Is your website legal? Do you know if your site is breaking the law, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose services or products you do business with?
As the cybersphere continues to grow at breakneck speed and the rules keep changing, it’s vitally important that you stay informed about what’s going on and make sure that your website remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if having a digital presence plays a significant role in your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your website for profit, then you must 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 Website)
The introduction of these new laws affect various online business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your website does not display certain pages (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank will not approve digital products for sale, PayPal may suspend your account and freeze your funds, Facebook could suspend your applications, and you won’t be allowed into various advertising or affiliate marketing networks.
If your business online is not in compliance, you could also end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
This article explains the importance of having a compliant website and lists inexpensive methods and solutions to make your site legally compliant quickly and easily.
Is Your Site Breaking Rules Or Regulations?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based in.
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A user suffers a heart attack after using your online fitness program.
- The skin cream you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone skin rashes.
- You’ve told subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you’ll do with the details you have collected.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their site.
- There is no statement on your website making your visitors aware that you are an affiliate for the product you are recommending that you will derive a financial benefit if visitors end up purchasing via your link.
- You don’t spell out the terms and conditions of your refund policies.
- A visitor claims that your testimonials are all fake and decides to sue you as a result.
- You haven’t disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site includes adult-related information and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider too these actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up personal information (including credit card info to complete a debt reduction offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $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 using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many internet marketers took a risk 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 websites chosen at random, more than 90% were in breach of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had infringed 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 entirely to the Google program whose policies with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being a target of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website remains fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services Terms And Policies
Compliance with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your website complies with legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you do business with online.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires you to display legal information when using their services. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue online with your blog with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense online advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your products or services using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell digital products using places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add various legal pages before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for vendors selling via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to display clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially if you plan to use product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many sites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this often 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 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. you should protect your business interests by making sure that your website complies with all FTC guidelines.
Various online resources provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. See the additional resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you plan to create apps that will integrate with your site, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others require you to provide access to your legal pages …
(Apps for social networking sites like Facebook also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or using Google AdWords 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 to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all third-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Common Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site
If your web site lacks in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your website will help keep your business out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and external providers, and even help you avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider adding any of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website provides financial information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Media Terms (if you allow users to download media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right web content disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets users know that you will not receive for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Disclosure that informs readers that you will derive some form of financial benefit if they purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Disclosure that informs readers that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product or service by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs site users that you have been compensated in some form to write the post.
- 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this done, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory via FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then add a link to these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu feature …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Where To Display Legal Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to your visitors. You can add these to the WordPress sidebar (or the footer section of your site) so that visitors can access the information from every page …
(It’s important to display legal pages to users on all of your website’s pages)
If you need help adding links to pages on your sidebar, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted internet forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones listed below:
For more details, go here:
Alternatively, you can download a package of cut and paste legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut & 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 business details, then pasted into your legal web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates new Federal Trade Commission regulations that came into effect in 2012)
- 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 to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload the pages to your server as described previously.
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress sites that you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If setting up legal pages manually seems too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing WordPress Legal Pages …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s an affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your site a lot easier and save you a great deal of time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Legal 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 your basic legal pages in a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages like any WP page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of 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 checkbox and delete and manage these like every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When the user agrees to the terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will display inside your WordPress dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, review sites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Page type menu)
Choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages – 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
Visit this site to learn more this useful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress websites and blogs that includes over twenty customizable compliance pages for your digital business …
To learn more about this plugin go here:
(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
- Terms of Service
- 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 websites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider at least implementing some basic type of legal protection on your website until you can afford a solicitor.
We want your website to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (it’s FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal content, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online (or plan to), it’s important that your website is compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business practices online and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines for third-party services and products that you may be promoting or advertising online. Your website or blog must comply with numerous regulations, 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 cannot provide legal advice on our website. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with the law concerning your specific business.
Additional Legal Information
Here is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your site may require to stay 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 Website
- 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
- United States Copyright Office
- 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 why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using simple and inexpensive legal resources and solutions.
"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)