One of the worst predicaments you can find yourself in as a website owner is to be on the wrong side of the law.
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines are designed to protect consumers and apply to any person who sells, markets or promotes goods and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law will not excuse you from being slapped with a legal notice.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you plan to 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 Better Business Bureau, also known as BBB. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet to learn more.
(Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program – BBB)
The introduction of these new laws affect various business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including Google AdWords or AdSense
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
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 may be required to comply with legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern online business practices, the importance of remaining compliant with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you may be advertising on your website, and that there are easy solutions for WordPress website owners that can help your site 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 cannot offer legal advice in this article. As previously stated, the aim of this article is only to help make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with federal, regional or local laws governing business and that you may be required to comply with the terms of service of third-party providers whose products or services you recommend on your website
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Consider for a minute what the implications to your business would be if any of these situations were to take place:
- A user has a heart attack after purchasing your online workout program.
- The skin care products you promote as an affiliate gives people allergic reactions.
- You’ve informed your subscribers that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly informed them what you will do with the details you’ve collected.
- Someone steals your content and puts it up on their own site.
- You have not divulged to your site visitors that you are promoting a product as an affiliate that you could earn a financial benefit if they buy it.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your return policies.
- Visitors claim that your testimonials are false and try to sue you.
- You haven’t disclosed in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult-related information and you didn’t take appropriate measures to keep underaged persons from accessing it.
Consider now the following real 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 a debt reduction offer. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, he was also ordered to issue a copy of the judgement to everyone they do business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a whopping $800,000 fine for collecting personal information from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- 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 independently-conducted study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred randomly-picked websites, more than 90% had breached 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% had broken 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 to the Google program whose policies 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 a target of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Network Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdWords Advertiser
- Niche Marketer
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
it’s important to ensure that your digital presence has the right legal pages and clearly displayed to site users.
Compliance With Third-Party Services - ToS, Policies, etc.
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in most countries emphasize the need of observing the terms and policies of service providers.
You must let your site users know that your website complies will all laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your website, it’s also a requirement of most companies you interact with online.
Google requires websites to display certain information when using many of their services and product features. This includes using features such as Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Earning revenue online with your blogs with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your products via Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information products via merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you will need to add certain legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their networks …
(Policy requirements for selling products via ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires that you include clear disclaimers and policies on your website, especially when using product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensuring That Your Site Is Compliant
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. A quick search online will easily reveal that many websites are still unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has happened in the past, 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 plan to do any type of money-making activity online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business interests by making sure that your website complies with all FTC regulations.
Many online resources provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you comply with FTC requirements. We provide additional references to some of these at the end of this article …
(Structuring your disclaimers and disclosures correctly is important to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Apps
If you plan to create social networking applications for your website users, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and many others with access to your legal pages …
(Facebook apps also require compliance)
- If you are unsure as to whether or not you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting services or products on your site as an affiliate marketer, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon 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 all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts terminated.
- If you have been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to take proper precautions to protect yourself and your website.
Common Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Site
If you suspect that your website lacks in areas of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should keep your business out of trouble with most consumer protection agencies and third-party providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “take down” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Privacy Statement
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
In addition to the above pages, you may want to look into implementing one or more of the following pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you promote or sell affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (if your website or blog provides general financial information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
Disclosure Pages – Types
Adding the right disclosure information to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs visitors that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your readers be aware that you may derive some form of financial benefit if they purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review/Sample Copy – Explains to site users that you have been given a sample or review copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Informs your visitors that you were compensated in some way to write the post.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs users 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 display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
How To Add Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you will consult your lawyer or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Pages Manually To Your Site
If someone prepares the legal content for you in standard web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend adding a legal directory to your web server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. using FTP) …
(Upload legal pages to your server via FTP)
You can then add a link to your pages from your WordPress site using custom links in your menu feature …
Displaying Legal Web Pages On Your Website
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and clearly visible to visitors. You can add these to the sidebar (or the footer of your site) to ensure that users will be able to access the information from every web page …
(It’s important to display legal pages to users on all of your site’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar or footer here:
Using Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can find attorney-drafted disclosures and downloadable forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting sites like the ones shown below:
To learn more, visit this website:
Another option is to download a package of legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages were written by an attorney and feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with simple search and replace to insert your own business name and URL, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal templates included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Forms include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- Federal Trade Commission Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates Federal Trade Commission guidelines that came into effect in 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 pages and publish or upload these to your server as described earlier.
To learn more, visit this site:
Plugins – Legal Pages
As well as using templates, you can keep things really simple by using WordPress plugins.
Here are some great legal plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WP Legal Pages Plugin)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal pages manually, then consider choosing a plugin like WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your site and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Built-in Templates – Over 20 built-in legal templates created by professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in a few minutes with a few mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Content editor lets you edit legal pages like any page on your website.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when published.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple check box and delete and manage these like any WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When the user agrees to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- New Features – More features are being added to this plugin with every new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu item will appear inside your main dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to create, view and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Settings Area)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review sites, AdSense sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – Page Type)
You can also select from various pre-configured legal templates …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – 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 this WordPress plugin, go here:
Compliance Bar is a simple plugin for WordPress-powered websites and blogs that includes over twenty customizable legal pages for your website …
(Legal Suite Pro)
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 of Service
- 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 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. Your legal pages can be installed and set up on your site in less than one minute and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use this plugin on all of your sites (even sites that you decide to sell).
Visit this website for more details:
If hiring legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing some basic kind of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire a solicitor.
We want your website to be legally safe!
Download the FREE Legal Pages Generator software below, or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal templates, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator)
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of business online, you need to make sure that your website remains compliant with all regulations and any terms of service and guidelines for third-party sites that you may be promoting or advertising online. Your website must comply with a whole set 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, we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
References And Legal Resources
Here is a useful list of sites we suggest you visit to help you better understand what may be required of your site to comply and meet its legal obligations:
- Federal Trade Commission 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 – 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
- US 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 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 site using simple and cost-effective methods and solutions.
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