Get Control of Spam Just Like A Pro

September 8, 2011 - Posted by to web hosting

If you have ever opened up a shiny, new email account and found it flooded with spam in just a few months, then this article is for you.  We want to tell you how to keep a new account clean or slowly improve an important, existing account over time.  Either way, the tips in this article will help you get your email back in order.

CAN-SPAM Provides Protection - To Spammers
You thought the CAN-SPAM Act was passed into law to protect you?  Sort of, but not completely.  The legislation was setup to help neutralize the worst of the mass mail crowd - think little blue pills, shocking photos and hacked computers sending them out. On the flip side, CAN-SPAM gave more professional companies the legal protection they wanted to tell you about their greatest deal yet.

Here's the basic rules, according to the FTC:
1). The subject can't be sneaky.
2). The email header must be accurate ("from," "to," and "reply-to")
3). The message must be marked as an advertisement.
4). The business location must be listed.
5). There must be a clear way to opt-out of future emails.
6). Opt-out requests must be processed quickly.
7). Businesses must monitor vendors who send messages on their behalf.

Nothing mentions the subscriber actually had to subscribe. Thankfully, many ISPs feel more strongly about the issue of protecting their users and networks by making spam reporting easier.  Too many reports of spam from a sender and the ISP will automatically block all incoming email from them.  That gets attention.

Unsubscribe Links Are Targeting You
Clicking any link in an unwelcome email can be a problem, but most users migrate to the unsubscribe links first.  At one time, it was usually credible companies that offered links to opt-out.  Today, just about everyone offers them.  To a spammer, clicking an unsubscribe link just confirms your email address.  Some companies will use that information to honor your opt-out request, while others will mark the address as a live target.

If the unsubscribe link is from a reputable company, and you recently purchased something from them, you are probably safe.  Otherwise, be sure and keep the clicker to yourself.  (The same goes for sending a fast reply detailing your displeasure.)

Don't Buy Their Stuff
If you receive an advertising email you didn't request, but still decide to check out their offering, you are only encouraging the problem. Best of all, you are probably adding yourself to more marketing lists. 

Can you blame the company or their "partners?" Email marketing is very affordable and the sales generated can be quite large. In business terms, the return on investment is terrific.  The only problem for the company, even a well-liked one, is unsolicited email will eventually tarnish their brand.  That is why the biggest brands rarely abuse the privilege - and they honor opt-out requests.  Making customers upset just isn't worth it when thinking long-term.

Give Your Actual Email Address Some Backup
Email experts usually won't sign up for the latest giveaway or promotion.  They rarely provide their favorite email address to a store checkout clerk either.  If they need to, they use a backup email address for "junk" - specifically setup for the impending spam.  When pros are expecting something important, like winning a free coffee maker and a year's worth of premium java beans, they'll login to the special account to check.  This tactic, helps keep their actual inbox a little tidier.

Worried you will actually like the newsletter? Don't. The sender will happily give you a chance to update your email address later.  Read their messages from your junk email account first.

Upgrade Your Protection
Email providers are improving their spam and virus protection every day.  They have to do it, since spam represents over 90% of email traffic.  That is a lot of wasted bandwidth and storage space.

Better filtering
Gmail and Hotmail provide great filtering technology for accounts.  Login and help mark the junk.  The massive amount of email these two companies process helps them better recognize spam, often through community feedback.  The downside is the large pool of potential targets.  Spammers can easily harvest live accounts through random, automated guessing - and they do.  This is less likely to happen on a large scale with a custom domain from a business email provider or a Google Apps account.

Account Aliasing
Hotmail introduced a new email alias feature this year.  These are setup as temporary email accounts that can be removed when they are no longer needed.  Aliasing works a little like a backup email address, but instead of sending the emails to another account, your main account receives the mail.  If you delete the alias, all emails currently being sent to it will disappear into the Internet's void.  Gmail provides a less traditional aliasing feature, which uses a plus (+) character.  To us, this makes it too easy to detect the actual address and pretty much renders their alias feature useless.

Your Email Address Is For Business Cards
If you are receiving a lot of junk email, you might have publicly posted it on a high-profile website or your company's site.  There are still automated programs, called web crawlers, that go through websites looking for email addresses.  Knowledge of the issue has lead to some active web posters to try to "encrypt" their address.  Programmers are smart and capable of creating crawlers that read "email at domain dot com" or the usual variations.  These guys are always evolving, so just don't publicly post your email online.

That's all of the advise we have for now.  Follow the five email management tips above, and your inbox will have a cleaner, brighter future ahead.