The CAN-SPAM Act and Beyond: Improving Email Compliance, Deliverability, and Readability
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: May 5, 2009, 8:03 am
The CAN-SPAM Act
is possibly one of the simplest forms of government regulation with
which businesses of all sizes can achieve quick compliance.
we all know that SPAM laws are deliberately broken each day - you only
have to look at the volume of SPAM in your Inbox (currently increasing
at an average of 1.2% per day according to a Google report)
- it is actually the act of non-deliberate spamming that is putting
many a small business at risk of non-compliance and hefty fines.
The CAN-SPAM Act - More than Just Preventing Junk Mail
CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and
Marketing) Act of 2003 regulates more than just what we typically
consider electronic junk mail. For example, did you know that if you
fail to include your postal address on a commercial email (HTML or
text) then you could be fined up to $11,000?
If your small
business sends out email 'whose primary purpose is advertising or
promoting a commercial product or service, including content on a Web
site', you will need to familiarize yourself with online advertising law and the CAN-SPAM Act.
commercial email broadcast software and tools can help small business
owners ease the process of compliance with handy features such as
built-in opt-out tools, list management services, guidance on email
Once you understand the fundamentals, the habit of
applying it to your email marketing will quickly become so ingrained
into your psyche that when email crosses your path that doesn’t comply
- it will stand out like a sore thumb.
Complying with the CAN-SPAM Act
you thought that CAN-SPAM was a tinned meat product, or you have some
awareness of the legalities that govern online marketing practices and
just need a refresher, here are a few simple steps that you can take to
comply with the CAN-SPAM Act:
1. Keep your Email Header Information Honest
- All email marketing headers, i.e. the 'From', 'To' and routing
information (including the originating domain name and email address)
must accurately identify the person or entity sending the email.
2. Don’t Mislead with Your Subject Lines
- Keeping subject lines honest and to the point will also help target
your specific customers pain points and needs. If you put copy in the
'Subject' field that contains misleading information about the contents
of the message, you could be breaking the law.
3. Provide an Unsubscribe or Opt-Out Method
- You must provide a 'clear and conspicuous' return email address or
another online response mechanism that lets the recipient 'opt-out' of
your future mailings.
4. Honor and Manage all Unsubscribe Requests -
Simply providing an opt-out method is not enough. You be able to
process all opt-out requests within 30 days of the original email being
sent, and stop sending email to the requestor’s email address within 10
days of the original request. You are then prohibited from using other
avenues to reach these opt-outs, such as a have another send email on
5. List Privacy - It’s illegal to sell or
distribute the email addresses of people who have chosen to unsubscribe
from your emails to another entity seeking to send email to that party.
6. Include a Physical Mailing Address - All commercial email must contain your business’ full physical mailing address.
Non-Compliance and Blacklists
The CAN-SPAM Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission;
the Act gives the Department of Justice the authority to enforce its
criminal sanctions. Other federal and state agencies can enforce the
law against organizations under their jurisdiction.
One of the
most common consequences of suspected SPAM violations is the
'blacklisting' of your email domain by Internet service providers at
the request of your customers or recipients.
occurs when a customer or prospect determines that your email is or has
the appearance of being unsolicited SPAM, they can choose to 'Block
Sender' or 'Report SPAM' at the click of a button.
blacklisted is a big problem for small business that often rely on
email as their primary marketing tactic. First you have to deal with a
perception problem among your 'customer' base and second your email,
once blacklisted, won’t reach those who actually want to read it.
Going Beyond Compliance with Permission-Based Marketing
the end of the day, your best strategy for improving deliverability and
readability of your email marketing is to go one step beyond CAN-SPAM
compliance and implement a 'permission-based' approach. Permission
marketing is essentially when a recipient has provided explicit consent
that they want to receive your email communications - whether by a
sign-up or other opt-in mechanism. Read more about 'The Fundamentals of Permission-Based Email Marketing' (from MarketingProfs.com).
- Online Advertising Law: A Guide for Small Businesses
- Business.gov has put together a comprehensive guide for small
businesses who plan to advertise online. Whether you're buying ads on
search engines or direct marketing through e-mail, you'll need to
understand some basic rules.
- The Federal Trade Commission’s SPAM Web Site - Advice and resources for businesses to achieve compliance, plus reports and insights into all things SPAM.
- Avoid Email Blacklists
- Understanding email blacklists and immediate steps you should take to
reduce complaints, build customer trust, and increase delivery (from
- Tools to Check if You’re on a Blacklist
- Links to free or free trial-based online services where you enter
your mail server IP address and/or domain name and check it against
various lists of blocked senders.
About the Author
Top Rated Articles
About This Blog
General small business tips and tricks.