Is your WordPress site compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose services or products you offer or recommend?
As the digital way of life continues to grow at breakneck speed and the rules constantly change, it’s important that you stay on top of what’s happening and ensure that your website or blog remains legal, especially if your web presence is important in the success of your business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for material gain, you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws has legal implications for various online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, like Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If your digital presence is not in compliance, you could also 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 site(s) are required to comply with certain legalities according to laws that govern business practices online, the importance of complying with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you may be recommending online, and that there are solutions that can help your website become fully compliant, such as the plugins that we list further below.
Is Your Site Legally Compliant?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with the law wherever you do business.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider what the implications to your business would be if the scenarios below were to happen:
- A customer suffers a heart attack after using your online workout program.
- The skin cream you promote as an affiliate gives someone allergic reactions.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement informing subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone steals your content and publishes it on their site.
- There is no statement on your site making your visitors aware that you are promoting a product as an affiliate that you could receive a sales commission if visitors purchase it.
- You have not spelled out the conditions of your return policies.
- Visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are all fake and decide to sue you as a result.
- You didn’t disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult information and you did not take sufficient measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider too these actual case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up their personal information (including credit card info to complete his offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to give everyone they do business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing private information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it 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 picked at random, more than 90% had broken 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% 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 notices or lose access 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 you could easily be exposed to the risk of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s vitally important to make sure that your online business complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Compliance with third-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are required to let your site visitors know that your website complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also required by most companies you do business with.
Google requires you to display certain information if using their services and product features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your websites with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services via Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell information-based products via merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages to your site before your products are approved for sale in their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank product vendors)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and statements on your site, especially if you plan to sell or promote products using product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many websites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute website owners 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 does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business by ensuring that your site is compliant with all FTC regulations and guidelines.
There are many business resource sites that can provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. See the resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(It’s important to structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to develop social networking applications for your site users, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Apps that integrate with social networking sites like Facebook also require compliance)
- If you are not sure whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products online using affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, or using Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to display on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
What Legal Information Should You Add To Your Site To Be Compliant?
If you suspect that your website falls short in areas of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site should help your site stay out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and external service providers, and even help you avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above, you may want to look into implementing any of these pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you provide information about affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general health or medical information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the right types of disclosure pages to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs visitors that you will not receive any kind of compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies readers that you will benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Disclosure that informs readers that you have received a sample or review copy of the product you’re reviewing or writing about by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets readers be aware 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 comply with the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages Content To Your Website
Ideally, you should have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal content for you as standard web pages (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 easily add a link to these legal pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu admin area …
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can insert these into the sidebar (or the footer section of your website) so that visitors will be able to access the information from every page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar here:
You can easily find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or going to websites like this one:
Another option is to download a set of cut & paste website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC regulations brought into effect on March 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for every 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.
Legal Pages – WordPress Plugins
In addition to using templates, you can simplify things using WordPress plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If manually setting up legal pages for your website seems too time-consuming for you, then consider using WP Legal Pages …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the legal pages you need in a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. 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 lock down. Page unlocks only when users agree to your legal terms.
- Additional Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will appear in your main navigation area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings Screen)
You have the option of creating legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review websites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Page type menu)
Choose from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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
Go here to learn more about using this useful plugin:
The Compliance Bar Plugin is a complete compliance and disclaimer solution for your digital presence …
Go here to learn more about the plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro)
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
- 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers 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 one minute or less and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your site to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal forms, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator Software allows you to easily 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 are making money online (or plan to), you need to ensure that your site is compliant with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service (TOS) provided by 3rd-party services and products that you may decide to promote or offer online. Your website or blog must comply with numerous laws and regulatory guidelines, some of which you may not even 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 offer no legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with the law pertaining to your business.
Additional Legal Information
Here is a time-saving list of sites we suggest you visit to better understand what may be required of your website 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 – BBB
- 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
- 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 this article has helped you understand why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress website or blog.
"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