Reduce your email spam

by Martin Reed on 29 June 2007 in Articles

As with most things, prevention is better than cure. Minimising email spam is just the same – follow the advice in this article and you should prevent those spammers from grabbing hold of your email address and bombarding you with junk emails from the beginning.

Why you should reduce email spam

Email spam affects your productivity. If you receive a large number of emails per day, it can take a huge amount of time distinguishing genuine emails from spam. This is a time burden you can do without – you should be spending your time answering emails and creating content rather than going through all your emails looking for ones from real people.

If you receive a large number of spam emails, you are more likely to miss genuine emails from your site’s users or from other contacts. By reducing your levels of spam, email communication is far more efficient and time effective.

Steps to take when setting up a site

Firstly – never publish a direct link with your email address on your website. This may have some degree of convenience for users but it will be picked up almost immediately by the email address harvesters that do the rounds online. If you want to provide a link to your email address, remove the hyperlink and take some basic steps to disguise it (for example, substitute the ‘@’ with ‘(at)’.

Unfortunately when you undertake such steps, you can confuse your visitors so this is not a step I would particularly recommend unless you know that they are Internet-savvy and understand how to decypher your real email address.

An alternative you can employ to prevent such confusion is an email contact form. Spammers may still be able to send you emails through this, so it is not always a complete solution. Ensure the contact form has some kind of CAPTCHA system in place, and that your email address is not visible in the code of the contact form.

If you don’t want to mess around with coding or finding a contact form for your site, you may want to try a free contact desk ticketing system such as HelpDesk Pilot.

Steps to take after your site is established

If you are currently being inundated with spam because the spam bots have already obtained your email address, there is only one 100% foolproof solution – change your email address.

This may sounds drastic, but I have done this myself to great effect. Simply remove all cases of your current email address from your website and install a contact form or contact desk software. Then, create an auto-responder for your previous email address to email your new address to all those that may contact you – I found that even when an auto-responder message would be returned to a spam sender with my new email address, it wouldn’t be recognised; the ‘From’ address is rarely monitored by a real person due to the volumes of emails that are sent. Finally, don’t forget to email those on your contact list with your new email address!

Of course, you can always install spam blocking software – if your host provides a server based option, ensure you activate it. I am wary however, of recommending any paid-for anti-spam service as you can often achieve similar results for free by following the steps I have detailed in this article. Remember also, that with anti-spam software you run the risk of blocking emails from genuine users.

The floor is open!

Did you reach the stage where you were inundated with email spam? What did you do to reduce it? What other steps would you recommend people take to reduce the amount of email spam they are getting? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Smiley June 30, 2007 at 6:54 am

Fasthosts (my host provider) provides anti-spam software with its e-mail service. All spam e-mails are clearly marked “SPAM————–” in the subject line and are simply deleted automatically every week. I can just ignore them.

Martin Reed June 30, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Smiley – thanks for your comment. It’s great that more and more hosting companies are including spam protection as standard.

These always vary in effectiveness though, and I would still recommend you at least refrain from publishing your email address on your website.

Remember – prevention is better than cure!

Smiley July 1, 2007 at 4:59 am

I agree. I hate simply putting an e-mail address on the site, anyway.

I find nothing more annoying than needing help, clicking on “contact” to find that I have to open another browser, login to my e-mail and copy/paste an e-mail address.

I always provide a contact form.

Martin Reed July 1, 2007 at 6:36 pm

Smiley – You are spot on. Remember, web users are lazy – you have to spoon-feed them everything – including an easy way to contact you.

Smiley July 2, 2007 at 12:59 am

There is another advantage to using a contact form. It allows you another opportunity to keep in touch with your visitors. Simply add a “would you like to sign up to our newsletter?” question.

It’s amazing how many people don’t think of this simple method to getting people to sign up to your newsletter. Of course, to avoid me spamming them, if they keep the drop-down box to say “yes”, I always send them an e-mail confirmation explaining they have said yes, and instructions how to opt out of the newsletter.

Smiley July 2, 2007 at 1:05 am

Just noticed I’ve spelt received wrong. Fixed now. Good job I took a screenshot then or I wouldn’t have noticed, heh!

Benny November 22, 2008 at 2:54 am

I try to never place a direct link to my email address within my sites. Another solution is to use a redirect address that forwards the email to gmail. In gmail, you can set it up to receive forwarded emails. If a particular address is getting spammed, just delete its forwarding function from your gmail account advanced settings.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 29, 2008 at 1:48 am

Benny – You make a very good point; if you openly publish your email address in HTML it will be picked up by spam harvesters very quickly indeed!

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