Is your website legally compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking the law, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any 3rd-party companies whose services or products you are offering or recommending?
As the digital era continues growing at breakneck speed and rules keep changing, it’s absolutely vital to try and stay on top of what’s going on and to make sure that your site remains legal, especially if your online presence is a significant factor in your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your site for profit, 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). 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 new laws has ramifications for various business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including PPC advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If there are no legal pages on your site (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank or JVZoo won’t approve your digital products for sale, PayPal may suspend your account, Facebook could reject your applications, and you won’t be allowed into a number of advertising and online marketing networks.
If your online presence is not in compliance, you could face a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this post is to help make you aware that your site may be required to comply with certain legalities according to laws that govern businesses online, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of external providers whose services or products you may be endorsing online, and that there are easy solutions that can help your sites become more compliant, such as the plugins discussed further below.
Does Your Site Comply With All Legal Requirements?
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice. As previously stated, the aim of this article is to help make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations governing online business practices and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of 3rd-party companies whose services or products you use on your website
Understanding The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Consider for one moment what the implications to your business would be if any of the situations below were to occur:
- Someone has a cardiac arrest after purchasing your online fitness workout.
- The skin care creams you sell as an affiliate gives someone an allergic reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you have not informed them exactly what you plan to do with their personal details.
- Someone copies your content and publishes it on their own site.
- There is no statement on your site making your visitors aware that you are an affiliate for the product you’re promoting that you could derive a sales commission if visitors buy through your affiliate link.
- You did not spell out the terms of your refund and return policies.
- Someone claims the testimonials on your site are all fake and decides to sue you.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website includes adult-related information and you have not taken appropriate measures to keep underage children from accessing it.
Consider now these documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up their personal information to complete an offer they were promoting. Cost = $390,000.
- 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 information about children.
- 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 independent 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% were breaking 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 notices or lose access entirely to the Google program whose policies they had violated, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to be exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Info Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Coach or Consultant
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your website remains legally compliant.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in most countries emphasize the importance of observing the terms and policies of 3rd-party service providers.
You must let your visitors know that your business complies will all laws and recommended guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and confidence in your business, it’s also required by most companies you interact with online.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires websites to display certain information when using many of their products or service. This includes using features such as Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Earning revenue online with your website with Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising policy requirements)
Or promoting your business using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell products online through merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant sites, you will need to add certain legal pages to your website before your products are approved for selling via their marketplace …
(Policy requirements for using ClickBank)
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and disclosures to visitors, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Site To Be Compliant
New FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online reveals that many business are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As documented on their website, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies for breaches of regulation in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you do any kind of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business interests by ensuring that your website complies with all FTC regulations and 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 links to useful and additional references to some of these at the end of this article …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Have Compliance Requirements
If you are planning to develop social networking applications that integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with information about your legal pages …
(Apps for social networking sites also require compliance)
- If you are not sure whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of websites 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 make money online with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or driving visitors to your website using Google AdWords, 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 if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
Essential Legal Pages To Include In Your Website
If your website or blog falls short in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your site will help keep your business out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and external 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
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
Additionally, you may want to look into adding any of these pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you sell or promote affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website or blog provides general content about financial areas or money-making opportunities)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Lets users know that you are not being paid for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your visitors be aware that you will benefit financially if they buy through one of your affiliate links.
- Sample Or review Copy – Lets your readers be aware that you have received a sample or review copy of the product or service by the author or developer.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your visitors know that you have been compensated in some way to write the article.
- 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 Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult lawyers or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once these have been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages To Your Site
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you as standard web pages (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legal folder to your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your web server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add links to these pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are up-to-date and display clearly to your visitors. You can add these to the WordPress sidebar (or the footer section of your website) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from every page …
(It’s important to display legal information to users on all of your site’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar or footer here:
You can easily find attorney-drafted downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones listed below:
(Find Legal Forms)
Alternatively, you can download a set of website legal templates created by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with search and replace to insert your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer (multi-discipline professional disclaimers)
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- ToS & Conditions of Use.
You can either create a new page on your website for each legal form you want to add to your website, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload the pages to your web server as previously described.
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using copy & paste legal templates, another option is to use plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WP Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider choosing WordPress Legal Pages …
WP Legal Pages is not a free plugin, but it’s a reasonably affordable and well-supported premium plugin that will help simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you a great deal of time.
Here are just some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin:
- 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 your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit legal pages like any other page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes Integration – You can add shortcodes to your website or blog pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content 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 website.
- Forced Options – Force page lock down. Page unlocks and can be accessed only when user agrees to your legal terms.
- New Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a menu feature will appear inside your navigation menu 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 – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different types of websites, such as business websites, affiliate websites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page type drop down menu)
You can also choose from several pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Pre-configured 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 plugin, visit this site:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-driven websites with over 20 customizable legal templates for your online presence …
For more details go here:
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress)
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 site. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in less than one minute 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).
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal documentation is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic kind of legal protection on your website until you can afford professional legal services.
We want your site to be 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 documentation, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of business online (or plan to), you need to ensure that your website stays compliant with regulatory agencies and the guidelines and terms of service required by third-party sites that you may be promoting or advertising online. Your website or blog must comply with numerous regulations, some of which you may not even be aware of.
Non-compliance 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice here. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Below is a time-saving list of websites we recommend you visit to help you better understand what your website may require to remain 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
- 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 add essential legal pages to your WordPress website.
"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group