Regardless of the content of your message, it will be considered spam if it is unsolicited. We will respond to complaints that you have sent spam by requesting assurance that every recipient of your email has specifically requested to receive it. If complaints continue, we will forced to take steps to protect our network from being blacklisted, the result of which causes SoVerNet email to be blocked by other ISPs. It is very difficult and time-consuming to have these blocks removed, during which time all our customers suffer the repercussions of a blocked network. Our name as a reputable provider suffers, as well.
We understand that email-lists are a vital part of doing business, and as a business we can sympathize. The conundrum lies in satisfying all our needs when there is no solution that will satisfy all of us. We must protect our network, and we will make every effort to do so, though we also want to mitigate the pain it causes you. To this end we have developed the following “Best Practices” guidelines and clarified our procedures for handling spam-complaints.
Maillist Best Practices
Building Your List—The best email list is one you build & verify, yourself. You then control where your addresses come from and have records to prove that the recipient requested the email. Admittedly, this is a slow way to build your list, but it is the only way you will be able to positively provide proof against allegations of “unsolicited mail.” Subscribed addresses can come via postal mail, in which case you have written verification in-hand. Alternatively, they may come via web forms or email, in which case verification is more involved.
Double Opt-IN is key. For emailed/web form/signup list subscription requests:
- You’ve received a request to add an email address to your mailing list (1st Opt-In),
- You send an email verification query. The verification query must not contain any promotional, sales, or other business-related information. (see below)
- The query message instructs the recipient to, if it is indeed their wish to receive your mailings, reply to the query as final authorization (2nd Opt-In)
- Lack of an affirmative response, or receipt of a negative response, means they will not be added
A postal message requesting subscription to your mailings will suffice as verification of the desire to be on your list and would not need to be verified via the above Double Opt-In process.
- Adding Addresses:
Third Party Lists—We do not permit or condone: use of purchased lists or lists compiled by any method other than by direct subscription to your list from persons interested in receiving your email. Addresses on such lists are considered to be unconfirmed, mail to them to be unsolicited.
- Put subscription request forms on your website, add a return slip or card to all postal mailings, add an email submission address to your email signature line, have a signup sheet at events. In all cases, each opportunity to signup should make it clear what your list is for. On printed materials it’s also a good idea to let them know that providing the email address authorizes you to send email to it. For web forms and email, note that you adhere to a Double-Opt-In email policy before adding recipients to your list.
- Existing-Relationships—We will consider it acceptable to add to a maillist the address of clients/customers/ members with whom you have established a relationship within the last 3 months, provided:
- they could reasonably be expected to be aware that they will be receiving e-mail from you
- the recipient has not requested removal from your list
Note: We suggest you not subscribe email addresses from domains allowing anonymous complaints (such as AOL). [See Complaint Handling, below]
The above may not keep you free of complaints, but being able to prove that each recipient requested your email can help resolve those complaints much more quickly.
Using & Maintaining Maillists: The guidelines below will produce responsible mailings and help keep you in compliance with our AUP. Maillist software will handle most of the tedious chores associated with properly maintaining a list, including generation of verification queries, removal of bounced addresses and requests for removal, maintenance of a suppression list, valid headers, and more.
- Valid “From,” “Reply To,” “To” headers
- Valid “Date,” “Message ID” headers
- Reminder of how recipient’s address was acquired
- Purpose of the list
- How to unsubscribe, with more than one option* (email/URL/postal)
- Valid US postal address, phone number for list owner
* Keep in mind that most anti-spam advice cautions people against using message links that offer to unsubscribe from a list.
- Double-Opt-In verification system
- Periodic Re-verification Query—To maintain a clean list. Such a list-cleansing is best done by means of a non-promotional mailing consisting only of an appeal to confirm the desire to continue to receive your mailings. Those who do not reply affirmatively are to be removed in a timely fashion.
- Removal system—We suggest the following minimums:
- Every mailing has removal instructions contained within;
- Removal options must be available via a URL, and/or an email address, and/or postal address/phone;
- Your website has a clearly offered removal method
- Removal effected immediately, ideally within 36 hours upon receipt of the request
- Suppression list containing removed addresses so that they are not inadvertently re-added
- Records—Keep good records of all subscription and removal requests (emails w/full headers, hard-copy printouts w/headers, postal requests).
- We permit a maximum of 250 messages to be sent at a time; if your list is larger, you’ll need to break it into smaller groups of 250 or less and configure your software to send in batches.
Proof of confirmed subscription must be made available on Sovernet’s request.
- We will request proof that all subscribers have specifically requested to receive your mail.
- We will not accept anonymous complaints from our customers, and we will provide you with the complainant’s name, with the understanding that you will not contact the party who complained, but you will immediately remove that party from your mailing list.
- We must process anonymous complaints from other ISP’s and from SpamCop to protect our network. Since you cannot remove such a complainer from your mailing list, we will ask that you review your list to remove anyone who may have complained and that you send a verification query to clean your list.
- We may request proof of an existing relationship between the complainant (if known) and list-owner, and some indication that the recipient could reasonably expect to receive the email. Proof of confirmed subscription or removal must be made available on SoVerNet’s request.
- Even if we receive proof that all subscribers requested the email, and a verification query was sent, we may continue to receive complaints. Under those circumstances, we will ask you to discontinue the mailings. If complaints continue, we will interrupt your email to protect our network from being blacklisted. We will work with you to restore service as soon as your email list is clean.
Resources: There is a huge amount of information on the web and, naturally, most of it conflicts. Listed below are several good starting places, listed not because we recommend them, but because they either have decent reputations or are considered “experts” in the field. (Hold your cursor over the dotted words for additional information about the sources.)
Maillist Software—The first two listings are commercial software packages (prices vary according to features/options), the third is OpenSource (free). All require a certain level of technical expertise.
Out-sourced List management—The list-hosting companies below are long-time veterans of email list management. Note: You remain responsible for compliance with our AUP even though you may arrange for a third-party to host your mailing list and provide mailing services: