As a website owner, you do not want to learn the hard way that you have broken the law.
As the cybersphere continues growing at an overwhelming speed and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s vital to stay on top of what’s happening and to make sure that your website or blog remains compliant, especially if having an online presence is important in the success of your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your website for profit, you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau (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 – Better Business Bureau)
The introduction of these laws has ramifications for several business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including pay-per-click advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If you do not include certain legal pages on your site (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank or JVZoo will not let you list digital products for sale, PayPal could shut down your account, Facebook will disapprove your applications, and you will not be allowed to promote a range of advertising and affiliate merchant networks.
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
This guide explains the importance of having a legally compliant website and provides inexpensive methods and solutions to help make your WordPress website or blog legally compliant.
Does Your Site Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice in this article. As stated above, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with federal, regional or local laws that govern your business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you advertise
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for one minute what could happen to your business if the scenarios below were to occur:
- A person has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you sell as an affiliate gives people allergic reactions.
- You’ve told subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t informed them exactly what you plan to do with it.
- Someone copies content from your site and publishes it on their own website.
- There is no statement on your site letting your site users know that you are an affiliate for the product you are selling that you may receive a financial benefit if they purchase it.
- You did not spell out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim the testimonials on your site are all fake and try to sue you.
- You did not disclose that you were given a free copy of a product in your review.
- Your website includes adult content and you did not take sufficient measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider too these real examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal information (including credit card information to complete his offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- 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, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% were breaking 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 broken 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 whose policies 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?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
it’s important to ensure that your website has the right legal pages and clearly displayed to your site users.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the need of complying with the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You are required to let your site users know that your business complies with legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will interact with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information when using many of their services or product features. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue with your WordPress site using Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services via Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell digital products through places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add certain legal pages to your site before your products are approved for selling via their marketplace …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policy statements on your site, especially when concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Comply
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many sites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this typically prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your site complies with all FTC guidelines.
A number of business resources provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references and links to useful resources at the end of this article …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Applications Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to develop apps for your website, sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others will require you to provide information about various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online via affiliate marketing, or generating revenue with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, 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 need to provide on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies)
What Compliance Pages Do You Need To Add To Your Site To Be Legally Compliant?
If your website or blog lacks in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your website should help your business keep out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and 3rd-party providers, and avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Terms & Conditions
- Website Disclaimers
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to look into adding one or more of these pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you promote or sell affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general advice about financial areas or money-making opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Audio/Video Terms (if you allow users to download media on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding correct web content disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs visitors that you are not being paid for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets visitors be aware that you will benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample/Review Copy – Disclosure that informs readers that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Informs your visitors that you have been compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets users 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in typical 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 legal directory on your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then add links to your pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the sidebar (or the footer section of your site) so that users have access to the information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to legal information on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your WordPress sidebar and footer using widgets here:
Using Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-prepared website forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting websites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms – Legal forms)
For more information, go here:
Alternatively, you can download a package of cut and paste legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with simple search and replace to insert your own details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new Federal Trade Commission regulations and guidelines that came into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service (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 page for each legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload the pages to your server as described previously.
For more information, go here:
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste legal templates, you can keep things very simple by using plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress-powered websites you may be interested in using:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing WP Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages 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 website much easier and save you time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Legal Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like every other page on your website.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like every other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When the user agrees to the terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will be added to your main navigation section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings Area)
With WP Legal Pages, you can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, affiliate/review sites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Type of Site drop down menu)
Select from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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 this website to learn more about the benefits of using this powerful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a complete compliance & disclaimer solution for your digital business …
Learn more 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
- Terms & Conditions
- 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 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 very flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
To learn more, visit this site:
If hiring legal experts to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford a solicitor.
We want your site 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 legal documents, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator allows you to quickly generate basic legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do any kind of business online, it’s important that your website is compliant with regulatory agencies and any terms of service and guidelines required by 3rd-party sites that you may be promoting or recommending online. Your website must comply with a number of regulations, some 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice here. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements pertaining to your business.
Here is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your website may require to comply 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
- 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
- United States Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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
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 above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your website or blog using inexpensive methods and solutions.
"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie