Is your website compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking any rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose products or services you are doing business with?
As digital business continues growing at an extraordinary rate and rules keep changing, it’s important that you try to stay informed about what’s happening and to make sure that your website remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if having a digital presence is a significant part of your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you plan to promote anything on your website for profit, then you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the US-based BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws affect various online business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, including inline advertising, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If there are no legal pages on your site (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank won’t allow you to list digital products, PayPal may suspend your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook could reject web applications, and you will not be allowed to enrol in a range of advertising and affiliate merchant networks.
If your digital presence is not compliant, 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 or blog(s) are subject to certain legal requirements, the importance of complying with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be using online, and that there are easy solutions that can help your sites become fully compliant, such as the plugins that we discuss further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog Legally Compliant?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice on this website. As stated previously, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations governing business online and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of third-party providers whose services or products you advertise on your website or blog
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider for one minute what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A user suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin care creams you sell as an affiliate marketer gives people skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement informing subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t defined what you’ll do with their details.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their site.
- You haven’t informed your site visitors that you are an affiliate for the product you’re selling that you could get paid a commission if visitors buy through your link.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are fake and decide to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your site publishes adult content and you didn’t take sufficient measures to restrict access by underage children.
Consider too the following actual examples of costly compliance breaches:
- 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. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, he is now required to provide everyone they do business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- 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 information.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting 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 violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in breach of at least 2 of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in breach of 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 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 be exposed to the risks of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website or blog has the right legal pages and information accessible to all you site visitors.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Complying with 3rd-party companies terms and policies is important.
You must let your visitors know that your business complies with all necessary laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of most companies you engage with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires you to display certain information when using their services. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your WordPress blog with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense policy requirements)
And even promoting your services or products via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell digital products with places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will be required to add legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their networks …
(Policy requirements digital product vendors selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policies on your site, especially if you plan to sell products and services online using testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically prompts the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute site owners in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any type of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business by making sure that your website is compliant with all FTC regulations and guidelines.
You can find many resources online that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. See the additional references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to create social networking applications for your website, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with information about 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 it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote services or products on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generate revenue online with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, 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 display on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
What Legal Information Does My Website Need To Be Compliant?
If your website or blog lacks in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will help keep you out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and 3rd-party service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above, you may want to consider adding one or more of the following pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you sell or promote affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general advice about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the correct types of disclosure pages to your website. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your readers be aware that you will not receive any kind of compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to users that you may be compensated if they act on your recommendation and buy through an affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Informs site users that you have received a review or sample copy of the product you’re writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Informs site users that you were compensated in some way to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs your 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.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in typical web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory in your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server using FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu feature …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all site visitors. You can insert these into your sidebar menu (or place them in the footer of your site) to ensure that users can access the information from every web page …
(Display links to legal pages to visitors on all of your site’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar using widgets, refer to this tutorial:
You can easily find downloadable attorney-prepared website forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to websites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms)
For more details, visit this website:
Alternatively, you can download a package of legal templates written by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to add your own details, then pasted into your legal web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for each legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your server as previously described.
Go here to learn more:
Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using templates, you can keep things very simple by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress-powered sites you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website much easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like every other WordPress page.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your website or blog 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 check box and delete and manage these like any WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. When users agree to the terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will display inside your main navigation menu section …
(WP Legal Pages – Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, niche websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Create different legal pages)
Select from various built-in 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
To learn more about the benefits of using this plugin, go here:
total website compliance & disclaimer solution …
(Legal Suite Pro)
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 & 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. 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 the plugin on all of your sites.
For more details, go here:
If using the services of lawyers to create your legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing some type of basic legal protection on your website until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your site to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (it’s FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal templates, or a WordPress legal pages plugin - see 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 make sure that your site stays compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines for third-party sites that you may decide to promote or advertise online. Your website or blog must comply with a whole set of laws and regulatory guidelines, some of which you may not 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, we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Below is a useful list of additional sites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your site may require to remain compliant and meet 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
- 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
- Google 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 provided above to quickly add legal pages to your WordPress site.
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