Is your website legally compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking any rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose products or services you are recommending or advertising?
As the digital economy continues to grow at such a fast pace and rules constantly change, it’s important that you try to stay on top of what’s happening and ensure that your website or blog remains legally compliant, especially if having a digital presence is an essential factor in your business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you promote anything on your website for profit, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the Better Business Bureau, also known as 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 – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws affect various online business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, including contextual ads
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If you are not compliant, you could also end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
In this guide, we discuss why it’s important to have a legally compliant website and how to quickly and easily add legal pages to your website.
Does Your Site Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer 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 legal requirements wherever you do business.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider for one minute what could happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A person has a cardiac arrest after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate marketer gives a number of users skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement informing subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t clearly informed them what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone steals your content and publishes it on their site.
- You did not tell your site visitors that you are promoting a product as an affiliate that you could earn financial benefits if they end up buying via your link.
- You have not spelled out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim that your testimonials are misleading and try to sue you because of it.
- You have not disclosed that you have received a free copy in your product review.
- Your site contains adult information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider also these 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 (including credit card details to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer received 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 prohibits using software that scrapes 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 websites chosen at random, more than 90% had broken at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in breach 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 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 a website owner can easily become exposed to the risks of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website or blog complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Big companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the need of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You are obligated to let your visitors know that your business complies with all necessary laws and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will do business with online.
Google requires you to display legal information if using many of their products or features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your website using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense display advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your business via Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products using merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for using ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policy statements on your website, especially regarding the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, 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 do any type of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business by ensuring that your site is compliant with FTC regulations and guidelines.
There are many business resource sites that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. See the additional references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Apps - Don’t Forget These
If you are planning to develop social networking applications that integrate with your website, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others require you to provide access to your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services online as an affiliate marketer, or make money online with Google AdSense, ads for Amazon or eBay products, 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 their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- If you have ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
What Legal Information Pages Should I Add To My Website To Be Compliant?
If you suspect that your website or blog falls short in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your website should help your website keep out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and third-party providers, and avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to look into adding one or more of the pages listed below where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general money-making information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you provide users with access to videos or audio files on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right disclosure information to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Disclosure that informs visitors that you will not receive compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to readers that you will benefit financially if they purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets visitors be aware that you have received a review or sample copy of the product or service by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs site users that you were compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets users know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Website
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on your web server and uploading your legal pages to this folder via FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then add a link to these pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
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 links to your legal pages to your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your site) to ensure that users will be able to access legal information from all pages …
(It’s important to display links to legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar using widgets here:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to sites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
Visit this website to learn more:
Another option is to purchase a package of website legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
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 business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates new FTC regulations that came into effect in March 2012)
- 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 WordPress page for every legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described earlier.
WordPress Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using templates, you can keep things really simple by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some legal WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing a plugin like WP Legal Pages instead …
This plugin is not free, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using the WordPress Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 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.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will then 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 any page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When a user agrees to your terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature is added to your WP dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Area)
You can easily create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
Choose from several 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 WordPress plugin, go here:
The Compliance Bar Plugin For WordPress is a total compliance & disclaimer solution for your digital presence …
Go here to learn more about the plugin:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
Legal Suite Pro 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 Plugin – 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 sites.
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a legal expert.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal forms, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online (or plan to), you need to make sure that your site stays compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by third-party sites that you may decide to promote or endorse online. Your digital presence must comply with a whole set of regulations, some of which you may not 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 cannot provide legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law pertaining to your business.
Here is a time-saving list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your site to comply and meet its 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 – 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
- US Patent and Trademark Office
- United States Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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 compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your site using simple and inexpensive resources and WordPress plugins.
"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)