Producing A Polished Privacy Policy For Higher Profits

Privacy is a growing concern on the Internet. If you aren’t protecting your visitors’ privacy, and making that fact known — your click through rates may be suffering.

This article is written to help real estate agents and Realtors® determine how to communicate their use of personal information collected on their Internet website.


Producing A Polished Privacy Policy For Higher Profits

You have a well-designed, key-word rich site optimized with dynamic content and a smooth, inviting look. And you are beginning to get the rankings you desire in the search engines. You built this field of dreams and potential clients are beginning to visit. But, do you have a clearly stated privacy policy? Does your site indicate the way in which you handle personal data? Is it inviting your visitors to leave their virtual “calling card” behind? Or, are you driving them away by collecting information without permission or even notification of your visitors?

In this age of information, more and more Internet savvy visitors will move away from your site if they feel their own personal information is being shared, or simply is not being protected. How do you let them know that you are an ethical online business partner?

Your Privacy Policy Is The Key

Once you are online and soliciting clients, you are engaging in e-commerce. If you collect any information about visitors to your website, you should have a clearly defined, comprehensive policy statement on your website. A link to this policy should be prominently located on the index page of your site and on any other page where information is requested or collected.

You should inform your visitors of what information you collect, how you plan to use that information, if you will share that information, and how you will protect their privacy. If you have agreements with third party vendors, this is the place to outline your policy on that and provide access to their policy as well.

If you don’t collect certain pieces of information, you need to state that fact. Consider covering:

  • Cookies
  • IP addresses
  • E-mail addresses
  • Physical addresses and phone numbers
  • Links to other sites from within your site Demographic and statistical data
  • Your policy on divulging information to courts
  • Notification of changes in the policy
  • Security and how collected information is protected
  • Opt-out options

If you do collect personal information, you can offer an opt-out option for those visitors who wish to remain anonymous, or you may state that granting permission to collect and distribute or share information as outlined in that policy is a condition to use your site. You should also have a process by which they can change or have their information deleted in your system upon request or by an automated means.

Your privacy policy can be as simple and “personal” as:

The ComeSellWithUs team believes in protecting your privacy. As such, we will neither automatically collect your information when you visit our site, nor will we share or sell the personal information you provide when making a request of us. At www.ComeSellWithUs.com you can use our site while maintaining your privacy.

Or it can be as extensive as those located at the following addresses:

If the thought of writing your own privacy policy is more than you can fathom, consider using the “privacy policy generator” located at: http://www.the-dma.org/privacy/creating.shtml.
This quick, simple fill in the blank option offers a template privacy policy based on your business information. Or, if you want a customized, more extensive privacy policy, consider hiring a writer to help you design one that is unique to your particular business.

Once you have a privacy policy in place, you should ensure that it is accurate. You should never use personal or “collected” information in a way that is not outlined in your policy. Failure to follow your policy is an invitation to the FCC to investigate and even bring legal action against you.

As the use of the Internet grows, many visitors are becoming aware of privacy issues and are reviewing policies before providing any information online. Some visitors block the use of cookies and find a new website if personal information is required.

If you are running an interactive site that collects visitor information, be sure to check your state laws on privacy issues to ensure that your site is in compliance on these issues and stays that way. Even if your site isn’t particularly interactive, but you are offering a contest, auction or sweepstakes at any point, you need to check state regulations.

If you don’t already have a solid Privacy Policy, developing one is your next step.

Once you have a Privacy Policy in place, keep it up to date. Your website is a dynamic and constantly evolving marketing tool and your privacy policy will change as laws change, your business changes, or as your use of personal information develops and/or changes. Be sure to review your privacy policy regularly.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: When a large RE/MAX region approached me about how to increase the quality of the leads generated at their regional Website, I recommended that they include a privacy policy and make links to it prominent on every page. As a result, the quantity and quality of online leads rose dramatically almost overnight)

© Copyright 2004 by Angela Allen Parker of Wicked Wordcraft

This February 2004 article appears in the monthly “Word Magic” column in the www.epowernews.com newsletter.

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