Is Your Blog Legal?

How to make your blog or website legal by adding a disclosure policy, terms of service, and a privacy policy. #blogging #blogtips Owning your own blog is a great feeling. You get to do something you love while being an influence in other's lives and can even make some money doing so. But have you ever taken the time to make sure your blog is legal?

Having an online presence in today's digital age means that there are legal requirements that come with owning your own blog or business. Not only do you need a disclosure policy, but you need a terms of service and privacy policy too. Because most of us don't know how to write legal stuff, I'll show you how you can make your blog legal in less than 30 minutes using online policy generators.

But first, here are a few things you should take note of:

  1. Use a separate page, not a blog post, for each policy. Having them on separate pages will increase your site's SEO.
  2. Link to each of the policies somewhere on your home page. I have mine linked in my shortened disclosure policy in the sidebar, but some people like having it linked in the footer area.
  3. You should still have both a full Disclosure Policy and a shortened one. The longer one should be on a separate page and go into more detail while the shorter one is for posting on your homepage (the short one can be more informal sounding too).
  4. Update your policies at least once a year to keep them current. Usually there should be a sentence at the beginning or end of each policy saying something along the lines of "This document was last updated on December 28, 2014."
  5. I am not a licensed attorney, nor should you take the information in this post as full legal advice. The policy generators may not fully cover all legal requirements, but they are a good start :)

Disclosure Policy

Most bloggers have some sort of disclosure on their site, which is super important! If you monetize your site in any way, whether it be through sponsors, affiliate links, or Google Ads, you need to have a disclosure according to the Federal Communications Commissions. I used this Disclosure Policy generator to write mine.

Terms of Service

Another notice you should have on your site is a Terms of Use/Service. I'm sure we've all seen a Terms of Use agreement before, even if most of us don't ever read them (oops!). If you scroll to the bottom of most websites, you'll find a Terms of Service or Terms of Use Policy. This serves as a sort of "contract" between the business and visitor. Terms vary depending on the type of business it is, but having one for your blog is important to help protect you from any potential legal action by visitors to your site.

I used Privacy Policy Online's Terms of Service Generator to help write my Terms of Use policy. You'll definitely want to take the time and actually read what it generates and tweak different items. It's a lengthy document, but you want to make sure it fits your site. Some important things that should be included are: rules governing the use of your site, user content, limitations of liabilities, any warranties, intellectual property information, and breaches of contract.

I also changed a few things, like taking out my address and phone number and inserting my email instead. I also linked to my privacy policy page when it was mentioned in the document and changed the Law and Jurisdiction part to my state of residence instead of whatever state came generated with it.

Privacy Policy

The third important piece of information you should include on your blog is a Privacy Policy. This is extremely important if you collect anyone's information: name, email, payment information, if you host a linkup, etc. Basically, a Privacy Policy discloses how your site will store their information.

A Privacy Policy should essentially state that you promise to keep any shared information safe and that you will not share it with anyone other than trusted third parties (like your newsletter provider). I don't fully understand the various federal and state laws that have specific rules on Privacy Policies, but I do understand that California is the strictest. I used Generate Policy Generator to make my Privacy Policy and tweaked it to fit my site.

Again, if you update any part of how your site collects data, you must update your Privacy Policy and let your users know. For example, back in December I added a feature to my Google Analytics that tracks demographic information. Because adding that feature required a tracking cookie, I needed to update my Privacy Policy stating how exactly I was using reader's information and how they could opt out if they wanted. I wrote it myself since the Privacy Policy generator didn't offer this option. Here's what I added (you can use this if you ever add demographic information to Google Analytics):

Google Analytics Display Advertising

Our Site’s use of the Google Analytics cookie and the DoubleClick cookie allows us to enable features in Google Analytics that aren’t available through standard implementations. Display features include:

  • Remarketing with Google Analytics
  • Google Display Network Impression Reporting
  • DoubleClick Platform integrations
  • Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting

You can learn more about the use of the Google Analytics cookie and the DoubleClick cookie by visiting the Google Analytics Cookie Usage on Websites page. You may also opt out of the use of these cookies through your Ads Settings, Ad Settings for mobile apps, through the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on, or any other available means.

I hope you learned a little more about how to make your blog/website is legal today! I urge you to take the 30 minutes or so to set everything up and make sure you're protected.

Do you have a disclosure policy, terms of service, or a privacy policy?