Is your WordPress website compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any companies whose services or products you sell or recommend?
As the digital economy continues to grow at breakneck speed and the rules keep changing, it’s vital that you stay informed about what’s going on and to make sure that your website or blog remains compliant with all laws and regulations, especially if having an online presence plays an important role in 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 material gain, then you need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the 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.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws has consequences for several business categories, including:
- Any type of advertising, e.g. inline ads, Google Adsense, etc.
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
Without legal pages on your site (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many third-party sites like Google won’t let you advertise, digital marketplaces like ClickBank will not allow you to list your digital products on their network, PayPal may close down your account, Facebook could disapprove your web applications, and you won’t be allowed to participate in various advertising or online marketing networks.
In addition, you may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to legal action.
The purpose of this guide is to make you aware that your website(s) are subject to legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern your business, the importance of complying with the terms of service of other providers whose services or products you may be selling online, and that there are solutions for WordPress site owners that can help your websites become more compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Is Your Site Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice in this article. You must do your own due diligence and we recommend consulting a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with the law wherever you do business.
- Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
- Compliance With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
- What Legal Information Does My Website Need To Be Covered Against Legal Compliance Issues?
- How To Add Legal Pages To Your Site
- Additional Legal Information
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Are you at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A person has a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate gives someone 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 details.
- Someone steals your content and publishes it on their website.
- There is no statement on your website making your site users aware that you are marketing a product as an affiliate and will receive a commission if visitors purchase products through your affiliate link.
- You didn’t spell out the terms and conditions of your refund/return policies.
- Someone claims the testimonials on your site are misleading and tries to sue you because of it.
- You have not disclosed that you received a free copy in a product review.
- Your website contains adult-related information and you did not take appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider also the actual case studies of costly compliance breaches below:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would have to give up their personal information (including credit card information to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private details.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits using software that scrapes Users IDs. Many 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 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites chosen at random, more than 90% had breached 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 in breach of 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 to the Google program with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being targeted for litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPC (Cost Per Conversion) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- e-Commerce Store Owner
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
it’s important to ensure that your digital presence remains legally compliant.
Compliance With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Leading online companies and government trade regulatory agencies emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your visitors know that your website complies with legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only increases trust and confidence in your website, it’s also required by most companies you will do business with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires you to display legal information if using many of their services and product features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue with your sites using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
And even promoting your products through Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products using places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add certain legal pages to your website before they will approve your products for sale …
(ClickBank – policy requirements for sellers)
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 …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Site Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically prompts 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 do any kind of business online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. it’s best to protect your business interests by ensuring that your site is compliant with FTC guidelines and regulations.
Many business resource sites provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your business comply with FTC requirements. See our additional references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to develop applications that will integrate with your site, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others will require you to provide access to your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue online with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or use 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 provide on your site to comply with their Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts suspended.
- If you’ve been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to avoid becoming a magnet for litigation.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, almost all third-party services require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
What Legal Information Does My Website Need To Be Covered Against Legal Compliance Issues?
If you suspect that your website or blog is falling short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your site should keep your business out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and external service providers, and even help you avoid potential legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Website Disclaimer
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to look into implementing any of these legal pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you provide information about affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general advice about financial areas or income opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Video/Audio Terms (e.g. if you allow media downloads on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right web content disclosure information is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets site users know that you will not receive compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets site users know that you will receive compensation if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Discloses to visitors that you have received a review or sample copy of the product you’re writing about by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Disclosure that lets site users know that you were compensated in some form to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs readers 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 Site
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once this has been completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal verbiage for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legals directory to your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder on your web server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to these pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu admin area …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and display clearly to your visitors. You can add these to the sidebar (or the footer section of your site) so that users will be able to access legal information from every web page …
(It’s important to display links to your legal pages to users on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial about displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu and footer in WordPress here:
Use Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-drafted disclosures and website forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting websites like the ones listed below:
(Find Legal Forms)
For more details, go here:
Another option is to download a package of cut & paste website legal templates designed by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Templates)
These legal templates were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a quick search and replace to insert your own details, then pasted into your pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms 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 WordPress page for every 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 described earlier.
To learn more, go here:
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using cut & paste templates, another option is to use plugins.
Here are some plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal web pages manually, then consider using WP Legal Pages instead …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a very low-priced and well-supported premium WordPress plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you time.
Here are just some of the benefits of using WP Legal Pages:
- Pre-written Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of the basic legal pages you need in a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages just like any other WordPress page.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your content when published.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks when user agrees to your terms.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear inside your main navigation section …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, edit and view legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Settings)
You can easily create legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites with products, affiliate websites, medical sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
Select from a number of built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages – 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 this plugin, visit the plugin site:
Compliance Bar is a simple WordPress plugin containing over twenty customizable compliance pages for your web presence …
(Legal Suite Pro Plugin)
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 secured rights to high quality, professionally written legal disclaimers and packaged them 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 less than one minute and the license allows you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell).
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal documentation is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford to hire a lawyer.
We want your business to be safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator tool below, or use one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal documents, or a plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
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 stated earlier, if you do any type of business online, you need to make sure that your website remains compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate online business practices and any guidelines and terms of service for 3rd-party products and services that you may decide to promote or advertise 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we are not offering legal advice here. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website is compliant with the law wherever your business is based.
Additional Legal Information
Below is a time-saving list of sites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your site to stay compliant and meet legal obligations:
- FTC Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- FTC Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- 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
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- United States Copyright Office
In Addition …
- 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 the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information presented above to quickly and easily add essential legal pages to your WordPress website.
"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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