the idea of manually setting up legal pages for your website feels too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported plugin that will help make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your site a lot easier and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the benefits of using the WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Templates – Includes 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 – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other page on your website.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your WordPress pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like every other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When users agree to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear inside your dashboard menu …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Type of Site drop down menu)
You can also choose from a number of pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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
To learn more about the benefits of using this plugin, go here:
complete website compliance & disclaimer solution …
(Legal Suite Pro)
Legal Suite Pro 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 of Service
- 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers into a plugin that can be installed quickly on any WordPress site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
For more details, go here:
If hiring lawyers to create your legal documentation is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your website to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal page templates, or a legal pages plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do any type of business online (or are planning to), it’s important that your website remains compliant with regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service provided by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or use online. Your website or blog must comply with a wide range 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Below is a useful list of websites we recommend you visit to better understand what may be required of your site to remain compliant and meet its legal obligations:
- FTC 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 – Better Business Bureau
- 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
- US Copyright Office
See Also …
- Google Analytics Help – Policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features
- Google AdSense Program Policies Explained
- 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 compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress site.
"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)