Spam is one of the biggest headaches any email user has to encounter, and as an administrator, you’ve probably implemented one of the anti-spam solutions provided by your email host. While Google Apps and other email providers make it really easy for you to stop incoming spam (you can read more on this at https://blogcontent.hiverhq.com/busting-email-spam-on-google-apps/ ), there’s another – equally important – front in the fight against spam – outgoing spam from your domain.
You might very well say that as a legitimate business, you aren’t going to send out spam to your (existing or prospective) customers. However, the truth is that many users are unaware of the legal, ethical, and practical implications of activities like mass mailers, mailing lists, and contacting prospective customers. Often, new employees, interns, or those who simply aren’t aware of business email etiquette might end up sending out mass mailers or bulk email, resulting in your messages being tagged as spam.
YOUR DOMAIN CAN GET BLACKLISTED AS A SPAMMER
One of the biggest issues that could ensue from the activities of an overzealous employee is that your domain might get blacklisted by a spam-blocking service, leading to your email being blocked by many servers. While you might get bounce-back messages warning you of this, at times, the only symptom might be your users’ complaints that their mail is not getting through. The good news is that it takes a lot of outgoing spam for your domain or IP to find their way to a blacklist, and it’s unlikely this will ever happen. However, if you’re worried about this, you can check for your domain or IP’s presence in a blacklist at sites like www.blacklistmaster.com, www.dnsbl.info, or www.spamhaus.org/lookup/.
LEGAL ISSUES IN OUTGOING SPAM
The risk of being blacklisted as a spammer might rather low, but there’s another danger that can have serious legal and financial implications. Many countries have implemented anti-spam legislation that often imposes harsh penalties on transgressors. Here’s a round-up on some laws you should be aware of:
The US CAN-SPAM Act
In 2004, the US Congress, recognizing how spam was adding to businesses’ costs, enacted the CAN-SPAM Act. (The entire text of this legislation can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ187/pdf/PLAW-108publ187.pdf.)
The CAN-SPAM act does not prohibit ‘transactional or relationship email’ that is a part of an existing business relationship. However, it does crack down on ‘commercial’ email used for marketing or promotional purposes. Some of the obligations imposed on email senders are:
- Recipients must have ‘opted-in’
- Recipients should be given an easy way of ‘opting-out’; Opt-out requests should be honored promptly
- Approved methods must have been used to obtain email addresses
- The commercial nature of the mail should be made clear and there should be no attempts at misleading the recipient
Head over to the Bureau of Consumer Protection (http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business) for an easy guide to your obligations under the CAN-SPAM Act. You can also view digital marketing provider ExactTarget’s whitepaper on anti-spam compliance at: https://docplayer.net/6725372-Whitepaper-email-marketing-can-spam-compliance-overview-www-exacttarget-com.html.
ANTI-SPAM LAWS IN THE UK & EU
In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (www.ico.gov) is responsible for enforcing anti-spam laws. In a nutshell, you cannot send unsolicited promotional emails to individual users; however, these can be sent to corporate users is relevant. You can get more information on the UK’s anti-spam laws at http://www.lawdonut.co.uk/law/sales-and-marketing/marketing-and-advertising/your-email-marketing-and-anti-spam-law
In the rest of the EU, anti-spam laws are based on the Privacy & Electronic Communications Directive which prohibits unsolicited commercial email. Do keep in mind that while the law might be common across the EU, each member-state might interpret it in different ways. You can get more information at: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/todays_framework/privacy_protection/spam/index_en.htm
TOOLS FOR COMBATING OUTGOING SPAM AND ENSURING COMPLIANCE
One of the best ways of ensuring that your domain and IPs remain in the good books of other email servers is to use DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) authentication for your domain. DKIM adds a digital signature to your outgoing email, letting recipients verify that messages have indeed originated from your servers and are not being sent by spammers spoofing your email IDs. To enable this for your Gmail service, you’ll have to log on to your Google Apps Admin panel and verify your domain. Once registered and authenticated, email from your domain will be tagged as DKIM-verified, adding a layer of authenticity that other email servers recognize and trust. You can read more on Google Apps’ DKIM services at: http://support.google.com/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=174124
Google Apps settings and tools
Google Apps is the email admin’s favorite mail provider for a reason – the ease and power of administration and maintenance. You can use some of the mail compliance features of Google Apps to make sure that any outgoing mail meets any legal or anti-spam guidelines your business has to abide by. Some options you might find useful are:
- Objectionable Content: Lets you filter email (incoming/outgoing) based on certain keywords. Read more on this at: http://support.google.com/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1346936&topic=2683828&ctx=topic
- Attachment Compliance: This lets you enforce attachment-sending/receiving rules. Head over to http://support.google.com/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2364580&topic=2683828&ctx=topic to find out more.
- Restrict Delivery: This lets you restrict who your users can communicate with. More info at: http://support.google.com/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2640542&topic=2683828&ctx=topic.
Anti-spam compliance tools
One of the best ways to kill outgoing spam is a dedicated anti-spam tool. Here are a few:
- MailChannels (www.mailchannels.com) monitors outgoing mail to ensure spam isn’t being sent from your domain. Features include quarantine, filtering, sender reputation tracking, and policy alerts
- UnsubCentran (www.unsubcentral.com) is a spam-compliance service targeted firms with massive ad/marketing campaigns
- SpamTitan (https://www.spamtitan.com/outbound-spam-filter/) provides outbound anti-spam filtering
Email marketing tools
Many services used to manage email lists and marketing campaigns have in-built anti-spam compliance tools. Here’s a quick look at what all’s available:
- MailChimp: This popular mail campaign tool requires that users meet anti-spam guidelines. Read more at http://kb.mailchimp.com/article/what-is-required-to-meet-your-terms-of-use-and-the-can-spam-act
- VerticalResponse: This email marketing service has specific guidelines to combat spam: http://www.verticalresponse.com/about/can-spam.html
- QuestionPro: This survey tool also abides by the CAN-SPAM Act: http://www.questionpro.com/help/264.html
We hope these tools will help fight the scourge of spam. Of course, there’s no better tool than prevention, and drawing up email policies and educating users about their responsibilities will be far more effective than any technological solution!