As a website owner, you do not want to learn the hard way that you have broken the law.
As digital business continues growing at an overwhelming speed and the rules keep changing, it’s absolutely vital to try and stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains compliant, especially if your web presence plays an important part in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you promote anything on your site for material gain, then you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection 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.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
The new laws has ramifications for various online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like display advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your digital presence is not in compliance, you could end up facing a multitude of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this guide is to make you aware that your website are subject to legal requirements, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be selling on your site, and that there are solutions that can help your websites become fully compliant, such as the tools discussed further below.
Is Your Site Legally Compliant?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all laws wherever your business is based.
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Consider what the implications to your business would be if any of these scenarios were to take place:
- A user suffers a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t described exactly what you plan to do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your website and publishes it on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website letting your site users know that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you will earn a sales commission if visitors end up buying using your affiliate link.
- You didn’t spell out the terms and conditions of your refund or return policies.
- Visitors claim that your testimonials are all fake and decide to sue you because of it.
- You didn’t disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your site includes adult content and you did not take appropriate measures to keep underage persons from accessing it.
Consider also the following actual case studies 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 a debt reduction offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were in breach of 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 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 becoming a target of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
You need to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence remains fully compliant with the law.
Complying With Third-Party Services Terms And Policies
Complying with third-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are obligated to let your visitors know that your business complies with laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will interact with online.
Google requires websites to display legal information if using their services or features. This includes using features such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue with your blogs with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense online advertising policy requirements)
Or promoting your products through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information products via merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements digital product vendors using ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and statements on your website, especially if you plan to sell online with the aid of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this often prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute 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 chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business by making sure that your site is compliant with FTC guidelines.
There are many online business resources that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you plan to develop social networking applications for your site users, sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others will require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether or not you may be 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 plan to promote services or products on your site as an affiliate marketer, or monetize your pages with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or driving visitors to your site using 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 - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Site
If your website or blog is falling short in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following compliance pages to your website should help your business stay out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and third-party providers, and even help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to look into adding any of these pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add correct disclosure information to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets users know that you will not receive compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to readers that you will benefit financially if they buy through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets site users be aware that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Informs readers that you were compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users 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 Content To Your Website
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legal directory to your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. using 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 feature …
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and display clearly to all site visitors. You can add these to the WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website) to ensure that users will be able to access the information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages to users on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu or footer in WordPress using widgets here:
Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-prepared downloadable website forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting sites like the ones shown below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
Go here to learn more:
Another option is to purchase a set of cut & paste legal templates created by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your legal web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & 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 the pages to your web server as previously described.
Visit this website to learn more:
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using templates, you can keep things very simple using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress users you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider installing a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you a great deal of time and effort.
Here are just some of the benefits of using the WordPress Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you need in a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages like any other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When users agree to the legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will be added to your main WP dashboard menu …
(WP Legal Pages – Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
With WP Legal Pages, you can easily create legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, niche sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
You can also select from various pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages – 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
Go here to learn more about the benefits of using this useful plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-driven websites and blogs that includes over twenty customizable compliance page templates for your website …
(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 & Conditions
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin 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 powered 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 websites.
For more information, go here:
If hiring legal experts to create your legal documentation is currently out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire the services of a legal expert.
We want your business to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal page templates, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you make money online (or are planning to), you need to make sure that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service of third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or advertise online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws designed to protect consumers, 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, we are not lawyers and we provide no legal advice on this website. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all legal requirements in your country or region.
Below is a useful list of additional sites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to comply and meet its legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission 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
See Also …
- 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 above to quickly add legal pages to your WordPress website.
"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com