Is your website compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking the law, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose products or services you do business with?
As the digital realm continues to grow at an extraordinary rate and the rules constantly change, it’s absolutely essential to stay on top of what’s happening and make sure that your site remains legally compliant, especially if having a digital presence is important in the success of your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, then you must follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau (BBB). Do a search online for “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Better Business Bureau – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws affect several business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your site does not display certain pages to visitors (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank won’t allow you to sell digital products, PayPal could suspend your account, Facebook could disapprove your applications, and you will not be allowed to promote various advertising or online merchant networks.
If your online presence is not in compliance, you could end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to make you aware that your website(s) may be subject to legal requirements, the importance of complying with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be advertising online, and that there are solutions for WordPress site owners that can help your site become more compliant, such as the tools that we discuss further below.
Is Your Website Breaking Rules Or Regulations?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice on this website. Do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all laws wherever you do business.
- Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
- Complying With 3rd-Party Services Terms And Policies
- Basic Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Website
- How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Website
- Additional Resources
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider what could happen to your business in the following scenarios:
- Someone suffers a heart attack after they use your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate marketer gives someone who purchases from your link an adverse reaction.
- You’ve informed your subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you haven’t informed them exactly what you plan to do with their details.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their own site.
- There is no statement on your website letting visitors know that you are an affiliate for the product you’re selling and may earn a sales commission if visitors purchase it.
- You have not spelled out the terms and conditions of your refund policies.
- Online visitors claim the testimonials on your site are false and try to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your site publishes adult-related content and you have not taken appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged children.
Consider now these documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- 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 significant $390,000 fine, he is now required to issue 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 children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service does not allow users to scrape UIDs. Many internet marketers gambled that they could get away with it 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 websites chosen at random, more than 90% had broken at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% had broken at least 2 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 with warnings or lose access entirely 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 becoming exposed to litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
it’s important to make sure that your digital presence complies with all laws and regulations governing the use of your site, wherever you are located.
Complying With 3rd-Party Services Terms And Policies
Compliance with third-party companies terms and policies is important.
You are required to let your site users know that your business complies with all necessary laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves trust and confidence in your business, it’s also required by most companies you will engage with online.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires websites to display legal information when using many of their products or features. This includes using features like Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your website with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your business through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you sell information products through places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add legal pages to your site before your products can be approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for selling via ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policy statements on your website, especially concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Be Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many business are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has happened in the past, this often 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 kind of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by making sure that your site complies with all FTC guidelines.
You can find many sites that can provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. See the additional references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Social Media Apps Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to create social networking applications that integrate with your site, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others will require you to provide information about your 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 websites like Google, Facebook, etc., then assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote anything online as an affiliate marketer, or making money online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay 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 provide on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts terminated.
- If you have ever wondered whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Website
If your website or blog falls short in terms of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your website should help you keep out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and 3rd-party providers, and avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Privacy Statement
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above pages, you may want to consider adding any of the following pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides financial information)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets your visitors be aware that you’re not receiving compensation for writing the post.
- Affiliate Links – Informs your visitors that you will benefit financially if they buy through your affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Disclosure that informs your visitors that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Lets visitors know that you were compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets readers 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 show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Compliance Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once this has been completed, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder on your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages using FTP)
You can then add links to these legal pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu feature …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Website
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and display clearly to visitors. You can insert these into your sidebar menu (or the footer of your website) to ensure that visitors have access to legal information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar and footer here:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and internet forms and agreements just by searching online, or visiting sites like the ones shown below:
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-prepared legal forms)
For more information, go here:
Another option is to purchase a set of website legal templates created by legal attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page for every legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your server as previously described.
WordPress Legal Plugins
As well as using templates, another option for adding legal pages to your site is to use plugins.
Here are some legal plugins for WordPress-driven websites and blogs that you may be interested in using:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If the idea of setting up legal pages manually seems too time-consuming for you, then consider using a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you a great deal of time and effort.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – You can set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any WP page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will 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 page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. When the user agrees to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – More features get added to this plugin with every new version.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear inside your dashboard menu …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings)
With WP Legal Pages, you can easily create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review websites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Page type dropdown menu)
Choose from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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 the benefits of using this plugin, visit this site:
complete website compliance and disclaimer solution …
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin For WordPress)
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 And Conditions
- 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 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 (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
To learn more, go here:
If hiring a lawyer to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford professional legal services.
We want your site to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal content, or a plugin - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you make money online, you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with government regulations and any terms of service (TOS) and guidelines required by 3rd-party sites that you may be promoting or endorsing online. Your digital presence must comply with a number of laws and regulatory guidelines, some of which you may not 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 cannot provide legal advice. You are strongly advised to do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website is compliant with the law pertaining to your business.
Here is a useful list of sites we suggest you visit to better understand what your business requires to comply and meet its 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
- Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB
- 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
- 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 you have found this article useful and that it has helped you understand why it’s important to have a legally compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website.
"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum
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