On Email / 06 Oct 2014
Ten ways to deal with Email Spam

It’s a sad fact that around two thirds of mails that drop into your in-box are either unwanted and /or malicious. It also true that we can inadvertently become part of the problem. Although there is no silver bullet, here’s ten ideas that will go along way to help

How to Stop Spam: Ten Techniques

  1. Look After Your Email address
  2. It stands to reason that if the spammers don’t have your email address then they can’t spam you. Spammers trawl the web looking for email addresses. If you sign up for things like forums and discussion groups consider creating a free account, such as gmail, specifically for these activities – this way you will keep your primary email address away from vulnerable areas.

    If you have to have your email address on a website make sure that it’s disguised. We use a cunning piece of script that means your name and domain name do not appear to the left and right of the @ sign. So instead of seeing name@domain.com, the crawlers see a bunch of script and move on – beautifully simple and stunningly effective

  3. Use captcha on forms on your website
  4. It’s a perennial debate about whether verification techniques (captcha) on web forms are worthwhile. Site owners argue – with some (but only some) justification – that adding an extra action to a form will drive away genuine enquiries. Perhaps, but this must be set against the fact that they are 100% effective at preventing spam robots hijacking a form to send out their links and messages*. What site owners need to decide is whether the danger of losing a client is worth the world of pain that arises from a form being spammed. For what it’s worth, experience has led us to use captchas by default on any new web form builds.

    *What captchas can’t prevent is human beings (as opposed to robots) using your web form for malicious purposes. Someone wanting to send you a ‘spam’ link or message can, of course, fill in the form on your site, complete the captcha and hit submit. Fortunately it’s rare; spamming is a numbers game and manually filling in forms is not an efficient way of building up the numbers.

  5. Right Click and Burn
  6. One of the ways that anti-spam filters work is to check the contents of your spam folder. Your email provider will provide a certain level of email protection by using known techniques for recognising content, domain names, IP addresses, subject lines and certain attachments that historically indicate spam. If an email scores highly enough on their register they will place it in a quarantine ‘junk’ folder on your server. However, inevitably some will get through. Instead of swearing at it just right click and, first of all, ‘block sender’, then right click again and ‘add to junk’ – doing this will enable spam filters to stop it coming through the next time.

  7. Do not open
  8. Now this is all a matter of judgement – the watch phrase here is ‘If it looks to good to be true it probably is’. I would go further and say that if you didn’t ask for it – don’t open it. And, for the sake of clarity, in nearly all email programmes, opening means double clicking it. A single click allows you to preview the contents – if you don’t like it – see above – ie junk it.

  9. Beware apparently legitimate ‘from’ addresses
  10. Time was when spammers would try to fool you by faking a domain name. So you might receive an email from info@ebay-news.com, a fictitious email from a domain that they have managed to register. However recently spammers have realised that faking a genuine ‘from’ address is not that difficult. It’s the same concept as turning over an envelope and writing the senders name on the flap. This means that you could easily receive an email from info@ebay.com which was pure evil. The best solution, as always, is to rely on your scepticism gene. Generally the kind of messages sent by spammers are the kind of messages that genuine companies don’t send by email,. A bank, for instance, would never email you to tell you your account needs re-activating.

  11. Do Not Unsubscribe
  12. There’s nothing that spammers like more than know you exist – and there’s no better way to tell them you do by hitting the unsubscribe link. Only humans unsubscribe and so, by doing so, you instantly identify yourself as a target. Don’t unsubscribe – just junk it.

  13. Don’t get hooked on a phishing line
  14. Perhaps the most pernicious type of spam emails are those are spreading a virus and those are after your personal details (phishing). It hardly need be said that you should never click any link in an email you don’t trust; the same goes for opening attachments. But a word of warning here – spammers are as cunning as Satan when it comes to luring you into using an itchy ‘click’ finger. Most often this is about appealing to your vanity. Avoid anything that addresses you as ‘valued customer’ or purports to have seen your profile on Linkedin and to have fallen in love with you – however lonely you are.

    Don’t become part of the problem

    It’s all very well avoiding receiving spam but it’s all too easy to find yourself inadvertently sending it. Here’s three ways of making sure this doesn’t happen

  15. Use an ESP
  16. Never, ever send out blocks of emails from your desktop email client (eg Outlook, mac mail, gmail). First of all, the deal you struck with your ISP (Internet Service provider) was that you would use it like normal people – browsing the web, streaming the odd video or music track and send emails to no more than around four of five people at once. They’re not expecting you to send out hundreds of emails to hundreds of different recipients. The reason is that most ISP’s servers are just not designed to cope with it, a sudden spate of emails can really clog up the system and cause it to crash – which is why they’re come down hard on you if you do it. This could easily mean blacklisting your domain – which takes a bit of repairing.

    Using an ESP (Email Service Provider) avoids all these problems and adds a number of other important benefits. We use mailchimp (http://www.mailchimp.com) for the following reasons:

    • It’s a free service for under 2000 email records
    • Mailchimp’s servers are recognised by spam filters around the world and therefore will not be treated as spam
    • By using mailchimp you will be obliged to add all the things that the law requires (eg unsubscribe, why you are on this list)
    • Mailchimp’s powerful reporting system will enable you to track ‘opens’, ‘clicks’, unsubscribes and bounces. Their paid service offers much else besides
  17. Think about your content
  18. When putting your marketing emails together, here’s a few things to avoid:

    • CAPITALISATION
    • Excessive use of symbols (don’t say ‘Save ££££s’ write ‘Save pounds’ and don’t ever use a string of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!).
    • Certain words – ‘Free’, ‘Credit card’ and ‘guaranteed’ are known bad boys.
    • Use of generic or role emails. Spam filters look at the ‘to’ line of emails as one of their important measures. Generic emails such as info@, sales@ and admin@ don’t go down well.
  19. Finally: The All Important Subject
  20. Another of the major spam filter matrices is the email’s subject line. There are two basics here; keep it short and snappy and see point 9 above, what applies to the content applies to the subject as well. As to length, Mailchimp recommend three words as best practice and certainly no more than 50 characters. I have a client who kept telling me she had sent me emails which I hadn’t responded to. Learning this I checked the junk folder and there they all were. What she had been doing – and she’s by no means the only one guilty of this – was to type the content of the message into the subject line. This is spectacularly bad practice, not least because only about ten words of a subject line ever display, but also it’s a gift for a spam filter. The nice big clear space above your signature is there for a reason – for typing the content of your email!

    If you would like help with getting the most out of your email marketing then call us on 020 8659 1457. We have several years’ experience in helping clients get the best possible ROI for their email marketing.