One of the worst predicaments you can find yourself in as a website owner is to break the law.
As digital business continues growing at breakneck speed and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s important to try and stay on top of what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains legally compliant, especially if your online presence is an important factor in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your site for commercial gain, then you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the Better Business Bureau, also called the 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 – Better Business Bureau)
The new laws affect several business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like display advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your site does not display certain legal pages (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, financial disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank or JVZoo will not allow you to sell digital products, PayPal could close down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook will suspend your applications, and you will not be allowed to participate in many advertising or online marketing networks.
You may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your site(s) are subject to legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern businesses online, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose products or services you may be offering on your website, and that there are easy solutions that can help your sites become compliant, such as the plugins that we discuss further below.
Is Your Website Breaking The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice. As stated earlier, the purpose of this article is only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations governing online business practices and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose services or products you advertise on your website
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A customer suffers a heart attack after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate marketer gives people allergic reactions.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement informing prospective subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you plan to do with their personal details.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their site.
- You have not divulged to visitors that you are promoting a product as an affiliate and could get paid a sales commission if visitors buy through your link.
- You did not spell out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- Visitors claim that your testimonials are all fake and decide to sue you because of it.
- You haven’t disclosed that you have received a free copy of the product you are reviewing.
- Your website includes adult content and you have not taken appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged children.
Consider now the actual case studies of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card info to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered 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 received a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% had breached 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 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 you could become exposed to the risk of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to make sure that your website or blog has the right legal pages and information accessible to all site visitors.
Complying With Third-Party Companies Terms And Policies
Compliance with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your website complies with all necessary laws and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you engage with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information if using many of their services. This includes using features like Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your WordPress blog with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense ads - policy requirements)
Or promoting your business via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information products with places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add a number of legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their networks …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for product sellers)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially when concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many business are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting 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 any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by making sure that your website complies with FTC regulations.
There are many sites that can provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references to some of these at the end of this article …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to develop social networking applications that integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with access to your 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 websites like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online as an affiliate marketer, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, or using Google AdWords to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to display on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you’ve been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Website
If your website is falling short in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will help your website stay out of trouble with most regulatory authorities and third-party providers, and avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above, you may want to consider including one or more of the following pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you provide information about affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides money-making information)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Media Terms (if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the right web content disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets readers know that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets users know that you will benefit financially if they buy through an affiliate link.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets readers know that you have received a review or sample copy of the product you’re writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets readers be aware 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 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 Content To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Upload Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your legal pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Where To Display Legal Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to your visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your site) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from all of your pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information to visitors on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your WordPress sidebar, refer to this step-by-step tutorial:
Use Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-prepared website forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms – Legal forms)
Alternatively, you can download a package of cut and paste legal templates written by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your web 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
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for every 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.
For more information, go here:
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your site is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress-powered websites worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin)
If the idea of manually setting up legal pages for your website feels too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing a plugin like WP Legal Pages instead …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the legal pages you need in a few minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. When the user agrees to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will display inside your main WordPress dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, affiliate/review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Create different legal page types)
Choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Pre-configured 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
To learn more this plugin, visit this site:
Compliance Bar Plugin is a complete compliance & disclaimer solution for your digital business …
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
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 And 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 site. Your legal pages can be 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).
To learn more, go here:
If hiring legal experts to create your online legal documentation is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional assistance from a lawyer.
We want your site to be safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documentation, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of business online (or are planning to), it’s important that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and the terms of service and guidelines of 3rd-party products and services that you may be promoting or using online. Your website or blog must comply with a number of regulations, many 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we provide no legal advice. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements pertaining to your business.
References And Resources
Here is a useful list of websites we recommend you visit to better understand what your business requires to remain compliant 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
- Better Business Bureau – 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
- 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 compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress site.
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