As a business owner, you do not want to learn the hard way that you have broken the law.
As digital business continues growing at an extraordinary rate and the rules constantly change, it’s vital to stay informed about what’s going on and ensure that your website or blog remains legal, especially if having a digital presence is a significant aspect of your business strategy.
Recent laws introduced in 2014 to regulate how businesses promote advertising on their websites clearly state that if you promote anything on your site for commercial gain, you will need to follow certain principles of disclosure to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by regulatory departments, such as the (US based) Better Business Bureau, also referred to as the BBB. Do a search online for “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 several online business activities, including:
- Any kind of advertising, including contextual advertising
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creation
If your site does not display certain pages to visitors (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites like Google won’t let you advertise, sites like ClickBank will not allow you to list your digital products on their network, PayPal could shut down your account and withhold payment of your funds, Facebook will disapprove web applications, and you will not be allowed to promote a number of advertising or online marketing networks.
If your digital presence is not compliant, you could end up facing a whole range of penalties, including fines, having your website shut down, even jail time!
This article explains why it’s important to have a compliant website and presents inexpensive resources and solutions to help make your site legally compliant in minutes.
Does Your Website Or Blog Comply With The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and we are not providing legal advice about your website or business. Do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website fully complies with all laws wherever you do business.
Why Ensuring That Your Website Is Compliant Is Important
Is your business at risk? Consider what the implications to your business would be if these situations were to take place:
- A person suffers a cardiac arrest after using your online fitness workout.
- The skin cream you sell as an affiliate marketer gives people skin rashes.
- You’ve informed your subscribers that you will not sell their information, but you have not clearly spelled out what you will do with the information you’ve collected.
- Someone copies content from your website and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your site making visitors aware that you’re an affiliate for the product you’re marketing that you may derive a financial benefit if visitors buy it.
- You don’t spell out the terms of your refund/return policies.
- Someone claims that the testimonials on your site are misleading and tries to sue you.
- You have not disclosed that you received a free copy of a product in your review.
- Your website publishes adult information and you didn’t take sufficient measures to keep underage persons from accessing it.
Consider too the following actual case studies of costly compliance breaches:
- A CPA Marketer failed to provide adequate disclaimers telling visitors they would be required to give up personal information (including credit card info to complete an offer they were promoting. In addition to a substantial $390,000 fine, they’ve also been ordered to issue a copy of the judgement to everyone he does business with for the next 20 years — including employees.
- A social networking app developer copped a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing private details 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 dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent 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 breach of at least two of Google’s policies, and more than 40% were in violation 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 entirely to the Google program whose policies with the infringement, which could result in loss of income (e.g. AdSense or AdWords).
Can you see how a website owner can easily be exposed to the risks of litigation?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Product Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Marketer
- Amazon Associate
- EBay Seller
- Publisher Of Adult Content
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Seller Of Any Product Or Service Online
It’s vitally important to make sure that your online business has the right legal pages and information accessible to all you site users.
Compliance With Third-Party Companies
Complying with 3rd-party services terms and policies is important.
You must let your site visitors know that your website complies will all laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves consumer trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also a requirement of many companies you interact with.
Google requires you to display certain information if using many of their products and features. This includes using Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Making money online with your blogs using Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense online advertising - policy requirements)
Or promoting your products through Google AdWords …
(Policy requirements for using Google AdWords)
If you plan to sell information products with merchants such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant networks, you will need to add legal pages before your products are approved for sale …
(Policy requirements for selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission also requires you to include clear disclaimers and statements to visitors, especially when using product testimonials or endorsements …
(Federal Trade Commission – consumer policies and regulations)
New FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing the conduct of doing business online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many sites are still unaware (or choose to ignore) these requirements. As has already been the case, this often ends up with the FTC making an example of businesses and prosecuting site 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 located in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by making sure that your site is compliant with all FTC regulations.
You can find many business resources that can provide guidelines and examples on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your business meet FTC requirements. See the additional references and resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(Structure your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of laws and regulations)
Don’t Forget Social Media Applications
If you plan to develop applications for your website users, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and many others will require you to provide information about your legal pages …
(Facebook developer app – policy requirements)
- If you are unsure as to whether you are breaking the law, and/or Terms of Service policies and guidelines of companies like Google, Facebook, etc., it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you plan to promote products or services online as an affiliate marketer, or monetizing your pages with Google AdSense, ads for eBay or Amazon products, or driving visitors to your website with Google AdWords, etc., then find out exactly what kind of legal information you are required to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements - don’t risk having your accounts suspended.
- If you have ever wondered if “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business.
(In addition to legal and regulatory compliance, most 3rd-party websites require you to comply with their policies)
Basic Legal Pages You Should Add To Your Website To Ensure Compliance
If your website falls short in aspects of compliance, then this section will help you.
At its most basic, adding the following legal pages to your website should help you stay out of trouble with many regulatory authorities and external service providers, and help to avoid potential legal issues or even threats of legal action (e.g. “cease and desist” notices):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms And Conditions
- Website Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the pages above, you may want to consider adding any of the following pages if applicable:
- Affiliate Disclosure (if you provide information about affiliate products or services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Earnings Disclaimer
- External Links Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides health or medical advice)
- 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
Adding the correct type of disclosure to your site is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs your visitors that you will not be receiving any form of payment for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Lets your visitors be aware that you may be compensated if they act on your recommendation and purchase through an affiliate link.
- Review Or Sample Copy – Discloses to your readers that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service you’re reviewing or writing about.
- Sponsored Post – Lets your readers be aware that you have been compensated in some way to write the article.
- Third Party Advertising – Lets users 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 display prominently on their sites since January 1, 2014.
Adding Legal Pages To Your Website
Ideally, you should consult lawyers or a legal firm and ask them to prepare the verbiage of your legal documents. Once this has been created, there are several ways to add them to your website.
Upload Legal Web Pages Manually
If someone prepares the legal content for you in HTML format, you can simply upload these to your web server, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend adding a legals folder to your web server and uploading HTML pages containing your legal documentation to this directory via FTP …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your web server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add a link to your legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
Displaying Legal Pages On Your Site
Make sure that your legal pages are up-to-date and clearly accessible to all site visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your sidebar menu (or the footer section of your website or blog) so that users can access the information from all of your pages …
(Display links to legal pages on all of your site’s pages)
To learn more about displaying links to pages on your sidebar menu and footer in WordPress using widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial:
Ready-Made Legal Templates
You can find attorney-prepared downloadable website forms and agreements by searching online, or by going to sites like the ones shown below:
(Find Legal Forms – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Alternatively, you can download a package of cut & paste website legal templates drafted by attorney Scott Talbert …
(Cut & Paste Website Legal Pages – Website Legal Pages)
These legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be easily customized with a simple quick search and replace to add your own business name and URL, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Website Legal Pages include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- Terms of Service (ToS) & 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 every legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your pages and publish or upload these to your web server as described previously.
Legal Page Plugins
As well as using templates, another option for adding legal pages to your website is to use WordPress plugins.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress users worth looking into:
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress)
If you don’t want to spend time creating legal web pages manually, then consider installing WordPress Legal Pages instead …
This is not a free plugin, but it’s a very affordable and well-supported plugin that will simplify the job of creating and implementing legal pages on your website and save you many headaches.
Some of the benefits of using the WordPress 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 mouse clicks.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any WP page.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your pages and the information will then be automatically inserted into your pages when you publish.
- Exclude pages. Exclude pages from menus with a simple checkbox and delete and manage these like any other WP page.
- Forced Options – Force page or post lockdown. When users agree to the terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – More features get added to this plugin with each new version.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a menu item will display inside your navigation section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you view, create and edit your legal pages from the admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings)
The plugin gives you the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, niche sites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin – Create different legal page types)
You can also choose from a number of pre-written legal templates …
(WordPress Legal Pages Plugin For WordPress – 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 powerful plugin, visit this site:
The Compliance Bar Plugin is a complete compliance & disclaimer solution for your digital business …
Go here to learn more about this plugin:
(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 & 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 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 websites (even sites that you decide to sell).
For more details, go here:
If hiring lawyers to create your legal pages is out of your budget, consider implementing at least some basic type of legal protection on your site until you can afford to hire the services of a legal form or lawyer.
We want your business to be legally protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (it’s FREE!), or consider choosing one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-drafted legal content, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator allows you to quickly generate essential legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you are making money online, you need to make sure that your website is found to comply with legal requirements of government agencies that regulate business online and the terms of service and guidelines provided by 3rd-party sites that you may be promoting or advertising 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?
Legal Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we cannot offer legal advice. We strongly advise you to do your own due diligence and consult a legal expert about the best way of ensuring that your website is compliant with all legal requirements concerning your specific business.
Below is a time-saving list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your business requires to remain compliant and meet legal requirements and guidelines:
- Federal Trade Commission Latest List Of Rules & Regulations
- Federal Trade Commission Advertising & Marketing Rules Of the Road
- FTC Advertising And Marketing On The Internet
- Better Business Bureau – 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
See Also …
- Google Analytics Help – Policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features
- Google AdSense Program Policies Explained
- 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 why it’s important to have a compliant website. Use the information provided above to quickly and easily add all necessary legal pages to your website or blog.
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