Having an online presence in this digital age is crucial to pretty much any business. Yes, there are people who are making it without one, or with a bad one. There are some who never blog but have a long list of potential and current clients. But this isn’t the norm.
A website/blog is your virtual business card to be used to market your business. It should be the home base that you drive all traffic to from all social media. By carving out a little corner of the web, you can control (on your terms) the presentation and information given to clients, potential clients and potential business networks. It sounds great, right?
I know, I know.
But the good news is, website terms and privacy policies are pretty easy to get a handle on and fix. As with most legal things, if you get it right the first time, you can eliminate some stress in the future.
Before I dig into the legal stuff, just go check any reputable website; you’re going to find the thinks we mention below somewhere on the site, probably in the footer. This is because having both of them will protect you legally, set visitor expectations and, believe it or not, can educate your visitors on a variety of things (which we will discuss below).
Here is a great checklist of things that should be included (pulled from the product description of our own Terms document) for you to use:
- Visitor acceptance of Terms
- Outlines what your business does
- Ownership of site and content
- Visitor obligations
- Addresses Referral Links & Agreements
- Intellectual Property Licenses
- Entire Agreement
- Disclaimer that Terms may change
- Limitation of Liability
- Governing Law
- Governing venue
- Definitions Used
- Contact Information
It is a lot of information, but it’s not something that needs to be constantly updated. While it will take a bit of work at the beginning, a regular check for updates should be enough.
Typically, privacy policies are included within the terms of site – however, for this discussion it is important to break it out. First, these may be legally required by law depending on where your business sits (more information below). Second, you may need to directly, efficiently and succinctly direct someone to this page – such as when linking to these terms on an opt-in form.
This policy is a legal document on privacy law that discloses the way you gather data, use and manage data of your website visitors and customers.
It addresses privacy law topics such as:
- What information is collected (internet traffic data, cookies)
- Customer/visitor personal information
- Testimonials on site
- Information collection, use, and sharing
- Access to information
- Survey and Contests
- Facebook Advertising Pixel Policy (and other tracking pixels as required)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a set of guidelines that will mirror the listings we have included above:
- What kind of information does the company collect and how?
- How does a company use the data collected?
- How does a company protect the information it collects?
- Does the company share the collected information with others, and if so, what is shared and with whom?
- Do customers of the company have control over their personal data, and if so, what kind of control they have?
Do I legally need these documents?
The question is always asked – are these legally required? Website terms are not necessarily required (although there are some legal disclosures required) but good to have. Think of it like a contract…because it is. You’re not required to use them, but if you’ve been reading us for any amount of time, you know the importance of these in business.
On the flip side, privacy policies may actually be legally required depending on which State (or even country) you are doing business in. For extra reading, check out the SBA’s Privacy Law section.
What are some best practices for these documents?
- Get them lawyer-drafted
- Routinely update them – stick it on your calendar with your other contract revisions
- Link them in your footer
- Abide by your own terms
Common mistakes to avoid
Keep in mind, like any other legal document, these aren’t a golden ticket to liability protection, nor should they be used as a tool to beat your visitors over the head with.
Often times, website owners will get these and then don’t abide by them. That does absolutely no good. It’s the same way empty threats to your children don’t actually work. Make sure before you guarantee something to your visitors that you will also fulfill it. Be prepared to follow through and set a good example.
It is always best to reach out to an attorney – but here at FitLegally® we believe that knowledge is power before entering the door of an attorney. We welcome you to snag the listing of included points (as seen above) to take to an attorney and/or you can snag an already lawyer-drafted document here and have them brush it up a little bit.