Is your WordPress website compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose services or products you are endorsing or advertising?
As the digital era continues to grow at such a fast pace and the rules keep changing, it’s vitally important that you try to stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if having a digital presence is important in the success of your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for profit, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
These laws has legal implications for various business activities, including:
- Any form of advertising, like contextual advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your online business is not in compliance, you could also face a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this guide is to help make you aware that your website or blog may be required to comply with certain legalities, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of 3rd-party providers whose services or products you may be recommending online, and that there are easy solutions that can help your site become more compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Is Your Site Legally Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider for a moment what the implications to your business would be if these scenarios were to occur:
- Someone has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you promote as an affiliate marketer gives people an adverse reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you will do with it.
- Someone copies content from your website and publishes it on their site.
- There is no statement on your site making your site users aware that you are marketing a product as an affiliate that you may derive an affiliate commission if they purchase it.
- You did not spell out the terms of your return policies.
- A visitor claims that the testimonials on your site are false and decides to sue you as a result.
- You didn’t disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult content and you have not taken sufficient measures to restrict access by underage persons.
Consider too 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 a debt reduction offer. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to provide everyone he does business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- 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 private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes UIDs. Many internet marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% had infringed 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% were breaking 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 to the Google program with the violation, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being exposed to litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
it’s important to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your online business is legally compliant.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies Terms And Policies
Leading online companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the need and importance of complying with the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You are expected to let your site visitors know that your website complies will all legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required by most companies you engage with.
Google requires you to display legal information if using their services and features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Monetizing your blogs with Google AdSense ads …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
Or promoting your services or products using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell products online via merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add certain legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements product vendors selling via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and disclosures on your site, especially concerning the use of testimonials or product endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many sites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As documented on their website, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting site owners 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 located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by making sure that your website complies with FTC guidelines and regulations.
Various business resources provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. We provide a number of references at the end of this article …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to develop applications for your site users, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others with information about various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of sites like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote anything online using affiliate marketing, or monetizing your pages 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 include on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts shut down.
- If you have ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
What Legal Information Do I Need To Add To My Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If you suspect that your website or blog lacks in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website should help you stay out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and external providers, and even help you avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to consider including one or more of these pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you provide information about affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general advice about health or medical areas)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding correct disclosure information to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets your visitors know that you will not be receiving any type of payment for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Discloses to readers that you will derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Explains to readers that you have received a review or sample copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Informs readers that you were compensated in some form to write the article.
- 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 online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory (e.g. via FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your web server via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to your visitors. You can add these to the sidebar menu (or place them in the footer section of your site) so that visitors have access to legal information from all of your pages …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar and footer in WordPress here:
Using Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and website forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting sites like this one:
(Find Legal Forms – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Another option is to purchase a set of website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages)
These templates 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 details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new FTC regulations and guidelines that came into effect on March 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use: with inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new WordPress page for each legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as previously described.
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using legal templates, you can keep things really simple by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal pages manually, then consider using a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported plugin that will make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your WordPress site a lot easier and save you time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the legal pages you need in around 3 minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Content editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any page on your website.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks only when users agree to your terms.
- Additional Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will display inside your main dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Screen)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of sites, such as business websites with products, niche sites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type drop down menu)
Select from several built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Pre-configured 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 this WordPress plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-powered sites that includes over twenty customizable compliance templates for your site …
Learn more about this plugin here:
(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
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress – 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 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).
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your site to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-written legal forms, or a WordPress plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you are making money online (or plan to), you need to make sure that your site is found to comply with all legal requirements and any guidelines and terms of service (TOS) of 3rd-party sites that you may decide to promote or use online. Your digital presence 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice on our website. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with the law wherever your business is based.
Legal Resources And References
Below is a time-saving list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your website may require to stay compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- US Copyright Office
See Also …
- 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 the importance of having a legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add essential legal pages to your WordPress website using simple legal resources and solutions.
"I love the way your email series "Infinite Web Content Creation Training Series" is documented and presented. It is very absorbing and captivating. The links and tutorials are interesting and educational. This has motivated me to rewrite my content following the concepts I am learning from the email series." - Mani Raju, www.fortuneinewaste.com