Is your website legally compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose services or products you endorse or use?
As the digital way of life continues to grow at breakneck speed and the rules keep changing, it’s important that you stay on top of what’s happening and ensure that your website or blog remains compliant, especially if your web presence is a fundamental factor in your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, then you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau, also called the BBB. Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
These laws has ramifications for various online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including text link ads, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If your business online is not compliant, you could end up facing a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your site are subject to certain legal requirements according to laws that govern online businesses, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you may be recommending on your site, and that there are easy solutions for WordPress that can help your sites become compliant, such as the tools discussed further below.
Is Your Site Compliant?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide 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 fully complies with all laws wherever your business is based.
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Is your business at risk? Consider for a minute what could happen to your business if any of these situations were to occur:
- Someone suffers a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you sell as an affiliate gives a number of users an adverse reaction.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement letting subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly spelled out what you will do with the details you’ve collected.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their website.
- You did not tell your site visitors that you’re an affiliate for the product you are selling and will get paid a sales commission if they purchase products using your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your refund policies.
- Online visitors claim your testimonials are false and try to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed that you received a free copy of a product you are reviewing.
- Your site contains adult-related content and you didn’t take sufficient measures to restrict access by underage children.
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 personal information (including credit card info to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone he does business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with 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 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 chosen at random, 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 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 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 be exposed to the risk of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA, CPC or PPA Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
You need to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence has the right legal pages and clearly displayed to your site users.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies
All the leading websites and government agencies that regulate trade in many countries emphasize the need and importance of complying with the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies will all laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of most companies you will interact with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display certain information if using their services. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your website with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information-based products using merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add certain legal pages to your site before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank product vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you include clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many sites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this often results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you 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. it’s best to protect your business by ensuring that your site complies with all FTC guidelines and regulations.
Various online business resources provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to create applications that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with information about various 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 organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything online as an affiliate marketer, or making money online with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or driving visitors to your website using Google AdWords, 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 shut down.
- If you have ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site
If your web site falls 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 keep your business out of trouble with many regulatory agencies and external service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to look into implementing any of these pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides content about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Media Terms (if you provide users with access to media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right web content disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you will not receive compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers be aware that you may receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Explains to users that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs visitors that you have been compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets readers 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 website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages Content To Your WordPress Website
Ideally, you should have your lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been done, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legal folder in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then easily add links to these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu feature …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and display clearly to all visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to your sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors will be able to access legal information from all pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar and footer menu using widgets here:
Use Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable internet forms and agreements by searching online, or going to sites like the ones listed below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
Go here for more info:
Another option is to purchase a set of cut and paste legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
Cut & Paste website templates 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 details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates Federal Trade Commission regulations and guidelines that came into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for each legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your web server as previously described.
Go here for more details:
Legal Pages – Plugins
As well as using templates, you can simplify things using a plugin.
Here are some legal WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If the idea of creating legal pages manually seems too time-consuming for you, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site a lot easier and save you a great deal of time.
Some of the benefits of using WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page 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.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages just like any WordPress page.
- 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. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. Page unlocks when user agrees to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will display inside your WP dashboard area …
(WP Legal Pages – Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, niche sites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
You can also select from several pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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 about the benefits of using this plugin, visit the plugin website:
The Compliance Bar WordPress Plugin is a total compliance & disclaimer solution for your site …
To learn more about this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin 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 of Service
- 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 one minute or less and the license allows you to install and use the plugin on all of your websites.
If hiring legal experts to create your online legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire the services of a lawyer.
We want your website to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal content, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator quickly generates necessary legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you make money online, it’s important that your website remains compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by third-party sites that you may be promoting or selling online. Your internet presence must comply with a whole range of laws and regulatory guidelines, 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 cannot provide legal advice on our website. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all legal requirements pertaining to your specific business.
Legal Resources And References
Below is a useful list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your website may require to stay compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- 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
- 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 provided above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your site using simple solutions.
"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group