What is the Spam Act? How to Make Sure You Don’t Get Flagged

Kristin Crabb
By Kristin Crabb

Spam, from a business perspective, is any email message that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) filters into a spam folder instead of the recipient’s inbox. In order to keep businesses in check and to protect consumers from false or irrelevant information, the Federal Trade Commission passed the Spam Act in 2003.

The misuse of email blasts is taken seriously, and businesses will be penalized for abusing that privilege. What are some ways to increase your chances for deliverability? First off, pay close attention to the guidelines of the CAN-SPAM Act.

A few of the main requirements include:

Never use misleading header information. This means your  “to”, “from”, and “reply” information needs to be truthful and accurate. Any false information here will flag your email into the spam folder.

Subject lines must match the content of the email. If you’re not showing cute puppy pictures in your email body, don’t say you will in the subject line. Any deviation from this will imply that you are trying to confuse or deceive the recipient. Just stick with subject lines that match the email body content, and you should be all clear.

Give an easy way to contact your business or opt out of these emails in the future.Giving your recipients a physical address and valid phone number increase your credibility as a business. Also, allow your recipients to easily unsubscribe from your list by providing a clearly marked link to do so.

Related: Why the One Key Email Metric You’re Ignoring is Derailing Your Campaigns

You can view the full list of Spam Act rules on the FTC website.

Even if you are following these guidelines, there are still some other factors that could be keeping you out of inboxes. Here are a few things to avoid:

Spam Buzz Words 

There are certain words used in either the subject or the body content that some spam filters will flag automatically, like:

  • amazing
  • guarantee
  • promise
  • risk free
  • wow
  • winner
  • special promotion
  • dear friend
  • click here
  • order now

You can see a pattern here: anything flashy, distracting or misleading could land you in the spam folder.

Low Mailbox Usage 

If a certain percentage of your recipients are inactive, or are rarely checking their inboxes, ISPs will be looking at this ratio and flagging accordingly.

How to avoid this? Periodically, it’s a good idea to scrub your email list to keep only the active, relevant recipients on your list.

Deceptive Subject Lines

Your subject line, despite your best efforts to comply with Spam Act guidelines, could still be the reason  you’re being flagged. Why? Even if your subject line is relevant to your content, it still could be misleading. For example, a subject line like, “ RE: Your Order”, or “I found your jacket…” implies you had prior contact, and in the former case also implies you’ve previously ordered something from this business.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Email Subject Lines

Essentially, don’t lie or pretend to have had prior transactions with an email list recipient. Even if your email makes it into their inbox, it will very likely find its way to the trash.

Formatting And Grammatical Errors

Statistically, 80% of people find spelling and grammatical errors the most unacceptable email offense. Not only are spelling mistakes, mismatched typography, and unorganized content blocks majorly unprofessional, they are also going to send you straight to the spam folder, or to the trash. Use spell check, draft your emails with consistent colors and typographies, and — most importantly — proofread yourself.

Failed To Get Permission To Email

This may seem obvious, but, you must get permission to email someone, otherwise, you could face penalties from the FTC. One easy way to avoid this issue is to never buy email lists and never email anyone directly without expressed permission. How to ask, then? Add an opt-in section on your site, giving the customer a clear message that they are signing up for a newsletter. It’s as simple as that.

Related: 4 Key Email Sequences Your E-Commerce Company Needs

Certainly there are many other techniques not included on this list you could use to increase your rate of email deliverability. What are some ways your marketing team tackles e-mails? Share with us in the comments.

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Kristin is a Content Coordinator at Power Digital. She was born and raised in San Diego but headed down south to attend the University of Alabama. With a degree in Communications and Advertising, she enjoys creating valuable and engaging SEO focused content to drive traffic and boost rankings for her clients. Roll Tide!