Is your WordPress site legally compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose services or products you do business with?
Internet laws, regulations, and guidelines were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes products and services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law will not excuse you from being slapped with a legal notice.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites 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 Better Business Bureau (BBB). Search online “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 business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creators
If your website does not display certain pages (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, earning disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank won’t allow you to list your digital products for sale, PayPal may shut down your account and freeze your funds, Facebook will reject your web applications, and you will not be allowed into most advertising or affiliate marketing networks.
If your online business is not in compliance, you could also face a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
In this article, we discuss the importance of having a legally compliant website and list simple and cost-effective methods and solutions that will make your website compliant.
Is Your Site Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice in this article. 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 the laws that govern business online and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of providers whose services or products you endorse
- The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
- Complying With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
- What Legal Information Does Your Website Need To Be Safe From Legal Compliance Issues?
- How To Add Legal Pages Content To Your Site
- Additional Information
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider for a moment what would happen to your business if these scenarios were to happen:
- A user suffers a heart attack after using your online workout program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate gives someone who purchases from your link an allergic reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t informed them exactly what you’ll do with their personal details.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their website.
- There is no statement on your site letting your site visitors know that you are recommending a product as an affiliate that you may receive a commission if they purchase it.
- You did not spell out the terms of your refund or return policies.
- A visitor claims that your testimonials are false and tries 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 site publishes adult information and you have not taken sufficient measures to keep underaged children from accessing it.
Consider now the actual case studies of costly compliance breaches below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would be required 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 give a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer received 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 details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping UIDs. Many marketers took a risk and lost. Their accounts were shut down, resulting thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent 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% had broken at least two 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 notices or lose access entirely to the Google program whose policies 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 a target of non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Marketer
- AdWords User
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website or blog complies with all laws governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Complying With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Complying with third-party services terms and policies is important.
You are required to let your visitors know that your website complies with all necessary legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you do business with online.
Google requires you to display legal information if using many of their products and features. This includes using services such as Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your website with Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell information products via companies such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add various legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for sale in their network …
(Policy requirements for selling products through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you include clear disclaimers and policies on your website, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many websites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any kind of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by making sure that your site complies with FTC regulations and guidelines.
You can find many business resource sites that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet 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)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you are planning to create social networking applications for your website, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Apps for social networks also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are 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 via affiliate marketing, or generating revenue online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay advertising, or driving visitors to your website using Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you need to include on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
What Legal Information Does Your Website Need To Be Safe From Legal Compliance Issues?
If your web site lacks in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will keep your business out of trouble with most consumer protection authorities and third-party providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to consider including any of these pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general financial content)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
It’s important to add the right disclosure information to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs visitors that you will not receive any form of compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Informs your visitors that you will derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through an affiliate link.
- Sample/Review Copy – Informs site users that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Lets 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 comply with the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring online publishers to display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages Content To Your Site
Ideally, you will consult lawyers and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once this has been 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 verbiage 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 legal directory to your server and uploading your legal pages to this directory via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add a link to your legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu administration …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Make sure that your legal pages are fully up-to-date and clearly accessible to all visitors. You can add links to your legal pages to the WordPress sidebar (or the footer section of your website) so that users can access legal information from every web page …
(Display links to your legal information on all of your website’s pages)
If you need help adding links to pages on your sidebar and footer using widgets, refer to this tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and forms and agreements just by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Another option is to purchase a set of legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with simple search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page for each legal form you want added to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload the pages to your web server as described previously.
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using copy & paste legal templates, you can simplify things by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress sites that you may be interested in using:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If the idea of manually setting up legal pages for your website feels too time-consuming for you, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you loads of headaches.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like any WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information will then 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 WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when users agree to your terms.
- Additional Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item is added to your main dashboard menu section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, niche websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Create different legal pages)
Select from various pre-configured legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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
To learn more about using this great plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin containing over twenty customizable compliance pages for your online presence …
To learn more about this plugin go here:
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
Legal Suite Pro 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 – 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 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 this plugin on all of your websites.
For more information, go here:
If hiring lawyers to create your legal documentation is currently out of your budget, then at least consider implementing some kind of basic legal protection on your site until you can afford a lawyer.
We want your site to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documents, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Legal Pages Generator quickly generates necessary legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and Earnings Disclaimer.
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you are making money online (or are planning to), you need to ensure that your website is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business online and the guidelines and terms of service of 3rd-party sites that you may decide to promote or endorse online. If your website doesn’t comply with laws designed 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice on our website. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with all legal requirements in your country or region.
Below is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what may be required of your website to remain 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
- 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
- US Patent and Trademark Office
- United States Copyright Office
In Addition …
- 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 you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand why it’s important to have a compliant website. Use the information above to quickly add all necessary legal pages to your site.
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