I get asked all the time for suggestions to minimize getting so much Spam. Well, that train has left the station. But there are a few steps you can take and keep in mind to try and keep all that junk in check.
Tips to Minimize E-mail Spam
Offensive junk mail, in particular that of an adult nature or on topics that we are really, really not interested in have become downright annoying. Unfortunately, we are forced to deal with Spam – whether we like it or not. And for the record – we don’t like it, right?
The good news is there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure to these type of e-mail.
Put E-mail Filters to Work
Get to know how to use your e-mail program’s filter features. Search your e-mail software help section for filters or rules.
Every e-mail program has the ability to set filters based on variables (To:, From: Subject:, text within the Body) found within an e-mail. Learn how to use your program’s filtering options to minimize exposure to these e-mails again. By filtering based on offensive terms you can direct Spam to go right to trash!
Set up e-mail filters for the terms or topics that you find offensive. This will direct those e-mails right to your trash on the download. Use variations of these terms including lower and upper case combinations of the topics you simply do not want to see.
Remove Visible E-mail Addresses From Your Website
It is not recommended that you have a visible and/or clickable e-mail address on every page of your website. This goes for either personal and/or business sites. Spammers have sophisticated software that farm any e-mail address it can find on a website by looking for the code that produces email links.
If you must display your e-mail address, use ASCII coding to deter these efforts. What you do is replace all the characters within your e-mail address with the alternative ASCII character. This will help to hinder your e-mail from getting farmed. Here is a basic resource for ASCII codes.
Farming software is running 24/7 scanning every computer file online that it runs across collecting these e-mail addresses for the sole purpose of selling mailing lists. Nothing illegal going on here – maybe unethical and not smart. Site owners who buy these lists are not ensuring their e-mail is received by those who have a true interest in what they have to offer. It’s like throwing a bunch of stuff up against the wall just to see what sticks. That’s not smart business, is it?
The best option, even for personal sites, is to remove the clickable e-mail addresses from every page and point visitors to a contact form. There are all kinds of sites that offer free forms scripts that are easy to use for a novice and most hosting companies offer these kind of scripts with support too. If you use WordPress there are a bunch of form plugins that take the coding aspect off the table.
No need to panic!
Some are concerned that site visitors won’t contact them at all if they remove those links. This is simply not based on fact or pattern, or my experience in the 20+ years being an online consultant.
When it comes to a business site a clickable e-mail link is opportunity lost. You want to be able to get information such as contact name, e-mail, phone etc. Asking a few short questions so that you can properly respond is not a bad idea either!
Why encourage potential customers who would not contact you simply because they have to provide some basic information? In my experience, these contacts coincidentally tend to not be those you can turn into a profitable customer. Qualifying potential customers is core to all successful businesses!
If you have a form that is user friendly and makes sense to the requests that would be initiated by your site, visitors will complete the form. And, you get the valuable information you need to provide a prompt and efficient reply. Just don’t go overboard asking for everything including their shoe size when all they want to do is ask you for more info.
Avoid Unknown Unsubscribes
Unless you know for a fact you have subscribed to receive e-mail or offers from a specific company just hit delete. Do not respond to unsubscribe instructions from unknown senders that require hitting reply or clicking a link.
Sneaky Spammers who instruct you to hit reply and type “unsubscribe”, want you to confirm your address to be “fresh”. Clicking the link could direct you to a phishing site trying to get login or personal info from you. Understand these folks send out to 10s of thousands, if not 100s of thousands of e-mail at a time. By e-mailing them back they know your address is a live one to be kept on the lists to be sold again, and again, and again.
I am not saying all companies work like this. You can tell the cheesy gimmicky e-mails from those legitimate (and I use that term loosely for those who Spam) businesses trying to get exposure in your inbox. As with most issues online use your common sense!
There are unsub procedures from mailing lists or companies that you did sign up for that are valid and effective procedures. This recommendation only applies to those that are sending to you without your previous permission.
Freebie Accounts Do Have Benefits
Use a free web-based e-mail account to subscribe to mailing lists, forums and public discussion groups. These areas are where a great deal of e-mail address farming is accomplished. If you find you are getting too much Spam to that address, you then have the option to shut it down and create a new address.
If you are sick of Spam, you can report them which could result in their accounts being canceled. The service I use is SpamCop and it’s free.
SpamCop determines the origin of unwanted email and reports it to the relevant Internet service providers. By reporting spam, you have a positive impact on the problem. Reporting unsolicited email also helps feed spam filtering systems, including, but not limited to, SpamCop’s own service.
I subscribed because I felt I used the service enough to help support their efforts. The paid service gives you a SpamCop email address so you can filter all your emails through their site to alleviate some of the Spam from ever making it to your inbox.
With this service, accounts can be canceled due to your complaints. While you may only be making a dent in the Spam out there there is nothing like getting that email with the words:
"Thank you for making us aware of these activities. This user’s account has been cancelled."
Cheap thrills – get them where you can! 😉