One of the worst predicaments a business owner can find themselves in is to be on the wrong side of the law.
Internet laws and regulations are designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes goods 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 you.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your website for commercial gain, then you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau, also referred to as the BBB. Search online for information about “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
These laws affect several online business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, including inline ads, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If your website is not compliant, you could also end up facing a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
In this article, we look at why it’s important to have a legally compliant website and how to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress website using simple resources and solutions.
Is Your Website Or Blog Legally Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice in this article. You must carry out your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all laws in your country or region.
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be if any of these scenarios were to occur:
- A person suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate gives a number of users skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement that lets subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you plan to do with it.
- Someone copies your content and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website letting your visitors know that you are promoting a product as an affiliate that you will get paid a commission if visitors purchase it.
- You didn’t spell out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Your visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are false and try to sue you because of it.
- You did not disclose that you have received a free copy in your product review.
- Your website publishes adult-related content and you didn’t take appropriate measures to restrict access by underage persons.
Consider too the following real examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up their personal information to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’re now required to provide 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 whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping Users IDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ 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 breached 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% were in breach of at least 3 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 they had infringed, 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:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords User
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
You need to ensure 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 Terms And Policies
Compliance with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You are required to let your visitors know that your business complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of most companies you do business with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires websites to display certain information if using their products and features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue with your website with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense policy requirements)
Or promoting your services via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell information-based products via merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add legal pages to your site before they will approve your products for sale in their networks …
(Policy requirements for selling through ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to include clear disclaimers and policies on your website, especially if you plan to sell online using testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Comply
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, this typically results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of business 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 making sure that your website is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
A number of resources online provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. We provide additional references to a number of these at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Require Compliance
If you plan to create apps for your site users, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others will require you to provide information about various legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- 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 assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products online as an affiliate marketer, or making money online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or using Google AdWords pay-per-click ads 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 all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
What Legal Information Does Your Website Need To Be Covered Against Legal Compliance Issues?
If you suspect that your website or blog is falling short in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your website will keep you out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and third-party providers, and even help you avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to look into implementing one or more of the following pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general health or medical content)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Video/Audio Terms (e.g. if you allow users to download media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add the right disclosure information to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Disclosure that informs visitors that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers be aware that you may benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate link.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets users be aware that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service you’re reviewing.
- Sponsored Post – Informs your visitors that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs readers that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Content To Your Website
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually To Your Website
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory in your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and display clearly to your visitors. You can insert these into your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your website) so that users will be able to access legal information from every web page …
(Display links to your legal information to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
If you need help adding links to pages on your WP sidebar, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
Using Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or going to websites like this one:
To learn more, go here:
Another option is to download a set of website legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with simple search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects Federal Trade Commission guidelines that came into effect on March 2012)
- 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 WordPress page for each legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your web server as previously described.
WordPress Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste templates, you can simplify things by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If the idea of creating legal pages manually feels too time-consuming for you, then consider installing a plugin like WP Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site a lot easier and save you a great deal of time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in a few minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like every other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When users agree to your legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will display inside your dashboard menu section …
(WP Legal Pages – Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress 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, niche websites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Create different legal page types)
Select from a number of pre-written legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Built-In 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 using this handy plugin, go here:
The Compliance Bar Plugin For WordPress is a complete compliance & disclaimer solution for your site …
For a detailed 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
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin – 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 license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites.
Go here for more information:
If hiring legal experts to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire the services of a lawyer.
We want your website to be legally safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal documents, or a WordPress legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do any kind of business online (or are planning to), you need to make sure that your website complies with all laws and regulations and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines of third-party services and products that you may be promoting or using online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws designed to protect consumer rights, 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice on our website. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Here is a useful list of additional sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your website may require to stay compliant and meet its legal obligations:
- FTC 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
- 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 you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand why it’s important to have a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website using simple and cost-effective solutions.
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