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Do you use email to advertise your business? If so, those messages are subject to rules established under the CAN-SPAM Act. Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003, it applies to all commercial email messages that advertise or otherwise promote a commercial product or service.

Should the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) find you in violation of the CAN-SPAM law, your business could face a penalty of up to $16,000 per email sent. However, the FTC isn’t the only one looking at the emails you send. Many email and internet service providers (ISP) use SPAM filters to keep unwanted messages out of their customers’ inboxes. In fact, according to ReturnPath, an email data services provider, one out of every five legitimate emails never makes it to its destination. It’s either swept up by a SPAM filter or blocked by an ISP.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t catch the eye of the FTC as well as increase your marketing email deliverability.

  • Require subscribers to opt-in to marketing emails.Blacklists are used by email providers and ISPs to reduce delivery of malicious and SPAM emails. Your email address, IP or domain may end up on one or more blacklists if multiple parties report your emails as SPAM. These reports are most likely when you add customers to your email campaign without asking them to “opt-in” or give their permission. If you suspect you may be blacklisted, you can find out here. Getting yourself removed from a blacklist can be complicated and time consuming.
  • Don’t get clever with your subject lines. Under the CAN-SPAM law, your email subject line must accurately communicate the content of the message. SPAM filters also look for emails that use all caps or lots of exclamation points in their subject lines.
  • Make unsubscribing easy. It’s better to make it simple for your customers to unsubscribe from your marketing emails than to get lots of SPAM reports and wind up on blacklists. The easiest way to do this is to include a clearly labeled opt-out button or link at the bottom of all marketing correspondence.
  • Include a plaintext version. While most people are able to receive HTML emails these days, many SPAM filters will still send your messages directly to the trash if you don’t include a plaintext version. You can learn more about using multipurpose internet mail extensions (MIME) here. Avoid including video, Flash or JavaScript in your marketing emails as well.
  • Don’t use large images or images alone. Images take longer to load than text does. If you fail to balance your images used with text, your customers may get tired of waiting for the message to load and wind up reporting it as SPAM.
  • Avoid common SPAM filter trigger words. These include free, no-obligation, guaranteed, buy, order, limited time and more. HubSpot has put together an excellent, comprehensive list of common trigger words here.

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