Are Your Marketing Emails Compliant with Anti-Spam Regulations?


Do you want to make sure that your emails aren’t breaking regulations designed to trap spammers? Read on for some simple rules that will keep your digital marketing campaign above-board and on-target!


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What Does the Law Say?

The CAN-SPAM Act governs federal regulations for business emails – including email marketing campaigns. We’ve summarized CAN-SPAM’s requirements below. But first:

What’s a Business Email?

CAN-SPAM uses three categories: “commercial,” “relationship,” and “other.” A “commercial” email is an email advertisement. For example, Callie the CPA sends an email to everyone on her email list telling them about special tax-season discounts for April. This email must satisfy all of the requirements listed in CAN-SPAM.

A “relationship” email is an email relating to an existing customer relationship. For example, Callie the CPA writes to one of her customers notifying them that she needs more information to complete their tax return. This email must only satisfy the truthful routing requirements. Callie should send the email using her business address,

An “other” email is an email that includes no advertising or transaction information. What about emails that are part commercial and part other? CAN-SPAM says that if a customer would likely see your email as an ad, then it’s commercial.

You can look up CAN-SPAM in more detail on the Federal Trade Commission website (, but here are basic guidelines to keep your business emails spam-free:

No Misleading Header Information

The address in the “to” and “from” column has to match the identity of the sender and recipient. To keep things simple, make sure that any email list you’ve created includes a name for your company, so that customers know who your emails are from. For the sake of professional image and customer service, you’ll also want to make sure that you have a domain name.

Straightforward Subject Lines

The information your customers see when they open their inbox has to match the basic content of your email. If you’re not giving them information about a discount, DISCOUNT!!! has no place in your subject line.  Specific info is a marketing asset as well. Customers are much more likely to click on an email that tells them what they’re getting. “Holiday Sale at Sugar Mouse Cupcakes – 25% off Orders of 25 or More!” is a lot more appealing than “XMAS SALE!”

Make Sure You Identify Your Email as an Advertisement

You’ve got a lot of leeway in how you do this, but make sure that customers can see right away that your email is an ad, not a personal message. One simple way to do this is to include the name of your business in the name of your email list; another is to include a simple header marking the email as an advertisement, similar to the ones you’ve seen in full-page magazine and newspaper ads. You can also include a greeting to your customers or a graphic that prominently features your logo and website address.

Make Sure They Can Find You

You must include your business address in every marketing email. If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll have to include a post-office box that you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service or a private address you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under U.S. Postal Service regulations. Once you’ve established this business address, you can include it in a graphic header that will feature in every email, or you can add it at the end. If you do have a store to direct customers to, you can add “location” information or even a personalized map graphic for customers in your neighborhood.

Make It Easy to Opt Out

Keep this information front and center, so it’s easy to see.  Make sure that it’s easy for customers to read and understand, even if they aren’t tech-savvy.  Include an email address or another easy online way to opt out.  You can direct customers to a “comments” or “contact” webpage, so long as you check these messages frequently.


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Respond to Opt-Out Requests Promptly

You are legally obligated to stop sending email to anyone who notifies you that they no longer want to receive emails, within 10 business days of receiving their request. You also can’t ask them for any money or any identifying information other than an email address, or tell them to take any step besides making a simple online opt-out request. If you use an automatic opt-out mechanism, make sure that it can keep and process requests for up to 30 days. If you use an email address, make sure you check your inbox daily. Remember, once a customer opts out, you are also legally prohibited from transferring their email to anyone, except a company hired to help you with CAN-SPAM compliance.

Hire a Reputable Marketing Company

Federal regulations make it clear that if a company doing marketing on your behalf breaks spam regulations, you’re responsible. When you hire an email marketing company, do your homework. A reputable company will have policies in place and will understand your concerns about the law. If you’re using a program like MailChimp to organize your email marketing campaigns, contact a customer service rep about designing your campaign or check their Terms of Service online.

Research Laws Where You Are

Thirty-seven states have passed their own laws regulating spam and email marketing. You can find a rundown at Most are designed to match CAN-SPAM, but some include additional restrictions.  Many countries also have their own anti-spam regulations, so make sure that you’re compliant with the law in any country where you do business.

Go the Extra Mile

You don’t just want to stay on the right side of the law. You also want to keep your customers happy. Many email programs have spam filters that will send your emails straight to the trashbin based on some simple automatic cues. Lots of exclamation points and ALLCAPS are a bright red flag.  Flashing gifs and clashing colors brand your email as spam, and they can be especially obnoxious for customers who might get your emails at work. Poor grammar, badly-formatted graphics, copypasta, and misspelled words will all make customers wonder if you’re legit.  Make sure that your email marketing campaigns are carefully edited, and that your logo and contact details are prominently featured. Your customers will respect your professionalism, and they’ll know that they can trust your business sense.

Are you looking for more expert advice on email marketing campaigns?  We recommend working with a team of digital marketing professionals who can help you build an advertising strategy tailored to your needs.  Contact Square 1 Group today!

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