CAN-SPAM Compliance Impacts Deliverability?

This morning I spent a few minutes going through my Gmail spam folder, looking for legitimate mails that might have been accidentally marked as spam by the Gmail system. It's rare, but it happens.

I found a message from 3GStore.com, a company I purchased an antenna from, once upon a time. I really don't want to receive emails from them. I'm not likely to be a repeat customer, and I'm eager to get "edge case spam" - things that might be considered spam or not, maybe from companies that I signed up for, out of my mail stream, so that I can trust my spam folder to contain "true" spam, because I'm a bit of a data geek and want to be able to write a script that parses that information and logs it.

So, I wanted to unsubscribe -- as a courtesy, to get this mail out of the way, so it wouldn't be there when I want to track mail in my spam folder. The problem is, I couldn't figure out how to unsubscribe. The company did not include a link. No instructions. The message claims that this was a "one time email," perhaps implying that they think that an unsubscribe link isn't required. Problem is, this email isn't CAN-SPAM compliant. It violates US Federal law. This is clearly a marketing message, a commercial message, but it has absolutely no information in it about how to unsubscribe.

This company is clearly breaking the law; their email marketing messages are absolutely not in compliance with CAN-SPAM. But, what are the chances they're going to get sued by an ISP over it? Slim to none, unfortunately. Legal actions under CAN-SPAM are few and far between.

But then it dawns on me - there's a connection between their lack of legal compliance and their poor deliverability. That's probably why they're in the spam folder! After all, they're making it hard for subscribers to get off of their list. Force people to stay on your list, and they're just going to report your mail as spam. There's going to be a bunch of recipients on your list that don't want to be there; reducing your subscriber engagement ratio.

Lack of CAN-SPAM-mandated unsubscribe functionality = people report your messages as spam = ISPs like Gmail relegate your mail to the spam folder.

I guess it goes to show that, even without the threat of legal action hanging over your head, CAN-SPAM compliance is a necessary starting point, an absolute must, if you want to be able to get your mail delivered to the inbox.

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