What is the law on email marketing?

As a business owner, you need to understand and comply with the law on email marketing that protects the consumer. Email marketing falls under the category of permission marketing, you must seek permission from the recipient before sending them promotional emails.

Sending emails to everyone on your email list without consent can be harmful to your email marketing campaigns, first, you will be breaking the law, secondly, you will be hurting your email marketing campaigns by getting your email marketing message sent to a junk box affecting your message deliverability. Failing to comply with email marketing rules can affect your email marketing plans in the future by affecting your emails deliverability.

According to a recent report by Dataprot, 85% of emails sent daily end up as spam emails, following the rules and regulations of email marketing will ensure you don’t waste your money and time. Each country has its own rules regarding email marketing, In the United States, the rule you have to know and understand as a business owner is the CAN-SPAM Act.

The CAN-SPAM ACT law on email marketing

The CAN-SPAM ACT law on email marketing

The CAN-SPAM Act regulates rules regarding how businesses can communicate with their consumers through emails, the law applies to businesses’ commercial or promotional messages sent to their consumers.

When communicating with your prospects on your email marketing funnel, you will be sending lead magnets such as eBooks, tutorials, informational messages, which are considered commercial intent messages, and should adhere to the CAN-SPAM Act. Whether you are sending the emails to prospects, existing customers, or past customers you must adhere to the CAN-SPAM Act when sending business emails.

Failure to comply with CAN-SPAM Act will attract a hefty fine of up to $40,654 for each of the emails. This means whether you are using an email marketing agency or a freelancer your responsibility is to make sure your email marketing strategies and campaign adhere to the rules and you will be held responsible for failing to comply. Ignorance is not a defense when it comes to the law.

Transactional emails with more commercial content can be classified as commercial and must comply with the CAN-SPAMM Act, below are some examples of emails classified as commercial by the CAN-SPAM Act:

Examples of Commercial messages.

  • Emails sent to consumers announcing an opening of a new shop, new products, or new business activity.
  • Emails are sent promoting your business informational content such as eBooks, brochures, or informational videos explaining how to use your products or services.
  • Emails with a link to your online shop, your informational content, or your business website.
  • Email sharing tutorials regarding your products or services.
  • Emails announcing your meetings or webinars.
  • Emails promoting an offer, discount, or product/ services promotion.
  • Emails describing your business, your management, your products, or services.
  • Emails informing your consumers on your day-to-day activities such as events, trade shows, or meetings.
  • Emails soliciting people to like or follow your social media pages
  • Emails sharing information regarding your case studies or business reports.

These kinds of emails are considered commercial by CAN-SPAM Act and should be sent after getting permission from the recipient, and should be labeled as promotional emails, below is a guide on writing emails classified as commercial or promotional:

CAN-SPAM ACT Compliant email checklist.

CAN-SPAM ACT Compliant email checklist.

Header information.

The header of your email should not be misleading and should contain who is sending the messages, if it’s a business, the person sending the message must be identified on the header of the email. If you have a business email, the header information should include the web domain of your business.

Subject line.

The subject line must describe what the message is about, you should not use concealing subject lines. Subjects’ lines should reflect the true content of the email the recipient is about to open.

Ad disclosure.

If your message you must disclose the email is an advertisement or promotional, there is no exact placeholder for the ad disclose, but make sure in your email message you must disclose to the recipient the email is promotional or an advertisement.


The email should contain the physical location of the business or the sender. The postal address should be a valid postal address, in case you are using third-party agencies, you must make sure the postal address used is registered under the postal service regulations or the postal address will not meet the requirements stipulated under the CAN-SPAM Act rules.

Unsubscribe option.

The unsubscribe option should be made available on the email, the unsubscribe option should not be solicited for any fee’s payments or any action apart from a single page or reply message unsubscribe option. If you have several emails categories you can offer the option to unsubscribe from any of the options and leave the rest based on the recipients’ desires. However, the option to unsubscribe from all emails should be made available.

Opt-Out Completion.

After sending your email message as part of your email marketing campaign, the recipient must have 30 days to unsubscribe from your email list. After the recipient unsubscribes, you have 10 days to honor the request. After subscription, you are not allowed to transfer or sell the email marketing lists of contacts of the unsubscribed people to any person or business unless they are helping you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act rules.

Third parties.

If you hire an email marketing agency or use email marketing tools, you are still responsible for your email marketing campaign to adhere to CAN-SPAM Act rules. Both you and the marketing agency can get in trouble if you are found to be breaking the rules. Make sure the tools you are using a marketing agency that knows the rules regarding email marketing and complies with them. It is your responsibility as a business owner to monitor their activities and make sure they adhere to the rules at all times.

You can also use email marketing automation tools that comply with CAN-SPAM Act and prevent sending emails to fake emails or emails list with a high bounce rate by giving you an alert when there is a high bounce rate on emails sent.

How to improve email deliverability

How to improve email deliverability

Improving your email performance and deliverability is based on making sure you are using a reputable email service provider to avoid your emails being flagged as spam by internet service providers. When choosing an email service provider, it is upon you to make sure that you have researched the reliability of your email service provider and has processes that improve email deliverability.

Below I have highlighted some of the factors to consider so that your emails are not flagged as spam by internet service providers.


The reputation of your IP address is one of the determining factors that might affect your email deliverability, Internet service providers look for the reputation of your IP address before determining if your email is junk or not. The domain name is also one of the factors that internet service providers check before determining the deliverability of your emails.

If you are just starting on email marketing, you should first warm up your IP and domain by sending only a few emails per day, until the IP and Domain build a reputation with the internet service providers. Internet service providers are known to throttle your emails until they can identify the legitimacy of your emails.

In your email marketing plan, you should plan on sending a few emails per day when starting your email marketing campaign to avoid internet service providers thinking you are a spammer if you send bulk emails.

Internet service providers also use your domain name to determine your reputation, this is determined by how many emails are sent using your domain name go to spam folders at a time. This is detected through the authentication process when delivering messages to inboxes. If a recipient marks your email as spam your reputation is reduced, in case the emails get into spam folders and the recipient marks the email as not spam, your reputation is built.

Authentication and Infrastructure.

Internet service providers use the Sender Policy FrameworkOpens in a new tab. (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) to authenticate if you are who you say you are.

The authentication process is very important in making sure your emails are delivered to inboxes. This process helps build your domain and IP reputation and protects your reputation from being harmed by spammers.

Once you authenticate your business email, you need to update the DNS of your domain email, TXT records, and mail transfer records with your email service provider, or if you are using your website hosting as your email hosting provider you should contact them to update the records for you.

Email marketing List quality.

Email marketing List quality.

The quality of your email list determines your email deliverability and email list segmentation strategy. Therefore, email list management is an essential component of your email marketing plan processes that should be done based on the response rate of your emails. You can also ensure your emails are not flagged as spam by making sure you are only sending messages to recipients who have opted to receive your emails. You should build an email list through methods that don’t go against email marketing rules to improve the quality of your email list.

How to improve the quality of email marketing lists.

  1. Make sure you are sending emails to people who have opted to receive emails from you, this is, Therefore, very important, when people receive a message from someone or a business, they recognize they will not flag the email as spam.
  2. Make sure once you start your email marketing campaign, you have plans to continue with constant contacts with your email list, people might forget who you are or might even forget your business, the next time you message them they might have forgotten you and your business and might flag your emails as spam.
  3. You need to monitor your email marketing campaign and remove emails with hard bounces, you can also remove emails of recipients who are not opening your emails from your list. Generic or fake should also be removed from your email list as they are likely to affect the reputation of your IP address or your domain.
  4. You should also avoid spam traps, this is done by people who provide fake email lists when subscribing to your email opt-in form, sending emails to fake emails or abandoned emails will signal internet service providers that your email list is of low quality.


To avoid triggering internet service providers or your recipients from flagging your emails as spam, adhere to the following rules:

  • Send email marketing lead magnets and content that is relevant to the recipient.
  • Include visual elements in your email messages.
  • Send related automated emails after a specific action is performed by a subscriber.
  • Send well-formatted HTML links and messages.
  • Send business emails with an easy-to-see and use the unsubscribe link.
  • Send emails with a familiar sender name, you can also use a business name if the recipients are familiar with your business brand.
  • Do not send an embedded form, instead, you can send a link to a from.
  • Send emails with link elements instead of attaching the elements in your messages, such elements include videos, flash, or JavaScript content.
  • Avoid sending an email with attachments.
  • Avoid using spam trigger words in your email.
  • Don’t use link shorteners in your emails.
  • Don’t use all caps in your emails.

You can improve the deliverability by making sure your emails are professional, and straight to the point, it is also a good idea to make sure all your emails are relevant and are based on the interests of the recipients.

James Ndungu

James is a one-on-one business consultant who helps CEOs, executives, and solopreneurs build their personal and professional branding.

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