As a business owner, the last thing you want to do is to find out the hard way that you have been operating on the wrong side of the law.
As the cybersphere continues growing at breakneck speed and rules constantly change, it’s vitally important to try and stay informed about what’s happening and ensure that your site remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if your web presence plays an important role in 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 disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau, also known as BBB. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Better Business Bureau)
These laws has legal ramifications for various business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including pay-per-click advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If you are not compliant, you could end up facing a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
In this article, we discuss why it’s important to have a legally compliant website and provide inexpensive methods that will help make your website or blog legally compliant quickly and easily.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. As previously stated, 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 and regulations that govern business practices online and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of providers whose products or services you advertise
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider for a moment what could happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A person suffers a heart attack after they use your online fitness workout.
- The skin cream you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you will do with it.
- Someone copies content from your site and publishes it on their site.
- There is no statement on your website letting your site visitors know that you are an affiliate for the product you are marketing and could derive financial benefits if they purchase it.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim that your testimonials are false 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 did not take sufficient measures to keep underage persons from accessing it.
Consider too these real case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer received a massive $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 prohibits users from scraping Users IDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in breach of 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 cautions 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 be exposed to the risks of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s vitally important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence is legally compliant.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Big companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the importance of observing the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies with laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you will engage with online.
Google requires you to display certain information when using their services and features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue with your sites using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your site through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell information products using companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you are required to add certain legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for sale in their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you add clear disclaimers and disclosures on your site, especially if you plan to sell online with the aid of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Site 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 still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As documented on their website, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business interests by ensuring that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
You can find many business resource sites that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to develop social networking applications that will integrate with your website, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others require you to provide access to 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 organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services on your site via affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, 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 are required to provide on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies)
Common Legal Pages To Add To Your Website
If your website lacks in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site will keep you out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and external service providers, and avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- 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 where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you provide information about affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides health or medical content)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add correct disclosure information to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs readers that you’re not being paid for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users be aware that you will be compensated if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Discloses to your visitors that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to your visitors that you were compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets 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 website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been done, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server via FTP)
You can then easily add links to your pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the WordPress sidebar (or the footer section of your website or blog) so that visitors can access legal information from every page …
(Display links to legal information to visitors on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your WordPress sidebar or footer using widgets here:
Use Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and website forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms)
Alternatively, you can download a set of legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use: with inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new page on your website for every legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload the pages to your web server as described previously.
Legal Pages – Plugins
As well as using cut & paste legal templates, you can keep things very simple using plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress-powered sites that you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium 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 reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other page on your site.
- Custom 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 check box and delete and manage these like any other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear in your dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
With WPLegal Pages, you can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, review sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Create different legal pages)
Select from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – Built-In 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
Visit the plugin website to learn more this great plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin that includes over 20 customizable compliance pages for your digital business …
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro 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 And 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 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 plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites.
For more details, visit this website:
If hiring a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic type of legal protection on your site until you can afford legal services.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documents, or a legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you make money online, you need to make sure that your website is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate online business practices and the terms of service and guidelines provided by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or advertise online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws intended to protect consumers, you’re breaking the law.
Being non-compliant 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 do not provide legal advice on our website. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with the law wherever your business is based.
Below is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your site may require to remain compliant and meet legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission 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 – BBB
- 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
In Addition …
- 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using inexpensive methods and resources.
"Your training is the best in the world! It is simple, yet detailed, direct, understandable, memorable, and complete." Andrea Adams, FinancialJourney.org