One of the worst things that can happen to a website owner is to break the law.
As the cybersphere continues to grow at an extraordinary rate and the rules constantly change, it’s important that you stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your website remains legal, especially if having an online presence plays a significant role in your business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for commercial gain, you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the (US based) BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Search online for information about “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – Better Business Bureau)
The new laws has legal ramifications for several business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, including Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If there are no legal pages on your website (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank or JVZoo will not let you list digital products for sale, PayPal may shut down your account, Facebook could reject your applications, and you won’t be allowed to promote a number of advertising and online merchant networks.
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!
In this guide, we discuss why it’s important to have a compliant website and present simple and inexpensive solutions to help make your website compliant in minutes.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all laws and regulations wherever you do business.
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider what the implications to your business would be if the scenarios below were to take place:
- A person suffers a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone who purchases from your link allergic reactions.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement that lets subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you plan to do with it.
- Someone copies content from your site and publishes it on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website informing your site visitors that you are an affiliate for the product you’re marketing and may derive a sales commission if visitors purchase it.
- You have not spelled out the terms of your return policies.
- Your visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are misleading and try to sue you.
- You didn’t disclose that you received a free copy in your product review.
- Your site publishes adult information and you haven’t taken appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider now 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 their personal information (including credit card details to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent 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% were in breach of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had infringed 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 notices 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 easy it is to risk becoming a target of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA, CPC or PPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords User
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website or blog has the right legal pages and information displayed to your site visitors.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies with legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of most companies you will do business with online.
Google requires your site to display certain information when using many of their products and features. This includes using features such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue with your WordPress blog with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your services or products via Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell products online with merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for product vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to include clear disclaimers and statements to visitors, especially concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Site Is Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this typically results in 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 business online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your site complies with all FTC regulations and guidelines.
Various sites provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. See the references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Wording your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to create social networking applications for your website users, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Apps for social networks also require compliance)
- If you are not sure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote anything on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generate revenue online with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, 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 provide on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you’ve been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party websites require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your website falls short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your website will help your site keep out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and 3rd-party providers, and avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimers
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to look into implementing any of these legal pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides money-making information)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right disclosure information to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you are not being paid for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers be aware that you will be compensated if they act on your recommendation and buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Discloses to users that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that informs site users 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 satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Content To Your Website
Ideally, you will have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in typical 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 your legal pages to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server using FTP)
You can then add a link to your legal pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Displaying Legal Web 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 WordPress sidebar (or the footer section of your website or blog) to ensure that users have access to the information from every page …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your website’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer using widgets, refer to this tutorial:
Use Store-Bought Templates
You can find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting sites like this one:
Find Legal Forms
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Another option is to download a package of cut and paste website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages
(Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms)
Cut & Paste website templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page for each legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your server as previously described.
For more information, visit this site:
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using templates, another option is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
WP Legal Pages
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages …
This plugin is not free, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported plugin that will make the job 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:
- Built-in Templates – Includes 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 will need in around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like every other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear in your navigation menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view 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 sites, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Create different legal page types)
You can also choose from various pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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
Go here to learn more this powerful plugin:
Compliance Bar – Website Compliance Plugin For WordPress
Compliance Bar is a total compliance and disclaimer solution for your web presence …
Legal Suite Pro
(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 & Conditions
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin – 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 site. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in one minute or less and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
If hiring a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic type of legal protection on your site until you can afford a solicitor.
We want your business to be legally safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using ready-made legal content, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you are making money online (or plan to), it’s important that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines of third-party services and products that you may decide to promote or sell online. Your internet presence must comply with a wide range of regulations, some of which you may not 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice here. 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.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a useful list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to remain compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- 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
- United States 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
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 add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website.
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