How can I Beat Spam?
There are of course many benefits to driving more traffic to your site, but one
downside is that you will also experience an alarming increase in spam.
Spam is junk mail, although some companies refer to it more euphemistically as
"Unsolicited Commercial Email", "Targeted Email" or other similar
honey-coated expressions. Needless to say, those companies are the ones doing the
spamming. The increase in spam you will experience seems to be almost linear to your
site's popularity and the amount of exposure you are getting for it. We will see later in
this article why this should be so.
You probably don't want to suffer from this mass spam attack, but what can you do? I'm
going to show you how to reduce the amount of spam you receive...
What's Wrong With Spam?
Maybe nothing, if you are the kind of person who has a very high tolerance for
irrelevance, and plenty of time on your hands. But 95% of all spam is for MLM and pyramid
marketing schemes of very dubious legality, schemes that guarantee to turn your few meagre
dollars into millions. Interesting, isn't it, that the supposed millionaires who have used
the techniques to such success need to spend their time and money sending you an
incredibly poorly worded letter full of misspelled words, fractured grammar, CAPITAL
LETTERS and an incredible number of exclamation marks!!!!
The other 5% of spam relates to useful or at least wholesome products and services,
whose owners have been tricked or misled into believing that the Internet is a mass market
populated by idiots with one-digit IQs, just waiting to send their cheques to a PO Box in
Personally, I side with the majority, who feel that spam wastes time, obscures the real
email to your site (I get 50+ emails a day across 6 sites, of which 10-15 are real and the
rest are spam) and costs you money (if you pay for your Internet connection)
Where do Spammers Get Their Information?
Before you can beat spam, you have to understand how, and more importantly where,
spammers get your email address from.
Spammers suck up email addresses from just about anywhere you can imagine. As soon as
you post an article to an USENET newsgroup, you run the risk of having your email address
vacuumed up by one of the many automated programs spammers use to compile victims' email
lists... Promote your site on a What's New page, a free for all list or indeed just about
anywhere and the spammers will get your email address. Post to a mailing list, and they're
already lying in wait for you. Nowadays, spammers use automated systems to constantly
collect email addresses, 24 hours a day and 365(6) days a year!
This poses a bit of a dilemma... the only way to avoid getting spammed is to remain
"invisible", but invisibility is the last thing you want when you are trying to
raise the profile of your site!
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to stem the tide of spam...
Free Email Addresses : A Great First Line of Defence
As we've seen, spammers go straight for the jugular of your email address. Well, what
if you don't give them YOUR email address? That way, they won't be able to send you email!
All you need to do is sign up for one of the many, many free email services that are
provided in greater and greater numbers by just about all major sites. I suggest that you
sign up with an email forwarding service.
There is a comprehensive listing of over 550 companies that provide free email addresses
over on my Free Email Address Directory site
Email Forwarding Services
An email forwarding service will give you a new email address such as
"firstname.lastname@example.org" or "email@example.com" You can choose the
"yourname" part of your new email address to customise it to your requirements.
All email that is sent to your "new" email address will automatically be
forwarded to your existing email account. That way, you can filter
out the spam!
If you are using an email package such as "Pegasus Mail" or
"Eudora", it is very easy to set up a filter that will direct all mail sent to a
certain email address into a separate folder. If you make it a practice to use ONLY the
free email address when you are publicising your site to the outside world, you should
find that most spam gets filtered out and ends up in this separate folder you set up.
Then once a week or once a month, or whenever you feel is appropriate, you can delete
the contents of that folder and all the spam is gone. It is worth taking a look from time
to time at the email in there, in case somebody has sent you a genuine comment about your
site. But at least with this system you won't find that your normal email address gets
buried under a landslide of spam!
I advise against using this free email address on your actual site, even though putting
your real email address on your site may bring you some spam. The reason is simple: sadly,
many spammers and con artists also hide behind the relative safety and obscurity of free
email addresses, and so people who are familiar with free email services may feel ill at
ease to see that the address on your site is a freebie.
Other Ways to Beat Spam
You can encode your email address before you add it to your site. There's a great tool
called the MailTo Encoder
that scrambles your email address so that a spider can't read it but your email package
DON'T be tempted by the messages at the top or bottom of any spam, indicating "To
be removed from this mailing list, send a message to xyz" or similar wording. Very
occasionally you will get removed from that one particular mailing list (and the spammers
have THOUSANDS!) but more often you will get added to a different spam list as a person
who at least cared enough about the message to find out how to get away from it!
DON'T use the trick some people resort to on USENET or in other places of posting a
"broken" email address together with instructions on how to fix it elsewhere on
the page. For instance, "firstname.lastname@example.org Please delete the "nospam"
to reply to this message." Guess what, when you're in a medium where zero attention
spans abound, nobody is going to go through contortions to reply to you, even if they have
a genuine desire to communicate with you.
DO use every filter you can think of. For instance, if you notice that many spam
messages have the words "Make money fast" in them, you can program your email
program to automatically delete all messages with that phrase in them.
A Final Word
In a sense, spam is a way to feel that you have arrived... that your site is known
widely enough to attract the attention of these dastardly predators. But after a brief
moment of satisfaction, take the initiative and fight back! It is much easier to set up
rigorous anti-spam defences when you are getting five messages per day than it is to do so
when you are getting 50 or 500! There is no putting the genie back in this particular
bottle once your address is scattered across the Web.
You are unlikely to ever be totally free of spam, if you have a successful site.
However, you can at least keep it down to a manageable level. Good luck in keeping your
mailbox clean and free from junk mail!