What is SPAM? A Very Clear Explanation.

What is spam? It seems as if there is a lot of it going around,
but consumers and businesses are often confused about 
what spam really is.

ISPs and web hosting companies ultimately bear the 
burden of receiving these unsolicited mail complaints, and 
differentiating between what is, and is not spam.

Often providers terminate websites or dial up access based 
on just one complaint. Providers must strictly enforce their 
terms, or face action by their own upstream providers for 
servicing reported spam accounts.

Here is a universal definition of what spam actually is:

Spam is ANY unsolicited or unwanted message that arrives
via email. Period.

If the mail was requested, and this request can be produced 
by the sender, then all follow up messages that are 
sent must contain ALL of the following when they arrive:

1. Valid "from" address. This means the from address must 
be a working domain name that someone can 
write directly to should they want to. If the address
is valid when the message is sent and is then
shut down after the mail is sent, it is still considered
an invalid "from" address.

2. Valid "reply to" address. This is slightly different to the "from"
address, it is the address mail goes to if someone 
clicks reply on the email. It may be the same as the "from"
if you choose.

3. Valid sender information, including the name of the company
or individual that sent the message, a valid phone 
number, and a physical postal address where written 
correspondence can be sent if needed.

4. Valid remove processes must be in place to instantly remove
any individual from future mailings upon request. A 
real-time remove link or standard reply with "remove"
in the subject line are acceptable if they work every
time, without exception.

If all of these factors apply, and the mail is sent with the prior 
permission from the recipient, then the mail being sent is not 
considered spam.

So, what if one of these factors is slightly different? Like what if
it is a one-time mailing so there is no need to have a remove, as 
some mail will claim?

This is not acceptable because there is no valid remove and 
there is no permission granted from the recipient. 

How about targeted lists, or opt-in lists purchased from companies
in the same industry? 

Mail sent to these types of lists is also considered 
spam, because the names on the lists did not give you permission
to mail to them, even in the rare case that they did give this 
permission to someone else.

How about if you actually visit a sales prospect's web site and
write to them individually, not in a mass mail and say, "I visited your
website at www.yoursite.com and noticed you were in need of
my services?"

This is also considered spam, even if the from, reply to, and 
other information are valid including a remove link. This is still
spam because it is not solicited. If the mail, or sales literature 
was not requested, it is spam mail, no matter what.

Now that the real rules of spamming are established here,
you may be asking, how can I run a legitimate newsletter, weekly
specials sheet, or ad to my prospect list? How can I send out mail 
and know that it is not going to be reported as spam?

Simply put, you cannot prevent reports. No matter how closely 
you follow the rules as a sender, there is the chance that a user
will report the mail as spam. 

To avoid fallout for these types of complaints, be sure to 
have your own abuse network and procedures in place. Make 
sure abuse@yourdomainname.com is working, and that it goes
right to someone important in your organization.

Once an abuse report is received, you can be certain that your
host, internet provider and others have also received the same
abuse complaint. You should respond to the complaint as a 
remove request immediately.

Reply to the letter and include all addresses that also received the 
original complaint. Address the individual by their name, and 
provide a copy of the original subscription request with date and 
other supporting information. 

Tell the user and other abuse addresses that you have processed 
the remove, the letter is not spam and was indeed requested. Be 
as brief as possible and be sure to reference the URL where you 
post your terms of service and the URL where the user agreed to
receive your mail.

Be sure this letter arrives at all of the addresses listed in the original
complaint immediately. Even a one-hour delay may be too long,
because some providers will shut down sites for spamming as soon
as a complaint is received.

You will want to be sure that once your host, or ISP starts to read 
the original complaint, that there is an accompanying letter from 
you with a subscription authentication and removal confirmation.
This way, your host or ISP can clearly see that the mail is not
spam, and complies with their terms of service.