Ethical Email Marketing

A quick ethical guide and checklist to using email for marketing purposes

  • Always make very sure that you have the exact, current and correct email address for all recipients of your marketing emails
  • Confirm that the email addresses you receive are correct, maybe by sending a single request to confirm. Do not send additional requests, if you hear nothing it means that either the email address is not functional, the address is not correct or the address does not wish to receive additional emails. Either way, it makes no communicative sense to continue sending confirmation requests so it will be ethical policy for you to delete or remove the address from your outstanding confirmation lists after an amount of time or days you think is reasonable, has passed.
  • In each communication mention the method that the recipient can follow to remove the email address or how to get you to cease communications to the email address (This also serves to assist others to do removal when they receive spam complaints from their clients and helps to protect the credibility of email services or servers)
  • Always add a few of your own test email addresses to your own mass or bulk communications, not only does this help you track your data and see when other or third parties are also sending to your email lists, but it allows you to see what your recipients see.
  • Always respond timeously to replies to your communications, even if it is just to let your recipient know that you are dealing with the received reply.
  • Always remove email addresses from your lists if you receive bounces, notices, complaints or any other credible information that the recipient no longer wishes to receive your communications. There is no good result if you continue sending communications as the recipient will then pay extra attention to your name, your brand and nothing good can come from continued communications.
  • Never send a removal confirmation, unless: The email address was previously confirmed and you are very unsure about the credibility of the removal request that you received.
  • Never send email communications from a non existent or non monitored email address (more about that below)
  • Use an email service provider (ESP) that manages your delivery bounces ethically and provides you with delivery (and/or non delivery ) reports.


Read the Definition of Spam Abuse on

Email Bounce Messages

Email bounce messages are important for a number of reasons. If you are a sender of email communications you use an email server that trusts or allows you to send or relay email through that server. If your own email server failed to deliver to the recipient email server you are entitled to receive an understandable bounce message.

Receivers of your communications may simply silently drop new/untrusted incoming non delivered emails after they have accepted them for delivery and in that case your own email server has succeeded in delivering your email.

Bounce messages could be complicated but they indicate which of your receivers did not receive your communications.

There are numerous bounce reasons, for example: email addresses or domains may have changed, the receiver email server is currently not available and many more.

If you know about an email bounce you can contact the recipient through backup methods and try to obtain new an accurate or new email address. It also serves to maintain your email address books more accurately.

You should avoid email service providers that re-write your own communications bounce messages with cryptic non descriptive failure reasons. For example: and some other providers of public email addresses.
There are three important things you can do with bounce messages

You can ignore the bounce message (examples: auto responder, email received report)
Remove from your senders list (The email address or domain does not exist anymore)
Add to your monitor list (This specific email was not delivered, but it is a temporary failure, hard drive space, etc and future emails may or may not be delivered. If the address keeps on failing you may decide to eventually remove it from the senders list)

What you can do with bounce messages contributed by: David Hofstee
Email use as marketing tool

When using email for marketing purposes it is always very important to remember that email is primarily a communications medium and not primarily a marketing medium.

You could use email for marketing purposes, but in such a way that it is also communication.

Transmitting email with no easy means or transparent method for the recipient to reply to the sender, is not communication.
Email as marketing tool contributed by Dr Anderson
Something you should never to do when sending any email communications first started this trend of sending mass automated communications from noreply@ as Google seems too large to care (and the costs were/are probably restrictive to their aggressive expansionary business model) Soon after it became fashion for even the dentist on the corner to blast off emails with a as it is extremely tempting (and cheap) to blast one way “communications” at the masses.

Email Spam is not the same as Spam Abuse

Sending spam email is not the same as email abuse. For example if you were to send an unsolicited email to to verify that the address is correct, this would be spam (a rubbish/spam email that may not have requested), but this single one time request should not be considered spam abuse.

this article contributed and compiled by