Is your WordPress site compliant? Do you know if you are breaking the law, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose services or products you offer or endorse?
Internet laws and regulations are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes products or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law will not protect someone from taking legal action against your business.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, 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. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau)
These laws has ramifications for several online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like text link advertising, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your business online is not in compliance, you could end up facing a multitude of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your website or blog are subject to certain legal requirements according to laws that govern your business, the importance of complying with the terms of service of external providers whose products or services you may be advertising online, and that there are plugins for WordPress that can help your website become fully compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Is Your Website Breaking The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice on this website. As previously stated, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations that govern online business practices and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you use on your website or blog
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider what would happen to your business if these scenarios were to happen:
- A customer suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness program.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate marketer gives people skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t informed them exactly what you will do with the details you have collected.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their own site.
- You haven’t informed your visitors that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re promoting and could receive a financial benefit if visitors purchase it.
- You have not spelled out the terms of your return policies.
- Someone claims the testimonials on your site are false and decides to sue you as a result.
- You did not disclose that you were given a free copy of the product in your review.
- Your website publishes adult-related information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to restrict access by underage persons.
Consider also the following real case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card information to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with 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, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% had breached at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in breach of at least two 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 cautions 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 become exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA, CPC or PPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s imperative to ensure that your website is fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies Terms And Policies
All the big online companies and government agencies that regulate trade in many countries emphasize the need and importance of observing the terms and policies of service providers.
You are obligated to let your site visitors know that your website complies will all laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you do business with online.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information when using many of their services or product features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue online with your blog with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your business through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell digital products with places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for selling via ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially if you plan to sell or promote products and services online with the aid of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Comply
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you 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. you should protect your business by ensuring that your site is compliant with FTC guidelines.
Many sites provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(It’s important to word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps - Don’t Forget These
If you are planning to create social networking applications that will integrate with your site, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others will require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online using affiliate marketing, or generate revenue online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or use Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party services require you to comply with their policies)
Essential Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If your website is falling short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your site will help keep your business out of trouble with many regulatory agencies and third-party providers, and even help to avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above pages, you may want to look into implementing one or more of these pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you sell or promote affiliate products and services)
- 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 sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding correct disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your visitors know that you are not being paid for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets readers be aware that you may derive some form of financial or similar type of benefit if they act on your recommendation and buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Informs your visitors that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Lets site users know that you have been compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets your visitors know 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.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal content for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then add links to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are up-to-date and display clearly to your visitors. You can insert these into your sidebar menu (or the footer of your website) to ensure that visitors have access to legal information from every page …
(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 and footer in WordPress here:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of cut & paste legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates 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 name and URL, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website 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 page for every legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload the pages to your server as previously described.
For more details, go here:
Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using templates, another option is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress sites worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If creating legal pages manually feels too time-consuming for you, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site much easier and save you a great deal of time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using the WordPress Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in around 3 minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like every other WordPress page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when users agree to your terms.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear in your main navigation section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, review websites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Create different legal page types)
You can also select from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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
Visit the plugin website to learn more about the benefits of using this handy plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-powered sites with over twenty customizable legal page templates for your digital business …
For more details, visit the plugin site here:
(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 secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them into a plugin that can be installed quickly on any WordPress powered site. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites.
For more information, visit this site:
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic type of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire the services of a legal form or lawyer.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal content, or a legal pages plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you make money online (or are planning to), it’s important that your website is found to comply with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service (TOS) for third-party services and products that you may be promoting or offering online. Your digital presence must comply with various laws and regulatory guidelines, some of which you may not even 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, we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice in this article. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with the law concerning your specific business.
Below is a time-saving list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what may be required of your site to stay compliant and meet legal obligations:
- 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 – 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
In Addition …
- 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 the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your site.
"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum