As a website owner, the last thing you want is to find yourself breaking laws, rules or regulations.
As digital business continues growing at such a fast pace and the rules constantly change, it’s important that you try to stay informed about what’s happening and make sure that your website or blog remains legal, especially if your web presence is important in the success of your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for material gain, then you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the (US based) 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 to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
These laws has legal implications for several online business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, e.g. Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
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 article is to help make you aware that your website(s) are required to comply with various legalities, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you may be offering online, and that there are easy solutions for WordPress users that can help your site become more compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Is Your Website Compliant?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be if these scenarios were to take place:
- A customer suffers a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online workout program.
- The skin care creams you sell as an affiliate gives a number of users allergic reactions.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not spelled out exactly what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their site.
- There is no statement on your site informing your visitors that you are recommending a product as an affiliate and may receive financial benefits if they buy it.
- You did not spell out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- A visitor claims your testimonials are fake and tries to sue you as a result.
- You have not disclosed that you received a free copy of the product you are reviewing.
- Your site contains adult information and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider now the following actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required to give up their personal information to complete his offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, he is now required to issue everyone they do business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer received a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing private information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting 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% were in breach of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were breaking 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 notices or lose access to the Google program they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being targeted for litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s imperative to ensure that your website or blog has the right legal pages and clearly accessible to your site users.
Complying With Third-Party Services Terms And Policies
All of the big online companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You are obligated to let your site users know that your business complies with all necessary laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will engage with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information if using their products or features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your websites using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your site using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products using companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add various legal pages to your website before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for selling via ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially when concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many websites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has already been the case, this often results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type 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 website complies with all FTC guidelines.
A number of business resource sites provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references to a number of these at the end of this article …
(You must structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you plan to create applications that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others with information about various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether or not 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 plan to promote anything on your site as an affiliate marketer, or making money online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or use Google AdWords 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 all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
What Legal Pages Do You Need To Add To Your Site To Be Protected From Legal Compliance Issues?
If your web site is lacking in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your site will help your site stay out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and external service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to consider including any of these compliance pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the right disclosure information to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets visitors be aware that you will not receive any form of payment for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users be aware that you may receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate link.
- Sample/Review Copy – Informs readers that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product or service.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your visitors know that you were compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages Content To Your Site
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers 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 adding a legal folder to your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your server using FTP)
You can then add links to these legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Site
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can add these to your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer section of your site) to ensure that visitors will be able to access legal information from all your pages …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your website’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your WP sidebar or footer using widgets, see this tutorial:
You can find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and internet forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting websites like the ones shown below:
For more details, go here:
Another option is to purchase a package of legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new FTC regulations brought into effect in 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for every legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload the pages to your web server as described previously.
WordPress Legal Plugins
In addition to using cut & paste legal templates, you can keep things very simple using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages)
If creating legal pages manually feels too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site a lot easier and save you time.
Some of the benefits of using the WP Legal Pages are:
- Pre-written Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages like any other page on your website.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of 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 other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. When a user agrees to the legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item is added to your dashboard menu …
(WP Legal Pages – Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites, niche sites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Page Type)
You can also select from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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, go here:
complete website compliance & disclaimer solution …
Go here to learn more:
(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
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro 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. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your websites.
If using the services of lawyers to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford a solicitor.
We want your business to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal documents, or a WordPress plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator lets you easily generate essential legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you make money online (or are planning to), it’s important that your site complies with all regulations and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by 3rd-party services and products that you may be promoting or offering online. Your digital presence must comply with numerous laws and regulatory guidelines, many of which you may not 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Here is a useful list of additional sites we suggest you visit to better understand what may be required of your site to remain compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- BBB – 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
In Addition …
- 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 legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your website or blog.
"I love the way your email series "Infinite Web Content Creation Training Series" is documented and presented. It is very absorbing and captivating. The links and tutorials are interesting and educational. This has motivated me to rewrite my content following the concepts I am learning from the email series." - Mani Raju, www.fortuneinewaste.com