Is your WordPress site compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking the law, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose services or products you are advertising or endorsing?
Internet laws were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to anyone who sells, markets or promotes goods or services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements will not protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for commercial gain, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection 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 to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau Website)
The introduction of these new laws has ramifications for several business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, including text link advertising, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
Without certain legal pages on your website (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank or JVZoo will not allow you to list digital products, PayPal may close down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook could suspend web applications, and you will not be allowed to participate in most advertising or online marketing networks.
If your online business is not in compliance, you could end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
This article explains why it’s important to have a legally compliant website and how to quickly add legal pages to your website using simple solutions.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. As stated earlier, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal policies in accordance with federal, regional or local laws and regulations governing business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of companies whose products or services you endorse on your website or blog
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider what would happen to your business if these situations were to happen:
- Someone has a heart attack after purchasing your online fitness program.
- The skin care products you sell as an affiliate gives someone skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement letting subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t spelled out exactly what you’ll do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your site and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your site making your site users aware that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you may receive financial benefits if visitors purchase it.
- You haven’t spelled out the terms and conditions of your return policies.
- A visitor claims the testimonials on your site are misleading and decides to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult information and you didn’t take sufficient measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider now the following documented examples 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 info to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a hefty $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to issue a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many marketers gambled that they could get away with it and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independently-conducted 2010 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% had broken 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% had breached 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 with warnings 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 risk becoming targeted for litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to ensure that your digital presence remains fully compliant with the law.
Complying With 3rd-Party Companies
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in various countries emphasize the importance of observing the terms and policies of third-party service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies with laws and professional guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will interact with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires you to display certain information when using their products or features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Generating revenue online with your website with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense ads policy requirements)
And even promoting your products or services using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information-based products using companies like ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add a number of legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for selling via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you display clear disclaimers and statements on your website, especially if you plan to use product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many websites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As is already the case, this often 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 selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by ensuring that your website is compliant with FTC guidelines.
A number of business resource sites provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. We provide additional references to a number of these at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you plan to create apps that integrate with your site, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others will require you to provide information about your 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 service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting products or services on your site using affiliate marketing, or monetize your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon advertising, 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 need to display on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- 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 protect yourself and your website.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all third-party services require you to comply with their policies)
What Legal Pages Do I Need To Add To My Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If your website or blog is lacking in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help you keep out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and third-party service providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to look into implementing one or more of these legal pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general financial advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Use Of Media (if you allow users to download media 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 – Discloses to users that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets visitors be aware that you may derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Explains to your readers that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets visitors be aware that you were compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your WordPress Site
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once you have this prepared, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually To Your Website
If someone prepares the legal verbiage for you in typical web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory in your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your web server using FTP)
You can then add links to your pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can add these to the sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website or blog) to ensure that visitors will be able to access legal information from every page …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar using widgets here:
Using Store-Bought Templates
You can find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or visiting sites like this one:
(FindLegalForms.com – Legal forms)
Go here for more info:
Another option is to download a package of website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Scott Talbert’s Website 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 details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new Federal Trade Commission regulations and guidelines that came into effect on March 2012)
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new WordPress page for each legal form you want to add 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 described earlier.
For more information, go here:
Legal Pages – Plugins
In addition to using legal templates, another option for adding legal pages to your site is to use plugins.
Here are some WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider choosing WordPress Legal Pages instead …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you many headaches.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages:
- Built-in Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in a few minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit all legal pages just like every other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – Add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like every other WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks and can be accessed when users agree to your legal terms.
- Additional Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear in your navigation menu section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings Area)
You can easily create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, review sites, e-commerce sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
Select from several pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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, visit this site:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users that contains over twenty customizable legal templates for your digital business …
Learn We have written a detailed article about this plugin here:
(Legal Suite Pro)
Legal Suite Pro 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 of Service
- 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 one minute or less and the plugin licensing is very flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your sites.
Go here to learn more:
If hiring a lawyer to create your legal pages is currently out of your budget, consider implementing some form of basic legal protection on your website until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your site to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator tool below (for FREE!), or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal content, or a WordPress plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you make money online, you need to ensure that your website stays compliant with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines for 3rd-party services and products that you may decide to promote or endorse online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws intended to protect consumers, 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice here. Do your own due diligence and consult legal experts about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all legal requirements regarding your specific business.
Here is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what your business requires to stay 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
- 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
- US 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 above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress site using inexpensive methods and resources.
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