Spam has probably joined death and taxes as one of those things that just can’t be avoided. However, there are prudent steps that you can take to reduce spam or even prevent it, especially if you run or are thinking about running your own website.
One of the chief ways that your email ends up on a spammer’s list is because of the action of spambots. Spambots are robotic programs that systematically go through the world wide web collecting information, in much the same way that search engines crawl the web. However in the case of the spambots they are not seeking information to index in a publicly used search engine. They are collecting any email address that appears in the html code of the web pages they visit. These email addresses are then sold to advertisers.
If you are launching a brand new website and proudly put your email address firstname.lastname@example.org , then very soon you will start getting spam email to this virgin email address, due to the relentless searching of the spambots. It’s a dilemma; you want your web visitors to be able to contact you but you don’t need hundreds of spam emails adding to your burden of unsolicited mail.
Here are a few things that you can do.
1. Use a form to collect feedback from your site. If you use a form to collect information from your web visitors then you don’t have to publish your email address on your site. However, you have to be careful about which kind of form collection method you use. Some form systems require you to put your email address in the html code of your web page. Although your email address is not visible when looking at the page in a browser, it will be collected by the spambots. Remember, the spambots are not human beings, they are only collecting the information that appears in your html code. Choose a script where the email address is kept on your server.
2. Render your email address in the form of an image: Instead using text to show your email address, make a jpg or gif image with your email address. You can match the normal background and text that appears on your page so that the image looks like your normal text. Someone viewing the site can just copy the address down and use it in their email program. Don’t try to be clever and link your image link to your email address, because the spambots will find your address in your html. Once again, the spambot is a robot is “looking” not at your visible web page, but, “under the hood”, at your html code.
3. You can scramble your email using special software or through an online utility. If you go to http://natata. hn3.net/ you can download the Natata Anti-Spam Encoder. You will end up with clickable mailto links which are invisible to spambots.
You can also visit the site: http://www.proles.net/emailencoder/ and scramble your email (but make sure that the link text does not contain your actual email address.
So, it is possible to maintain the interactivity and usefulness of your website, but also to protect your email address from the ruthless spam merchants.
Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor, and social worker. He has been working on the Internet since 1995 and is the proprietor of A1-Optimization, http://www.a1-optimization.com , a firm providing search engine optimization, copywriting, reciprocal linking, and other web promotion services. He publishes a monthly ezine, A1-Web Promotion Tips, available at http://www.a1-optimization.com/newsletter.html