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The Only Spam Filter You Need is Free

You think you get spam?

Gmail's spam filter in action

My GMAIL Spam Folder

My email accounts have gotten over 10,000 pieces of spam in the past 30 days.

Unfortunately, most methods of spam protection fail.

  • The built-in spam protection that comes with the email accounts from your web hosting service marks too many legitimate messages as spam.  The spam algorithms, such as SpamAssassin,  are too aggressive in my experience. You’ll miss many messages you want to see if you rely on them.
  • The built-in spam protection of Outlook, the Microsoft email program, is both too weak and too aggressive. You’ll still see lots of sleazy messages in your in-box, and, in my experience, you’ll also have to read your spam folder to make sure real messages haven’t been filed there.

For many years, my solution was to rely on Spamarrest.  Spamarrest sends a challenge message to anyone who sends you mail, when that person’s email address isn’t in your list of contacts.  This approach was very effective.  I have received only a trickle of unwanted emails, most of those were from salespeople who manually responded to the challenge message and clicked to get their spam to me. I dealt with those exceptions by completely blocking that user or the whole offending domain.

Spamarrest is a cheap (about $50/year) paid service.  It lets you send and receive mail from a web page, too, so you can access your mail while traveling.

The downside of Spamarrest is that a fair percentage of real people either don’t see or don’t understand the challenge message that Spamarrest sends to them.  As a result, I have missed some business and personal messages, including some that were time-critical.  Still, Spamarrest has been the only effective spam fighter I’ve tried.

Until this month.

Over the summer I  tracked the spam-catching ability of the Gmail account I use to connect with Google services.  Though Gmail did not filter messages through Spamarrest, I never received any spam.  The messages in its spam folder were, indeed, spam.  All of them.  Google, alone, seems to be able to separate spam from wanted messages.

So, at the start of October I stopped Spamarrest from emptying my [email protected] and other email accounts.  Instead, I had Google connect to the accounts and get the messages in real time.  It’s worked.

I have received very  few spam messages.  When I have checked the spam folder, all the messages I’ve seen have looked sleazy. Better, no one has told me that they sent me a message that I didn’t see.

I’m sold. I’m recommending Gmail as a spam filter for your mail.  Get a Gmail account and have Gmail empty the mailboxes of your other email accounts.

Note: I am not recommending that you use an Gmail address as the published address for your personal or business life. Gmail is free, and Google has no obligation to you to keep that free service going. There are scary stories of people who relied on Google and Gmail, only to have Google suddenly block their accounts.  I do not want you to trust Google with anything that is critical to you.

Instead, use Gmail as an email concentrator.  Read your messages in Gmail online or else download them to your computer. You’ll like the spam protection.  And, if Google ever decides to stop Gmail or to ban you, you can still access your email through Spamarrest, Outlook, or whatever other method you’re using now.

Give Gmail a shot!

By |2012-10-27T14:52:14+00:00October 27th, 2012|Tips and Resources|2 Comments

How Not to Avoid Spam

One of my clients contacted me today because people are complaining to him that emails they send are bouncing back.  My client wanted to change the contact address on his website to one on another email server that is more “reliable.”

The email system he’s using is the same that over 20 other of my clients have, and none of them have reported problems with messages to them bouncing back to the sender.  So, I looked at his Contact Us page to see if I could find a problem.

Oh.

When we created the site several years ago, the client was concerned about the amount of spam he was receiving.  Spammers were scraping the website and collecting email address.  They then were clogging the inboxes with the normal collection of get-rich-quick schemes and offers for panacea pills.

So, my client asked me to delete the email link and to instead list his address as Name <AT> domain.com.   His address appeared as mine would if I posted my email address as Galen <AT> ozdachs.com.

This method kept the screen scraping automated programs from collecting his email address.  It’s worked for years.

Ozdachs Contact Form

Ozdachs Business Contact Form

However, there are side effects!  Some percentage of his clients apparently cannot figure out how to cut Galen <AT> ozdachs.com, paste it into their email program, edit it to become [email protected].  I’m guessing that they’re leaving in an errant space or to. Trying to send email to Galen @ ozdachs.com won’t work.

Basically, web surfers expect to be able to click on a link to send you email, or else they want to fill out a form.  You don’t want to make it fancier than these two options because some percentage of your potential clients are not going to be able to figure it out!

I use both ways, an email address that leads to a spam protected mailbox and a contact form, to keep my spam down.

The form on the right is the way to contact me that I provide on my business website.

And, I use SpamArrest to protect messages sent to my personal email account, [email protected]  If you send a message to that public email address, you’ll be sent a message back asking you to click on a link to prove that you’re a human before your email is delivered to me.

These techniques keep the automated mass-mailing messages from appearing in my inboxes.

Of course, determined spammers are going to get their message to you.  Some companies hire workers in poor countries to go through sites and fill out inquiry forms with their spammy messages.  And, other bulk-mail senders respond to the spam challenge messages sent out by services like SpamArrest.

But, the use of forms with a CAPTCHA (those PQAJ characters in the picture at right) and the use of a spam challenge system will stop almost all of those unwanted email messages.

These two methods work.  Asking your customers to cut, paste, and edit your email address leaves a lot of people out.

By |2011-11-20T12:13:38+00:00November 20th, 2011|Web Design|0 Comments

Submit to 3000+ Quality Directories — Click Here

A friend is trying to grow her law practice and asked me if she thought this email she received would help get her website noticed:

Subject: Submit to 3000+ quality directories

Do you really know what it takes to quickly
generate high-quality traffic to your Web Site?

Listen up. I must let you in on a few insider *secrets*:

Instead of waiting months to generate sales on your
site, you can start gaining the hits you want right now.

Click here to visit our website

I didn’t click and told her not to go to that site either.

Anyone who is telling you to submit to “3000+ quality directories” is trying to dazzle you with numbers and lead you down a pointless path of quantity.

Think about it.  How many Internet directories do you know about? I’ll guess that you can think of maybe 5, if we stretch the definition to include social networking directories like Twitter and Facebook.  The Internet names that come to mind the quickest, like Google and Bing, are search sites, not directories, so they don’t count.  Directories maintain a list of sites or users, and they provide some information about each entry. True directories like The Open Directory Project and Yahoo! Directory are organized by topic and let you browse as if you were walking down a library aisle.

Even if you were going to combine the number of important search sites and directories, you are still below 50.  You’re way below 50 into maybe the teens if you’re a local business only interested in showing up where potential clients will see you. If you’re selling pet grooming services in San Francisco, you probably don’t care whether or not you’re listed in a Chinese directory.

One search engine optimization (SEO) publication I subscribe to (yes, there are SEO journals!) suggests 25 directories that are worth trying to get in.  Most are manually edited, and they charge a little or a lot to be listed. Yahoo! requires “only (sic) $299″ per year to be listed, but most charges are lower.

Personally, I don’t often use directories, and think I am a typical Internet surfer in that respect. That means a major value of any directory listing is the link which Google sees from that directory to your site.  Google likes links from authoritative directories, like ODP and Yahoo!  When a good directory includes your site , Google lists your pages higher in its search results.

But, submitting to hundreds, or thousands, of unread directories is not going to impress Google or other search engines.  Nor are 3000 submissions going to increase high quality traffic to your site.

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for search engine optimization.  There are no automated steps that, if followed, will guarantee that  your site will show up on the top of results for searches that will make you money.

I stopped my friend from wasting her time and money responding to the spam email.  She’ll be better off doing some common sense optimizations that work!  I’ll share in another post what I told my lawyer friend to do to improve her position in Google results.

By |2011-10-30T10:34:55+00:00October 18th, 2011|Scams|0 Comments

Spam Slowing Down

Spam vs. Good Email Bar Chart

Spam vs. Good Messages for the Past 30 Days

Symantec is reporting a sharp drop in the number of spam messages sent out since July, 2010 when 90% of all messages were spam. Today, they are recording only 73% as spam.

Obviously it’s not time to throw away the spam filters, especially when your email address is on the Internet for business purposes.  I use Spam Arrest and based on the statistics chart for my account this morning, I’m way above 90% spam in the past 30 days.  So, your spam results may vary.

 Check out what’s been done about spam and why the counts are falling.

By |2011-07-05T08:00:39+00:00July 5th, 2011|Tips and Resources|0 Comments

At Least Read the Spam You’re Sending

Received in the Info address in-box of a CPA this morning:

From: Robert Howland
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 7:30:51 AM
To: info
Subject: new client


Dear  ,

We have a few prospects in your zip code  that seek financial assistance. Would you be able to help them?
If you have the capacity to take on new clients, would you phone me?

Regards,

Robert Howland
[company name]
nnn-nnn-nnnn
nnnn Willow Pass Road #164
Concord, Ca 94520

Robert, Seriously?  You’re sending email to Dear [blank] and teasing them with prospects who need financial assistance?

By |2011-06-28T08:23:12+00:00June 28th, 2011|Marketing|0 Comments