Is your WordPress site legal? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose services or products you are endorsing or using?
As the digital realm continues to grow at an overwhelming speed and rules keep changing, it’s absolutely vital that you stay on top of what’s happening and ensure that your website remains legal, especially if having an online presence plays a significant part in your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, then you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau, also referred to as BBB. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
The new laws affect various online business categories, including:
- Any form of advertising, including Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
The purpose of this guide is to make you aware that your website or blog(s) may be subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of being compliant with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be using on your site, and that there are solutions that can help your site become more compliant, such as the tools that we discuss further below.
Does Your Site Comply With The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice in this article. You must do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all laws and regulations wherever your business is based.
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for a moment what would happen to your business if any of these situations were to occur:
- A person suffers a heart attack after using your online workout program.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate marketer gives a number of users an allergic reaction.
- Your opt-in list provides a statement letting subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t defined what you will do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your website and publishes it on their own site.
- There is no statement on your site letting your visitors know that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you may derive financial benefits if they buy using your link.
- You did not spell out the terms of your refund policies.
- Your visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are misleading and decide to sue you because of it.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website includes adult-related content and you have not taken sufficient measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider too these 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 (including credit card information to complete a debt reduction offer. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer was slapped with a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape Users IDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least 2 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 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?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s vitally important to ensure that your digital presence has the right legal pages and information accessible to all you site visitors.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in many countries emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You are obligated to let your visitors know that your website complies with all necessary 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 will engage with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires your site to display legal information when using their products. This includes using features such as Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Monetizing your WordPress blogs with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense online advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your products via Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell products online via merchants like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add a number of legal pages before your products can be approved for sale in their marketplace …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for sellers)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and statements to visitors, especially concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies 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 sites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) 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 kind of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by making sure that your site is compliant with all FTC guidelines.
Many online resources provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. See the 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)
Social Media Applications - Don’t Forget These
If you plan to develop applications that integrate with your website, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others require you to provide information about various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to display on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts suspended.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If your website or blog is falling short in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following compliance pages to your website will help keep your business out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and 3rd-party providers, and even help you avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to look into adding one or more of the following pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you provide information about affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general financial content)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding correct disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets readers know that you will not receive compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to your visitors that you will derive some form of financial benefit if they buy through your affiliate link.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets readers know that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets your readers be aware that you have been compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to comply with the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages Content To Your WordPress Website
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once this has been created, 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 in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legal folder to your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. using FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add links to your pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu administration …
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly visible to all visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into the sidebar (or the footer of your website) to ensure that visitors will be able to access legal information from every web page …
(It’s important to display legal information to visitors on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your WP sidebar using widgets, see this tutorial:
Using Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to sites like this one:
Another option is to download a package of website legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates FTC regulations and guidelines that came into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for every legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload these to your server as described earlier.
For more details, visit this website:
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste templates, you can keep things really simple by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress-powered websites you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If the idea of creating legal pages manually seems too time-consuming for you, then consider choosing WP Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site much easier and save you a great deal of time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages:
- Built-in Legal Templates – Over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in around 3 minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other page on your website.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will be 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 website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When a user agrees to your legal terms, the page unlocks, giving them access.
- Additional Features – More features are being added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will be added to your main navigation area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings)
You have the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites, review sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Create different legal pages)
You can also choose from a number of pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress 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
Visit the plugin site for more details about this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin containing over twenty customizable legal page templates for your digital business …
Learn more 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 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 powered site. You can have legal pages installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites.
For more information, go here:
If using the services of lawyers to create your legal pages is currently 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 site to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal page templates, or plugins as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online (or are planning to), you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business practices online and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by third-party sites that you may decide to promote or use online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws intended to protect consumer rights, you’re breaking the law.
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 provide no legal advice here. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Legal Resources And References
Below is a time-saving list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your site to stay compliant and meet its legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission 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
- 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 the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your website using inexpensive resources and plugins.
"Your training is the best in the world! It is simple, yet detailed, direct, understandable, memorable, and complete." Andrea Adams, FinancialJourney.org