One of the worst things that can happen to a website owner is to break the law.
As the digital way of life continues to grow at an extraordinary rate and the rules keep changing, it’s vital that you try to stay informed about what’s going on and to make sure that your site remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if having an online presence plays an important part in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, you 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 (BBB). Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
The new laws affect several online business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including Google AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your online business is not in compliance, you could also end up facing a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your website(s) may be required to comply with legal requirements according to laws that govern businesses online, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be endorsing on your website, and that there are easy solutions that can help your site become fully compliant, such as the plugins that we discuss further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice on this website. As stated above, the purpose of this article is to help make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations that govern business practices online and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of providers whose services or products you advertise on your website
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider for a minute what could happen to your business if any of these scenarios were to occur:
- A user has a cardiac arrest after they use your online workout program.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate marketer gives someone who purchases from your link skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement informing prospective subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not described exactly what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your website and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your website letting visitors know that you are an affiliate for the product you’re promoting and may derive financial benefits if they purchase using your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your refund and return policies.
- Your visitors claim the testimonials on your site are misleading and decide to sue you.
- You have not disclosed that you were given a free copy in your product review.
- Your site includes adult information and you have not taken appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider now these documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up personal information to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to issue a copy of the judgement to everyone he does business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped 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 does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars 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 broken at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in violation 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 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 through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website remains fully compliant with the law.
Complying With Third-Party Companies
Compliance with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your website complies with all necessary legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of most companies you will interact with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires your site to display legal information when using their services. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue with your WordPress site using Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense ads - policy requirements)
And even promoting your site via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell products online through places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add certain legal pages before they will approve your products for sale in their networks …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank product vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to include clear disclaimers and policy statements on your website, especially if you plan to sell or promote products and services with the aid of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Site Is Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this typically results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting site 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 any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business interests by ensuring that your site is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
A number of resources online provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references and links to useful resources at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you plan to develop social networking applications that integrate with your website, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and 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., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online via affiliate marketing, or generate revenue with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, 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 their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts suspended.
- 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 litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Common Legal Pages To Add To Your Website
If your website or blog is lacking in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your site should help keep your business out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and 3rd-party service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to look into implementing one or more of these legal pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you provide information about affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides advice about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets visitors be aware that you are not receiving any form of compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets readers be aware that you will receive compensation if they buy through your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Discloses to your visitors that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service you’re reviewing.
- Sponsored Post – Informs readers that you have been compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets users know 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages Content To Your Website
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legal directory to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server via FTP)
You can then easily add links to these legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the sidebar menu (or the footer of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from all of your pages …
(It’s important to display links to legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar menu using widgets here:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can find attorney-drafted downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones listed below:
Find Legal Forms
(Find Legal Forms)
Go here to learn more:
Another option is to download a set of cut & paste website legal templates created by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages were created 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 details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC regulations that came into effect in March 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for every legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described earlier.
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal WordPress plugins worth looking into:
WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If manually creating legal pages for your website feels too time-consuming for you, then consider installing WP Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you many headaches.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin:
- Pre-written Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal 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 mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. 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 new menu item will be added to your main dashboard menu section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings)
You can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate websites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Type of Site drop down menu)
You can also select from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – 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 plugin:
Compliance Bar – WordPress Website Compliance Plugin
complete website compliance and disclaimer solution …
Go here to learn more:
Legal Suite Pro
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
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. 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 this plugin on all of your websites.
To learn more, go here:
If hiring legal experts to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing some type of basic legal protection on your website until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your website 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 ready-made legal content, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you do business online (or are planning to), you need to make sure that your website is found to comply with regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service (TOS) of 3rd-party services and products that you may be promoting or offering online. Your digital presence must comply with a number of laws and regulatory guidelines, many of which you may not 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Here is a time-saving list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to remain compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- 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
- 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 all necessary legal pages to your website or blog using simple and cost-effective resources and WordPress plugins.
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