Archive for May, 2007

Getting Rid of Spam–Why Is There So Much?

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Spam is advertising!

By advertising we mean an attempt to get you to buy something or like something. It is not profitable for businesses to spend money getting you to buy or like something unless you spend more money than the cost of the advertising and making the product. Email is probably the cheapest way to communicate a message to specific individuals and the recipient and the internet service providers bear a lot of that cost, not the spammer. It is certainly cheaper than television, but it is also significantly cheaper than the direct mail campaigns you get in the postal mail. Consequently, the response rate can be incredibly low and still be worthwhile to the “business.” By business, we mean legitimate corporations, sole proprietors, as well as black marketeers. (Yeah they are running a businees to; it is just not considered legitmate.)

Consequently, unwanted email is here to stay.

While some email is very obviously spam, some unwanted email is nothing more than bad judgement by someone you met a recent networking meeting trying to extend their legitmate business connections. Hopefully, you can send them a nice email to express your dis-interest or just delete those emails as the cost of being an active networker.

The obvious spammers are much harder to deal with. In all cases remember that these people do not respect the law and that they have set-up a marketing businesses. This fact means that it is their business to identify real potential targets for a real advertising campaign they either develop or are paid to send out. They may or may not selling the actual illegal pharaceuticals themselves.

Technically marketing and advertising are two different steps of a business’s efforts to get you to buy something. Marketing is the process of determining who might buy and what would induce them to buy. Advertising is developing a sales pitch that will reach that defined market using the defined inducements. Successful marketing determines the potential success of the advertising campaign. Said another way, advertising can be no more successfull than the underlying marketing campaign, unless the business gets really, really lucky.

After a spammer has set-up his technological infrastructure, he has to do the marketing.

  1. he must identify real email addresses (his general target audience)
  2. she must identify something that person might be interested in (her refined target audience)
  3. he either sells that information or puts it into his database of recipients for his other (quite possibly illegal) business operation(s) advertisements. (his advertising)

A direct mail campaign often starts with someone buying either a targeted list from someone or buying a general list with other data and doing some analysis of the data themselves. (We’ve assumed that they have already identified who they want to target. For a variety of reasons, the most obnoxious (high volume) spammers do not really care about highly refining the target set of individuals.)

A spammer has several ways to build his list:

  • They can buy your email address from someone.
  • They can create software robots that search all of the websites out there for email addresses that are encoded on the site’s pages.
  • They can send random emails (it is really cheap.)

At this point it is important to remember that spamming is still a business, even if the distribution costs are really low. So spammers prefer to send email to addresses that are real. Consequently, the put tracking mechanisms in their emails. If you open the email they send, you are confirming they have a real address. If you follow any links, they know you have an interest.

The spammer has just completed his marketing to you because you have been identified and confirmed. They can now send even more spam your way. To me it seems like they tell all of their friends, but it is more likely that each spammer simply markets a for a variety of businesses.


Therefore, no one technique will foil spammers. Although there are many different approaches, they can be divided into the following three categories:

  • Techniques that use sophisticated software to identify spam so that you do not get advertisements for medicine or pornography that you do not want. These are the most important ones you can take.
  • Techniques that make it harder for spammers to find your address
  • Techniques that allow you to filter your email so that you open less spam. (This last one may sound like a nuisance, but it actually very important because they are constantly tracking what emails get opened.)

Over the next few posts, I am going to discuss these techniques in much more detail and give you some valuable insight.

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