Is your WordPress site legal? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose services or products you are endorsing or using?
As the digital economy continues growing at an extraordinary rate and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s important that you try to stay on top of what’s happening and make sure that your site remains legally compliant, especially if your 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 material gain, then you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory 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 for more details.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws affect several online business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, like Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your website does not display certain pages (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank won’t approve digital products on their network, PayPal may suspend your account, Facebook will suspend your web applications, and you won’t be allowed to promote a range of advertising or online marketing networks.
If your digital presence 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 guide is to make you aware that your website(s) may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of complying with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you may be using online, and that there are easy solutions that can help your sites become more compliant, such as the plugins that we list further below.
Is Your Site Breaking Rules Or Regulations?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice about your website or business. You must do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with the law wherever your business is based in.
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be if these scenarios were to occur:
- A user suffers a heart attack after they use your online fitness workout.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate gives a number of users skin rashes.
- You’ve told your subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not spelled out exactly what you will do with their details.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making your site visitors aware that you are an affiliate for the product you are promoting and could derive a sales commission if visitors buy the product using your affiliate link.
- You didn’t spell out the terms and conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are false and try to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose 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 restrict access by underage persons.
Consider now these real examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal information (including credit card info to complete his offer. In addition to a hefty $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 copped 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 users from scraping Users IDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% were in breach of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in violation of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had breached 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 cautions or lose access entirely to the Google program whose policies they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk becoming a target of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA or PPA Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s vitally important to make sure that your digital presence stays fully compliant with the law.
Complying With Third-Party Companies Terms And Policies
All the big websites and government agencies that regulate trade in many countries emphasize the need of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your website complies with laws and recommended guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of most companies you interact with online.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires you to display certain information if using their products and service. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue with your WordPress blog with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense ads - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell information-based products via merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will be required to add a number of legal pages before your products can be approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for using ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you include clear disclaimers and policy statements on your site, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has already been the case, this often ends up with 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 type of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. you should protect your business by ensuring that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
You can find many resources websites for businesses that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site meet FTC requirements. See the 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 laws and regulations)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you plan to create social networking applications for your website users, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with access to your legal pages …
(Apps that integrate with social networks also require compliance)
- If you are unsure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products on your site using affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, 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 terminated.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all third-party services require you to comply with their policies)
Basic Legal Pages To Include In Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If your website or blog is falling short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website will help your site keep out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and third-party service providers, and avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to consider adding any of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you provide information about affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general content about financial areas or income opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the correct types of disclosure pages to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets site users know that you’re not receiving any type of compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users know that you may derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through affiliate links on your site.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets readers be aware that you have received a sample or review copy of the product you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to your readers that you have been compensated in some way to write the content.
- 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 website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you should consult lawyers 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.
Upload Legal Pages To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this directory via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu admin area …
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly accessible to all site visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your WordPress sidebar (or the footer of your site) to ensure that users have access to the information from every page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages on all of your website’s pages)
To learn more about adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer, refer to this tutorial:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones shown below:
Another option is to download a package of website legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates)
Cut & Paste website templates 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 Website Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC guidelines brought into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website 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 these to your web server as described earlier.
Go here for more info:
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using templates, you can keep things very simple using a plugin.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress users that you may be interested in using:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider using WordPress Legal Pages instead …
WordPress Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your site a lot easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Legal 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 the legal pages you need 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.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. When a user agrees to the terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will display inside your navigation section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Screen)
With WP Legal Pages, you have the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, niche websites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Page Type)
You can also choose from various pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress 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
To learn more this WordPress plugin, visit this website:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin containing over 20 customizable compliance templates for your digital presence …
Go here to learn more:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
Legal Suite Pro 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 – 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.
Visit this website to learn more:
If using the services of lawyers to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some form of basic legal protection on your website until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your business to be legally protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documents, or plugins - see 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 we’ve previously pointed out, if you do business online (or are planning to), it’s important that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and any guidelines and terms of service for 3rd-party services and products that you may be promoting or using online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws intended to protect 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 do not provide legal advice on this website. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Here is a time-saving list of additional sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your business requires to comply and meet legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- US 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
We hope you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand the importance of having a legally compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your website or blog.
"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)