Email Marketing Strategy – CAN-SPAM Part I

In December of 2003, Congress established the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM). This law identifies practices all commercial emailers must follow, spells out penalties for spammers, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them. There’s also a bill being considered in Congress that would extend this law to include text messaging on cell phones.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. You may not give false or misleading header information. Your email’s “To:” and “From:” lines must be accurate and must identify who is sending the email.

2. You may not use deceptive subject lines. The subject line of the email must not mislead readers about the contents of the email. Deceptive emails are also subject to further Federal Trade Commission regulations prohibiting false or misleading advertising.

3. You must give readers an opt-out method. You must give either an email- or Internet-based opt-out method, and it must remain open for 30 days following the email. Once you get an opt-out request, you must stop emailing that address within 10 days. You may not sell or transfer opt-out email addresses to any other entity.

4. You must identify your email as an advertisement or solicitation. This notice must be clear and conspicuous, and you must let readers know they can opt out of receiving further commercial emails from you.

5. You must include a valid physical postal address. This needs to appear in every email advertisement, solicitation, or newsletter.

Note that CAN-SPAM does not regulate “transactional” or “relationship” business emails – defined as those emails that facilitate an agreed-upon business transaction or update a customer in an existing business relationship, other than stating such emails may not contain false or misleading routing information.

Your reputation is also – maybe more – important.

One or two recipients clicking the “junk mail” icon might not be a big deal, but if it happens consistently over time, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will notice. According to an article by Constant Contact, a well-known electronic delivery service, most ISPs consider several pieces of information before they identify you as a spammer:

1. The number of complaints made against your IP address. ISPs will look at the number of times people hit “spam” or “junk” in response to your emails, and too many is not good.

2. The consistency of sent emails. Most spammers send emails erratically, frequently switching from one IP address to another to avoid being detected, so spiky email behavior sets up a red flag.

3. High bounce rates. Sending a large number of emails to defunct or unknown email addresses will hurt your reputation.

4. Spam trap hits. Spammers will send web crawlers out to harvest email addresses from websites, so the ISPs will set up phony “trap” sites with email addresses that aren’t publicly available. If an IP address sends an email to the trap address, they’ve just been outed as a spammer.

Now that you know what the law says and what the internet service providers look for, what happens if you’re reported? How do you develop an email marketing strategy that will keep your reputation clear and get you the results you want? Read my next article, Email Marketing Strategy Part II, to find out!

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