Stay on the right side by understanding your blog newsletters legal requirements. This article identifies those for ANY marketer targeting the US or Canada.
Blog Newsletters Legal Questions
I get a lot of questions about email list-building and newsletters through free discovery calls, social messages, and client work. In the recent article, Your Blog Newsletter Questions Answered, I started sharing those questions and my answers. Now, it’s time to go a bit further and answer some questions I see which are illegal or questionable.
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Can I use a fake physical address on my newsletter address?
No, and you shouldn’t care what someone told you or that ‘so-and-so is doing it and is fine.’
Simply put, it is illegal and if you choose to do it, you are making the choice to put your business at risk. This is the easiest of your blog newsletters’ legal requirements and honestly, you can solve it quickly.
Why is it illegal? To use a fake address violates the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 and the CASL. Those stand for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM for the United States) and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
Psst: if you outside of North America and are emailing anyone in the US or Canada, these rules apply to you, too. Bummer, right? But that’s the cost of email marketing.
Where Can I Get a PO Box Online?
There is a growing number of bloggers who feel that their home addresses are fine on the mailings. If you don’t, however, you can choose to purchase a PO Box or a box for your business at a supply/shipping store or even an online service such as Viabox or Virtual Post Mail.
Note: a physical PO Box in your area (or just outside) might be a less-expensive option.
From or Reply To Address
Another thing that falls under these laws is your “from” or “reply-to” email. This must be a valid email, even if it goes to a customer support email address.
Additionally, using a gMail or Yahoo (or another free service) email address is frowned upon now that most free email providers have updated their DMARC policies.
Do I really want to have the “Unsubscribe” link on my emails? I don’t want them to unsubscribe!
Okay, so here’s where we pull up our big-kid marketer underoos.
You MUST comply with CAN-SPAM and CASL and have the unsubscribe or opt-out links. Cloaking them in any way (making them white text, for example) is a violation. If you don’t want it to say unsubscribe, some email service providers allow you to display an “update your preferences” section, instead.
Can I just buy email lists? Is it illegal?
In the United States, it is not illegal. I know! It totally should be, but it’s not.
As for buying lists, I vehemently advise against it. If you buy lists, you could (and probably will) be wasting your money. Think about it: they didn’t opt-in and they don’t know you. This probably means they don’t want to hear from you and will immediately opt-out. Waste of money.
Additionally, they are more likely to mark your emails as spam and THAT will hurt your business and could even get your email service account shut down!
Do I need “double opt-in” for my lists?
This doesn’t fall within a blog newsletters legal requirement for everyone. It is not legally required for the US, but it is a good idea. You will have a record of the opt-in through your ESP and (should any legal action come of it), you will be protected.
Some countries (like Canada, Germany, and Australia) recommend double opt-in to assist with their express-intent legislation, so if you do (or could) gain subscribers in those countries, you should employ double opt-in.
To better make a decision, read this article (PROs and CONs) on whether you should require double opt-in for your blog newsletters.
Should I remind them they signed up for the email?
In my opinion, that should be taken care of with your welcome sequence.
If you’re emailing your list infrequently or trying to revitalize an old list, you can use the “you’re getting this email because you signed up to xyz” and remind them who you are (with a picture to help you keep more subscribers by refreshing their memory).
Note: if you want to begin utilizing your email to its full potential, start here with learning what you can (practical advice on how to grow email newsletters).
Can I share lists?
This isn’t so much a blog newsletters legal requirement. Technically, the CAN-SPAM act doesn’t say you can’t share lists, but it’s mostly industry-standard that you don’t. Now, before you start filling up the comments section with examples of people who “successfully do it,” I’m standing behind this statement.
If someone doesn’t opt-in to hear from you (you, the person who are trying to ESTABLISH TRUST WITH them), the likelihood that this is a lasting tactic isn’t high. Be honest. Be authentic. Ask permission. You will have a much more engaged list.
Why would you pay for a growing list of people who don’t want to hear from you? A big list is bad business; an engaged list is good business.
The exception to this that many people will cite is when two bloggers team up, host a webinar, and share the entrant information. If that is identified in the signup terms, there is nothing amiss with this practice. This also applies to virtual conferences or summits – trust me, they’re ALL getting your email address.A big email list is bad business. An engaged list is good business.Click To Tweet
Can I automatically start emailing someone after they participate in a giveaway?
There are very distinct camps on this. One side: yes! They entered your giveaway, so they opted in. The other side: no! They didn’t specifically sign up for your email, so you shouldn’t start sending them some. When you’re working with brands, please make sure you understand their position on this.
If you are going to do so, openly and honestly disclose your giveaway terms (in normal font and in multiple places). One giveaway for which you should NEVER use this tactic: cash giveaways. You’ll see a HUGE inflation of your list (causing you to pay more to your ESP), all to lose the majority of those subscribers when you send your first email. #wasteofmoney
I hope you now understand some finer points of your blog newsletter’s legal requirements. If you have more questions, add them in the comments section or join in a discussion with us on Facebook.