To Spam or Not to Spam

by Tom Snyder on Sep 17, 1998

(originally published when Trivera was named “Websight Solutions)

Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear from one of our clients asking about an email that they received advertising an email list for sale. “$15 for 1 million email addresses.” “57 Million email addresses for $99.” We know about them, because we get them virtually every day.

Unsolicited bulk email (referred to as “spam”) is one of the most effective means of promotion you can do on the net, or anywhere for that matter. And that’s the problem!

Let me start off by saying that we do not advocate sending out unsolicited emails… especially if your site is hosted on our servers (more on the reason for that later). Of the one to two hundred emails I get on an average day, a good 33% of it is spam. For the most part, it’s a pain. But, while the vast majority of it is for stuff I don’t need or want (get rich quick schemes, X-rated sites, toner refills, and email lists for sale), there are some that I’m actually glad I got. I’ve discovered some great sites, gotten some great deals on software, and have even been able to turn that spam into an opportunity to get new business! And with Netscape 4.0’s mail reader, I can configure filters to simply send most spam that I know I don’t want to be bothered with to my trash bin instantly and automatically.

As much as we hate to get spam (and some people REALLY hate it), the truth of the matter is, it works. Everyone that we’ve spoken to who has ever done it says they receive incredible response. And considering the fact that you can snake email addresses from the Web for free, and send them for free, too, that makes it a tremendously tempting proposition.

But, the bad news is that some of that response comes in the form of complaints to their ISP, (which often costs them their dial-up connection, email account and/or hosting service), or in some cases “letter bombs.” A letter bomb is, in essence, a terrorist attack on the sender’s originating or hosting server. It consists of an automated, repeated sending of a huge email to the spammer with the goal of filling up the server with email, and bringing the offender to his knees by crashing the server (whether it be the email server or the hosting server). The problem is that there are almost always other innocent customers on those servers who end up getting hurt by this action.

That’s the reason why ISP’s and hosting services (like us) have to prohibit the use of unsolicited bulk emails by our customers. Our policy is that if we receive a complaint of unsolicited bulk email being sent by one of our hosting clients, we will give them a warning. If it happens again with that same client, we will have to remove that client from our server.

So how can one take advantage of bulk email to boost traffic to their site? While unsolicited email is problematic, solicited email is a tremendous tool. By offering visitors to your site the opportunity to add their email address to a list that receives updated information (similar to the Websight Insight mailing list), you have the opportunity to keep your site top of mind, invite people back, make special offers and build loyalty by staying in contact.

We have several clients doing just that. A few of them have email lists that total into the thousands. And while that falls short of the 57 million addresses for $99… it may be better to have a thousand people who WANT to receive your email, than 57 million who don’t, and a potential loss of your internet connection and Web site!

Websight Solutions offers a user-friendly, Web administered mail list manager (with multiple list capabilities) that can be installed on your Web site. We’ll put a signup box on your site and provide you with a password-protected administrative module so you can easily manage your lists yourself.

While this will get return visitors to your site, the question remains of how to you use the Internet to drive new people to your site. That’s a question we’ll answer in our next issue.

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