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As I am sure you know, "spam" (or junk email, or "uce" for unsolicited commercial email) has become a huge problem for businesses and individuals. While most media attention focuses on the problems with getting too much SPAM, techniques for blocking spam, filtering spam, or techniques for making sure you don't get much spam, an equally important problem for businesses is this:

How do you communicate with your customers via email using an email system that is becoming increasingly difficult to use?

Hopefully we can provide some advice on that.

What is SPAM?

We've outlined some common definitions for you and will help point you in the right place to determine if your email is not spam, but in general, most people who start out wanting to send an email merge don't think they are sending spam. Note: Just because you think a lot of people are going to want to read your email, that does not mean your email isn't spam! To summarize:

  • Send email only to people that have expressly confirmed with you that they want to get it.
  • Send email to customers, group members, and newsletter recipients.
  • Send email confirming transactions, notifying of upgrades, outlining services, and in other ways relevant to your organization.

Read more about SPAM definitions.

What are the legal requirements in the US for emailing?

In 2004 the US Congress enacted a law known as CAN-SPAM, and while the law is a bit weaker than most would want, it is a good first step in our opinion. While we cannot give you legal advice, we have summarized some key points from that law for you. Please note that you can still comply with CAN-SPAM and send spam. Don't do that.

Elements of a comprehensive e-mail infrastructure

There are several components to successful communication with your customers via email. You need:

  • a mail server. Should you use an internal company mail server, your ISP, or web host? Or should you use an emailing service?
  • list management. Should you implement that on your website, or through email, or both?
  • a database source. Should you use just a list of email addresses? A data source tied in to your website? or a spreadsheet with more data in it?
  • mailing software. Should you use a service? Or a desktop application?

Read some advice on how you can make these decisions.

How can I help make sure my recipients actually get my email?

You want to make sure that your mail doesn't get filtered as SPAM if it's not SPAM. Here are some things to check:

  • Email content. Avoid sensitive words like "free", "mortgage", "loan", "enlargement", and a number of offensive things.
  • Email format. HTML? Plain text? Both? Images?
  • Links in email. Unless you are on AOL's whitelist, which seems insanely difficult to get on for normal businesses, any email containing a hyperlink goes in the AOL receipient's junk mail box. Additionally, links with query strings on them (as in index.html?id=123023) also set off red flags. And putting an email address in a query string for tracking..... bad idea.
  • Sender certification. Sender Policy Framework / Microsoft's CallerID for Email - implement it, or insist that your email deliverer implement it for your business domain.

Read our advice on helping to make sure that your email gets delivered and doesn't end up in the junk box. Make sure you are tracking email deliverability also, and we recommend DeliveryMonitor.com for that. Need to send mail from your internal network? Read on...

Setting up ArGoSoft's Mail server for use with Mach5 Mailer

We recommend ArGoSoft's mail server. It's small, lightweight, and has some great features. It's also easy to administer and relatively fast. If you need to send from your local network or from your own machine, check it out.

 

 

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