One of the worst things that can happen to a website owner is to break the law.
As the digital way of life continues growing at breakneck speed and the rules keep changing, it’s vital that you stay informed about what’s happening and ensure that your site remains legal, especially if your digital presence plays a significant part in your business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for material gain, then you must follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
The introduction of these laws has ramifications for various business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, e.g. Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
Without legal pages on your web site (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank or JVZoo will not allow you to list digital products, PayPal could suspend your account, Facebook will disapprove web applications, and you will not be accepted into various advertising and affiliate merchant networks.
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
In this article, we discuss the importance of having a legally compliant website and describe inexpensive resources and solutions that will make your WordPress site legally compliant.
Is Your Site Legally Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: 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 the law regarding your specific business.
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for one moment what would happen to your business if the scenarios below were to take place:
- A user suffers a heart attack after using your online fitness program.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate marketer gives someone an adverse reaction.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement that lets subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not clearly spelled out what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone steals your content and publishes it on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making visitors aware that you are recommending a product as an affiliate and will derive an affiliate commission if they buy it.
- You don’t spell out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- Visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are fake and decide to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed that you were given a free copy in a product review.
- Your website contains adult content and you have not taken sufficient measures to restrict access by underage persons.
Consider too these actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to give a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- 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 details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites chosen at random, more than 90% had infringed at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were breaking 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 violated, 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, CPC or PPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
It’s vitally important to ensure that your online business has the right legal pages and clearly displayed to site visitors.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services
Complying with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You are obligated to let your site visitors know that your business complies with legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you will interact with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires you to display certain information when using their products. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue with your website with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your site using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell products online with merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add a number of legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for vendors selling through ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to display clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies 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 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 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 making sure that your site is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
Many business resources provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. See the references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to develop apps for your site, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with information about various legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online as an affiliate marketer, or monetize your pages 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 display on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
Basic Legal Pages To Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If your website is lacking in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website should help your website stay out of trouble with most regulatory authorities and third-party providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Terms And Conditions
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to look into implementing one or more of the following pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general health or medical advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets users be aware that you’re not being paid for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets users know that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and purchase through an affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets site users know that you have received a review or sample copy of the product by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your visitors be aware that you were compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs your 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.
How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legal folder to your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add a link to these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu administration …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Where To Display Legal Pages On Your Site
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add these to your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your website) to ensure that visitors can access the information from all of your pages …
(Display legal pages to users on all of your website’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar using widgets here:
Use Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and website forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
To learn more, go here:
Another option is to download a package of legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Page Templates)
These templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to insert your own details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- 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 pages and publish or upload these to your web server as previously described.
For more details, go here:
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using copy & paste templates, another option for adding legal pages to your site is to use plugins.
Here are some legal WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages instead …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you a great deal of time and effort.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like every other page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will then be 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 WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed when the user agrees to your terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will be added to your dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings)
With WP Legal Pages, you can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, review websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Page type menu)
Choose from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – 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 about the benefits of using this plugin, visit this website:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress sites with over twenty customizable compliance page templates for your digital business …
To learn more about the plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro 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
- 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 secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them 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 less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use the plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
Go here for more information:
If hiring legal experts to create your legal documentation is currently out of your budget, then consider implementing some type of basic legal protection on your site until you can afford legal services.
We want your site to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-drafted legal forms, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator Software quickly generates essential legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do any kind of business online (or are planning to), it’s important that your site stays compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines of 3rd-party sites that you may decide to promote or use online. Your website must comply with a whole set of laws and regulatory guidelines, many of which you may not 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we offer no 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 all legal requirements pertaining to your specific business.
Below is a useful list of websites we recommend you visit to better understand what your site may require to stay compliant and meet its legal obligations:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- BBB – 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
- 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 legally compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress website or blog using simple and inexpensive solutions.
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