Is your website compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking any rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose products or services you are offering or endorsing?
As the digital realm continues to grow at an overwhelming speed and rules keep changing, it’s important to try and stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains compliant, especially if your web presence is an integral factor in your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for material gain, you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau, also referred to as the BBB. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The introduction of these laws has implications for several business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including text link ads, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your website does not display certain legal pages to visitors (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank or JVZoo won’t allow you to list your digital products on their network, PayPal could suspend your account, Facebook could disapprove your applications, and you will not be accepted into many advertising and affiliate marketing networks.
Plus, you could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your website(s) may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you may be recommending on your site, and that there are plugins for WordPress that can help your site become fully compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. As stated previously, the aim of this article is to help make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern business and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of third-party companies whose products or services you endorse on your website or blog
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider for one minute what would happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A user has a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate gives someone an allergic reaction.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement that lets subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not spelled out exactly what you will do with it.
- Someone copies content from your site and puts it up on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making your visitors aware that you are an affiliate for the product you are marketing and will derive an affiliate commission if visitors purchase through your link.
- You don’t spell out the terms of your refund policies.
- Your visitors claim your testimonials are misleading and decide to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you received a free copy in a product review.
- Your website includes adult-related content and you did not take appropriate measures to keep underage children 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 his offer. 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 private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. 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 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites chosen at random, more than 90% had broken at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had broken 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 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 risk becoming targeted for litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s vitally important to make sure that your website or blog complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Compliance With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Leading online companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You must let your site users know that your business complies with laws and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you will interact with online.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires your site to display legal information when using their services or features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Monetizing your blog with Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense online advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services or products through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell digital products via places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will be required to add certain legal pages before your products are approved for selling via their network …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for sellers)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially when concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are 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 website owners 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 any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by ensuring that your site complies with all FTC regulations and guidelines.
Many sites provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. We provide a number of references and links to resources at the end of this article …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to develop applications that will integrate with your site, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Social networking apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote anything online via affiliate marketing, or making money online with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, or use Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to include on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you have been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
What Compliance Information Should I Add To My Site To Be Compliant?
If your web site is lacking in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will help your website keep out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and third-party service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to look into implementing any of the following pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Audio/Video Terms (if you allow users to download media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the right types of disclosure pages to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs visitors that you will not be receiving any type of payment for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users be aware that you may receive compensation if they buy through affiliate links on your site.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets readers 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 site users know that you have been compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors 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 Content To Your Website
Ideally, you should consult a lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in standard web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory in your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then add links to these pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu feature …
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly visible to all site visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the sidebar menu (or place them in the footer of your website or blog) to ensure that users will be able to access legal information from all your site’s pages …
(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 or footer using widgets here:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones shown below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Go here for more information:
Another option is to download a package of legal templates created by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
Cut & Paste website templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects FTC regulations that came into effect in March 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for each legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described earlier.
To learn more, visit this site:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using copy & paste templates, you can simplify things using WordPress plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported plugin that will help make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you a great deal of time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other WordPress page.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information is then 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 other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. Page unlocks only when users agree to your terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will display inside your navigation section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, niche sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type menu)
Choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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
To learn more this plugin, visit the plugin site:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin that includes over twenty customizable legal pages for your online presence …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(Legal Suite Pro)
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 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 powered site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites.
To learn more, go here:
If using the services of lawyers to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your site to be safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal content, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online (or plan to), it’s important that your site is found to comply with all laws and regulations and any guidelines and terms of service (TOS) provided by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or recommend online. Your internet presence must comply with a whole set of regulations, some of which you may not even 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website fully complies with the law in your country or region.
Below is a time-saving list of additional sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your site may require to remain compliant and meet its 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
- 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 compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add essential legal pages to your WordPress website using simple and inexpensive methods and solutions.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now