One of the greatest challenges of any webmaster is dealing with a flood of e-mail, from visitors, from customers and not to mention the dozens of newsletters and e-zines you no doubt subscribe to. This article will outline some strategies for managing all that e-mail, and spam.
There are several popular e-mail programs out there that are used widely, among those Eudora Pro 4 and Pegasus Mail. My personal favourite is Eudora Pro 4 which I’ve been using for over a year now. Its ability to manage multiple e-mail accounts, and powerful filters make it perfect for people like me who receive and send lots of e-mail everyday.
Dealing with the Flood
It is very important for you to manage your e-mail properly so that you can efficiently read and reply your e-mail without getting lost in the flood. Below I’ve outlined several strategies that you can use.
- If you have a popular web site setup a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to answer some of the most common e-mail inquiries you receive. In Eudora Pro 4 you can setup "stationeries" which you can use to reply to frequently asked questions instead of typing out the same response over and over again.
- If you really want to automate things setup filters that scan for keywords
in incoming messages and automatically reply with one of the stationeries.
The only problem with this method is that Eudora is not a human being,
and cannot judge what the e-mail message is about, it can only scan for
keywords and hence it can make mistakes.
- You can setup Eudora to automatically login and download all your e-mail
before you even get to your computer. This can be a big time saver as the
your emails are already waiting for you, and you don’t have to login and wait
while they download.
- If you subscribe to several newsletters create a folder called "newsletters" and use filters to automatically put all the newsletters that you subscribe to into that folder for reading at your leisure.
- Use priorities and labels in Eudora Pro (it may be called something else in your e-mail program) to flag important e-mail that you wish to answer later and not forget. You could also setup a folder for mail that you want to answer later on.
- Make sure you have a folder called "Permanent" or something similar where you transfer all your login names and passwords from the confirmation e-mails that you receive, and the welcome messages from newsletters that you subscribe to. These e-mails will become invaluable in the future.
- If you have your own domain name and your webhosting company allows e-mail aliases use them! Use several different e-mail aliases around your site for various inquiries such as suggestions, advertising inquiries etc. and then setup filters in your e-mail program to either filter or flag messages that come into your mailbox depending on which e-mail alias the email was addressed to.
One of the great evils on the Internet is spam, or bulk unsolicited e-mail which will fill up your mail box with get rich quick, MLM scams, and "now you can spam millions of others too" offers. Not only do they make it a pain to sort through your e-mail, as you have to examine each piece of email to find out which is a legitimate e-mail or not, but they also add to the time you have to spend downloading email. Below I will outline several strategies which you can use to combat spam:
- Sign up for an ISP which uses a service called BrightMail. This service will automatically filter your email looking for known spam, which it then sends to a seperate web based "Spambox" which you can look through at any time.
- If you have a website, encode all your e-mail addresses using Mailto Encoder.
- Take the time to setup filters for each spam e-mail message that you receive. Look through the e-mail and find a phrase (e.g. MLM works) that you can use to identify this and similar spam e-mails in the future. You can set the filter to either direct spam e-mail directly to your Trash, or a separate "Spam?" folder which will contain suspicious e-mail. You can then look through the spam folder at your leisure.
- One recent trend among spam e-mail is to have a message at the bottom saying that the e-mail complies with some bill (which by the way is still pending approval). If you want to filter these e-mails simply setup a filter to look for "Per Section 301, Paragraph (a)(2)(C) of S. 1618" and you’ll catch a lot of spam. Also setup a filter to look for "Extractor Pro", as this popular bulk-mailing package automatically appends text at the bottom of each email it sends out.
- Setting up filters which look for numbers in the subject line, or numbers in the FROM line is also very effective.
- If you really get a lot of spam you may want to institute backwards filtering, meaning every incoming email is automatically thrown into a special folder unless a filter specifically establishes the email as non-spam. Simply look through the special folder once a day, and create filters for all legitimate emails that you find there.
- To find out where the spam email originates from click look at the view the full headers (in Eudora Pro 4 click the BLAH BLAH BLAH button). You’ll a line there that says:
Received: from mail.inetone.net (mail.inetone.net [126.96.36.199]) by hydra.host4u.net (8.8.5/8.8.5) with SMTP id BAA03736
The "inetone.net" is the domain where the e-mail message originates
- When you receive spam take action! I use SpamCop, a great free service that will automatically track the spam to the originating Internet Service Provider and complain to the abuse department. All you have to do is copy and paste the entire spam email, including headers, into an online form.
- Whatever you do, never follow the "unsubscription" instructions which often appear at the bottom of spam e-mails. These are used for the sole purpose of validating that there is an actual person at the end of that e-mail address that reads their e-mail. If you do send a "remove" message, expect to be bombarded with spam in the next week.
- Avoid as much as possible giving out your e-mail address freely. Perhaps use a second free email address for most of your communications and use another e-mail address for correspondence from your friends, visitors to your website, customers of your business, and subscriptions to various newsletters.