How to Write Your “Privacy Policy”

Keyboard indicating Privacy Policy

How to Write Your “Privacy Policy”

This article is part of the Web Site Components Series. Links to all published articles in this Series will be posted here and at the end of each article.

Articles in this Series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Privacy Policy (this article)
  3. About Page
  4. Contact Page
  5. Disclosure Page
  6. FAQ
  7. Subscribe Page
  8. Special Purpose Pages (landing pages, squeeze pages, etc.)
  9. HOME Page
This article is designed for Beginners.

What Is a Privacy Policy?

A web site’s Privacy Policy is a document that explains clearly to site visitors what you will do with their personal information…and if you link to affiliates (companies that pay you a commission to refer business their way).

Wikipedia excerpt:

“A privacy policy is a statement or a legal document (privacy law) that discloses some or all of the ways a party gathers, uses, discloses and manages a customer or client’s data. Personal information can be anything that can be used to identify an individual, not limited to but including; name, address, date of birth, marital status, contact information, ID issue and expiry date, financial records, credit information, medical history, where one travels, and intentions to acquire goods and services. In the case of a business it is often a statement that declares a party’s policy on how it collects, stores, and releases personal information it collects. It informs the client what specific information is collected, and whether it is kept confidential, shared with partners, or sold to other firms or enterprises. “

Before you rush to the conclusion this doesn’t apply to you, consider what sorts of content you have (or might have in the future) on your web site:
  • Ads (from an ad network such as Google Adsense)
  • Affiliate links (to third-party companies with whom you have an “affiliate relationship”)
  • A subscribe form to send out your own e-newsletter or regular e-zine
  • A free “give-away” to obtain a visitor’s email address
  • A free download, requiring the site visitor to provide their email address
  • A shopping cart, where you collect necessary “sales-related” information from your site visitor
  • A PayPal (or similar) button, where a third party is requesting personal information from your site visitor

If you have — or will have at some point in the future — any of these types of content, you must have a Privacy Policy!

Why Do I Need One?

There are several reasons every web site should have a Privacy Policy:

  1. Your web site visitors expect it! Having a clear Privacy Policy generates faith and a certain degree of trust among your site visitors, even if they never read it. Conversely, if you don’t have one, many site visitors will scurry away from your site to a competitor that does have one clearly posted. (See my tips below for where to place links to your Privacy Policy.)
  2. If you are using Google Analytics, you MUST have a Privacy Policy. The same applies if you are using Google Adsense or Adwords. See Google requirements if this applies to you.
  3. There’s a good chance it’s legally required! There are numerous State & Federal laws, either in development or currently in effect, that require any web site doing any sort of business to have a clearly-stated privacy policy. Check with your state of residence to see what applies to you.

Okay, I’m Convinced…but How Do I Write One?

Fortunately, this is actually easy! There are online FREE “privacy policy generators” that take some basic information from you and compose the entire policy for you! It’s very easy, but make sure you review the contents beforehand! You want to ensure the policy you’re generating actually includes all the components that apply to you and the way your business, or third parties you link to, will be using personal information.

Here are a few generators, or you can Google it (search for “privacy policy generators”) for yourself:

Make Sure You Comply!

Just having a Privacy or Use Policy (also referred to a Terms of Service or TOS) in place isn’t sufficient. You must make sure that the terms fit both your industry and your business! If you say what you do with customer information, then don’t follow through, you’re still going to be in trouble, and possibly violating state or federal laws (see #3 above).

Keep It Current!

If you add an affiliate or ad network as your web site grows, make sure your policies are current with the requirements of those networks.

Make It Clearly Visible

Many of your site visitors won’t actually read your entire Privacy Policy, but they will all certainly notice if it’s not there! Make sure you have a clear link to it on one of more of your menus (in the header and in the footer, for example) like I have done on this site.

Add a Button to Every Form

It’s also a great idea to place a “button” linking to your Privacy Policy above the sign-up forms on your web site. Studies have shown that placing such a clear and obvious link on forms increases click-through rates dramatically! Conversely, the same use studies have shown that NOT having a link, especially on shopping cart forms, drastically increases the number of shoppers having second thoughts, ultimately resulting in cart abandonment and lost sales!

What’s your experience with creating your own Privacy Policy? Do you have one? Has this article helped in demystifying the process? Share your experiences in the Feedback section below.



About the Author

Karen McCamyKaren is a WordPress Trainer & Coach. She currently teaches WP101 in Los Angeles, and a Girl-Develop-It class where you build your own website from the ground up!View all posts by Karen McCamy →