Proper Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

OK, we get it. The words “Terms of Service” and “Privacy Policy” don’t exactly make you want to jump out of your chair with excitement.

However, these can be incredibly important in terms of liability.

In certain industries, you are required to have them on your site. You could even be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for not being in compliance.

Do we have your attention yet? Good! Let’s get started.

privacy policy seo

Your objective in this chapter is to understand who needs a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, what they contain, and how to create them.

Who Needs a Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

To begin, we want to clearly state that we are not attorneys. If you are unsure if you legally need to have these two items, we recommend consulting an attorney.

Even if you do not need these pages, they’re a good idea to have to avoid potential legal trouble. As we all know, most visitors will probably not ever read these pages. If you are collecting names, email addresses, phone numbers or are using cookies or re-targeting visitors, these are especially important. Certain industries such as financial services require specific verbiage in these files. Make sure to check with a legal department or representative before beginning.

Certain countries also have very strict rules about privacy policies. The European Union is a great example. You can read a little more on Wikipedia, however if you are unsure, contact an attorney.

What is the Purpose of These Two Pages?

The privacy policy document is to inform visitors what information your website is collecting about them and how you keep that data safe. For example, if you are collecting names and emails for an email newsletter you would disclose this, explain how you keep their data secure,  and provide a way for them to have their data erased.

Email-marketingThe easiest way to manage these items is to use an email newsletter service. They have security procedures in place and an easy “unsubscribe” button so anyone that wants to have their data removed will be able to do it without involving you. Make sure you are aware what data your website is collecting and keep your policy updated with this information.

The Terms of Service page informs visitors what terms they are agreeing to by using your website. This can be anything from using cookies to keep them logged in, using a tracking pixel, using heat map software and many other things. These terms will vary widely depending on what users can do on your website.

What Items Should Always Be Included?

Privacy Policy

  • Personal Data Collected – Include any data you collect about visitors.
  • Who Has Access to the Data – Employees, affiliates, contractors; whoever it is, disclose it.
  • Cookies – If you are using them, disclose it.
  • Privacy Policy Changes – Let them know that your policy may change.
  • Ad Policy – If you are using ads make sure to disclose this and that third party advertisers may be able to collect data (this also applies if you have a Facebook app installed).

Terms of Service

  • Copyright Infringement & DMCA Policy – If they believe you are using their intellectual property disclose how they can contact you.
  • Website Visitors Responsibility – They are responsible for keeping their computer secure. If your site is hacked, and they are victims of a virus, you are not liable.
  • Intellectual Property – The data contained on your site is owned by you and they cannot steal it and use it elsewhere unless explicitly notified. (Note: A share button would allow them to share it on social media.)
  • Advertisements – You reserve the right to display ads on your site (may or may not be applicable).
  • Termination – You can delete their account or block their access whenever you want (typically you won’t, but if someone is spamming your site you want this ability).

Simple Ways to Create TOS & Privacy Policy

Create-terms-of-service-and-privacyIdeally, you will have an attorney draft your policy/terms. However, we realize some people will not take the time or money to do this. In these circumstances, it’s better to have something than nothing. A quick Google search will reveal a number of websites with generators that you can add basic information about your site and it will generate a Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for you. There are also plugins available for WordPress that will create these items. Most likely they will not be compliant for industries with heavy regulations, but for unregulated industries these should at least provide you some protection.

How Do These Two Pages Affect Your Rankings?

Some people think search engines prefer legitimate companies over simple affiliate sites. One of the ways to help show them that you are legitimate is to provide these disclosures on your site. We cannot ensure it will rank you as #1 by having them, but it can help to establish that you are a legitimate company. Once you have created the pages, we recommend adding them to the footer of your website so users and search engines can easily find them.

Adding this page to your footer varies based on your theme, so we will not go over how to to this in detail here. However, we will state that for most themes this can be added via a widget or on the “Editor” page. As a note, be sure you create a backup before editing the “Editor” section.

Final Thoughts

Having a Terms of Service and Privacy Policy is always a good idea. In certain industries and locations, it’s required.

The actual items you choose to include in these pages depends on what visitors are allowed to do on your site. Simple sites that only allow visitors to read content require the least, whereas sites that allow users to create accounts requires more.

If you don’t know what you need, discuss with an attorney what information to include on your pages. Once the pages are set up, make sure to add the pages to the footer so visitors can easily access them.

You’ve met your objective in this chapter of understanding who needs a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, what the pages contain, and how to create them.

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