As a website owner, the last thing you want is to find yourself breaking rules or regulations.
Online laws are designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to anyone who markets, sells or promotes goods or services online. Anyone who owns a website risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about legal requirements won’t 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 promote anything on your website for profit, then you will need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory agencies, such as the US-based Better Business Bureau, also referred to as BBB. Look up “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
These laws affect various online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, like Google AdWords
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
Without legal pages on your website (e.g. terms and conditions of use, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank will not let you list digital products on their network, PayPal could shut down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook will reject your applications, and you will not be allowed to promote various advertising or affiliate marketing networks.
You could also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to expensive litigation.
The purpose of this guide is to make you aware that your site are required to comply with legal requirements, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of other providers whose products or services you may be selling on your site, and that there are solutions that can help your websites become compliant, such as the tools that we list further below.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we do not offer legal advice in this article. As stated earlier, the purpose of this article is only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal policies in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern business practices online and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of third-party companies whose services or products you use on your website or blog
- 1 The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
- 2 Compliance With Third-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
- 3 Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
- 4 Adding Compliance Pages To Your Site
- 4.1 Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually
- 4.2 Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Site
- 4.3 Store-Bought Legal Templates
- 4.4 Legal Page Plugins
- 5 Additional Legal Information
The Importance Of Making Your Website Compliant
Is your business at risk? Consider for one minute what could happen to your business if these situations were to happen:
- Someone has a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate marketer gives a number of users allergic reactions.
- You’ve informed subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you have not spelled out exactly what you will do with their personal details.
- Someone steals content from your website and puts it up on their website.
- You did not tell your visitors that you’re an affiliate for the product you are marketing and may get paid a sales commission if they purchase it.
- You didn’t spell out the terms of your return policies.
- Your visitors claim that your testimonials are all fake and decide to sue you as a result.
- You haven’t disclosed that you were given a free copy in your product review.
- Your site includes adult information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged children.
Consider also these real 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 (including credit card information to complete a debt reduction offer. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, he is now required to give everyone they do 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 information about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping 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 independently-conducted 2010 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% had breached at least 2 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 cautions or lose access to the Google program they had infringed, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how easy it is to risk being exposed to litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Freelancer, Consultant Or Coach
- Online Seller Of Any Product Or Service
You need to make sure that your online business is fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade emphasize the importance of complying with the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your site visitors know that your business complies with legal requirements and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will interact with.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Google requires websites to display legal information when using many of their services and product features. This includes Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Monetizing your blog using Google AdSense display advertising …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell products online via places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you will need to add various legal pages before they will approve your products for sale …
(Policy requirements for vendors selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you display clear disclaimers and policy statements to visitors, especially regarding the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing the conduct of businesses online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will reveal that many sites are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting website owners 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 any chances. Even if your business is not physically located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by making sure that your site complies with FTC guidelines.
There are many online business resources that can provide guidelines for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. We provide additional references to some of these at the end of this article …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you are planning to create social networking applications that will integrate with your website, you will also be required to provide sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others with access to your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of organizations like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products on your site as an affiliate marketer, or generating revenue online with Google AdSense, Amazon, or eBay ads, or driving visitors to your site with Google AdWords, 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 shut down.
- If you have been wondering if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site To Ensure Compliance
If you suspect that your website is lacking in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following compliance pages to your site will help your website stay out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and external service providers, and avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Website Disclaimer Pages
In addition to the above pages, you may want to look into including any of these pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you promote or sell affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general health or medical content)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – This lets readers know that you will not receive compensation for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Lets visitors know that you may receive compensation if they buy through your affiliate link.
- Review/Sample Copy – Lets visitors know that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product or service.
- Sponsored Post – Lets site users know that you have been compensated in some form 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 website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Compliance Pages To Your Site
Ideally, you will have your lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once these have been completed, there are several ways to include them in your website.
Uploading Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares and delivers the legal content for you in standard web page formatting (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legals folder on your server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory using FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your web server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then add a link to these legal pages in WordPress using custom links in your menu administration …
(Custom WordPress Menu)
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to visitors. You can add these to your sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website or blog) so that visitors have access to legal information from all of your pages …
(Display legal pages to visitors on all of your site’s pages)
We have written a detailed tutorial on displaying links to pages on your sidebar using widgets here: How To Use Widgets In WordPress
If hiring 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 legal expert.
We want your website to be legally safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal forms, or a plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
Store-Bought Legal Templates
You can easily find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements by searching online, or visiting sites like this one:
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-prepared legal forms)
To learn more, visit this website: Find Legal Forms – Legal forms
Alternatively, you can purchase a set of website legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Cut And Paste Website Legal Pages – Legal Templates)
Cut & Paste website legal templates were created by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance
- ToS & 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 web pages and publish or upload the pages to your web server as previously described.
Go here for more information: Website Legal Pages
Legal Page Plugins
In addition to using legal templates, you can keep things very simple using a plugin.
Here are some WordPress plugins worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If manually creating legal pages for your website feels too time-consuming for you, then consider installing a plugin like WP Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported plugin that will help make the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website much easier and save you time.
Some of the reasons to consider using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – The plugin gives you access to over 17 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Very Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with just a few mouse clicks.
- Editable Pages – WordPress content editor lets you edit all legal pages like any other WP page.
- Shortcodes – You can add shortcodes to any of your website or blog pages and the information is then automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. The plugin lets you exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other WordPress page.
- Forced Options – Force page lockdown. Page unlocks when users agree to your legal terms.
- New Features – The plugin is updated with new features when new versions are released …
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item is added to your dashboard area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings)
You can create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, review sites, medical sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages – Create different legal pages)
Choose from several built-in legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Built-In Legal Templates)
Go here to learn more about using this powerful plugin: WordPress Legal Pages
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-powered sites that contains over 20 customizable compliance page templates for your online presence …
Go here to learn more: Compliance Bar Plugin – Website Compliance Plugin For WordPress
(Legal Suite Pro)
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 & 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. 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 the plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell or flip).
More information: Legal Suite Pro
As we’ve previously pointed out, if you do business online (or are planning to), you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines provided by third-party sites that you may decide to promote or offer online. If your website isn’t compliant with laws intended to protect consumer rights, 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, please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice here. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert 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 recommend you visit to better understand what may be required of your website to stay compliant and meet its 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
- BBB – 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
In Addition …
- 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 the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your WordPress website.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now
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