One of the worst things that can happen to you as a business owner is to break the law.
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines are designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes products or services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t prevent someone from taking legal action against you.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your website for material gain, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the Better Business Bureau, also referred to as BBB. 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)
These laws has consequences for various business categories, including:
- Any type 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 website (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank won’t allow you to list digital products, PayPal could suspend your account and freeze your funds, Facebook will reject web applications, and you will not be allowed to enrol in various advertising or online merchant networks.
If your digital presence is not in compliance, you could also end up facing a number 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 or blog(s) are subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose services or products you may be using online, and that there are solutions that can help your site become fully compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice on this website. You must carry out your own due diligence and we recommend consulting legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all laws and regulations in your country or region.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be if the situations below were to happen:
- A user has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate gives someone allergic reactions.
- You’ve told subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t informed them exactly what you’ll do with it.
- Someone copies content from your site and puts it up on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website making your site visitors aware that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re selling that you may receive a financial benefit if visitors end up buying using your link.
- You did not spell out the terms and conditions of your refund or return policies.
- Your visitors claim that your testimonials are fake and decide to sue you because of it.
- You haven’t disclosed that you received a free copy of the product you are reviewing.
- Your site publishes adult-related information and you didn’t take sufficient measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider now the following actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up personal information to complete his offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’re now required 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 private information about children.
- 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 $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% were in breach of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in violation of at least three 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 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 be exposed to the risks of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords User
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
You need to ensure that your website or blog stays fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Companies
Complying with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are required to let your visitors know that your business complies with all necessary laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your site, it’s also required by most companies you will do business with online.
Google requires websites to display legal information when using many of their services or product features. This includes using features like Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your site with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your services or products using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell information products via places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add legal pages to your site before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to include clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially if you plan to sell products and services online with the aid of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many websites are unaware (or choose to ignore) 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 plan to do any type of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with all FTC guidelines and regulations.
Various online resources provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. We provide additional references and links to resources to some of these at the end of this article …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Applications - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to create apps for your website, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others will require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers 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, ads for Amazon or eBay products, or use Google AdWords pay-per-click ads to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to provide on your site to comply with their 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, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party websites require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
What Legal Information Pages Do You Need To Add To Your Website To Be Protected From Legal Compliance Issues?
If you suspect that your website is lacking in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help keep you out of trouble with many regulatory agencies and 3rd-party service providers, and even help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to consider implementing one or more of these pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides money-making information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you provide users with access to downloadable videos or audio files on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add correct disclosures to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets users know that you will not receive any type of compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Informs your visitors that you will benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and buy through an affiliate link.
- Sample/Review Copy – Disclosure that informs readers that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service you’re writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs visitors that you were compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets your visitors know 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 should consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been created, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal content for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server via FTP)
You can then easily add links to your pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these 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 site) so that visitors will be able to access the information from every page …
(Display legal pages to users on all of your site’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar menu or footer in WordPress using widgets here:
You can find attorney-prepared downloadable website forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting sites like the ones listed below:
For more details, visit this website:
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new FTC guidelines brought into effect in 2012)
- 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 your legal pages to your server as described previously.
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using legal templates, you can keep things very simple by using a plugin.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal web pages manually, then consider choosing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site a lot easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like every other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of 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 every other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. When users agree to your legal terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will display inside your main navigation menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Screen)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites with products, review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Page type menu)
Select from various built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Pre-configured 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 using this plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users that contains over twenty customizable legal templates for your web presence …
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress 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. 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 sites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
Go here for more details:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal templates, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator 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 do business online (or plan to), you need to make sure that your website complies with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service provided by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or advertise online. Your website must comply with numerous laws and regulatory guidelines, 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 do not offer 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 all legal requirements pertaining to your specific business.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a useful list of websites we recommend you visit to better understand what your business requires 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress site.
"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