SEO Espaņa
website design development & seo europe by craig mclaughlan

What can we REALLY do to stop spam?

I've been using email since about 1992. In those days getting spam in your inbox was a novelty; a "someone's thinking about me" moment.

These days spam doesn't give me that warm fuzzy feeling. Not long ago I was up to 300 spam emails a day.

Currently email users, ISPs, hosting companies and SysAdmins are losing a war to stop spam slowing down the internet, clogging up our inboxes and taking all the damn fun out of emailing.

There are many ways to minimise spam and here are a few:

  • Never use your true email address in a newsgroup.
  • Never put your email address on a website. Use a form.
  • Never give your email address out to anyone unless you are sure of their good intentions towards you.
  • Never send an email to a group of people using CC (use BCC) and NEVER let one of your mates CC you either. (If you work out how to do that, please let me know.)
  • Get a disposable email address from gmail for those moments when you HAVE to give it out. It can de didposed of later if the spam gets too much.

Once your true email address has been harvested by spammers, it is nearly impossible to take control of it again. Loads of spam arrives with an innocent looking "If you don't wish to receive these messages anymore, please unsubscribe here" message. What to do?

If it's from a reputable retailer/business where you have in the past given your email address, it's pretty safe to hit unsubscribe/remove and they will honour your request (it usually takes a week or so for them to clean you out of their marketing database). I'd include Amazon, eBay, Microsoft, and similar in this list.

If it's from Bob's Online Drugs, don't go near it. The spammers will know from your remove request that your email addy is valid, and guess what? You'll get more!

There are lots of good tools for filtering spam:

  • Gmail has a spam filter that has good reputation.
  • Thunderbird, sort of an open source version of Outloook Express, has a good spam filter.
  • Cactus has a great filter, and it's free. It takes a little training, but nothing an average PC-user can't handle.

The ISPs and hosting companies join the battle!

These days many ISPs and hosting companies are offering spam filters to their subscribers. These vary in quality from excellent (congrats to the boys at United Hosting U.K. for their hard work) to useless ( no names here).

Additionally, many ISPs are using blacklists (databases of suspected spammers) to filter email. These are well-intentioned but not very effective. It's easy to innocently get onto one of these lists, it isn't always obvious you are blacklisted, and it can be very difficult to get off, especially if the ISP is slack about honouring requests from genuine hosing companies (Hotmail can take weeks).

In the meantime you can find thatlots of your outgoing mail never arrives.

Even the legislators take notice

Legislation is a nice idea but it ain't helping; how can we possibly get all countries to make sending spam illegal? Some countries have better things to do (like feed their people) than concern themselves about spam. (Russia was an example, although they seem to have improved.)

We've done our best to keep our true addy a secret (of course it defeats the purpose if no-one at all has it!), we've got some proactive strategies, some filters, and an unseen army fighting the spam war for us, but we all know that what'll be waiting for us the next time we open our inbox, so let's try to
think imaginatively about this.

Why do spammers send spam?

It's cheap. Ridiculously cheap to send 5, 10 or even 50 millions emails. The cost is creating the email/message, some nasty software to belt out hundreds of thousands of emails, a PC and an internet connection. But even so, cheap is expensive if it doesn't bring in revenue, so why do they do it?

Here's why...

Because for every ten zillion spam emails they send out, someone buys their stuff!

That's right! Somewhere in internetland, some dumdum is saying yes to

  • a job at home that'll make them richer than Bill Gates
  • getting hot and sweaty about an offer for a 20 cent discount at the "Bring 'em on in Casino"
  • assisting some dodgy African ex-politician squirrel away a large fortune from their countrymen.

The 100% solution!

Now what would happen if we ALL stopped answering those emails?

Well... eventually the spammers would realise they were wasting their money. And then they'd STOP! And then they'd go and get proper jobs and oh... that's asking a bit much.

I know this is wishful thinking, but I feel this is a valid solution to fight spam that is rarely given coverage.

This article was written March 8, 2007 and updated March 8, 2010.

I'm a website consultant and a specialist in SEO. Did I mention hate spam?