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How to Comply with the CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is a set of rules and regulations that determine what is classified as spam and what can get your server blacklisted. In 2008, several new adoptions were put into place to protect the average consumer in this act. It is a set of rules many ISPs and web hosts use to govern email usage.

The last thing you want is your email being flagged by major corporations and online filters. For instance, a negative report from services like Spamhaus will prevent any email being sent from your specific domain name. This can be extremely problematic for businesses and organizations that rely on email for communication.

In this tutorial, I’m going to go over the basics of how you can make sure your email messages are not considered spam. Following these rules will greatly reduce your risks of being blacklisted or suffering negative backlash from the online community.

Complying with the CAN-SPAM Act

As long as you’re not trying to abuse email usage, complying with the CAN-SPAM act isn’t all that difficult. In fact, it’s possible the vast majority of you are complying already and don’t even realize it.

What are the basic rules for following the CAN-SPAM act?

1. Refrain From Buying Email Lists

Although email lists are not as prominent as they once were, people often debate buying them to grow their marketing. Unfortunately, it also means you may be buying a list of addresses of people who may not be interested in your product or service.

A lot of mailing lists are created by scraping a website for contact information. It doesn’t matter if the individual is open to solicitation or not. And this is what causes the problem for a lot of people. It’s a quick way to give your brand a reputation as a “spammer.”

It’s always best to create an email list from subscribers at your website. These people are already interested in your content, which means the possibility of interaction is higher and there is greater potential for making money from marketing. In fact, there are a number of ideas that will increase email response rate without buying email lists.

2. Avoid False Identity Information

Cloaking or hiding your message meta data is a poor practice. When you provide false or misleading information regarding your messages, it creates an instance of mistrust. It may also cause filter systems and organizations to flag your email as spam.

Data such as “From” and “To” are elements you need to pay attention to. For example, I never trust or open an email where the “From” line is my own address…unless I sent it to myself on purpose. This is seen as a extremely poor practice to try and circumvent spam filters.

3. Keep Subject Lines Truthful

Use the subject line as it was intended; as a way to inform the recipient what the message is about. Being deceptive in the subject line is a good way to annoy recipients as well as ensure the message is caught in a spam trap.

The subject should be an ultra brief topic of what the email regards. Don’t use it as a way to bait people into opening the message. This will hurt your chances of engaging the reader and forming a bond, which will impact the success of an email marketing campaign.

4. Disclose if the Message is an Ad

If people expect a message to be an ad, they are more likely to treat it as such. This also means they might interact with it on a consumer level. Although the laws are not prohibitive when it comes to identifying the message as an ad, it’s still a good practice.

The best way to comply with CAN-SPAM and reduce annoying your recipients is by clearly defining the message as an ad. I’ve seen many emails full of engaging information that clearly stated it was an advertisement. Many times, I found myself clicking on their links to learn more – after a bit of research to make sure the company is legitimate, that is.

5. Provide Contact Information

Displaying your business’ physical address is a good way to reduce looking spammy. This gives everyone a clear view of how they can contact you for any reason. You’ll see many of the most effective email marketing campaigns include address information as well as a direct contact link.

This provides a sense of legitimacy in the message. It’s information the reader can use to verify if the information is legitimate or not. It also makes you seem more approachable and not some automated bot with a mailing list.

6. Allow Recipients to “Opt-Out”

One of the most important facets of email marketing is making sure recipients can opt-out of future messages. Not everyone is receptive to email marketing, and some may simply change their mind about your content.

When providing an opt-out link, make sure it’s honored. If someone leaves your mailing list and he or she still receives email from you, the person may file a complaint against your domain with spam filtering agencies. The end result is a blacklisted domain.

Plus, it’s incredibly rude to not adhere to opting out. It has potential to damage your online reputation.

7. Pay Close Attention to Domain Email

Keep an eye on what messages are sent form your domain. You may be practicing good etiquette for email, but that doesn’t mean your staff is. You want to make sure everyone using your domain to send messages is doing so according to the CAN-SPAM act.

Users are not the only ones who can take advantage of your domain, either. Some malware is capable of using your mailing servers to spam others. Make sure your firewalls for email and anti-viral applications are current and active. The last thing you want is your domain being flagged by Spamhaus because one computer on your network is infected with spamming malware.

One of the best ways to avoid many problems is making sure you have adequate cyber security on your website. Otherwise, you could open the door to several ways which poor security measures can hurt your success.

Use Email Responsibly

Email is one of the most effective tools for marketing. It’s also cause for one of the greatest nuisances online. By being mindful of the above rules, you can keep your email accounts from being blacklisted by others. You can be successful while following true to the CAN-SPAM act as long as you’re not trying to game the system.

Author: Josh Dargie

My name is Josh Dargie and I’m the Operations Manager at GreenGeeks. I’ve been with the company since 2009. I have over 16 years of experience working with and for various web hosting providers specifically in development, day-to-day operations and customer service.

Updated on July 17, 2017

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