As a business owner, you do not want to find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
As digital business continues growing at an extraordinary rate and rules constantly change, it’s important to stay informed about what’s happening and make sure that your website or blog remains legally compliant, especially if your online presence plays a significant part in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, then you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, 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 to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau)
The new laws has ramifications for several business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, e.g. Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your website does not display certain pages to visitors (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo won’t allow you to list digital products on their network, PayPal may suspend your account and freeze your funds, Facebook could reject web applications, and you will not be allowed to participate in most advertising or affiliate marketing networks.
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this article is to help make you aware that your website or blog(s) may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you may be selling on your website, and that there are easy solutions that can help your sites become compliant, such as the plugins that we discuss further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog Breaking Rules Or Regulations?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice on this website. As stated previously, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with federal, regional or local laws that govern business practices online and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of providers whose products or services you use on your website or blog
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be if any of these scenarios were to happen:
- A person suffers a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness program.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate marketer gives a number of users skin rashes.
- You’ve told subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you’ll do with the information you have collected.
- Someone steals content from your website and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your website letting your visitors know that you are marketing a product as an affiliate that you could earn an affiliate commission if visitors buy it.
- You didn’t spell out the terms and conditions of your refund policies.
- A visitor claims that the testimonials on your site are false and tries to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you have received a free copy in a product review.
- Your site includes adult content and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider also these documented case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users 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 whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping Users IDs. Many 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 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% had breached at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were breaking at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in violation of at least 3 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 entirely to the Google program 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 litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
You need to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website has the right legal pages and clearly accessible to all site users.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Compliance with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You are obligated to let your visitors know that your business complies will all laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you will engage with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires your site to display legal information when using many of their products. This includes using services like Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your WordPress blogs using Google AdSense online advertising …
(Google AdSense display advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell products online via companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you are required to add certain legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their marketplace …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for sellers)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to include clear disclaimers and policy statements on your website, especially regarding the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
New 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 already been the case, 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 type of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by ensuring that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
A number of business resource sites provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references to some of these at the end of this article …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you plan to create apps that integrate with your website, sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Apps that interface with social networking sites also require compliance)
- 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., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products on your site via affiliate marketing, or generating revenue online 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 need 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 been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your website or blog is falling short in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your site will help your website stay out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and external service providers, and avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to look into adding one or more of the pages listed below where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you provide users with access to media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your visitors know that you are not receiving compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Informs readers that you may derive some form of financial or similar kind of benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through one of your affiliate links.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets your visitors be aware that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to site users that you have been compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets your visitors know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legal folder to your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder via FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu feature …
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the sidebar (or the footer section of your site) so that users have access to legal information from all your pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information to users on all of your website’s pages)
If you need help displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu using widgets, see this tutorial:
You can find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to websites like this one:
For more details, visit this website:
Alternatively, you can download a package of cut & paste legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms)
Cut & Paste website legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with simple search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates 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 WordPress page for each legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your server as described earlier.
Go here for more info:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using copy & paste templates, another option is to use plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress-powered websites worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If manually setting up legal pages for your website feels too time-consuming for you, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Some of the benefits of using the WP Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you need in around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like every other page on your website.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages 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 lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed when the user agrees to your legal terms.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature is added to your WP dashboard section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view your legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, review sites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Create different legal pages)
Select from a number of pre-written legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – 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
Visit this site to learn more this useful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users containing over twenty customizable legal templates for your digital presence …
Go here to learn more:
(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
- 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. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites.
Go here for more details:
If hiring a lawyer to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire a lawyer.
We want your site to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal page templates, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you are making money online (or are planning to), you need to make sure that your website is found to comply with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service required by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or offer online. Your digital presence must comply with a number of regulations, many of which you may not be aware of.
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?
Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with the law pertaining to your business.
References And Legal Resources
Here is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Better Business Bureau – 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
- 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
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 all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using inexpensive resources and solutions.
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