One of the worst things that can happen to you as a website owner is to break the law.
Online laws and regulations were designed to protect consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes goods or services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t protect someone from taking legal action against your business.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for commercial gain, you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, 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)
The introduction of new laws affect several online business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, like PPC advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your site does not display certain pages (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank will not let you list your digital products for sale, PayPal could shut down your account, Facebook could disapprove your web applications, and you won’t be allowed to promote a range of advertising or affiliate merchant networks.
You may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your site may be subject to legal requirements, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be advertising on your website, and that there are plugins for WordPress site owners that can help your website become more compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice. As previously stated, the aim of this article is to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations governing business and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of companies whose products or services you advertise on your website or blog
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Is your business at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be if these situations were to happen:
- A customer has a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate gives people skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not defined what you will do with it.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their own site.
- There is no statement on your site making your site users aware that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate that you could earn a financial benefit if visitors buy using your affiliate link.
- You don’t spell out the conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are misleading and try to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your site contains adult-related information and you didn’t take sufficient measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider also 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 info to complete his offer. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to provide a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped 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 UIDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% were in violation 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 breaking 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 they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could be exposed to the risk of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your digital presence stays fully compliant with the law.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies Terms And Policies
Complying with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are expected to let your visitors know that your business complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you do business with online.
Google requires your site to display legal information when using their products or service. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your online properties with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell digital products through companies such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will be required to add legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements digital product vendors selling via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policy statements on your site, especially if you plan to sell or promote products and services using testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Site Is Compliant
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 has happened in the past, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of money-making activity 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 interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with all FTC guidelines and regulations.
A number of online business resources provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. See our additional references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to create applications that integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything on your site as an affiliate marketer, or monetize your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay 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 include 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 whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party services require you to comply with their policies)
Common Legal Pages To Add To Your Website
If your website or blog falls short in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website should help your website stay out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and third-party service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to consider adding one or more of these compliance pages where applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides content about financial areas or income opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you allow users to download media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add the right types of disclosure pages to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs your visitors that you’re not being paid for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Informs users that you may be compensated if they act on your recommendation and purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets site users know that you have received a sample or review copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs visitors that you have been compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors 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 display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages Content To Your WordPress Website
Ideally, you should consult lawyers and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once this has been completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in standard web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then add a link to your legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly visible to visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your site) so that users have access to legal information from every page …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about adding links to pages on your sidebar, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting websites like the ones listed below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Alternatively, you can download a set of cut and paste legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new FTC regulations that came into effect in March 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website 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 the pages to your web server as described earlier.
For more details, go here:
Legal Pages – WordPress Plugins
As well as using copy & paste templates, another option for adding legal pages to your site is to use a plugin.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress-powered sites worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using WP Legal Pages …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like any other WP page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When users agree to your legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear inside your main navigation menu …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, affiliate sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
You can also choose from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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
For more details about the benefits of using this handy plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users with over 20 customizable legal templates for your website …
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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
- 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers 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 less than one minute and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites.
Visit this site to learn more:
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your website until you can afford a solicitor.
We want your business to be safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal templates, or a WordPress plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do any kind of business online (or are planning to), you need to ensure that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines required by third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or advertise online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws designed 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law regarding your specific business.
Below is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires 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
- Better Business Bureau Website
- 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 this article has helped you understand why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your website.
"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