7 Rules of the CAN-SPAM Law

The rules and regulations an email marketer must abide by to be CAN-SPAM law compliant

Let’s talk about spam and the CAN-SPAM law. CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. The CAN-SPAM law is a law that establishes rules for commercial email marketing messages. We’re not talking about transactional messages reminding people that they bought the product or a delivery email of that product. This is specifically around the commercial emails that we send to our email lists. 

There are several things that you need to do to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM law. Before I tell you though, I want you to understand how important it is to be compliant. The penalty is for each separate email and is up to $43,792 per violation per email, which can add up quickly if you have a hundred people on your email list. That’s a lot of money, even if you have one person on your email list. Adhering to CAN-SPAM law is super important, but luckily it’s also super easy. There are seven things you need to do to be compliant. 

1. Accurate Header Information

CAN-SPAM loves this!

First of all, your header information on your emails, from your reply name and email to the routing information, has to be accurate. It has to show who the email is from. I’ll admit that I know many people who play with this information, but it does annoy me. This all doesn’t mean that it has to be formal, but your “from name” and email need to reflect that it’s coming from you. For example, you couldn’t say your email is coming from the president of the United States. That’s not legal, which makes sense because we want to know who the emails are coming from. 

2. Don’t Use Deceptive Subject Lines

CAN-SPAM hates this!

Don’t use clickbait. No bait and switch. We can still be creative with our email subject lines; they just need to accurately reflect the content within the email. 

3. Identify the Message as an Ad

CAN-SPAM Law expects this!

This is something that most of us are probably missing. You don’t need to have a big banner across the top flashing “this is an ad”. In your footer, you can have something as simple as a statement that says, “this email is an advertisement”, or something like that. There is a lot of leeway in that, but you must declare it conspicuously that your message is an advertisement. 

4. Tell Your Recipients Where You’re Located

CAN-SPAM law appreciates this!

Now, for those of us with home offices, this is a little bit questionable. I don’t want to put my home address at the bottom of emails I send because anybody could sign up for my email list, and I don’t want anybody to know my address. Oftentimes, people will use a post office box which is acceptable. You can get post office boxes in a UPS store or another mail center type store, and they’ll have an address that you can use, so it sounds and looks a little bit more professional. Either way, you choose, you need to have a real location identified in your email which you’ll want to put in your footer. Usually, the email marketing software requires you to input that information and force the information onto the bottom of your email too. 

5. Have an Unsubscribe Option

CAN-SPAM law needs this!

You also have to tell them how to opt out of receiving emails from you. You must have some form of unsubscribe link at the bottom of the page. This is something that I want to split test, but when you use the word unsubscribe, I have a theory that it will automatically send your email to the promotions folder. Realize that you don’t have to use the word unsubscribe. You can say something like, “Tired of all the emails? Click here to update your preferences”. You’ll see that a lot. Make sure that people can easily see whatever you put in though. You can’t put it at the bottom and then make the text white so you can’t see the text on the white background. It has to be clear and conspicuous at the bottom of your email how they can stop getting emails from you. 

6. Respond to Opt-Outs

CAN-SPAM law requires this!

When they opt out of a response, you have to respond to that response promptly. The law says any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. After that, you must honor the request to opt-out within 10 business days. Almost all of the email marketing software out there will do this automatically for you, so you don’t ever have to deal with it.

The response is immediate and automatic, but if you are for some reason managing your list manually, this is something that you need to take care of and make sure that you’re processing those requests immediately. Also, you can’t charge a fee for opt-outs, which I don’t think most of us would have even thought about doing. You can’t require them to jump through a bunch of hoops either. They have to be able to either send a reply email or click on the link to go to a webpage and unsubscribe. 

7. Monitor Email Activity

CAN-SPAM law recommends this!

The last part of the CAN-SPAM law is something that applies to me personally as an email marketer. You are responsible for monitoring the activity within your email communications. If you hire me to do your email marketing, that means you’re responsible for making sure that I’m adhering to the law. If you hire it out, I’m going to stick to CAN-SPAM, but you need to make sure that any third party that you’re working with is adhering to the regulations. 

CAN-SPAM is not as scary as it sounds unless you get caught with a violation. As a quick recap, you need to have accurate from and reply-to email addresses. Use an accurate subject line, no clickbait. Identify the message as an ad which is as simple as putting it in your footer. You have to tell them where you’re located, which you can also put in your footer. You have to give them a very clear opportunity to opt out of receiving emails from you, and you have to honor those opt-out requests within 10 business days. Lastly, you are responsible for monitoring what any third party does on your behalf. I hope that was helpful, CAN-SPAM is simple and easy. Let me know if you have any questions!

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