Is your website legal? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose services or products you offer or promote?
As the digital economy continues to grow at such a rapid pace and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s vital that you stay informed about what’s going on and to make sure that your site remains compliant with all laws and regulations, 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 site for commercial gain, you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
The new laws affect several business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, e.g. Google AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your website is not compliant, you could face a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
This article explains why it’s important to have a legally compliant website and describes inexpensive resources and solutions that will make your WordPress site legally compliant quickly and easily.
Is Your Website Or Blog Breaking The Law?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice about your website or business. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all laws in your country or region.
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Consider what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- Someone has a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin care products you sell as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link an adverse reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you plan to do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making your site visitors aware that you are promoting a product as an affiliate and will receive an affiliate commission if visitors purchase it.
- You didn’t spell out the terms and conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Your visitors claim your testimonials are misleading and decide to sue you.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult-related information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider now these actual case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information (including credit card details to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, he is now required to provide everyone they do business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $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 UIDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in violation of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had infringed 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 with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could easily become exposed to the risks of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website or blog has the right legal pages and information accessible to site visitors.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Companies
Complying with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies with laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you interact with online.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires you to display legal information when using many of their services. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Monetizing your blog with Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your services or products using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell information products via places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add legal pages to your site before they will approve your products for selling via their networks …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for sellers)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policy statements on your website, especially when using product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many sites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically prompts 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 does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by ensuring that your website is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
Various online resources provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references at the end of this article …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you are planning to develop applications that will integrate with your site, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others require you to provide information about various legal pages …
(Social networking apps also require compliance)
- If you are not sure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services on your site as an affiliate marketer, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or using Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, 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 to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you have ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
Common Legal Pages To Include In Your Site
If your website lacks in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site should help your business stay out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and external providers, and avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above pages, you may want to consider adding one or more of the following pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you promote or sell affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general health or medical information)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you provide users with access to downloadable videos or audio files on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the correct type of disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets your visitors know that you will not receive for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers be aware that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample Or review Copy – Explains to users that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product you’re reviewing by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs site users that you were compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users 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 Compliance Pages To Your WordPress Website
Ideally, you should consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in HTML format, 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 HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory via FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly visible to your visitors. You can insert these into the sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website) so that users can access the information from all of your pages …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar or footer in WordPress using widgets here:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting sites like this one:
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-prepared legal forms)
Go here for more details:
Alternatively, you can purchase a package of website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Page Templates)
These templates were created 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 business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & 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 each legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as described earlier.
Go here for more information:
WordPress Legal Plugins
In addition to using legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use a plugin.
Here are some great WordPress plugins you should check out:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
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 …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you many headaches.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Templates – Includes 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 around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like any other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your website or blog pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you 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 only when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear inside your main WordPress dashboard area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view your legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, affiliate/review websites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
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
For more details about this plugin, visit this site:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-driven sites containing over 20 customizable legal templates for your digital business …
Go here to learn more about the plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress 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 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 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 sites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
Go here for more info:
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages 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 legal expert.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (it’s FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal content, or a WordPress plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator Software lets you easily generate essential legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you make money online, it’s important that your site stays compliant with regulatory agencies and any terms of service and guidelines for third-party sites that you may be promoting or endorsing online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws designed to protect the rights of consumers, you’re breaking the law.
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, we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice in this article. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all legal requirements pertaining to your business.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a time-saving list of sites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to remain compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- 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
- US Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
- Google 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 the importance of having a legally compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website or blog.