How To Reduce Your Email Spam by 75%

By Yaro Starak
21 Comments

I realize there is plenty of advice online regarding this topic but this is one area where you can’t have too much advice so I’ll tell you my short story about how I cut the amount of spam I receive by about 75%.

It finally got to me last week. I’ve been dealing with about 200 to 1000 spam emails coming in each day and just filtering it using Mailwasher (aff) was turning into a job taking an hour or so a day – that’s what I call time wastage! The problem is most of it was coming to @betteredit.com email accounts which have been around for many years now since the website is nearly 6 years old. That’s a long time for the SPAM bots to get a hold of the domain name for spoofing and spamming.

Another problem was that I have the admin@ and yaro@ BetterEdit email addresses splattered on websites all over the place. The admin@ address was also the main BetterEdit email for all jobs and customer queries and had been so for the last 5 years. I was worried about changing it since so many clients are used to the email address.

I investigated my hosting control panel to see whether I could set up the appropriate mail bounce autoresponse and redirection process so as to minimize the risk of lost client emails and slowly phase out the current BetterEdit email accounts and set up new fresh ones. My PLESK control panel/hosting admin system once again delivered.

Here is exactly what I did.

  1. I set up the new main email address for BetterEdit (contact@)
  2. I set up a bounce message to go to anyone who emailed the addresses I was phasing out (yaro@ and admin@). If any real people sent email to the old addresses the bounce message would tell them about the change of emails address.
  3. For the same two email accounts I am phasing out (yaro@ and admin@) I ensured that the email would also be redirected to the new addresses (contact@ for admin and yaroATblogtrafficking.com yaro). That means that any email sent to the old address is not lost since it is redirected to my new accounts plus any real people get notified of the change of address from the bounce message. I will eventually remove the redirects after a few months once I am sure everyone has realized the email accounts have changed. I want to keep monitoring the old addresses for a while yet just in case.

Encoded Email

That ensured the switch to new email accounts was complete. Now the next step – and I think is why the real spam reduction took place, so pay attention and do this yourself – was to encode all the email addresses I publicly place on my websites. To do this I made use of character entities and the fantastic free online tool at http://www.wbwip.com/wbw/emailencoder.html.

The encoding tool is just a web form were you type in an email address and it spits out the appropriate character entities to generate the website address. For example, this email address –

yourname@domain.com

In the source code would look like this:

yournam
e@domai
n.com

If I placed those characters into the code of a webpage they would appear as yourname@domain.com to people viewing the page through a browser.

This is supposed to help with reducing spam because those nasty spam bots which scour the web looking for email addresses to send junk email to don’t pick up the encoded addresses. Now I really believe the spam artists are smart enough to get around this technique, however I think a lot of them are just plain lazy so they don’t bother setting up a system that can pick up encoded email addresses. Most people don’t use encoded email addresses either so the spammers get good results from their bots regardless.

I set up encoded addresses for every instance of an email address on all pages of the BetterEdit.com website.

More Bounce Messages

If you are like me you may have purchased some top level country domain names for your business. For example I also have BetterEdit.com.au, BetterEdit.ca and BetterEdit.co.uk. Initially I had a catch-all email set up for these domains so any email sent to them would be “caught” and forwarded to my actual BetterEdit email address. I had it set up this way because I didn’t want to miss any legitimate email sent to my alternative domain names by mistake.

This set-up was responsible for more spam because my domains are being spoofed – that means the spammers are making it appear that the email they are sending are coming from my domain names. The result of this is that I get the bounce messages or emails from anyone silly enough to reply to spam thinking they can unsubscribe.

To deal with this situation I changed the catch-all settings so instead of forwarding mail to me I have a bounce message directing any real people to my website to locate the current contact details. If anyone seriously wants to get in touch with my business they will go to the website and find the correct contact method.

Great Anti-Spam Results

As I write this I’m getting about 75% less spam than I was getting this time last week. Once I switch off the redirects on the old address it should become even less. That’s added an extra hour per day of valuable time to my business, not bad if I do say so myself! If you are finding yourself dealing with abundant spam perhaps some of my tips above will help you too.

Yaro Starak
Spam Assassin

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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21 Comments

  • Well done Yaro.
    I also posted about my ridiculous amount of Spam yesterday. Although mine’s nowhere as bad as yours, Im getting about 20-30 spam comments a day. Thankfully Akismet works pretty well (apart from the odd one or two comments) so I don’t have to do any work. But the spamming still gets on my nerves!

  • Not to be too negative, but a common email address such as contact@ is likely to get a lot of spam, just as your admin@ address did. (I get a lot of spam to addresses like webmaster@, help@, contact@, sales@ etc which have never existed anywhere)

    As you said, encoding your email address probably won’t help all that much – all it takes is one spammer with a bot clever enough to decode it and it’s all for nothing. If a browser can display something, there’s no reason to expect that a spam bot couldn’t.

  • The other problem with catch-all addresses is that spammers will dictionary bomb word@example.org (e.g. paul@example.org, news@example.org) to see if they can find anyone with that address. I used to get an awful lot of those before I turned off the catch-all feature on some of my domains.

  • I have got to try some of these methods, does that email address encoding work? There is a junk email spam function in microsoft outlook that gets rid of a lot of my spam.

  • Yaro,
    I wrote an article about how to use simple AJAX to hide email addresses. As with the method you’ve outlined, it’s not unbeatable… but it should cut out 99% of the bot ‘scraping’.

    http://15daysofjquery.com/safer-mailto-links/8/

    Jack

  • [...] Yaro Starak of Entrepreneur’s Journey and BetterEdit fame recently posted an article about reducing spam that i personally think is something many small business owners and self employed people who use the internet as a ‘face’ for their business, encounter. [...]

  • I noticed a simple technique elsewhere whereby the email address was placed as a .jpg or .gif file on the webpage. That way human users could easily identify the email address, whereas (I assume) bots would pass it over untouched. The only problem I can see arising is that people can’t cut and paste it into their address bar. As long as you kept your email addresses simple, it should be fine though…right?

  • I went through your comments and I was little amused reading about them. I am administering five online business websites each one of getting more than 1500 unique customers. However, the spam mails are less than 20.

    My secret is very simple. All the queries, and ordrs on my websites are through forms. So my email address is never displayed. If there is need to display email address, I display it as an image. There are also simple javascript solutions to display email addresses which do not get spidered by the email harvester robots.

  • Hey Mr (or Mrs) Google Success – Using forms is definitely good advice, not just because of spam problems – also so you can capture lead information. However in my case there are some instances were I have to use an email for simplicity sake since my audience has trouble with English – following even the most basic instructions can be beyond them. The same can be said for using a graphic image for an email address – my clients would make a typo typing the email address in. Also, some people, definitely a very small minority, browse with images turned off – the same goes for javascript being switched off.

    I think one of my biggest problems is email spoofing – I get a lot of bounce messages back to my addresses.

    Each step forward against spam is a good one though so thanks for your advice.

  • Another great tool is spam assassin; Google for it…

    On our servers, it tags the e-mail with a message saying that it is possible spam — based off many algorithms. After that, you just use your e-mail client to filter your e-mail and find the messages that have been tagged.

    From my experience, probably one of the best ways.

    Hope that helps.

  • A script at http://www.hidemyemail.ca has worked flawlessly for me for years. 100% Spam free and it’s easy as pie to add a “real” email link to a website, blog or whatever!

  • Thanks Yaro,
    Like you said, anything that reduces spam is worth it.
    james

  • Some interesting thoughts here Yaro. I’ve been averaging between 400-500 emails per day. Fortunately, with my Spamnix addon to Eudora and the filters I’ve got setup. Most spam gets filtered correctly to the Junk Folder before I trash it. I’ve been using my hart (at) various domains (dot) com for years .. but I’ve been thinking of mixing it up a little and reducing the inbound.

    I recently went away for a week and came back to 3300 emails … about 100 were legit that required a response .. 300 were blogging related that took time to deal with (replies, spam, etc)… and the rest were spam – except for 2 fax-to-emails I received .. and I had to wait to download everything FIRST before I can receive and print them = it took me the afternoon to do that. During the day, I usually have my email up and running and checking every 2 minutes so it doesn’t build up.

  • If spammers want your email badly enough, there is little you can do to stop them. If you still think you can, you don’t read widely enough. Spam bots are common as mud and can be confused. But even spam bots are getting smarter and can now read HEX and other encoding. Real spammers now use screen scrapers, so any email address visible in the browse can be detected and saved. Dedicated spammers (making BIG money) are also using HUMANS to read the pages and enter any email addresses they find. So if this is a war, we’re now really in the heat of the battle.

    Forms and ‘bot-testers’ are still good ways to deter spammers from getting your email addresses (provided the address is not in the form code), but they are very bad for business. You are relying on people being able to enter their email address without any errors. Perhaps you force users to verify their email twice? When I see that, I copy and paste.

    Personally, I like to make it as simple as possible for people to do business with me.

    So, is there a solution? At this stage, I don’t think there is anything 100% foolproof. Strangely, my primary email which has been around now for 11 years and used all over the place on web pages, receives less spam now than my Yahoo address, which is only used to subscribe to lists and is never published on a web page. And my brand new ISP email address, which I don’t even use, is already getting spammed. But, that said, I have 8 email addresses and only get 7-8 spam messages per day. So that’s not too bad.

    But that won’t stop me from looking for new ideas to frustrate the spammers. What I am really looking for is a way to send them 1000 emails for every one they send me. Any suggestions?

  • This is fantastic, helpful information. I started my main site over a decade ago and didn’t know any better: plastered my email everywhere. Plus I used to use it in Usenet posts. Good grief. I’m up to several hundred spams a day now and the spammers always seem a step ahead of any filtering programs.

    I’ve been using a jpg file lately, but it’s too late. I’m on the lists.

    Now I just need to figure out a new email address and get started.

    Is there any risk in sending auto responses with my new email address, that one of those responses might actually reach a spammer and get myself back on their lists?

  • Juli – There’s always a risk. For example if one of your autoresponder subscribers decides to publish your email newsletter including your email address then it goes on to the web for any spammer to get it.

    I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that every so often I need to switch to a new email address.

    Although lots of people are using gmail with good results thanks to the spam filters Google has.

    Yaro

  • [...] on how to reduce the spam level posted by Yaro Starak at Entrepreneurs Journey. The article name is How To Reduce Your Email Spam by 75% and it gives an example how the authour of the post achieved such [...]

  • [...] Be careful where you post your email address. Posting your email address on a website leaves it subject to be picked up by spammer email scraping programs. If you are going to list your email address on a website, ask your web programmer to encode your email address. This is a simple step that greatly reduces spam. Here is a link to a very detailed and technical article on how to encode your email address: http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/519/how-to-reduce-your-email-spam-by-75/. [...]

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  • Jan

    I wish I had read this before we got heaps of spam after initially setting up our website! Surprisingly our web developers didn’t have encoding of email addresses as standard practice (they do now).

  • Art

    I wish there was a way to have a no email exists reply sent to spammers. It is possible that spam could be reduced that way. I stopped using a catchall a long time ago, not worth the time.

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