DON'T GET ME WRONG...
I DESPISE spam and those that send it (spammers) with a passion. I tend to receive 100+ emails a day and only about 15-20 are relevant! So, I actively use our spam filtering service and love it --cuts back on spam by about 90%. I feel the pain... believe me.
WHAT IS SPAM?
spam ( P ) Pronunciation Key (spam)
n. Unsolicited e-mail, often of a commercial nature, sent indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists, individuals, or newsgroups; junk e-mail.
WHERE DID SPAMMING COME FROM?
Spamming got its start back in the early days of the Internet, and at first, it wasn't so bad. The early adopters that had email accounts, would typically receive an average of 1 spam a day. Ahh, the good 'ol days. However, spamming has now grown to become one of the Internet's greatest Nemeses.
Internet businesses are drawn to spamming as an inexpensive tool for selling. Many of you might think "no way, I instantly delete all spam without even reading it!" However, for every 500 people that delete it immediately, there's 1person that reads it and, for every 100 peopel that read it, there's probably 1person who buys from it. So, in reality, when a company spams a million addresses, they will probably get about 20 sales!
My next statement is probably the most important -- DO NOT SPAM! Although, I realize that spamming does tend to generate a little bit of easy revenue; I cannot condone its use because it harms the entire system in which many of today's businesses strive to succeed.
The Internet is inundated with these emails and causes email delivery delays and routing latency that is unnecessary. It also conditions Internet users to quickly delete their emails without first considering relevancy - this is key because it limits the effectiveness of advertising.
HAVE YOU EVER SPAMMED ANYONE?
Now, we ALL hate spam, but we should be cautious not to generalize or categorize those that send it. There are different levels of "spamming". If you're not careful, you'll probably incriminate yourself!
Think about it. Have you ever spammed anyone? How about this: Have you ever sent unsolicited email? I'd be hard pressed to believe you, if you said, "no".The reason is that the "unsolicited" part of the definition may mean different things to different people.
For instance, if you've ever gone to a website and thought, "let's go to the contact page, get an email address, and see if we can form a partnership or see if our two businesses can benefit from each other." Well, that's a legitimate enough thought, but sending an email to an account gathered off of a site is still considered "unsolicited". Why is this? Because spam has become such a hated thing that the Internet Authorities have begun to seriously crack down on spammers - and so they should. The unfortunate problem here is that innocent people get caught in the mix.
The email sent from a contact page (if not sent within an online form) is "unsolicited" in that even though their site is for general perusal and information they did not specifically "solicit" to do business with you. I know, I know, it's a little bit of 'double-speak'. They may "want" to do business with you and use their website to help you find them, however, taking advantage of that site could still be misconstrued!
HOW CAN WE AVOID SPAMMING OTHERS?
So you say, "well if that's the way it is, how do we get around it?" Well, here's an example followed by a few tips:
One way to increase your site's search engine rankings is by increasing how many sites link to it. Well, one way to speed that process along is to simply ask webmasters to link to you. In return, you link to them and both parties benefit. Now pay close attention to a situation in which I found myself.. I began establishing links with other sites and found that the best way to find sites that will link back is to visit sites that link to mine and then go to THEIR "links" page. From there, I found many sites that have already linked to THAT site, so why not see if they'll link to mine, right?
Well, that's the way I thought about it anyway. I figured that I could visit the site, visit their links page, and then visit linking sites to get a contact email to which I could send a "Link Exchange Request". How could it be spamming, especially if I'm not selling anything? Well, it doesn't matter about how WE rationalize it, it matters how the intended RECIPIENT rationalizes it!
So, in short, that concept worked very well for a while, and many webmasters were linking back. I thought, "great!" Then, I sat down late one night and began doing this for 7 hours straight! Yes, I sometimes work too much... haha. At any rate, I sent nearly 350 requests that basically said the same thing, but I tried to personalize them to each site by using their name (whenever it was part of their email). As the night waned and as I became delirious from lack of sleep; I became lazy. I decided to send roughly twenty more emails quickly before I went to bed. And, instead of looking over all the sites in detail, as I had before, I decided to just email to a default webmaster account.
At first, you're probably thinking... well, then I spammed those last 20 or so sites; and I would concur that I did, in a strict sense. And, it is something I have since never done again. But, here's the key: although I received a spam complaint from one of those "lazy spam emails", I ALSO received a couple of complaints from some of the detailed, personalized emails! I had worked so long on these only to have it reported as spam. A sad day, to be sure. I received very stern warning calls from my Internet backbone providers - not fun for a world-class web hosting company! They threatened to shut me down, and I was taken aback for sure.
The key lesson learned was that even "relevant" email that didn't "sell" anything can be reported as spam if it is unsolicited and not wanted! I'll tell you that MOST of those webmasters THANKED me for sending them my email. They wanted to not only link back to me, but some of them sold me services and vice-versa.
CONCLUSION AND TIPS
Be cautious when sending emails. A single email can get you in trouble! One way to go about contacting companies for issues not directly related to what they are expecting from you is to email a request for permission to email the appropriate person. In other words, send an email stating no more than "I would like to speak to or email someone within your organization that could handle a link exchange request. If interested, please reply with your permission and any relevant information." However, even this is risky and can be reported as spam.
What to do then? The best method is always to call. Find a number on the website and pick up the phone. If they don't list a phone number, move on. Speaking to a live person may not get your goal accomplished, but it won't get you blacklisted on the Internet either!
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