Follow Legal Compliance Guidelines

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Define the CAN-SPAM compliance guidelines for emails.
  • Discuss unsubscribe rules.

“Legal compliance and email marketing.” If that sounds intimidating or makes you feel like you’re entering a jungle with no map, don’t worry! In this unit, we break the subject down so that you can see the sunlight through the jungle canopy.

Jungle scene, creating the feeling of legal compliance guidelines being daunting.

CAN-SPAM Guidelines

CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. (Get it? “Can” the SPAM?) It became a U.S. law under George W. Bush, and is enforced in the United States by the Federal Trade Commission. These guidelines help you avoid annoying or, worse, decreasing your subscriber base. And help you stay compliant. So what are the CAN-SPAM guidelines?

1. Accurately identify the sender in the header information.

Don’t misrepresent who it’s from. This just annoys your readers and damages your brand.

2. Use a subject line that accurately represents the content of the email.

You also do not want to trick your reader into opening an email by inaccurately representing the email’s content. For example, if the subject line refers to a free offer, the body of the email must refer to that as well. It cannot be deceptive.

3. Identify the message as an advertisement.

Be clear about whether the content of the email is an advertisement or solicitation.

4. Include your physical mailing address.

Always include your physical mailing address somewhere in your email. It can be anywhere you like—at the top, bottom, or in the middle. Just make sure it’s there. It demonstrates your company is real.

5. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Process an unsubscribe request within 10 days, and keep your unsubscribe mechanism operational for at least 30 days after the mailing.

We’ll cover this detail in the next section. Don’t go away!

6. Provide a mechanism to opt out. You cannot require a subscriber to log in or visit more than a single page to unsubscribe.

Have an easy way for subscribers to unsubscribe in one click. You can make it a link at the bottom of the email. We suggest you include in the email header as well.

Unsubscribe, Please

We told you that unsubscribe requests must be quick and easy. But what exactly is an unsubscribe request? It’s a way for subscribers to choose to no longer receive communications they were subscribed to. Though the single mechanism to unsubscribe is a link at the bottom of an email, good email marketing systems offer options for managing unsubscribes.

Let's review the three types of unsubscribes.

Global: When customers choose global unsubscribe, they unsubscribe from every email sent from Marketing Cloud. Let’s dive a little deeper into this. Let’s say you are receiving emails from the company Cloud Kicks. You no longer want to receive their emails and request a global unsubscribe. This unsubscribes you from receiving any email sent by Marketing Cloud. So when Northern Trail Outfitters starts using Marketing Cloud, they can’t import your information because you globally unsubscribed. However, it’s good for Northern Trail Outfitters because they can’t send communication to a globally unsubscribed customer. 


Global unsubscribes are relatively rare, however do happen. If you can't determine why a certain subscriber didn't receive your email, they may be on the global unsubscribe list.

Primary: With primary (account-level) unsubscribe, customers choose to unsubscribe from emails sent by a given company. So, you don’t receive any emails from Cloud Kicks, but you can still receive emails from Northern Trail Outfitters.

List: Customers choose list unsubscribe when they want to unsubscribe from a specific list. Say you’re subscribed to the company Cloud Kicks’ monthly newsletter and weekly specials emails. You like the monthly newsletter, but you no longer want to receive the weekly specials. you unsubscribe from just the weekly specials list.

In addition to having unsubscribe links your marketing emails, and processing unsubscribe requests within 10 days, your unsubscribe mechanism must work for at least 30 days after the mailing. So, after 30 days, if you try clicking on the unsubscribe link, there’s the possibility that your request isn’t fulfilled from that email specifically.

Depending on where you are and who you interact with, your email messaging activities could be subject to different regulations, such as GDPR or CASL. These regulations govern how you can contact people and where and how long you can store information. Marketing Cloud provides tools to help you maintain compliance, but you should always consult your legal team to ensure you’re doing everything correctly. 


Learn more about regulations on the help page, Marketing Cloud Data Protection and Privacy Tools .

You’re now set to keep out of trouble while sending your amazing emails. Next you learn how to ensure they get to your subscribers email inboxes and don’t get filed in the junk drawer.


Keep learning for
Sign up for an account to continue.
What’s in it for you?
  • Get personalized recommendations for your career goals
  • Practice your skills with hands-on challenges and quizzes
  • Track and share your progress with employers
  • Connect to mentorship and career opportunities