One of the worst situations a business owner can find themselves in is to break the law.
As digital business continues to grow at an overwhelming speed and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s absolutely vital that you try to stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains compliant, especially if your online presence plays a significant part in your business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your website for material gain, you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau, also referred to as the BBB. Do a search online for “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 affect various business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, like contextual advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If you are not in compliance, you could also face a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
In this article, we look at the importance of having a legally compliant website and how to quickly add legal pages to your WordPress site using simple and cost-effective methods and resources.
Is Your Website Breaking The Law?
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice in this article. Do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all laws wherever your business is located.
Why Having A Compliant Website Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider for one moment what would happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- A user has a heart attack after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate 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 clearly informed them what you will do with the information you have collected.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website or blog making your site users aware that you are marketing a product as an affiliate and will receive a sales commission if visitors buy it.
- You don’t spell out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim the testimonials on your site are misleading and try to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed that you were given a free copy of the product you reviewed.
- Your website contains adult content and you haven’t taken appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider also the actual examples of costly compliance breaches listed below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ 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, resulting 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 cautions or lose access entirely to the Google program whose policies they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being exposed to non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords User
- Info Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- 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 or blog stays fully compliant with the law.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your site users know that your business complies will all laws and professional guidelines. This not only increases trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required in most cases by most companies you will do business with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires you to display certain information when using many of their products and service. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue with your WordPress blog with Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your services using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products through merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will be required to add various legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policies to visitors, especially concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, this often ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by making sure that your website complies with all FTC guidelines.
There are many online resources that can provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with 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 the law)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to create applications for your website, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others will require you to provide access to various legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products online using affiliate marketing, or generating revenue with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or use Google AdWords pay-per-click ads to drive visitors to your pages, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to display on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you’ve been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
What Legal Information Pages Should I Add To My Site To Be Covered Against Legal Compliance Issues?
If your web site is falling short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help your business stay out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and third-party service providers, and avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the pages above, you may want to consider adding any of these pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general content about financial areas or money-making opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Audio/Video Terms (if you provide users with access to downloadable videos or audio files on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets visitors be aware that you are not being paid for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Informs site users that you may benefit financially if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Disclosure that informs site users that you have received a review or sample copy of the product you’re writing about by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your visitors know that you were compensated in some form to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets your visitors 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.
Adding Legal Content To Your Website
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you in standard web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory in your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then easily add links to these pages in WordPress using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Site
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website) so that visitors have access to legal information from all your pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
If you need help adding links to pages on your WP sidebar or footer using widgets, see this tutorial:
Using Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or visiting sites like the ones listed below:
(Find Legal Forms – Legal forms)
Alternatively, you can download a package of website legal templates written by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
These templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple 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
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for every legal form you want added 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, go here:
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using cut & paste legal templates, you can simplify things by using plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress websites worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal web pages manually, then consider using WP Legal Pages …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will help make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site a lot easier and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the benefits of using the WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit legal pages like any other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like every other page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks only when the user agrees to your terms.
- New Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will appear inside your navigation section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Screen)
With WP Legal Pages, you can easily create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Type of Site menu)
Choose from various pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – 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 using this plugin:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin with over twenty customizable legal templates for your website …
Go here to learn more:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
This plugin 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 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 powered site. Your legal pages can be 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 (even sites that you decide to sell).
Go here for more information:
If using the services of a lawyer to create your legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford legal services.
We want your site to be protected!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal page templates, or a WordPress plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator quickly generates necessary legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you engage in any form of business online (or plan to), you need to ensure that your site remains compliant with regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service required by 3rd-party services and products that you may be promoting or using online. Your website or blog must comply with a wide range of regulations, many of which you may not even be aware of.
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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice on our website. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
References And Resources
Here is a time-saving list of additional sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your business requires to remain compliant and meet its 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- United States Copyright Office
In Addition …
- 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 presented above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your website using simple methods and resources.
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