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I know. You are just starting out, and the last thing you want to worry about is having to worry about the legal stuff. After all, nobody even knows about your blog’s existence yet, so who is going to complain?

Well, here’s a news flash:

Once you get going, and you start working on creating content and spending time promoting and monetizing your blog, you WILL forget about it. And if you forget about it for long enough, you can run into uncomfortable situations later on.

Here are a few of the things you need to have on your blog:

1. Privacy Policy

Your privacy policy revolves around the information you collect (both for your email list and your statistics/analytics data). It also contains information about your use of cookies (tracking systems use it to identify repeat visitors). It is legally required, and if you don’t have it, Google is rumored to lower your search engine rankings (less trust = poor user experience = lower search ranking).

2. Legal disclaimer

You need to state publicly that you do not accept any responsibility for anything that happens on, or as a result of an action on/from, your blog. If somebody buys something and has a really bad experience because of what he or she bought, this will prevent them from being able to come after you with legal demands.

(for instance, if someone buys a diet product which makes them sick – from an affiliate link on your blog)

In addition to that, you also need to state that individual results will vary and that you cannot promise similar – or any – results as those you may have referred to in your content.

3. Material disclosure

This one is relatively simple to fix – yet so many people still get it wrong, or don’t even do it. If there is any material connection between yourself and any product or service mentioned on your site, you have to declare it.

In simple terms – the visitor has a right to know if you stand to make a commission or receive any form of reward for recommendations made on your blog (AND in your emails).

This arose as a direct result from people creating “review” blogs in order to promote products. Their visitors were people looking for the opinions of other product users (before they buy it themselves) in order to validate their choices. But because the reviews were biased to favor the product(s) the blog owner wanted to sell, these were considered to be (and actually were) misleading.

Note: According to the FTC regulations, the link to this disclosure page should be above the fold (visible without having to scroll down on PC/laptop), and its link has to be accentuated in some way to make it stand out. It has to be either in a different color, or all caps, or bold, or bigger than the normal font. It isn’t something you can hide at the bottom of the page like the privacy policy and the legal disclaimer.

4. Be careful of what you promise

Even though you do have a disclaimer on your blog, refrain from making outlandish claims. Refrain from making promises about the abilities of products, lest they be misinterpreted.

Whatever you publish, always ask yourself this question:

Can this information or recommendation be seen as being misleading?

Because if it is, the FTC – Federal Trade Commission in the USA – can come down on your head like a ton of bricks. And they don’t play – they have closed down many, many businesses, including multi-million dollar companies.

They have also closed down others temporarily, until such time as the FTC would be happy that all their requirements were met – effectively destroying those businesses as well.

Note: The FTC regulations don’t only apply to US citizens. They also apply to everybody doing business with US citizens. As such, if there is any possibility of you landing customers or clients from the USA, you had better be compliant.

In conclusion:

The FTC is not a kitten to be taken on without gloves. It’s a monster machine, run by ruthless people who don’t always understand the struggles of bloggers and internet marketers trying to make a living. On the other hand, they also have the not-so-envious task of trying to establish some form of ethical norms on the chaotic internet – where spam, hype and false claims are everyday occurrences.

They have to protect the American public – as best as they can, even if they do make mistakes along the way.

I would suggest not getting on their wrong side.

Fortunately, there is a tool that can help you to “FTC-proof” your blog or website – it’s called FTC Guardian.

There’s even a basic version available for free – so unless you have some legal background and can protect yourself, I would suggest you have a look.

Get everything in place once and for all – and then you can forget about it, and go grow your business.

You can sign up for the FREE BASIC version here

Or, if you would like to learn more, please sign up for the very detailed FREE webinar here

 

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