Is your WordPress website compliant? Do you know if you are breaking any rules or regulations, or breaching the Terms of Service (TOS) of any third-party companies whose services or products you advertise or recommend?
Online laws, regulations, and guidelines were designed to protect the rights of consumers and apply to any person who markets, sells or promotes products and services online. Every website owner risks being sued for not following compliance laws. Feigning ignorance about the law will not protect you from being slapped with a legal notice.
New laws introduced in 2014 that regulate how businesses promote advertising on their sites state that if you promote anything on your website for commercial gain, you need to follow certain disclosure guidelines to prevent enforceable orders being issued against you by consumer protection departments, such as the (US based) BBB, or Better Business Bureau. Search online “The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program,” which regulates behavioral advertising across the internet for more details.
(BBB – Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program)
The new laws has ramifications for various business activities, including:
- Any type of advertising, e.g. contextual ads
- Retarget Marketing
- Google Analytics (or other analytics software)
- Affiliate Marketing
- Product Creators
If your site does not display certain pages to visitors (e.g. terms of service, privacy statement, legal disclaimers, etc.), many sites such as Google won’t let you advertise, online merchants like ClickBank won’t allow you to list digital products, PayPal may close down your account, Facebook could suspend your web applications, and you won’t be allowed to promote various advertising or affiliate merchant networks.
You may also be inadvertently leaving yourself open and vulnerable to litigation.
In this guide, we look at the importance of having a legally compliant website and provide simple and inexpensive ways to make your website or blog compliant quickly and easily.
Is Your Website Or Blog Breaking The Law?
Legal Disclaimer: Please note that we are not lawyers and we cannot provide legal advice about your website or business. As stated above, this article is designed only to help make you aware that your website may be subject to a number of legal policies in accordance with the laws and regulations governing online business practices and that compliance may be required with the terms of service of companies whose products or services you endorse on your website
Why It’s Important To Make Your Website Compliant
Consider for a moment what would happen to your business if any of these situations were to take place:
- A user suffers a heart attack after using your online fitness program.
- The skin care lotion you sell as an affiliate marketer gives someone skin rashes.
- You’ve let your subscribers know that you won’t sell their information, but you have not clearly spelled out what you’ll do with the details you’ve collected.
- Someone copies content from your site and puts it up on their own website.
- There is no statement on your site letting your site users know that you are endorsing a product as an affiliate that you will derive financial benefits if visitors buy it via your affiliate link.
- You haven’t spelled out the conditions of your return policies.
- Online visitors claim the testimonials on your site are false and try to sue you because of it.
- You did not disclose in a product review that you were given a free copy of the product.
- Your website publishes adult-related information and you haven’t taken sufficient measures to restrict access by underage persons.
Consider now the documented examples of costly compliance breaches below:
- 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. In addition to a significant $390,000 fine, they’re now required to issue everyone they do business with for the next 20 years, a copy of the judgement — including employees.
- A social networking app developer received a massive $800,000 fine for collecting personal information without users’ knowledge and consent – including storing children’s private information.
- 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, costing them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- An independent 2010 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 violation of at least two 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 with warnings 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 you could easily be exposed to the risks of litigation through non-compliance?
Regardless of whether you are a:
- CPA (Cost Per Action) or PPA (Pay Per Action) Marketer
- Multilevel Marketer
- Affiliate Promoter
- AdSense Publisher
- Product Publisher
- Amazon Affiliate
- EBay Seller
- Adult Content Publisher
- Provider Of Freelance, Coaching Or Consulting Services
- Seller Of Any Service Or Product Online
It’s imperative to do whatever is necessary to make sure that your online business has the right legal pages and information accessible to site users.
Compliance With 3rd-Party Services
Big companies and government agencies that regulate trade in most countries emphasize the need of complying with the terms and policies of service providers.
You are required to let your site visitors know that your business complies with all necessary laws and professional guidelines. This not only improves trust and buyer confidence in your business, it’s also required in many cases by most companies you interact with online.
Google requires websites to display legal information when using many of their services. This includes using features like Google Analytics …
(Google Analytics – Policy Requirements)
Generating revenue online with your blogs with Google AdSense advertising …
(Google AdSense - policy requirements)
And even promoting your services or products using Google AdWords …
(Google AdWords – Policy Requirements)
If you sell products online using places such as ClickBank, JVZoo, or other established merchant sites, you are required to add various legal pages before they will approve your products for selling via their network …
(Policy requirements for vendors selling through ClickBank)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires you to add clear disclaimers and policies on your website, especially when concerning the use of product testimonials or endorsements …
(FTC – consumer guidelines and regulations)
FTC Regulations Require Your Website To Comply
FTC regulations governing how business is conducted online were introduced in March 2012. Search online and you will see that many business are unaware (or choose to flaunt) these requirements. As has already been the case, this typically results in 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 business online, therefore, it’s best not to take any chances. Even if your business does not operate in the U.S. we strongly recommend protecting your business by ensuring that your site complies with all FTC guidelines.
There are many business resources that can provide guidelines on how to structure disclaimers and disclosures to help your site comply with FTC requirements. See the references and useful resources section at the end of this article for more information …
(You must word your disclaimers and disclosures correctly to avoid running foul of the law)
Social Media Applications Also Require Compliance
If you are planning to develop applications for your site, you will also be required to provide social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others with access to your 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 service providers like Google, Facebook, etc., then it’s best to assume that you most probably are.
- If you are considering promoting anything online using affiliate marketing, or make 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 need to include on your site to comply with all Terms Of Service and policy requirements to avoid having your accounts shut down.
- If you have been wondering whether “borrowing” a Copyright Notice is Copyright infringement, take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business interests.
Basic Legal Pages You Should Include In Your Site
If your website or blog falls short in aspects of compliance, then you will find this section helpful.
Adding the following legal pages to your site should help you stay out of trouble with many consumer protection authorities and external service providers, and avoid possible legal issues):
- About Us Page
- Contact Page
- Terms & Conditions
- Disclaimer Pages
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance
As well as the above, you may want to look into adding one or more of these compliance pages:
- Affiliate Disclosure (e.g. if you promote or sell affiliate products and services)
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Compensation Disclosure
- External Linking Policy
- Health Disclaimers (if your website provides general health or medical advice)
- Refund Policy (if you run an e-commerce site)
- Use Of Media (e.g. if you allow media downloads on your site)
Types Of Disclosure Pages
Adding correct disclosure information to your website is important. For example:
- No Material Connection – Informs users that you will not receive compensation for writing the article.
- Affiliate Links – Notifies readers that you may be compensated if they act on your recommendation and buy through your affiliate links.
- Sample/Review Copy – Lets readers be aware that you have been given a review or sample copy of the product or service.
- Sponsored Post – Lets readers be aware that you were compensated in some form to write the content.
- Third Party Advertising – Informs readers 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 Content To Your Site
Ideally, you should have a lawyer prepare the content of your legal documents. Once you have this completed, 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 typical web page format (e.g. HTML), you can simply upload these to your site, or have someone upload these pages for you.
We recommend creating a legal directory on your server and uploading your legal pages to this folder (e.g. via FTP) …
(Create a ‘legals’ folder in your server and upload pages via FTP)
You can then easily add links to your legal pages from your WordPress site using a custom WordPress menu …
(Custom WordPress Menu Feature)
Where To Display Legal Web Pages On Your Site
After uploading your legal pages, make sure that these are kept up-to-date and clearly accessible to all site visitors. You can insert links to your legal pages into your WordPress sidebar (or place them in the footer of your site) to ensure that visitors have access to the information from all of your pages …
(It’s important to display links to your legal information on all of your website’s pages)
We have created a detailed tutorial on adding links to pages on your sidebar menu using widgets here:
You can find downloadable attorney-prepared forms and agreements just by searching online, or by visiting websites like this one:
(FindLegalForms.com – Attorney-drafted legal forms)
Go here for more info:
Another option is to purchase a package of website legal templates created by attorney Scott Talbert to help businesses protect themselves online …
(Website Legal Pages)
Cut & Paste website legal pages feature less passive voice and more plain language phrasing and can be customized with a quick search and replace to add your own business details, then pasted into your legal pages.
The legal forms included in Scott Talbert’s Legal Form Templates include:
- Anti-Spam Policy
- Copyright Notice
- Disclaimer: multi-discipline professional disclaimers
- DMCA Compliance
- FTC Compliance
- 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 each legal form you want to add to your site, then paste the content from the templates into your web pages and publish or upload your legal pages to your web server as described previously.
Go here for more details:
WordPress Legal Page Plugins
As well as using templates, you can keep things really simple by using a plugin.
Here are some great plugins for WordPress websites and blogs worth looking into:
(WordPress Plugin – WordPress Legal Pages)
If manually creating legal pages for your website seems too time-consuming for you, then consider using WP Legal Pages …
The WP Legal Pages plugin is not free, but it’s a low-priced and well-supported premium plugin that will make the work of creating and implementing legal pages on your website a lot easier and save you loads of headaches.
Some of the benefits of using WordPress Legal Pages plugin are:
- Pre-written Legal Templates – The plugin gives you access to 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 clicks of the mouse.
- Easy To Edit Pages – Full WYSIWYG editor lets you edit all legal pages just like any page on your site.
- Shortcodes – Add shortcodes to your WordPress pages and the information will then 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 lockdown. When the user agrees to your terms, the page unlocks.
- Additional Features – New plugin features get added when new versions are released.
After installing WordPress Legal Pages, a new menu feature will display inside your main dashboard menu section …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Legal Pages Menu)
This lets you create, view and edit your legal pages from your admin area …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Settings Screen)
With WP Legal Pages, you have the option of creating legal pages for different online uses, such as business websites, affiliate websites, Amazon sites, etc …
(WordPress Legal Pages – Create different legal page types)
Choose from various 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 about using this plugin, visit the plugin site:
complete website compliance & disclaimer solution …
Learn more about the plugin here:
(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
- 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 powered site. You can have legal pages 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 this plugin on all of your websites.
To learn more, visit this site:
If using the services of lawyers to create your legal documentation is currently out of your budget, then consider implementing at least some form of basic legal protection on your site until you can afford legal services.
We want your business to be protected!
Download the Legal Pages Generator software below (for FREE!), or choose one of the better solutions we discuss in this article, such as using attorney-prepared legal forms, or plugins - see section below.
(Legal Pages Generator Software)
Legal Pages Generator quickly generates necessary legal documents for your website including Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, Copyright Notice, Website Disclaimer and optional Earnings Disclaimer.
As stated earlier, if you engage in any form of commercial activity online, you need to ensure that your site is found to comply with regulatory agencies and the terms of service (TOS) and guidelines required by third-party products and services that you may be promoting or using online. Your website must comply with a number of laws and regulatory guidelines, many 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?
Disclaimer: Once again, we are not lawyers and we offer no legal advice. You must do your own due diligence and consult legal experts to ensure that your website fully complies with the law pertaining to your specific business.
Additional Legal Information
Here is a time-saving list of sites we recommend you visit to better understand what your site may require to remain compliant and meet its 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
See Also …
- 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 why it’s important to have a compliant website. Use the information above to quickly and easily add legal pages to your WordPress site.
"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