|Dear Internet visitor,
My intention is
to help you own a profitable Internet
Internet Home Business course that will help and guide
you to start off your Home Business on the Internet.
What Not To
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
In this Lesson, you will learn what
spam is and why it is prohibited. You will learn how to
avoid spamming. You will learn that there are many
effective alternatives to lead generation on the
Internet that do not involve spam. You will learn the
"Rules of Thumb" to avoid spamming. You will learn how
not to be overwhelmed by the many different sources of
spam rules and definitions, but rather to use your
common sense and the Rules of Thumb to avoid spam while
still maintaining an aggressive Internet marketing
The first thing you want to know when
starting any new endeavor—and the first thing you are
usually told—is what NOT to do. You need to know what to
avoid in order not to get in big trouble while learning
the ropes of Internet Income. You can get into big
trouble by using unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCC),
commonly called "spam."
A subsequent lesson will address the
formal definitions and rules of spam. For now, let's
take a few minutes to just talk about spam. Unless you
are very unusual, you will never memorize all the
definitions and rules pertaining to spam (for there are
many) and, thus, will never have a foolproof system of
avoiding spam technically. If you gain a relatively
simple understanding of it, however, you can safely
avoid spam just by using your good common sense.
WHAT IS SPAM?
There are many definitions of spam.
For example, Netscape defines spam as the sending of
more than five e-mails in bulk to persons you do not
personally know. Most others define spam more strictly.
The most general definition of "spam" is "the sending of
unsolicited commercial e-mail."
When you open your snail mailbox
everyday and see numerous unsolicited commercial
advertisements that have been delivered to you by the
postal service, it makes you wonder why unsolicited
electronic e-mail is outlawed. Like all laws and rules,
however, we should look more to history than to logic to
understand why they came to be. Although the Internet
did not become popular with the public until the early
1990s, the Internet has been in existence for a long
time. Prior to the early 1990s, the Internet was used
primarily by the military and university scientists.
These users were conducting what they justifiably felt
was important business which could not be interrupted by
any commercial correspondence. For most of the
Internet's history, ALL commercial correspondence was
completely banned. Only recently has commercial use of
the Internet been allowed at all. Although this total
restriction on commercial use was lifted, a restriction
on unsolicited commercial e-mail remains—and for good
E-mail is for communicating, not for
advertising. Unsolicited commercial e-mail is annoying!
Without restriction, it has the capacity to come in such
large numbers as to render your e-mail completely
useless and even to shut down your e-mail server
altogether. This is due to the fact that, unlike snail
mail, e-mail can be sent in tremendous bulk with very
little effort and very little cost. Because it is so
cheap and easy to send, we would all receive thousands
of messages a day from each of thousands of sources were
it not prohibited. Since many people break the no spam
rules and send it out anyway, we all have had some taste
of what it would be like if it were not prohibited. Spam
understandably makes people mad. When they get mad, they
report spammers to their ISPs or other organizations or
to the government authorities. Bad consequences, such as
losing Internet service or even facing civil and
criminal penalties, result from spamming. Therefore, you
want to make sure that you never spam!
The Internet covers the entire world.
There are many different laws in many different
jurisdictions pertaining to spam. Plus, losing your
Internet service or having your domain blocked due to
spam is a matter of contract that varies from provider
to provider, each having its own specific rules about
spam in its "Acceptable Use Policy." So, how can you
possibly avoid spam when there are so many different
rules and regulations? The answer is to use common
sense. In a subsequent installment we will discuss the
technical rules and contracts, but for now, let us just
show you how to use your common sense to avoid spam.
THE RULES OF THUMB
Here are the Rules of Thumb you can
1. Never use e-mail for advertising
with one, and only one, exception: when you have a
clear "opt-in" event.
2. When advertising with e-mail in
an "opt-in" situation, always supply a working
3. Never annoy anyone with any kind
4. Never mislead anyone (in either
the opt-in process or in the e-mail subject header).
Now we will discuss each rule of thumb
RULE OF THUMB NO.
1—NEVER USE E-MAIL FOR ADVERTISING UNLESS YOU HAVE A
CLEAR "OPT-IN" EVENT.
Again, e-mail is for communicating,
not for advertising. The same is generally true of
Newsgroups (Usenet), Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and
Web-based Discussion Boards. Your own site on the World
Wide Web (or another's site - with permission) is the
only Internet Resource where advertising is generally
acceptable. Many marketers are resistant to this, but
the sooner you accept this simple truth, the better off
you will be. There are many effective ways to use
Websites to market on the Internet. These techniques
often involve using the one exception to the e-mail
rule—the "opt-in" exception—as part of the process. But,
the process begins with a Web page, whether that Web
page is yours or another's with your ad on it.
The spam rules usually refer to UCC.
If the e-mail has been "solicited," it generally is not
considered spam. (Also, if the e-mail is not
"commercial," it is generally not considered spam—more
on this in later installments.)
How do you know whether e-mail has
been "solicited"? While there are no hard and fast rules
that everyone will agree on, your common sense will
provide you with a working definition that should be
relatively safe. E-mail is not spam if it has been
requested or consented to or if permission has been
granted to send it to a particular recipient. There are
two kinds of consent: express and implied. Express
consent is where someone communicates directly to you
permission to send an e-mail. Examples of express
consent are when someone types in their e-mail address
on a form on your Web page requesting more information
or sends you an e-mail in response to a classified ad.
Implied consent occurs when someone performs some act
from which permission can be inferred. An example of
implied consent is when someone posts a URL on your FFA
page or takes advantage of some other free resource you
are offering. (Be careful here, though, the extent of
implied consent is very limited.) Implied consent also
arises in many instances where you have a pre-existing
relationship with someone. Ultimately, the question of
whether implied consent exists is a question of fact to
be decided based on all of the circumstances of a
particular situation. Your opinion as the one accused of
spam is not the opinion that matters. The opinion that
matters is the opinion of your ISP or local authorities
who will decide whether you have spammed or not.
When someone fills out a form or
accepts a free service, this is generally referred to as
"opting in." That is, they have opted to accept an
e-mail from you. When we use the term "opted," we are
referring to the same concept as "consent" or
"permission" discussed above. Another example of an
opt-in is the opt-in e-mail lists. There are a few such
e-mail lists on E-groups, Onelist, Topica, and other
such free e-mail list services available on the
Internet. If the list's creator allows, and the hosting
service allows, ads may be acceptable on the list. The
people who subscribe to the list are deemed to have
"opt-in" to receive commercial e-mails sent through the
list. (Note that the extent of this implied consent is
only for e-mail sent through the list. If you send the
list members e-mail directly, rather than through the
list, you will be spamming.)
If you are accused of spamming, you
will need to be able to clearly establish a documented
opt-in event to justify the e-mail. The e-mail you sent
must also be within the scope of the opt-in, or you will
be guilty of spamming.
So, the bottom line is that e-mail is
NOT a tool you can rely on to generate leads or new
customers. Rather, e-mail is a tool that can only be
used in conjunction with some other resource through
which an opt-in can first be established. However
tempting it is to buy a CD of over a million e-mail
addresses and blast your ad out to them, do not do it.
You will be spamming if you do.
RULE OF THUMB NO. 2 -
ALWAYS SUPPLY AN OPT-OUT MECHANISM.
Even when you have a clear opt-in
event (which is the only situation where you should be
sending commercial e-mail), you must include an opt-out
mechanism in the e-mail. You must give the recipient the
option of communicating with you that your e-mail is no
longer welcome. The mechanism you use must work to get
that communication to you in a timely manner and you
must immediately obey the opt-out request. Opt-out
mechanisms are generally of two types. One is a line in
the e-mail that states that one can reply to the e-mail
or send an e-mail to another stated address, putting
"REMOVE" in the subject heading. The other common
opt-out mechanism is to supply a URL in the e-mail,
which if clicked on, will automatically remove someone
from your mailing list. Either one is fine—as long as it
A belief commonly held among Internet
users is that opt-out mechanisms are untrustworthy. It
is often advised that the process is used by
unscrupulous marketers to confirm that you have a
working e-mail address, which they will use for further
spamming rather than to remove you from the list.
Therefore, any mistake or negligence with your opt-out
mechanism will immediately put you under a cloud of
suspicion. Make sure that you timely and carefully
attend to your opt-out requests.
An opt-out request must be immediately
honored. Despite what many ill-informed people believe
and say, you should know that it only takes one "no"
anywhere in the process to void all prior expressions of
consent. There is no way to trap anyone into being
forced to receive e-mail from you. Nothing they do
prevents them from opting out at any later point.
One tricky situation for opt-outs is
the opt-in mail list. You send your mail to the list and
the list then forwards it to the other members on the
list. Often you will be sent a request to remove from
one of the other members, but you do not have the
capacity to remove them from the list. In opt-in e-mail
list situations, you should always include a statement
in your e-mail advising the recipients that the e-mail
is being sent through a particular e-mail list and that
they must remove themselves from the list to opt-out of
the e-mail. Give them the name of the list and the
RULE OF THUMB NO. 3 -
NEVER ANNOY ANYONE WITH ANY KIND OF E-MAIL.
With respect to the gray areas, it
helps to remember that you will never get in trouble if
no one ever accuses you of spamming. If you never annoy
anyone, no one should ever be motivated to report you.
If you treat others as you would have them treat you,
you are not likely to annoy them. Because some people
have thin skin, however, and will be annoyed where you
would not be, using the Golden Rule is by no means
foolproof. It helps to think in terms of what annoys the
average person, but to be safe, you need to think in
terms of what annoys the overly sensitive person as
It's a mystery to me why, but many
aggressive marketers approach Internet marketing as a
kind of war game. They want to kill your e-mail or your
ad and strike you repeatedly with theirs. I don't know
about you, but it sure as heck doesn't put me in the
mood to join something or buy something when I have been
defeated in an Internet war game of ads. E-mail
autoresponders are the weapon of choice in these war
games. For example, I place an ad on Yahoo! Classifieds.
I receive an e-mail that says, "Responding to your ad."
The content of the e-mail clearly reveals that the
sender knows nothing of my ad and could care less. He
only wants to put his ad in my face, using some
ridiculous pretext that his reading of my ad (which he
didn't do) demonstrates to him that I am a good
candidate for his opportunity. Then, were I naive enough
to respond to his e-mail and point out that I am not
interested in his opportunity, I would immediately
receive an autoresponse message with even more
information about his opportunity. Also, in the process
of responding, I would have gotten myself added to his
e-mail list so that I would receive more info every week
about this opportunity in which I have no interest. No
matter how hard I search, I can find no way to actually
opt-out from his list. Am I going to report him for
spamming? You bet your bippy I am!
Another example of the war game is
people who join the opt-in lists and then hook up an
autoresponder to the account with which they joined the
list. Even though every single one of these lists
prohibits using autoresponders, they are quite commonly
used anyway. When you send out e-mail to the list, you
immediately get back autoresponses from hundreds of the
members of the list. They will never read the list nor
your e-mail, but they will stack the list with their ads
and then, on top of that, will autorespond to yours sent
from the list.
Such tactics are absurd, ridiculous,
ineffective, annoying, and unlawful. People get away
with them only because they are technically savvy enough
to hide their identities and make it so time consuming
to track them down that most victims will not take the
time to do it. But these are the extreme examples. Let's
look at some of the more subtle issues.
If you take care to always make sure
that your e-mail is pleasant, you will not only be less
likely to be accused of spamming, but you will more
effectively develop relationships—which is the key to
any successful marketing. You should take pains to be
polite and sincere in all your e-mail correspondence.
While you have to protect yourself from the war game
spammers, you need to provide some way for people who
read your e-mail to directly respond to you—where you
will actually read their response. Only use e-mail
autoresponders in the most controlled of situations and
use them with great care. In fact, there are really only
two situations I know of where an autoresponder is
appropriate. One is where someone fills out a form on
your Web page and you need to confirm that the e-mail
address they supplied is a valid e-mail address. The
other is when you host FFA pages. Autoresponders should
rarely, if ever, be triggered by an incoming e-mail in
my opinion. The only exception would be form
submissions. While automation is a goal for some tasks
and is being made more and more possible by the
Internet, communication should be personal, not
Take pains never to annoy people with
your Internet marketing, whether through automation,
insincerity, rudeness, or as we discuss below,
RULE OF THUMB NO. 4 -
NEVER MISLEAD ANYONE.
Being bothered by correspondence one
did not ask for and does not want is something that
annoys most everyone. Another thing that annoys the heck
out of the average person is being misled. What most
people want is good, solid, honest information about
what they have expressed an interest in and no more.
People become annoyed when they are
misled. If they request one type of information and get
another, they feel used. This factor comes into play,
among other places, in choosing a subject header for
e-mail that you do choose to send. If the subject says
"$50 deposited into your bank account tomorrow—no
strings, no obligation," and then the body of the e-mail
mentions nothing about a free $50, but proceeds to try
to sell them something, they have been misled and will
be understandably annoyed. I have read so-called
marketing advice that recommends using subject headings
that will get people to read your e-mail regardless of
whether the subject has anything to do with your offer.
Nothing could be worse advice! Such "bait and switch"
tactics are dishonest, immoral, often illegal, and are
guaranteed to annoy the dickens out of the recipient of
your e-mail. Do not do it.
Another guaranteed way to annoy
someone, spurring them to report you for spam, is to
mislead them about the type of information they are
requesting. If you have a Web page which collects e-mail
addresses to send more info about an interesting
subject, but you send entirely different correspondence
from what they expected, you will certainly have
trouble. Honesty is more than just morality, it is good
business practice. You do not want to start any
relationship with a client, customer, or affiliate by
dishonest correspondence. As we will discuss later in
this course, "trust" is the most important factor in any
So, it is very important in both the
opt-in event and the subject header of e-mail to be very
honest and straight-forward about the information that
will be in the body of the e-mail. To do otherwise, can
only make people mad and get you in trouble.
THERE ARE MANY
EFFECTIVE INTERNET MARKETING TECHNIQUES THAT DO NOT
A common response to the spam rules is
to throw up one’s hands and say "It's too complicated
and too risky, why bother with Internet marketing?" The
answer to that question is that Internet marketing is a
powerful, yet inexpensive tool, that can be used by
people of few resources other than a will to succeed in
obtaining financial success. In later installments, you
can look forward to learning how to research the web to
find high traffic Websites and then use non-commercial,
non-spam e-mail to develop relationships with the
publishers of those Websites. From these relationships
can arise the opportunity to partner with them to
promote your business or your opportunity at little
cost. We will also discuss how to correctly use opt-in
procedures to reach large audiences without spamming. We
will also discuss how to use content to gain some
Internet traffic to whom you can promote your business.
This is just a small sample of the effective techniques
we will teach you in this course. We need to cover spam
to make sure that you don't knock yourself out of the
game before you have a chance to get started right. The
bulk of this course, however, will dig in with earnest
on the how-to's of successful Internet marketing.
WHAT’S COMING NEXT
The next installment will address the
potential of producing income on the Internet. We will
share with you a principle of Internet marketing based
on mathematical law that demonstrates that the best is
yet to come!
by George Little
Copyright (year) Panhandle On-Line, Inc.
License granted to Carson Services, Inc. for
distribution to SFI affiliates. No part of this work may
be republished, redistributed, or sold without written
permission of the author.
For more information on the Internet Income
Course and other works and courses by George Little, see
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