Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2004
Just yesterday, I received over 40,000 emails from a person who had harvested a contact email address from one of my websites. The person may or may not have personally secured my email address, but since I use it only to receive email feedback from my website and never to send mail, I know that it was a harvested address. Because of the nature of my use of this email address, I also have a "Thank you for contacting us." autoresponder message in place there.
My server was mad at me. My entire system was mad at me. I couldn't conduct my normal business and send out email that needed to be sent out, because my computer was hard at work downloading email upon email.
How can something like this happen?
Simple enough, really. My email was picked up off of my website and added to an autoresponder. If it had been a regular email account, I would have received an unsolicited message that I would have easily deleted, no big deal. But since my email address was attached to an autoresponder, it started a vicious cycle of email autoresponse.
The person who had sent me the email - well, they ended up with 40,000 "Thank you for contacting us." emails in their box from me.
I'm sure that that wasn't very pleasant for them, either. And the fact of the matter is that they may have not even realized that they had done anything wrong.
Spam is bad. Not all spammers are bad people, though. Some of them are just misinformed or inexperienced Internet marketers.
I'm the first to admit that marketing can be frustrating. Just when you've hit the wall and can't think of another fresh marketing idea to get new people to your site, along comes a company that offers you a list of 100,000 email addresses for just $24.95 or some other unbelievable deal. Wow! What an opportunity! Affordable, even! It's hard not to jump all over an offer like that.
But beware! It's hard to say where those email addresses are coming from.
Many unscrupulous companies use "harvesting" software that spiders the Internet and lifts email address off of websites. They then compile lists of these email addresses and sell them as "opt-in safelists" for profit.
As a marketer, using these lists can get you in tons of trouble. Once labeled as a Spammer, it is hard to rid yourself of that reputation, whether you were spamming on purpose, or you were a victim of a bad "list". You can be dropped from your hosting service or ISP. Companies that you are promoting using Spam will cancel your accounts.
Bottom line: If you are not sure that it is NOT Spam, then don't do it. Develop your own list of opt-in subscribers by offering a newsletter, free information, or something else that will get people to take notice of you. Both YahooGroups (http://groups.yahoo.com/) and Topica (http://www.topica.com) offer free, easy-to-use service that will manage your subscribers for you. You can find other similar services on the Internet. This is one of the most responsive forms of advertising, because you have the opportunity to develop a relationship with your list members.
You can also use a mailing list building service, such as Free Mailer 2000 (http://www.freemailer2000.com), although you will need to advertise your mailing list builder site in order to build your mailing list.
Safelists can be another safe way to get the word out about your business, but vary in responsiveness. I recommend the services of SafeListBoys (http://www.safelistboys.com) to help you find lists and easily manage your safelist activity for a small monthly fee. You can also find new safelists by entering "safelists" in any search engine, but watch out for those "BULK" mailing list services that may fall in the unscrupulous SPAM category. Rule of thumb, if you aren't a member yourself and know for a fact that the list is opt-in, don't use it!
If you are choosing to spam, stop immediately. It may be getting you a handful of responses right now, but the painful consequences of your actions can cancel out any benefits that you may find.
If we, as an Internet marketing community, would all agree to market responsibly, the Internet would soon be a better place to work and live. What comes around goes around. Spam not, lest ye be spammed.
About the Author
Mari is the author of MarketingPitbull, a truly step-by-step guide to creating exponential traffic flow and a residual income online, with or without your own product. Find out more about MarketingPitbull at: (http://www.marketingpitbull.com)