As a website owner, the last thing you want is to learn the hard way that you have broken the law.
As the digital era continues to grow at an overwhelming speed and the rules constantly change, it’s important to stay on top of what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains compliant, especially if having a digital presence is important in the success of your business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your website for material gain, you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau (BBB). Do a search online for “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)
These laws has legal ramifications for several business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, e.g. pay-per-click advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your online business is not in compliance, you could face a whole range 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 site are subject to legal requirements, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be advertising online, and that there are solutions that can help your site become compliant, such as the tools that we discuss further below.
Does Your Website Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. As previously stated, the purpose of this article is only to help make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern online business practices and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you endorse on your website
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider for a moment what would happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A customer has a heart attack after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate marketer gives people skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement that lets subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t clearly informed them what you plan to do with their details.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their website.
- You did not tell your site users that you’re an affiliate for the product you are promoting and may derive an affiliate commission if visitors purchase it.
- You have not spelled out the terms and conditions of your refund policies.
- A visitor claims the testimonials on your site are all fake and tries to sue you.
- You did not disclose that you received a free copy in a product review.
- Your site contains adult-related information and you haven’t taken sufficient measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider now the documented examples of costly compliance breaches below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up their personal information (including credit card details to complete his offer. Cost = $390,000.
- 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 dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% were breaking at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had infringed 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 entirely to the Google program with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could easily become exposed to the risk of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to ensure that your website has the right legal pages and information accessible to site visitors.
Complying With Third-Party Services Terms And Policies
All the big online companies and government regulatory agencies emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your visitors know that your business complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you engage with online.
Google requires websites to display legal information when using many of their products or features. This includes using services like Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue with your websites with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your products or services through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products with merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add various legal pages to your site before your products are approved for sale in their network …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for product vendors)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially if you plan to use product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by making sure that your site is compliant with FTC guidelines.
You can find many online business resources that can provide guidelines on how to structure 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 word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to develop social networking applications that integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with access to your legal pages …
(Apps that integrate with social networks also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote anything on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue online with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, 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 are required to display on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
What Compliance Pages Should I Add To My Site To Be Compliant?
If your website is lacking in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site will keep you out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and external service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to consider including one or more of these pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you provide information about affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides financial information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Audio/Video Terms (e.g. if you allow users to download media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Discloses to visitors that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets visitors know that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and purchase through an affiliate link.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets readers know that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your readers be aware that you were compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs readers 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 display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once these have been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in typical web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory on your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then add links to your legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the WordPress sidebar (or the footer of your website) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from all pages …
(Display legal information to users on all of your website’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about adding links to pages on your WP sidebar using widgets here:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting sites like the ones shown below:
Go here for more information:
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of website legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates)
Cut & Paste website templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own business name and URL, 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 reflects Federal Trade Commission guidelines brought 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 page for every 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 described previously.
For more details, go here:
WordPress Legal Plugins
In addition to using templates, another option is to use plugins.
Here are some great legal WordPress plugins that you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If manually creating legal pages for your website feels too time-consuming for you, then consider using WP Legal Pages instead …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you many headaches.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Legal Templates – Includes 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 the legal pages you will need in a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes – You can 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 every other WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. Page unlocks when the user agrees to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear in your main navigation menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP 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, affiliate sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
You can also select from several built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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
Visit this site to learn more about using this plugin:
complete website compliance and disclaimer solution …
For more details go here:
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress 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 – 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 one minute or less and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your website to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal documentation, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator Software lets you easily generate necessary legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online, it’s important that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service (TOS) required by third-party sites that you may decide to promote or offer online. Your website must comply with a whole set of laws and regulatory guidelines, some of which you may not even 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice on this website. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with the law concerning your specific business.
Here is a time-saving list of additional sites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your website to stay compliant and meet legal obligations:
- FTC 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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 why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website.
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