What is spam?
An email is considered spam if:
- The sender does not obtain permission from the recipient to send him or her commercial emails.
- The commercial email is irrelevant to any previous professional agreements or business relationship.
- An anonymous sender with no contact details sends the email.
- The email is being sent to a large group of people whom the sender does not have a current business relationship with.
- The sender sends multiple copies of the same email to the same group of people.
- The sender continues to send commercial emails to people have opted-out.
What if I buy or rent an email list?
If you are sending commercial emails to an email list that you bought or rented, then your emails can be considered spam by some individuals because:
- You do not always know how the contact list was created
- The recipients has not given you permission to send them emails
- The content of the emails may be irrelevant to them
Why should you care about spam laws?
Email marketing is useful when reaching consumers all over the world. However, different countries have different laws that you need to follow. You need to follow both the laws of the country you are sending the emails from and the laws of the countries where the emails are received and opened.
Depending on the country’s law, the consequences may range from mild to severe. In some cases, you have to pay a monetary fine:
- In the US, you can be fined $16,000 USD per spam email.
- As a business, you can be fined up to $10 million CAD in Canada.
- In the UK, you can be fined £5,000 GBP.
The more people that mark your emails as spam, the higher the likelihood of the internet service provider and/or inbox service provider blacklisting you. What happens when you get blacklisted? The internet service provider and/or the inbox provider will block your emails from reaching anyone on its network. As a result, you will not reach your customers within that network, even the ones who do not mark your emails as spam or junk mail.
Once you are on the blacklist, it will not be easy for you to get off of the blacklist. Also, depending on the provider, a small number of spam reports can get you on the blacklist. Each provider has its own system and guidelines. Some give you more leeway room than others. Therefore, take caution as to whom you are sending emails to and how often you send bulk emails. Also, pay attention on the quality of your email content.
Tips to help avoid your emails from being marked as spam:
Tip #1: Only send permission-based Emails
The best practice is to only email people who gave consent to email them. This way, you know that the recipients of your emails actually gave you the green light to contact them, signalling that they welcome your emails. Also, always make sure that you can prove that the individual gave consent. Check out our tips on how to keep your emails on the right side of the law, including recommendations on what information you need to gather and store as proof of consent.
If you want your emails to stay out of the junk folder, then use the double opt-in method. Also, double opt-in gives you a chance to gather and store proof of permission. How does it work? Double opt-in sends an email to the address that the individual used to sign up for the emailing list. Afterwards, the recipient will need to click a button or a link to confirm that he or she is actually the one who signed up for the email subscription list.
Quick note: There are plenty of email service providers (ESPs) available that allow for email automation. You can create an automatic email series for your double opt-in process . This means that the ESP will send a confirmation email to individuals whenever they subscribe. Just make sure to collect and store the opt-in and confirmation data. Check out our list of several email service providers and their features (including email automation).
Tip #3: Do not repurpose email addresses
Don’t repurpose email addresses means that you should avoid sharing, exchanging, or selling your subscribers list to anyone or any other business. And if you have a second business, whether new or existing, do not just transfer your subscribers list from the first business to the second business.
Quick note: We know it can be tempting to repurpose email addresses, especially if you want to send emails relating to your other business. But remember, your subscribers only granted you permission to email them with regards to your first business and not the other.
Tip #4: Include opt-out
Always include an opt-out mechanism in your emails. Recipients should always be able to unsubscribe to future emails. There are several email service providers that will not allow you to send emails without adding an unsubscribe link. If this feature is important to you, then remember to add it to your checklist before you sign up for an email service provider.
Quick note: Make sure to follow people’s opt-out requests immediately. If you procrastinate addressing opt-out requests, then you may face heavy fines. Frequently, many business also add different opt-in options along with the opt-out option within the opt-out landing page. As a result, the individual can decide what types of email to receive and if he/she wants to receive emails once a week, once a month, etc.
Tip #5: Follow what your subscribers want
If you give your subscribers options of what type of emails they will only receive or how often they receive emails from you, then make sure that you comply. If they only want emails once a week, then only email them once a week. When you keep your end of the bargain, your subscribers will trust you more. But if you ignore their requests, then you run the risk of them marking your emails as spam or increasing your unsubscribe rate.
Quick note: To help follow different email frequency and email topics requests, we suggest segmenting your subscribers list. Depending on what your subscribers want, create separate lists for each category. Also, we suggest creating an unsubscribe list. This way, you can easily organize your email lists. Make sure that people who opt-out are moved to the unsubscribe list instead of being kept in the same pool as current subscribers.
Tip #6: Accurate business representation
Represent your business as accurately as possible. Always use your official business name as the the sender’s name. Likewise, whenever you send commercial emails, always include a legitimate business address at the bottom.
Quick note: An easy way to practice this tip consistently is to create email templates with pre-made footers. All you need to do is to add your business information within the footer. Then, you can reuse the template and modify the content of the body to fit your email needs. Check out our tips on what business information to include in your commercial emails.
Tip #7: Clean up your subscribers list
- Maintain your subscribers list. As a general rule, you should remove email addresses that always bounces. These can potentially be fake email addresses or old email addresses that are no longer being used.
- Another great maintenance practice is to do an occasional spell check. Sometimes, email addresses that always bounce are due to typos. For instance, the individual accidentally typed @gamil.com instead of @gmail.com or @yaho.com instead of @yahoo.com. Quick note: You can avoid having misspelled contact information in your list if you practice Tip #2: Use double opt-in. If a person misspells his/her email address, then he/she will not be able to confirm the subscription. Thus, the misspelled address will not be added to your subscriber list. Also, this gives people a chance to make sure they entered their information correctly. If they do not receive a confirmation email, then they can just reenter their information on the opt-in form.
- Last but certainly not least, honor unsubscribe requests. After receiving the request to opt-out, remove the email address promptly. Try to comply within 5 days of receiving the opt-out request.
Tip #8: Use CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA opt-in box
Typically, CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA comes in the form of a widget that you can use in your signup form. When someone fills out the signup form, he or she will need to check the box within the CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA widget. In other cases, the individual will need to type the answer to a question or click the corresponding photos. By answering correctly, the individual can confirm that he or she is not a spambot.
What are the benefits? By adding CAPTCHA/reCAPTCHA in your opt-in form, you can help minimize any fake emails from being added to your subscribers list.
To learn about different spam laws, here are a few links:
Quick note: Some documents are only available in the language of its origin. You may need to translate some documents into English or your preferred language using Google Translate or other translation softwares/apps.
Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (2007) (in German)
Although these tips do require more time and effort, you can reap many benefits like:
- Minimizing your chances of getting in trouble with email laws
- Maximizing your email deliverability.
If you only send commercial emails to people who welcome and want your emails, then your opening rates will be higher than if you were to email random individuals. Also, keep in mind that the less times your emails are marked as spam, the better for your email reputation. As long as you maintain a positive email reputation with both inbox providers and internet service providers, then your emails will most likely reach your subscribers’ inboxes.
Until next time,
Your Mail Designer 365 team
Until next time,
Your Mail Designer 365 team