If you plan to grow a successful business online, you do not want to find out that you have been operating on the wrong side of the law.
As the digital way of life continues to grow at an extraordinary rate and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s vitally important to stay informed about what’s happening and ensure that your website remains legal, especially if having an online presence plays an important role in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online “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 introduction of these new laws affect several online business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, like display advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If you do not display certain legal pages on your web site (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank will not allow you to sell digital products, PayPal may shut down your account, Facebook will reject your applications, and you will not be allowed to enroll in a number of advertising or online merchant networks.
More importantly, you could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your website or blog(s) are required to comply with certain legalities in accordance with the laws that govern online business practices, the importance of complying with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be offering on your website, and that there are easy solutions that can help your websites become compliant, such as the tools listed further below.
Does Your Site Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice about your website or business. As stated previously, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations that govern business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you promote
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Consider what the implications to your business would be if any of the following scenarios were to occur:
- Someone suffers a heart attack after they use your online fitness workout.
- The skin care creams you sell as an affiliate marketer gives a number of users an allergic reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t clearly spelled out what you’ll do with their personal details.
- Someone steals content from your site and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your website or blog informing your site visitors that you’re an affiliate for the product you are recommending and could earn financial benefits if visitors purchase it.
- You did not spell out the terms of your refund and return policies.
- Someone claims the testimonials on your site are all fake and decides to sue you as a result.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your site contains adult-related content and you haven’t taken appropriate measures to keep underage persons from accessing it.
Consider also the following documented case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to give everyone he does 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 details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping Users IDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ 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% had broken 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% were breaking 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 with warnings or lose access to the Google program with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to become exposed to the risk of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
It’s vitally important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website or blog is legally compliant.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services Terms And Policies
All the big companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the need and importance of observing 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 increases consumer trust and confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of many companies you do business with.
Google requires your site to display legal information when using their products. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue online with your WordPress sites using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services using Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell products online via places like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add various legal pages before your products are approved for sale …
(ClickBank – policy requirements)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to include clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially when using testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many websites are 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 site owners 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 does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business interests by making sure that your website complies with FTC guidelines and regulations.
You can find many business resources that can provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. See our additional resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(It’s important to structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you are planning to develop apps for your website users, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services online using affiliate marketing, or generate revenue online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, 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 include on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
Common Legal Pages To Add To Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If your website or blog falls short in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help you stay out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and external providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to consider including any of the pages listed below where applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides information about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Video/Audio Terms (e.g. if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the correct type of content disclosure is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you are not being paid for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets visitors know that you will receive compensation if they buy through an affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Disclosure that informs visitors that you have received a review or sample copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets users know that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs readers 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Website
If someone prepares 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 them for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add links to these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu administration …
Where To Display Legal Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all site visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the sidebar (or the footer of your site) so that visitors will be able to access legal information from all your pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information to users on all of your site’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial about displaying links to pages on your WordPress sidebar here:
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or by visiting websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
To learn more, go here:
Another option is to purchase a package of website legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own business name and URL, then pasted into your legal web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page 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 server as previously described.
Go here to learn more:
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using legal templates, you can keep things very simple using plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages instead …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site much easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of 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.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any WordPress page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When users agree to the terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item is added to your main dashboard section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
With WP Legal Pages, you can easily create legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, affiliate sites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
Choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Built-In 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 WordPress plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin that contains over 20 customizable legal templates for your online presence …
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
- 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers into a plugin that can be installed quickly on any WordPress site. You can have legal pages 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.
Go here for more details:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford a solicitor.
We want your business to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal content, or a WordPress legal pages plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you make money online, it’s important that your site remains compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate how business online is done and the guidelines and terms of service provided by third-party services and products that you may be promoting or endorsing online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws intended to protect the rights of consumers, you’re breaking the law.
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 are not offering legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Below is a time-saving list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what may be required of your website to remain compliant and meet its legal requirements and guidelines:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- US Copyright Office
- 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 provided above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your site using simple resources and 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)