Spam Guide

What is spam?

Seems like an easy question to answer, right? Spam is email about pills and Nigerian princes with unlikely troves of money they need to deposit into your bank account. We've all experienced it. We all hate spam.

The official definition of spam, the one you should worry about if you are sending email to large groups of people, is a little more refined than that.

By definition, email spam is any email that meets the following three criteria:

  • Anonymity: The address and identity of the sender are concealed.
  • Mass Mailing: The email is sent to large groups of people.
  • Unsolicited: The email is not requested by the recipients.

Spam laws

Different countries have different laws designed to protect their citizens from spam. You have to make sure that your messages abide by the laws of the countries that your contacts live in.

In South Africa, email sending companies are subject to two laws; the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI).

The Consumer Protection Act

Section 11 of the CPA provides that individuals may refuse to accept, request the discontinuation of (opt-out), or pre-emptively block direct marketing communications, and that any opt-out or pre-emptive block must be respected by marketers, have their receipt confirmed in writing and that the exercise of these rights must be performed free of charge.

The Protection of Personal Information Act

Section 69 of the POPI Act states that in order for individuals to receive unsolicited communication, they must have either consented to the use of their personal information (opt-in), or there must be an existing relationship between the parties.

Even where there is an existing relationship between the parties, this does not result in a freedom to make repeated advances.


The CAN-SPAM act governs email communication in the United States. It is, however, a sensible set of guidelines that will help you avoid spam reports, no matter where you are sending emails.

Key aspects of CAN-SPAM are (from the Wikipedia article linked above):

  • A visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism must be present in all emails.
  • Accurate "from" lines.
  • Relevant subject lines.
  • A legitimate physical address of the publisher and/or advertiser must be present.
  • A label is present if the content is adult.
  • A message cannot be sent to a harvested email address.

How to avoid being marked as spam

The bottom line is: If you don't want to have your emails marked as spam, don't send unsolicited emails. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of being marked as spam:

  • If someone gives you an e-mail address at your web site, when you use it, mention where and when and from what host or address you got it.
  • Validate your data as thoroughly as possible; especially e-mail addresses that you receive through anonymous media like the web.
  • Do not buy lists of email addresses.

Different email clients (Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, etc.) try to filter spam out of their user's in-boxes by searching incoming emails for common spam red-flags. Some of these may include:

  • Content normally associated with spam, such as online pharmacies and pyramid schemes.
  • Messages that are designed to look like "bounced message" responses.
  • Messages sent from IP addresses that are known spam originators.
  • Spam reports from other users.
  • Content similar to spam messages (subject matter, formatting, attachments).

All email clients filter emails for specific key words and phrases that are often associated with spam. If your email contains the following phrases, you're sure to go straight to the junk folder.

  • Be your own boss
  • Don't delete
  • Free offer
  • For you
  • Increase traffic

There are hundreds of other combinations that could land your message in Junk. Steer clear of them.

Why is opting out so important?

It is essential that you give subscribers an easy way to remove themselves from your mailing list.

Clear, easy to find opt-out links in the bottom of your email are required by law.

Not only is it a legal requirement, it's also a good way to avoid being marked as spam. If a subscriber can't find the opt-out link, she might simply mark your emails as spam to try and block you from sending any further emails to her.

Email authentication

Email authentication allows email clients to identify the person/company sending an email. This authentication is intended to fight spam email.

Authentication can tip individuals off about forged emails if, for instance, they receive an email from a big sender (like a bank) that isn't authenticated.

Authentication is highly recommended for senders, as it will help avoid automatic spam classification.

Everlytic spam testing tools

Everlytic has a suite of spam testing tools built into the message composer. Once you've composed your email, before moving onto the list selection step, you can run an automated spam checking tool.

The Spam Score test is a quick and simple test that will analyse your email for common spam elements and give the message a score that indicates how "spammy" your email is. The lower your score, the better.

What do we do if you are marked as spam in error?

Everlytic has a team of spam ninjas who constantly monitor our IP addresses for spam reports and black-listing events. We do everything in our power to make sure that our customers are not sending spam emails.

However, we can't prevent your subscribers from marking your messages as spam. If you take the precautions outlined above, and send interesting, valuable email, your chances of being marked as spam go way down.

We have established relationships with the service providers, and if any of our servers is black-listed, we do everything we can to have the black-listing removed as quickly as possible.

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