Is your WordPress website legal? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose products or services you are doing business with?
As the digital era continues growing at such a rapid pace and rules keep changing, it’s vitally important that you stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains legal, especially if your digital presence is important in the success of your business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites 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 consumer protection departments, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The introduction of these new laws has consequences for several online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your business online is not in compliance, you could also face a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this guide is to help make you aware that your website(s) are required to comply with legal requirements, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you may be recommending online, and that there are solutions that can help your online properties become fully compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Does Your Website Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. As previously stated, the aim of this article is to help make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations governing online business practices and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of 3rd-party companies whose products or services you promote
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider for a minute what could happen to your business if any of the scenarios below were to happen:
- A customer suffers a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate gives people allergic reactions.
- You’ve told subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t defined what you will do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your website and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your website making visitors aware that you are an affiliate for the product you’re recommending and will receive a financial benefit if visitors purchase through your affiliate link.
- You have not spelled out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- A visitor claims your testimonials are fake and tries to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site contains adult-related information and you haven’t taken appropriate measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider also these documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card information to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, he is now required to give everyone he does business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them 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 breach of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were breaking 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 entirely to the Google program they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being a target of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords User
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
it’s important to make sure that your website or blog has the right legal pages and information accessible to all you site users.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies with legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required by most companies you do business with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display legal information if using their services or product features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue with your websites using Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense online advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your services or products using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell products online using merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add a number of legal pages to your site before they will approve your products for selling via their marketplace …
(Policy requirements product vendors selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and disclosures on your site, especially when using product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, this often prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies 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. we strongly recommend protecting your business interests by making sure that your site complies with all FTC regulations.
A number of business resources provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. We provide references to some of these at the end of this article …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to create apps that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with information about various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether or not you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote anything online as an affiliate marketer, or generate revenue with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, or using Google AdWords 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 shut down.
- If you have ever wondered 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.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party websites require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
What Legal Information Pages Do You Need To Add To Your Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If you suspect that your web site is lacking in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your website should help you stay out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and external service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to look into implementing any of these legal pages:
- 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 general content about financial areas or money-making opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you allow users to download videos or audio files on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add correct disclosure information to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Disclosure that informs users that you will not receive compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies users that you may benefit financially if they buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets your visitors be aware that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets readers know that you were compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web 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 site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder 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 Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to your visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your sidebar menu (or place them in the footer section of your site) so that visitors have access to legal information from all your site’s pages …
(Display links to your legal information to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
If you need help displaying links to pages on your sidebar or footer, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to websites like this one:
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-prepared legal forms)
Visit this site to learn more:
Another option is to purchase a package of cut & paste legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your legal web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use: includes inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new page 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 previously.
Go here to learn more:
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using templates, you can simplify things using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If setting up legal pages manually feels too time-consuming for you, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s an affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Legal Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your website or blog pages and the information will 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 any other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when the user agrees to your legal terms.
- Additional Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will display inside your main navigation menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit your 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 types of sites, such as business websites, affiliate/review sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Create different legal pages)
Select from various built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – 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
To learn more this plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a complete compliance and disclaimer solution for your digital business …
For an in-depth review of this plugin go here:
(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
- Terms of Service
- 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 site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites.
To learn more, go here:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing some kind of basic legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a legal expert.
We want your website to be legally safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal forms, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator Software lets you easily generate basic legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you do business online, it’s important that your site stays compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate online business practices and the guidelines and terms of service required by 3rd-party services and products that you may decide to promote or use 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, we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements pertaining to your specific business.
Below is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what may be required of your website to stay compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC 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 – 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
- 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
We hope this article has helped you understand why it’s important to have a compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using simple methods and resources.
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