One of the worst predicaments a website owner can find themselves in is to be on the wrong side of the law.
Online laws are designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who markets, sells or promotes products and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t protect someone from taking legal action against your business.
New laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, then you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Search online for information about “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 new laws affect various business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including PPC advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
Additionally, you could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this article is to help make you aware that your site may be required to comply with legal requirements, the importance of complying with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be offering online, and that there are easy solutions that can help your sites become fully compliant, such as the plugins that we list further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With The Law?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with the law in your country or region.
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Is your business at risk? Consider for a minute what would happen to your business if any of these scenarios were to take place:
- A customer suffers a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t defined what you’ll do with the details you have collected.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your site letting your site visitors know that you’re an affiliate for the product you are marketing and may receive an affiliate commission if they end up purchasing via your link.
- You don’t spell out the terms of your refund policies.
- A visitor claims that the testimonials on your site are misleading and decides to sue you as a result.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website includes adult information and you did not take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider now the real examples of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he is now required to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone he does business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer received a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping UIDs. Many marketers took a risk 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 randomly-picked websites, more than 90% had breached at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in breach of at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had infringed 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 cautions or lose access to the Google program with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being exposed to litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
it’s important to make sure that your website complies with all laws governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Complying with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You are obligated to let your site users know that your website complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of most companies you will interact with online.
Google requires you to display legal information if using many of their services. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue with your site with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your business using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products with merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add a number of legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank product vendors)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to display clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies 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 websites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting site owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by making sure that your site is compliant with all FTC regulations.
Various business resources provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. We provide references to a number of these at the end of this article …
(You must word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to create applications for your site, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are not sure whether or not you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services online via affiliate marketing, or monetize your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, 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 to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you’ve been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
Essential Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If your web site is lacking in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website will help you keep out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and 3rd-party service providers, and even help you avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to consider including one or more of these pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you promote or sell affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general health or medical advice)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Media Terms (if you allow users to download media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add correct disclosures to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs users that you will not be receiving any form of payment for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users know that you may be compensated if they act on your recommendation and buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets users be aware that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product you’re writing about by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs your readers that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- 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 website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you should consult a lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares 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 HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add links to your pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and display clearly to all site visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your WordPress sidebar (or the footer of your site) so that users have access to legal information from all your web pages …
(It’s important to display links to legal information on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu or footer in WordPress using widgets, refer to this tutorial:
Using Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-prepared downloadable forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting websites like the ones listed below:
For more details, go here:
Alternatively, you can purchase a package of cut & paste website legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & 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 added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your web server as described previously.
Go here for more details:
Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using legal templates, another option is to use a plugin.
Here are some plugins for WordPress users that you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If manually creating legal pages for your website seems too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing a plugin like WP Legal Pages instead …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site much easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using WP Legal Pages:
- Built-in Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the legal pages you need in around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to your WordPress pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like every other WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed when users agree to your terms.
- Additional Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature is added to your navigation menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, affiliate/review sites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Create different legal pages)
You can also select from a number of pre-written legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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 handy plugin, visit this site:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-powered websites that includes over twenty customizable legal pages for your online business …
Go here to learn more about the plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro 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 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 plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell).
For more information, go here:
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some form of basic legal protection on your website until you can afford professional assistance from a legal expert.
We want your business to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (it’s FREE!), or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-drafted legal forms, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you are making money online, you need to make sure that your website is found to comply with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service (TOS) required by 3rd-party services and products that you may be promoting or selling online. Your website must comply with numerous regulations, some of which you may not 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with the law pertaining to your specific business.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a useful list of sites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what your website may require to comply and meet its legal obligations:
- 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 – 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
- US 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
We hope you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand the importance of having a legally compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website.
"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)