As a website owner, you do not want to learn the hard way that you have broken the law.
As the cybersphere continues growing at breakneck speed and the rules keep changing, it’s vital that you try to stay on top of what’s happening and ensure that your site remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if your digital presence is an integral part of your overall business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau, also called the BBB. Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws has consequences for various business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, including Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your site does not display certain legal pages to visitors (e.g. terms and conditions of use, 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 could suspend your account and freeze your funds, Facebook could disapprove web applications, and you won’t be allowed to promote various advertising or online merchant networks.
You may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
This article explains why it’s important to have a legally compliant website and how to quickly and easily add legal pages to your website.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with the law wherever you do business.
- 1 Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
- 2 Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
- 3 What Legal Pages Should I Add To My Website To Be Legally Compliant?
- 4 How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
- 4.1 Upload Legal Web Pages To Your Site
- 4.2 Displaying Legal Pages On Your Website
- 4.3 Legal Templates
- 4.4 WordPress Legal Plugins
- 5 References And Legal Resources
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider for a moment what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A person has a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone skin rashes.
- Your opt-in list displays a statement informing subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you haven’t defined what you’ll do with it.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your site making your visitors aware that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate and may get paid a financial benefit if they end up purchasing via your link.
- You didn’t spell out the conditions of your return policies.
- Visitors claim the testimonials on your site are false and try to sue you as a result.
- You have not disclosed that you received a free copy in your product review.
- Your site includes adult-related content and you didn’t take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider too the actual case studies 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 his offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, they’re now required to give 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 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 $$$ in lost revenue.
- An independent study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-chosen websites, more than 90% were breaking at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had breached at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in violation of at least 3 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 they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how you could easily become exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- MLM Networker
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Niche Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
You need to make sure that your website remains legally compliant.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in many countries emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You must let your site users know that your business complies with all necessary legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you engage with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires websites to display legal information if using many of their services. This includes Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue with your site using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense online advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your site through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell information-based products via places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add certain legal pages to your site before your products can be approved for sale in their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to display clear disclaimers and policy statements on your site, especially if you plan to sell or promote products online with the aid of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many websites are unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As is already the case, this will most likely prompt the FTC to make an example of businesses and prosecute site owners 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 is compliant with FTC guidelines.
Many online business resources provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. See the additional resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you plan to create applications that will integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products online as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue 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 include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to avoid becoming a litigation magnet.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all 3rd-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
What Legal Pages Should I Add To My Website To Be Legally Compliant?
If you suspect that your website or blog is lacking in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website will help your website keep out of trouble with many consumer protection agencies and external providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
Additionally, you may want to consider including one or more of the following pages:
- Affiliate Agreement (if you sell products or services through an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general money-making advice)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Audio/Video Terms (if you provide users with access to download media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right disclosure information to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs site users that you will not receive for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets users know that you will be compensated if they purchase through one of your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets your visitors know that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service by the author or product developer.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to readers that you have been compensated in some way 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 website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you should consult lawyers and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you in standard web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals directory on your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then add links to your legal pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu administration …
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and display clearly to your visitors. You can insert these into the sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website) so that visitors have access to the information from all of your pages …
(It’s important to display legal information to users on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu or footer in WordPress using widgets here: Adding Widgets To Your Sidebar Navigation Menu
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic type of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional assistance.
We want your site to be safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal templates, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator Software allows you to quickly generate necessary legal documents for your website including ToS, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
You can find attorney-drafted downloadable internet forms and agreements by searching online, or going to websites like this one:
For more details, go here: Find Legal Forms – Attorney-drafted legal forms
Another option is to download a set of cut & paste website legal templates drafted by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Pages)
These templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page reflects new FTC regulations brought into effect on March 2012)
- Terms of Service (ToS) & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for every legal form you want added to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload the pages to your web server as described earlier.
More info: Website Legal Pages
WordPress Legal Plugins
In addition to using legal templates, you can simplify things by using plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress users you may be interested in checking out:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider choosing a plugin like 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 simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages are:
- Built-in Templates – Over 17 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of the basic legal pages you will need in around 3 minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages like any WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to any of your WordPress 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 any other page on your website.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. Page unlocks when user agrees to your terms.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released …
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will display inside your main dashboard section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, edit and view your legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, niche sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Create different legal page types)
Choose from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Templates)
To learn more about this handy plugin, visit this website: WordPress Legal Pages
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress users containing over 20 customizable legal pages for your digital business …
Go here to learn more: Compliance Bar – Website Compliance Plugin For WordPress
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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 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 have packaged high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers 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).
For more information, go here: Legal Suite Pro Plugin
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do any type of business online (or are planning to), it’s important that your site complies with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business practices online and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by 3rd-party sites that you may be promoting or using online. Your internet presence must comply with a wide range of laws and regulatory guidelines, many of which you may not even be aware of.
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 do not offer legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements pertaining to your specific business.
References And Legal Resources
Here is a time-saving list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your site to stay compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- 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
- US 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 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 and easily add legal pages to your site.
"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)
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