Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer! These are simple tips to protect your blog or business in the world of digital marketing. If you have additional questions, touch base with a lawyer specializing in your niche to help protect you and your business.
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Did you know there are laws regarding how you should manage your email list for your blog, organization or website? Before you start sending emails to your list (or if you already have!), be sure to review the highlights of what you can and can't do with your email subscribers.
Why is the CAN-SPAM Act important?
The CAN-SPAM Act was passed in 2003 and helps protect consumers (or in this case, email recipients) from spammers. You're probably thinking, "But I'm not a spammer!" I know. Me neither.
You can accidentally step into dangerous territory in the email marketing world without even realizing it, which can lead to some serious ramifications, like having your email address/domain blacklisted. Yikes!
In no fancy words, the CAN-SPAM Act helps keep businesses honest in their marketing practices and helps keep your inbox sparkly clean.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when emailing your subscribers, whether you have 5 email subscribers or 500,000:
Always get permission to email your subscribers
If you have a subscribe box or landing page (thanks, ConvertKit!) on your website or social media, your subscribers have opted-in, or given permission, for you to send them emails. This is the safest way to add subscribers to your list.
By having several places on your website where people can opt-in to your email list, you're allowing them the option - and opportunity! - to invite you into their inbox.
That being said, there are a few ways to add subscribers to your email list when they don't subscribe directly through your website.
If you'd like to add subscribers manually to your email list, you can ask them directly via email for permission, send them a survey about your services and add an opt-in checkbox at the bottom encouraging them to sign up for your mailing list or in the case of businesses that are at trade shows at events, have a sign-up sheet where people can add their email.
Here are some ways you cannot add people to your subscriber list:
- Add people who email you for any reason
- Add prospective clients who use your website's contact form
- Add clients who have not formally opted-in
- Add people who have commented on your blog or website
- Add people who interact with you on social media
- Use email harvesting or bots to gain subscribers
Keep your subject lines honest
It's 2017 and you're using the internet, so you're probably familiar with the term clickbait. More and more social platforms and news outlets are cracking down on the use of clickbait, where the title of an article encourages you to click on the website, but the website is either irrelevant or lacks the information it promised in its title.
No clickbait in your emails. Don't title an email "This is the best deal ever created!" and then only offer 10% off your services or products. Make sure that the title of your email is directly relevant to what's inside.
That's not to say you can't have fun creating clever, click-worthy titles to your emails. They just have to be relevant. If not, you could 1) be flagged as spam and/or 2) get a hefty fine.
Keep your "From" lines honest, too!
By law, you're required to be honest in who your emails are being "sent" from. That means you can't place Justin Bieber's name in the from line of your emails, unless of course, you work in the Biebs' marketing department, sending emails out to his mailing list.
Here are a few examples of what you can place in your subject lines:
- Your organization's name (or any abbreviation)
- Your name (First only or first and last or first, last and business name)
- The name of a current employee of your business or organization
- As long as it is relevant to the email and the employee approves it
Add a mailing address to your emails
This rule is probably the most broken... but don't do it! You must have a mailing address in your emails. In fact, some email marketing platforms won't let you send a single email until you've filled out your address. While you can add your home address, it is highly discouraged for obvious safety reasons.
Pro tip for online business owners: Sign up for a mailbox at a local UPS Store or a PO Box at your local post office. You can buy the smallest and/or cheapest option and ta-da! You have a business mailing address.
If you take advantage of a coworking space, many offer a mail service, which allows you to receive mail from that location and use the coworking space's address as your email marketing contact address.
Place an unsubscribe link in every email
If you're using a credible email marketing platform, an unsubscribe button or link is something that cannot be edited or removed from the emails you send. If not, make sure you're placing a link for your subscribers to easily opt-out of your emails.
Depending on your email marketing platform, you can also link to a page that allows subscribers to choose how often they receive your emails, as well.
The unsubscribe link must be placed at the bottom of every email and cannot be concealed so it's difficult for your subscribers to find. I personally moved from MailChimp to ConvertKit about a year and a half ago and I've been incredibly thrilled with it since day one! Click here to sign up for ConvertKit.
Remove unsubscribers from your list within 10 days
If you're using an email marketing platform, this is most likely on autopilot and you don't have to worry. Websites like MailChimp, Constant Contact and ConvertKit take care of unsubscribes through the handy link that's at the bottom of the emails you send.
However, if you're sending your marketing emails and have a 'Reply to' email address, sometimes you'll get an email from someone asking to remove them from their mailing list. No matter how many clients, big or small, I've had, it still happens. You'll need to make sure they've been removed from your mailing list, stat! Okay, not 'stat,' but within ten days, max.