A spambot is a program that searches the web for email addresses in places like Web sites, newsgroups, online discussion forums and chat room conversations. The people who write the spambot programs then sell the harvested addresses to spammers.
Email addresses are easy targets because they have a distinctive format: firstname.lastname@example.org
Because it’s easier to prevent spam than it is to stop it once you’re already getting it, you should take proactive measures to protect your email address from being harvested.
One thing you SHOULDN’T do is post your email address on the internet, especially in public discussion forums or chat rooms. Many forums allow you to post with a username instead of your real email address, which is great; just remember NOT to include your email address in your signature line — instead, direct people to your web site or blog if they want to contact you.
At one time, you could fool the spambots by by spelling out your email address phonetically, as in “name AT yourdomain DOT com”. Unfortunately, the humans who write the spambots were pretty quick to catch on and they adjusted their programs to look for obvious decoys. So this approach doesn’t really work anymore.
A more effective solution is to create a small image file (i.e., using .gif, .bmp or .jpg format) which includes your email address — basically, take a picture of your email address and then post the picture. A human visitor can easily read your email address from such an image, but it’s virtually impossible to program a spambot to retrieve an email address from an image (yet).
Another method is to require people to use a contact form on your site if they want to reach you. Just give the URL to the contact form page instead of giving people your actual email address. The problem with this is that it creates an extra step for people who want to reach you–instead of just using their own email program which they’re more familiar with, they have to use your form. It may seem like a small thing, but it does discourage some folks.
Unfortunately, another disadvantage to the contact form is that you may end up with a bunch of comment spam from yet another type of spambot that searches the web for places to dump links to try and get people to click on a site. The way around this is to include a CAPTCHA test (one of those fields where you have to retype certain characters or answer a logic question correctly, such as “3 plus 7 equals what?”) to ensure that it’s really a person filling out your contact form, and not a spambot.
If you’d like more high-tech ideas for keeping your email safe from spammers, be sure to
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Kathy Mallary, the Signature System Coach™, works with professional/business coaches who want to learn how to find clients and make money with their own signature coaching system. Get more free marketing tips and resources for coaches at www.spiritspring.com