Is your WordPress website legally compliant? Do you know if your site is breaking any laws, rules or regulations, or contravening the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose services or products you offer or endorse?
As the cybersphere continues growing at an overwhelming speed and the rules of the game keep changing, it’s vital that you try to stay on top of what’s happening and make sure that your website remains compliant, especially if having a digital presence is an important aspect of your overall business strategy.
New laws introduced in 2014 regulating how businesses promote advertising on their websites state that if you plan to promote anything on your site for commercial gain, you must follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection agencies, such as the US-based BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Search online for information about “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)
The introduction of these laws has consequences for various online business categories, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including contextual advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketers
- Product Creation
If your online business is not compliant, you could also face a number of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
The purpose of this article is to make you aware that your website may be subject to legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern businesses online, the importance of maintaining compliance with the terms of service of external providers whose products or services you may be advertising on your site, and that there are easy solutions that can help your website become compliant, such as the tools discussed further below.
Is Your Website Or Blog Compliant?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice. As previously stated, this article is designed only to make you aware that your website may be subject to certain legal requirements in accordance with the laws that govern online business practices and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of third-party companies whose products or services you offer on your website or blog
Why Making Your Website Compliant Is Important
Are you at risk? Consider for a moment what the implications to your business would be in the following scenarios:
- A person has a heart attack after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care creams you promote as an affiliate gives someone an adverse reaction.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you will not sell their information, but you have not spelled out exactly what you will do with their details.
- Someone steals content from your website and publishes it on their own website.
- There is no statement on your website letting your site users know that you are an affiliate for the product you are promoting that you will derive a sales commission if visitors end up buying via your affiliate link.
- You have not spelled out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Online visitors claim that the testimonials on your site are all fake and decide to sue you because of it.
- You have not disclosed in a product review that you received a free copy of the product.
- Your website contains adult-related content and you did not take appropriate measures to restrict access by underaged persons.
Consider too the following documented examples of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling online users they would have to give up personal 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 from mobile device address books without the owners’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details about children.
- Facebook’s Terms Of Service prohibits users from scraping Users IDs. 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 study by Brad Geddes of SearchEngineLand, showed that, of a couple of hundred websites picked at random, more than 90% were in violation of at least one of Google’s policies, more than 65% were in violation of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% had broken 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 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 a website owner can easily become exposed to the risk of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Marketer
- AdWords Advertiser
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Consulting Or Coaching Services
- Online Seller Of Any Service Or Product
It’s imperative to ensure that your online business stays fully compliant with the law.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies - ToS, Policies, etc.
Compliance with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your site users know that your website complies will all legal requirements and recommended guidelines. This not only increases consumer trust and confidence in your site, it’s also a requirement of many companies you will engage with.
Here are just some examples:
Google requires websites to display legal information if using many of their products or service. This includes using services like Google Analytics …
(Policy requirements for using Google Analytics)
Making money online with your WordPress sites using Google AdSense …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services via Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you plan to sell information products through places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established online merchant networks, you are required to add various legal pages to your site before your products can be approved for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for ClickBank digital product vendors)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that you add clear disclaimers and policies on your site, especially if you plan to use testimonials or product endorsements …
(FTC – consumer policies and regulations)
FTC Regulations – Ensure That Your Website 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 unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As documented on their website, this often results in the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting companies in an effort to get other businesses to comply.
If you plan to do any type of selling online, therefore, it’s best not to take chances. Even if your business is not located in the U.S. you should protect your business interests by making sure that your website complies with all FTC regulations and guidelines.
You can find many business resource sites that can provide guidelines and examples for structuring disclaimers and disclosures to help you meet FTC requirements. We provide a number of references and links to resources at the end of this article …
(You must word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you plan to create applications that integrate with your site, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others with access to various legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are not sure whether you may be breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of sites 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 making money online with Google AdSense, eBay or Amazon ads, or use Google AdWords 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 shut down.
- If you have ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, then it’s best to act now and take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most third-party websites require you to comply with their policies and guidelines)
What Compliance Pages Do I Need To Add To My Site To Be Legally Compliant?
If you suspect that your website is falling short in terms of compliance, then this section will help you.
Adding the following legal pages to your website will help your website stay out of trouble with most regulatory agencies and 3rd-party providers, and help to avoid possible legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “takedown” notices):
- About Us
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- Website Disclaimers
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to consider implementing one or more of the pages listed below:
- Affiliate Agreement (e.g. if you provide an affiliate program)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Financial Disclaimers (e.g. if your website provides general financial information)
- Refund Policy (if you sell products or services online)
- Video/Audio Terms (if you provide users with access to downloadable media on your site)
Disclosure Pages – Types
It’s important to add correct disclosures to your site. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs your readers that you’re not being paid for writing the content.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies readers that you may derive some form of financial benefit if they act on your recommendation and purchase through your affiliate links.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Lets your readers know that you have received a sample or review copy of the product.
- Sponsored Post – Discloses to readers that you have been compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs visitors that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology. This is required to satisfy the “enhanced notice” the Better Business Bureau has been requiring website publishers to show prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages Content To Your Website
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this done, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Uploading Legal Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you in standard web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your server, or have someone upload them for you.
We recommend creating a legal folder in your web server and uploading your legal pages to this directory using FTP …
(Upload legal pages to your server via FTP)
You can then easily add links to your pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
Make sure that your legal pages are kept up-to-date and display clearly to your visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your website) so that users have access to legal information from all your pages …
(Display links to your legal information to visitors on all of your website’s pages)
For a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your WordPress sidebar or footer using widgets, see this tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting websites like this one:
For more details, go here:
Another option is to download a set of website legal templates designed by legal attorney Scott Talbert to protect businesses online …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website templates feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with simple search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your web pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Page Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance (This proprietary FTC page accommodates new FTC regulations and guidelines that came into effect in 2012)
- Terms of Service & Conditions of Use: includes inter- & intra-page redundancy, Contra Proferentem provision, reservation of rights, and exclusive social media admonition.
You can either create a new page for each 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 described previously.
Go here for more info:
WordPress Plugins – Legal Pages
In addition to using templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great WordPress plugins that you should check out:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If you don’t want to bother with creating legal web pages manually, then consider choosing WordPress Legal Pages …
This plugin is not free, but it’s an affordable and well-supported plugin that will help make the task of creating and implementing legal pages on your site much easier and save you many headaches.
Some of the reasons to consider using WP Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – Includes over 20 built-in legal page templates created by a team of professional lawyers.
- Quick And Easy To Use – Set up most of your basic legal pages in around 3 minutes with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any other page on your site.
- Custom Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to any of your pages and the information will be automatically inserted into your content when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any page on your site.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lock down. When users agree to the legal terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
When you install WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will appear inside your WordPress dashboard menu …
(WP Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This allows you to view, create and edit legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option to create legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites with products, affiliate/review sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WP Legal Pages Plugin – Page Type)
Select from various pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Built-In 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
Visit this site to learn more this powerful plugin:
The Compliance Bar Plugin For WordPress is a complete compliance and disclaimer solution for your online 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
- Earnings Disclaimer
(Legal Suite Pro For WordPress – 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 one minute or less and the plugin licensing is flexible, allowing you to install and use the plugin on all of your websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
If using the services of legal experts to create your legal pages is out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some basic form of legal protection on your site until you can afford legal services.
We want your website to be safe!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or consider using one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using legal content, or a WordPress legal pages plugin as described in the section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
As stated earlier, if you make money online (or plan to), you need to make sure that your site stays compliant with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business practices online and any guidelines and terms of service of third-party products and services that you may decide to promote or endorse online. If your website isn’t compliant 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, please note that we are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice on this website. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with all legal requirements wherever your business is based.
Below is a useful list of websites we suggest you visit to better understand what your website may require to comply and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- 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
- 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
- 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
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the importance of having a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress site using simple and inexpensive legal resources and solutions.
"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya