CAN-SPAM for Dummies – Email Thursday

TOPICSEmail Marketing


Today is email Thursday and I’m your presenter, Andy. Today, I’ll be talking about the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 and giving an overview of what the law means, how to make sure you’re following the rules and how to interpret some of the rules that aren’t exactly explicit in their description. Making sure you follow these requirements is not only best practice, but also maximizes the chance that your email will complete its journey and land in the inbox.

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To start off, Don’t use false or misleading header information: One aspect of email marketing that a lot of people don’t understand is that the “From” “To” and “Reply-To” addresses must be accurate. This is very important as it offers the first piece of information as to who is sending the email. If you are sending a business email to users who have shown interest in your company or in a product, you want the “From” name to reflect that this message is being sent on behalf of the company. Seeing something in your inbox from “” will likely NOT garner the effect you are looking for. Instead, an “From” address such as “” is immediately identifiable as coming from your company. The same goes for the “To” field… users want to see their email address in the “To” field, not some email alias that could have thousands of users associated with it. I usually prefer to see the “reply-to” the same as the “From” address although this is just my preference. You can always redirect responses to an inbox that is monitored by someone else. Example, if the president of the company, Tom, sends and email from “”, the reply-to address can certainly be “” or “”

The originating domain name must also reflect who the sender is. The domain name in the above examples is Again, this allows the recipient to know who is sending the email.

The law also states that you must provide a physical address within the email, usually included in the email footer. Even if this is just a PO Box at your local post office, you must give users a way to communicate with you via a method other than email. It all comes down to accountability.

In addition, it is imperative that you make it clear how your users can opt-out of receiving future communications. Burying this information within body text or using a barely-readable font size or color is not best practice and will likely result in numerous SPAM complaints. When you DO receive opt-out requests, you must fulfill those requests within 10 business days. You DO NOT have to send an email notifying the user that they have been unsubscribed… and this is actually a point of discussion in the email community as we speak. Afterall, if someone opts-out telling you that they no longer want any communications from you, I’m not sure it makes sense to send them an email telling them that they will no longer receive emails from you.

The two types of emails everyone needs to be aware of are transactional and relationship. Here’s the diffference:

  1. A transactional email is just what it sounds like: it is based off a transaction the user initiated with your business. Pretty simple. A relationship email is one that builds on the relationship the user has with your company. A great example of this is a triggered message say, 45 days after a purchase following up to make sure the user is satisfied and possible showing them some items related to their purchase. If you do choose to show them products related to what they purchased, you are potentially sending a mixed message… literally. Although this message may have some commercial aspects to it, the main intent and main message pertains to your existing relationship with the user.
  2. In contrast, a commercial email is one that may be purely soliticous. If you purchase or rent a list from another company or from a 3rd party vendor and send an email trying to drum up some new business, this is purely commercial. Commercial emails are not usually as well received as transactional or relationship emails and for obvious reasons. Think of it as being similar to phone call you inevitable receive while eating dinner from the telemarketing firm that wants to know if you’re interested in buying a pallet of hot pants at rock-bottom prices. You get the idea.

When it comes to email marketing, common sense prevails every time. If you use your best judgment and apply basic rules of ethic and conduct to your online marketing initiatives, you will most likely be doing nothing wrong. The CAN-SPAM laws are not devised to make it difficult to reach out to your audience. Rather, they are designed as a framework through which you can maintain contact with your audience while respecting their inbox and right to be fully involved in how they communicate with you. Sending emails to your audience should be viewed as a privilage, not a right. Keep this in mind and your user-base will respect you for it.

We offer Optimized Lifecycle E-mail Marketing as a service to clients who are looking for a way to get a lot more revenue from their e-mail approach. We’ll show you how it works if you’d like – just give us a call at 800-504-4324.

Thank you for listening – have a wonderful E-mail Thursday!

Every site has a “Split Second Reaction”. From the moment your eyes land on the homepage or landing page your mind has already made an instant assessment of the “overall quality” of the site. Given the ease with which Google and other search engines provide alternative websites, this concept of “instant affinity” is critical to conversion rates.

Just think of your last visit to the video store or your netflix account. Were you scanning the rows to find that perfect movie? We all do it. If we’re not sure what we’re looking for, we constantly scan all the new releases for something that “pops out” at us. We rely on our brains to filter visual images in such a way that we only see items of interest. Of course the same reaction occurs when we’re scanning through websites for products or information. From just glancing at a site, the brain has already decided its “overall quality” and whether its “cover” is of interest.

This means your site has to depict a good first impression right off the bat, on the very first page your visitors see. A site must look as if it has valuable information, even before any of its content is even read! This may sound impossible, but a few tips can help you well on your way.

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Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when developing home pages and landing pages:

  1. Keep key content (or even all the content (if applicable)) above the fold.
    Providing key content without the need to scroll down (referred to as being “above the fold”) allows a visitor to instantly assess your site. In addition, adhering to this rule also ensures the amount of content is kept to a minimum. (hopefully disuading you from going off on long tangents) Of course, later in the site flow, pages will need to be longer to effectively communicate all the necessary information, but this amount of detail should be kept deep enough in the site so that the visitor will have to be interested enough to navigate to that level.

  2. Use a prominent positioning statement.
    A brief and succinct statement about the problems addressed and solutions provided shown in a distinct graphic style will help the visitor see that your information can be distilled in a few words. This provides confidence that time spent on your site will not be wasted. Shoot for no more than 12 words in a larger font than the rest of the page that is positioned in such a way that it will be instantly viewable. Be cautious of placing this text over the top of an image which can make it hard to read.

  3. Reduce the “Cluttered Image Look”
    Too many images on a page create a feeling of clutter and disorganization. When the goal is to present the image of specific, well-structured information, the overuse of images can be a hindrance. In general, I’d suggest one main image be used to set the tone of the site and other smaller images being used to call attention to key areas such as links, offers and calls-to-action.

  4. Provide a few, specific links.
    Providing a few, specific links to key areas within the site will send the message that you understand what your visitors are looking for. Too many links can overwhelm and frustrate the user. Try using some symbols or graphics to emphasize these links as being the next place to go on your site. Since everyone’s time is scarce, providing well-structured, succinct information will always be preferred. Remember that although we’ve been discussing the first impression as less than a second, these elements must also give the user what they are looking for — once they decide that a more detailed look is worthwhile. This means that the positioning statement, graphics and links should all be highly targeted to what your visitors are seeking.

So what have we learned today?

  1. Visitors are unknowingly judging your site’s “overall quality” within the split-second that they land on your site.
  2. Remove the Clutter – Keep most (if not all) of your key content above the fold and reduce the number of “cluttered” images. This allows visitors to instantly assess your site without getting overwhelmed or confused with your content and navigation.
  3. Use a brief and succinct statement to summarize the page or site to the visitor. The simpler the better. This will provide confidence that time spent on your site will not be wasted.
  4. Provide a few, specific links. This will send the message that you understand what your visitors are looking for and don’t want to overwhelm them with unneccessary options.

    Of course, there is only one way to be certain that you’ve made the right decisions to impact your visitor’s “SPLIT SECOND REACTION”, and that is through testing. Testing a few variations of prominent statements or specific, targeted links on your site in an AB or Multivariate test is the only way of finding the best changes for your website with any certainty. That’s where we can help.