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Protect Yourself from Being Accused of Sending SPAM

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Email is a vital part of doing business online, but are you setting yourself up for SPAM complaints? If you are accused of spamming, whether it's true or not, there are serious consequences that could potentially shut down your online business.

Are Your Emails CAN-SPAM Compliant?

The CAN-SPAM law has caused quite a bit of confusion about what is and is not acceptable when sending out business or commercial related emails.

Here is the link to the official Federal Trade Commission's webpage "The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers" that explains the CAN-SPAM law and how to comply.

Pay particular attention to the second paragraph:

"The law, which became effective January 1, 2004, covers email whose primary purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service, including content on a Web site.

A "transactional or relationship message" ? email that facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer in an existing business relationship ? may not contain false or misleading routing information, but otherwise is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act."

UCE is Unsolicited Commercial Email - Bulk emailing to people that have not requested your information and you do not have a business relationship with. Things like purchasing bulk email lists or sending advertisements to those who have not specifically requested them.

A "Transactional or Relationship Message" is completely different. This type of email covers any type of message a person specifically asks for. It also covers emails sent to people that have purchased something from you, because now there is an established business relationship. Such messages include: opt-in eNewsletters or eZines, thank you emails, receipts, etc. Be careful to not cross the line into UCE emails.


An email message not in compliance with the CAN-SPAM law.

An email message that you don't remember giving permission to receive may be perceived as SPAM.

What is NOT SPAM An email from a friend of yours is not SPAM.

An email that you asked for is not SPAM.

An email from someone that has an open-ended invitation for them to send you email like a newsletter or tips of the week is not SPAM.(Unless you have previously asked them to stop sending you email.)

An email thanking you for your recent product purchase is not SPAM.

Avoid Being Accused of Spamming

Even one SPAM complaint against you could potentially shut down your online business. ISP's have a tendency to act first and ask questions later, if at all. Being accused of spamming can cost you big money and it's best to avoid it at all costs.

Make Sure Your Email Message is Compliant with the CAN-SPAM Law.

Build your own opt-in or double opt-in email list. It takes longer, but is by far the safest way to protect yourself from SPAM complaints.

Keep records of all subscribers and those that unsubscribe to your mailing list. Include the date, email address they signed up with and their IP address, if known. If you use an automated system, it's very easy to do this. I would not recommend trying to keep up with it manually.

If you do wish to build your email list using a lead or subscriber service, make sure their method of gathering subscribers for you is ethical. They usually include an ad for different opt-in offers and the person can pick and choose which lists they would like to join. They then directly subscribe to your email list. Make sure to read their policy on what to do if you are accused of SPAM. This is different than opt-in list providers (below).

Avoid Opt-In List Providers. These services sell "targeted" email lists that are gathered by others for you. The quality of these type of services varies a great deal. If you want to use this type of service, make sure the service you hire is building a list for YOU and it consists of double opt-ins. If they are just using a cut and paste version of lists that already exist, you could be in trouble.

Don't ever purchase or send to "bulk" or "targeted" email lists, including those cheap ones sold on CD's, no matter what the people selling it are telling you. They will be most likely the beginning of your undoing!

Stay away from email list whose source is FFA (Free For All). In fact, stay away from anything that has to do with FFA sites at all.

Always provide high quality content in your messages.

Avoid using the most common "Spam Filter Trigger" words. Words like "free", "guarantee", and "special" are likely to trigger your customers spam filters.

If you have an Affiliate Program, make sure you include an "anti-spam" provision in your agreement.

NEVER mention the word "SPAM" in your messages. Instead, use a message like "This message is for subscribers only. If you did not request to be subscribed to our list, please click the unsubscribe link below or contact us at to be removed promptly."

NEVER "Harvest" or "Capture" email addresses from any source. Especially any type of online group or community.

NEVER post your marketing sales copy to newsgroups or mailing lists that are owned by others without permission!

If You Get Accused of Spamming

You must act quickly and with a level head.

Don't take it personally!

Remove the accuser from your email list immediately.

Contact the provider that the complaint was registered with and present your records of when the person subscribed, their IP address and let them know your email list is an opt-in or double opt-in list.

Follow the instructions given to you by the provider promptly.

If you follow the guidelines above, you can drastically reduce your chances of being accused of sending SPAM. Above all, before you send out any email message, make sure it contains high quality content that provides value to your readers. Ask yourself if you would want to receive the email message you are sending. If it's all fluff and sales messages, rethink your message before sending. If you do ever get accused of spamming, make sure you take prompt action to minimize the damage.

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