5 Myths About Spam
This article was originally written for ArrowQuick Solutions, a technology consultancy for small businesses.
Spam — unsolicited email — is rarely wanted, but seems to be everywhere. Research firms estimate that anywhere from 70% to 97% of all email is spam. Here are five common misconceptions about what spam is and how it affects your business.
Myth #1: Spammers are idiots. I mean “idiot” as in misguided, or stupid, or lazy. There is one hard-working sector of the spam “industry”. In order to get past spam filters, the people behind spamming software must stay one step ahead of them. It’s a constant battle between spam and anti-spam software writers.
It’s also hard to argue that the actual spammers who use the spam software to promote their products are uninformed. They might be lazy and unethical, but spamming can actually pay off. Let’s say you send 350 million spam messages in a month, selling a product that costs $100. If only 30 people respond (a conversion rate of under 0.00001%), then you’ve made $3,000 in a single month doing nothing. (This is not an endorsement to be lazy or unethical.)
Myth #2: Spam is mostly annoying, but not really harmful. Spam costs you in lost productivity and extra technology. Millions of dollars are spent combatting spam in the U.S. alone. Even if you are not directly paying for it, the costs of spam are being passed to you through ISPs and hosting companies.
Myth #3: Spam is not my problem. Spammers manage to send their billions of emails by distributing the load across the world through “botnets”. A botnet is a collection of remotely-controlled computers that have been taken over by viruses, rootkits, and other malware. If you’re not careful, your computer could be sending spam without you ever knowing. Everyone must take responsibility by practicing safe computing and keeping their PCs virus-free.
Legislation isn’t going to stop spam. New technology won’t get rid of it completely either. We all have to do our part.
Myth #4: Legitimate marketers don’t spam. Surprise: If you are sending email newsletters to your customers without a physical address or an “unsubscribe” link in them, you are legally a spammer. Many companies also “look the other way” or outsource their marketing to less-than-reputable agencies. Don’t do it. You’ll get much happier customers and more sales by using a dedicated, compliant email service such as Constant Contact. (Full disclosure: both you and ArrowQuick will receive a $30 credit if you sign up using that link.)
Myth #5: I can’t do anything to stop them from spamming me. Spammers can’t send you email if they don’t know your email address. Only give out your email to people and businesses that you trust. Don’t publicize email addresses on your corporate website without protecting them. Don’t perpetuate the “forward this email to 10 friends” chain letters. Use an email system that has a strong spam filter.
The good news is that click-through rates for spam are decreasing, major spam networks are being taken down, and filtering technology is constantly improving. The bad news is that spammers will feel the need to compensate for this by sending out even larger volumes of spam.
Photo courtesy freezelight.