Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL): What I’m Doing

It’s July 1 and the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) goes into effect today.

canadian anti-spam legislation what I'm doing

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of legal stuff involved, most of which goes way over my head because I don’t have any authority, expertise or law degrees. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

However, as a blogger and business owner, I’ve done some reading. (Any blogger or business owner should. From many sources.)

Because I’ve been asked…

I’ll share how I understand CASL and what I’m doing for my own business. You (and your lawyer) will have to decide what to do for yours.

If you’ve come across different or additional information in your own research, please, please feel free to share in the comments. We’ve gotta be in this together.

What I’m doing may be considered overkill by some, but I’d rather err on that side than the other. Especially when there are million dollar fines hanging in the balance.

Things to know

  • CASL will not single-handedly change the internet as we know it. No need to freak out, but don’t ignore it either.
  • Regarding email, if you have a double opt-in email list (like from Mad Mimi*, FeedBurner or another well-known email service provider) you’re probably doing a lot right already.
  • A lot of people are focusing on CASL as it applies to emails, newsletters and email marketing in general. However, at this point, the rules also apply to other forms of electronic communication like texts, instant messages (IMs), direct messages (DMs), @ replies on Twitter, etc.
  • The rules only apply to people you send “commercial electronic messages” to in Canada. It doesn’t apply to people you send commercial electronic messages in other parts of the world (although those countries might have their own laws you need to abide by).
  • People who live in Canada do have email addresses without the .ca at the end (ex. jane@domain.ca) so don’t assume email addresses without the .ca are fine.
  • CASL doesn’t just affect businesses. It affects organizations too.
  • Make sure anyone who works for you (like a VA) knows about CASL.
  • The details of CASL are not entirely clear. There are a lot of gray areas. All the more reason you should know how it specifically applies to you and your situation. Do your research!

What is CASL & should you care?

CASL is a Canadian law aimed at reducing spam in any “commercial electronic message” (CEM) accessible by computers in Canada. In other words, if you send electronic messages to people in Canada, you should pay attention. Not sure?

Do you use electronic channels (email, social media, texts, etc.) to promote/market your organization, product(s) or service(s)? If so, you should pay attention to CASL because it’s likely some of those will go to Canada. (source)

What does CASL require?

casl requirements

The above infographic is from the main site of CASL. Here are the main points:

  1. Consent. You have to get explicit consent by a Canadian recipient before you send them a commercial electronic message.
  2. Identification. You need to identify yourself with a name and current mailing address address. Also, you need to provide a working email address, phone number or website address.
  3. Unsubscribe option. You need to have an easy unsubscribe option in each message.

What I’m doing

Keep doing what I’m doing.
The Useletter is definitely my most valuable commercial electronic message (I don’t do much elsewhere). Because it’s double opt-in, people have given me explicit consent to email them, so I can keep doing business as usual there.

Edit the footer in emailed blog posts.
I don’t really offer blog posts via email anymore, but if you do, you might wanna put your identification info in the footer of every email.

How do you know if you have contact info in there already? Pull up one of your archived emails (you do subscribe to your own blog, right?) and check. If your contact info is not there and you’re not sure how to get it there, you can contact your email service provider. Alternatively, a simple workaround is to put the contact info in the footer of your RSS feed. You can use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin to do this. Once you’ve installed the plugin, go to your WordPress Dashboard. Then go to SEO (in the left column) –> RSS –> Content to put after each post –> Enter your contact info –> Save. Then check to make sure it’s in there next time a post goes out.

Edit The Useletter footer.
Mad Mimi makes it easy to include a mailing address in the footer of your emails. That’s been there since the beginning. Today I added my website address to fulfill the second part of the identification requirement (see infographic above).

If you’re using Mad Mimi, go to Account. I simply added my website address to the end of “Physical Address.”

Take out the “Forward to a Friend” option in The Useletter
I’m doing this per Jeanne Jennings’s suggestion on ClickZ because I can’t guarantee my emails won’t be forwarded to someone who hasn’t given me consent.

To remove this feature in Mad Mimi, go to Tweaks and “hide” the option to forward to a friend. Save your changes.

Edit my confirmation email.
As soon as someone enters their email address into The Useletter signup form, they are sent a confirmation email. (The confirmation email is the second step in the double opt-in process.) They have to click the confirmation link in that email in order to complete the 2-step signup process and be added to my mailing list. Until today, my confirmation email said this:

Hi there,

Thanks for signing up for my useletter! I’m excited you’ll be joining me, but I want to make sure no one signed you up without your consent. So please follow the simple instructions below and you’ll get the next useletter as soon as it goes out!

But now I’ve added the 3 elements suggested by CASL (purpose, identification and unsubscribe info). It reads:

Hi there,

Thanks for signing up for The Useletter! I’m excited you’ll be joining me, but I want to make sure no one entered your email address without your consent.

Do you see that confirmation link down there at the bottom of this email? By clicking on it, you are agreeing to let me send you my super duper emails. Once you click that link, you’ll get The Useletter as soon as it goes out again. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of any email you receive.

By the way, if you have questions, reply to this email or reach me at AmyLynnAndrews.com.

(You can also contact me via snail mail here: [mailing address].)

To edit your confirmation email in Mad Mimi:

edit mad mimi webform

Click the Webform tab on the right. Click the Edit button of the webform you want to edit. Click the Advanced tab on the right. Click the “Edit activation message” button to edit. Don’t forget to save your changes when you’re done!

Edit my Contact page.
I’m editing the email address I have on my Contact page to include “no unsolicited sales or promotional emails please.” This is because there’s a caveat in the law that says you can send something if an email address is publicly displayed without a note to not send promotional messages. I realize I’m not a Canadian so it doesn’t really apply, but why not put this in anyway? You know, keep the spammers guessing.

I will not send emails to customers more than 2 years from the date of purchase.
When someone buys something from me (like Tell Your Time), it means I have an active business relationship with them and emailing them is acceptable within 2 years. Also, if someone has contacted me with a question about my products/services within the last 6 months, I can email them too. Longer than that, though, and it’s not allowed without express consent.

Things that don’t apply to me but might to you

Read the linked articles and linked sources for more…

  1. There’s some question about whether or not it’s okay to add an email address from a contact’s business card.
  2. No pre-checked opt-in boxes allowed. This does not so much apply to me as a business owner, but as a consumer, I like this part (well, I would if I was Canadian). I can’t stand it when I buy something and as I’m working my way through the checkout process, there are pre-checked boxes that automatically sign me up for a mailing list too. This is part of CASL explained as “express consent.” In other words, someone has to take action in order to get on your list. Another example is, you can’t say things like “check the box if you don’t want to be added to the list” or “check the box if you don’t want to receive emails” or “click the link if you want to stop receiving emails.”
  3. Do not buy email lists.
  4. Switch from single opt-in to double opt-in.

Recap of my main sources

How to Make Money Blogging – 2014 Edition

If you’ve ever wondered how to make money blogging, you’ve come to the right place. I hope this will be a useful reference for you. My goal was to create a one-stop guide with as much relevant information as possible.

This is the beta version with updates and additions coming. (If you want to be notified of the updates, subscribe to my useletter and you’ll be the first to know!)

how to make money blogging [Read more...]

The Best Business Books

I got a text from my sister yesterday. She asked if I’ve read any good books lately. That’s like asking, “Are Doritos the loveliest of the loveliest chips on earth?”

The answer is…hello, YES! (Times infinity.)

best business books

I am frequently heard saying this: So many books, so little time. It is the story of my life. Thank goodness for the library.

The library is one of my top 2, non-home favorite places on earth. (That was a mouthful.) The airport is the other. Oh the people watching.

Anyway, in response to my sister’s question, I naturally consulted my Kindle library as well as the “Previously Checked Out” list on our library’s website to see what I’ve read recently.

There were a lot of business books on my list. I read a ton of business books. I don’t really implement them, but hey, I know a whole lot. But that’s another post. I’m getting sidetracked.
[Read more...]

A Cheaper Way to Start a Blog

Heads-up! 4-day Sale!

hostgator summer getawayHostGator is having a FANTASTIC 4-day sale (July 24-27, 2014). You’ll get up to 75% off new hosting packages. Use code SUMMER14. Check it out now and click “View Web Hosting Plans” or follow the step-by-step instructions below. But hurry!

One of the most popular posts on this site is How to Start a Blog. In it, I explain how to use Bluehost* to get your self-hosted WordPress site going.

But what if Bluehost’s upfront cost is not in your budget?

Bluehost makes you pay a full year’s worth of hosting upfront, which amounts to about $100. Some of my readers have said this is just a little bit too much to come up with initially.

And I want to say, I. totally. get. that. Been there, got the t-shirt!

cheap blog

I’m all about alternatives so here’s my alternative: HostGator. With HostGator, your inital outlay will be about a third (or less).

HostGator is a company I use as well (yes, I’ve paid for hosting from two different companies for years) and they have the option of paying for hosting month to month.

The monthly amount works out to be a bit higher than Bluehost (and you don’t get a free domain as with Bluehost), but it’s great for anyone who wants to be able to pay a little at a time. Yay for options!!

Rest assured, you will end up with the very same site in the end. (It’s sorta like buying Doritos® from Target or buying them at Walmart. I mean, there might be a few differences in the store experience, but what matters most is that you end up with those lovely chips in your hands. And by the way, is there a better chip? Oh my stars I must confess my love for Doritos®.)

Alright, here’s how to get started…

Step 1: Go to HostGator.com

hostgator main page

Click the View Web Hosting Plans button to start.

Step 2: Choose a hosting package

There are three options here. Choose a plan from Hatchling, Baby or Business. Which to choose?

4-day Sale Tip:

If you’re taking advantage of the 4-day sale, I would choose the 6-month plan. It works out to be about $2.50 a month, so about $15 out of pocket today. And then you’re covered for 6 months. (Note the price will probably be back to regular price at the 6-month mark. So, if you want to purchase a longer term, you can do so…and still get 45% off.)

I typically choose the Baby Plan simply because that way I can host unlimited domains on one account. This comes in handy when I add projects down the road and need a separate domain for my new project (common plight among bloggers). However, if you only have one site in mind, the Hatchling Plan will suffice. You can upgrade to a Baby Plan or Business Plan at any time.

hostgator packages

Use the dropdown menu under the plan of your choice to choose how often you want to pay.

Obviously, the longer period of time you choose results in a lower monthly price. But, you must be prepared to pay the full amount at once. So for example, if you choose to pay for 1 year, you’ll pay just under $100 right away. If you choose to pay monthly, the monthly fee is higher, but you only have to pay about $8 at a time (plus the cost of a domain and domain privacy if applicable).

Note: If you use the coupon code HEYAMYLYNN during checkout, you’ll get 30% off your first payment. (So, if you choose to pay monthly, the discount applies to your first month only – 30% off of $8. If you choose to pay 1 year in advance, you’ll get 30% off $100.)

Once you’ve chosen the plan of your choice from the dropdown menu, click the Order Now button.

Step 3: Choose a domain name

Domain tip:

If you want, you can register your domain elsewhere. I use Namecheap.com to register my domains. In July use coupon code DOJU to get a discount, making most domains about $10 for a year.

If you are just starting out and do not have a domain name, select the “Register a new domain” option and type in the domain you’d like to use. You do not have to type your desired extension (.com, .net, etc.) into the field. Simply choose it from the dropdown menu to the right. I always recommend a .com extension.

Already have a domain name? If so, select the “I already own this domain” option and type in your full domain (with extension) into the field.

Note: If you are using your existing domain elsewhere, this will not interfere with your other site. This is simply a way to identify your account. Once this new site at HostGator is set up and ready to go, you can then “point” your existing domain from your old site to this new one. So, you don’t have to worry that typing in your domain here will mess anything up that you’ve got going elsewhere. :)

What if your chosen domain is not available?

unavailable domain

It’s very possible the domain you are hoping to register is not available in which case you’ll need to choose something different. I know this can be discouraging, but just press through! Here are more tips about choosing a domain name.

Step 4: Decide if you want to buy your domain with other extensions

Once you choose an available domain, you’ll get the green light and it will be added to your cart. Note that your domain will cost you about $13-$15 for a year. You will only pay this fee once a year, not every month.

hostgator domain available

HostGator will also ask you if you’d like to register other domains similar to the one you’ve chosen, but with different extensions. You can opt to purchase these for an additional fee. Because I’m not a huge brand, I typically do not do this. However, it’s up to you.

Step 5: Enter your account info

Next you will need to confirm your hosting package and billing cycle. (Don’t worry, I know this image says I’ll get 20% off but I’ll enter a coupon code later which will override this and give me the greater discount. At this point, just confirm how often you want to pay.)

hostgator account info

Also, you need to choose a username and Security Pin for logging into your HostGator account.

Next, enter your billing information and whether you’d like to pay with a credit card or via PayPal.

Step 6: Choose addons

In the Hosting Addons section, I highly recommend opting for the Domain Privacy Protection, but the rest of the services are not necessary so I uncheck those boxes.

domain privacy

Note: if you are not registering a new domain but using an existing domain, the Domain Privacy Protection option will not be available to you here (although I highly recommend you opt for it wherever your domain is registered).

The Domain Privacy Protection is essential because it hides your personal contact information on the web. Without it, anyone could simply type in your domain address into the Whois database and up will pop your name, address and contact info. Yikes!

This protection is $9.95 per year and well worth it. Like the cost of the domain, you will only pay this once annually, not every month.

Step 7: Enter the coupon code

Next, enter the coupon code HEYAMYLYNN to get 30% off your first payment! (It’s a special coupon just for my readers, but feel free to pass it on to your friends too. That is totally acceptable.) Click the Validate button to register your discount.

hostgator coupon code

Step 8: Check your total

Here’s the breakdown…

hostgator order review

You’ll notice you have support 24/7/365 included (one of the main reasons I recommend a self-hosted WordPress site). Don’t be afraid to call HostGator with your questions either! They are very helpful.

Also, you can get a refund within 45 days if you decide this isn’t for you. Phew!

After that, you’ll see that you are paying for three things (again, this total is only to start, not every month going forward):

  1. Hosting plan & billing cycle (with the 30% discount applied).
  2. Hosting addons. In this case it’s the Domain Privacy Protection for $9.95. An annual fee. (See Step #6.)
  3. Domain registration. In this case, the discount comes from a special they happen to be running at the time I’m writing. It doesn’t have to do with my coupon code. Your numbers may vary slightly. This is an annual fee.

So the first month startup fee totals about $30. (A lot easier to swallow than $100!)

Next month and going forward, you will only pay the hosting fee of $9.95 (remember the $6.97 total here includes my initial discount via the coupon code applicable to my first payment only. Starting with my next payment, the discount does not apply.)

Once you’re satisfied with the total, make sure you read the terms and conditions by clicking on the link and then check the box.

Click the Create Account button to complete your payment via credit card or PayPal. (If you paid via PayPal, simply click the link that allows you to go back to HostGator.com.)

After your payment is made, you will receive an email with your HostGator account info.

Step 9: Login to your cPanel

In the HostGator welcome email you receive in the previous step, you’ll see a link to your control panel (a.k.a. cpanel). The link will look something link this:

Your Control Panel: http://gator5555.hostgator.com:5555

Click on that link in the email to get to your cPanel login screen.

hostgator cpanel login screen

Grab your cPanel username and password from the email and plug them in. Click the Log in button.

Step 10: Open WordPress

When you login to your cpanel, especially for the first time, you’ll probably get some popup boxes trying to get you to register more domains or asking if you need help getting started. Just go ahead and close those windows until you see your cpanel as pictured here.

wordpress icon

Click the WordPress icon (“Get Started with WordPress Today”).

Step 11: Use QuickInstall to install WordPress

On the next page, you’ll see this:

install wordpress hostgator

Once you are on the QuickInstall page, click the Continue button to initiate the WordPress installation.

hostgator quickinstall

You’ll be asked where you’d like to install WordPress. Unless you have a good reason (which is unlikely), you’ll want to install WordPress in your root directory. Basically, this just means WordPress will show up when someone types your domain into a browswer. To ensure this, simply leave the field next to your domain blank.

Then the rest of the form:

  1. Choose whether or not you want to Enable Auto Upgrades. I typically do not do this because I like to do things manually, but if you’d rather not think about it, go ahead and leave it checked.
  2. Next you can enter your Admin Email. Make sure this is a working email address as your WordPress information will be sent here.
  3. Enter your blog title.
  4. Choose an Admin User. Do not leave this field blank and do not use “Admin” here. This is because “Admin” is the default and hackers often use this to break into accounts. Your name is a good option.
  5. Enter your first and last name.

Click the Install Now! button.

After a few seconds, you should see the installation was successful.

hostgator wordpress install success

Note your WordPress username and password (which I blurred out here). This is what you’ll use to login to WordPress. This is different than your login information for HostGator.

Whenever you want to publish a new post or work on your site, you will generally login to WordPress.

Step 12: Congratulations, you’re up and running!

You can now see your brand new website by either (a) going typing your domain in your browser or (b) clicking on “Your installation is ready. You can access it now by going [here].” Granted, it might not be pretty (yet), but it’s live!

Next steps…

Follow the rest of the posts in this series for next steps…

*There are affiliate links in this post.

How To Monetize Your Food (or Any) Blog

So, I just bought and read an ebook called How to Monetize Your Food Blog* by Kiersten Frase (hat tip: Bjork from Food Blogger Pro). She’s the blogger behind Oh My Veggies.

But Amy, you’re not a food blogger, so…huh?

I know. But there are a couple of reasons.

how to monetize your food blog

First, I’m curious about monetization pretty much across the board. I love to see what others are doing and how they’re doing it.

Second, I know many of you are food bloggers and I wanted to check it out for ya.

(By the way, I really did pay my own $15 for it; it wasn’t given to me. I definitely can recommend it for many of you so I have signed up as an affiliate.)

My thoughts: The short version

How to Monetize Your Food Blog is a solid ebook with lots of great info. For bloggers who get decent traffic or who want to delve into advertising especially, I’d say it will definitely pay for itself.

It provides a great overview of how to monetize a blog, mostly via advertising, but also via other methods like working with brands, selling products and freelancing.

At the same time, I don’t think it would interest every blogger (more on that below).

My thoughts: The long version

I get asked a lot about monetization. Putting ads on your site is one of the most popular ways to make money blogging and people want to know how to do it.

But you may have noticed, I don’t have ads on my blog. I’ve dabbled in it in the past, but the fact remains, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with ads.

Kiersten, on the other hand, does. She covers a lot in this 64-page ebook. She briefly shares how she started as a hobby blogger (with the grand hope of maybe scoring a few free samples along the way, lol) and became a full-time blogger bringing in thousands of dollars each month.

The cool thing is, even though she talks a lot about food blogs, there’s a whole lot of information that can be applied to any blog.

monetize food blog

Her main topic

Her bread & butter (ha, punny) comes from ads on her site. Most of How to Monetize Your Food Blog is about ad networks, advertising and how to set up ads using a waterfall to get the most out of your ad spots. Not only does she explain what a waterfall is, she also walks through how to set one up. I really benefitted by her explanation.

But she also talks about other ways to monetize:

  • Affiliate programs – What they are and how they work.
  • Sponsored posts – How they work and how much she charges.
  • Working with brands – Expectations and what to look for.
  • Selling products – Examples of what you could sell and a very brief overview of how to set up an ebook.
  • Freelance work – How to use your recipe development skills or photography skills to make extra income.
  • Tracking income – What she uses to track her income and tips to remember along the way.
  • Guide to ad networks – This is part of the ebook that might appeal most to food or food-related blogs, but it’s a list of a dozen or so different ad networks, how she works them into her waterfall, what she likes and doesn’t like about them and some tips for working with each.
  • More - Then there are some other additional things like an ad terminology glossary and an example of her media kit.

Things I especially liked

She offers real numbers. For example, Kiersten tells you exactly how much she charges for sponsored posts and why. Granted, it’s only one person’s numbers, but numbers nonetheless. She sprinkles some other numbers in there too (check out her media kit at the end for more).

She gets to the point. Ebooks are great because there’s no page quota one has to meet (as is often the case with a traditionally published book). She gives you the info you need and moves on. No fluff. I like that.

Things you need to consider before buying the ebook

Kiersten covers adverstising quite extensively. Her coverage of the other types of monetization is not as thorough, but still good, with lots of solid tips.

I applaud her on covering monetization as well as she has. It’s a tricky topic because there are SO.MANY. variables from one blog to another.

Many of you are new to the blogging scene and should be aware that reproducing her results is definitely not guaranteed. She has the benefit of a few years under her belt and she started when there were fewer competing blogs for the same traffic.

The main thing to remember (which she explains explicitly) is that making really good income (read: full-time income) from advertising, in general, requires lots of traffic. Like hundreds of thousands of pageviews a month most likely.

That’s not to say the ebook isn’t worth it. After all, we all start with zero pageviews a month. But just know that if you’re going to use the advertising model of monetization and you don’t have tons of traffic yet, you will have to spend some time building your traffic first.

Kiersten outlines steps for many of her topics, but if you’re looking for in-depth instruction or tutorials about every topic, you might have some additional googling to do. Then again, there’s never really a one-size-fits-all solution for all bloggers so we’d all have some googling to do I suppose.

Final thoughts

If you want to move your blog to the next level and really step up your monetization, or, if you are simply curious about how it all works, I think $15 is worth it. It’s about the price of a new book as if you’re like me and measure the value of a book by the takeaways, I think you’ll definitely come out ahead on this one. You can get more info or buy it here.

monetize blog

*There are affiliate links in this post.