WEB DESIGN -- Spam Proofing Displayed Email Addresses
Spam: The annoying unsolicited junk email that gets distributed to lots and lots of people, including you!
It is important to make it easy for people to contact you and others associated with your website, while making it impractical for professional Spammers to harvest your site for email addresses.
Don't Procrastinate On Implementing Anti-spam Measures
Your website has been posted and perhaps you are not getting any spam or not enough to worry about. So, not to worry? The problem is that the spam rate will steadily grow. Some spammers pass your email address on to others, some sell email addresses to spam brokers. Get on one of those lists and you are doomed!
Some Email Addresses Can't Avoid Receiving Spam
As a webmaster for the site, or having a key position in an organization, if you have one of the following e-mail addresses there is some spam that you are not going to avoid. Spam is often sent automatically to the following types of e-mail address:
The spammers try to be creative and hope to get through to somebody. If you get all the default email, then you will get this kind of spam which is sent to all the domains they can find out there on the Web. Some spammers send email to a long list of names such as bob, joe, sally, etc. If it is a church site, then there are the logical names such as pastor, deacon, elder, and treasurer that may get tried. Some spammers simply blast away with random text generators.
There are robots (automated software) that crawl all over the web, visiting every web page they can find, looking for email addresses to harvest. Don't let the robots find any undisguised email addresses on your site.
At the same time, you do want people to get through to you. It is important to be accessible, otherwise why have a website.
Never ever put anyone's email address on your website without their permission even if it is disguised. You can, for example, alias the pastor's personal email address with Pastor@myweb.org but that too will get harvested and before long the pastor will be begging you to remove the alias. As a minimum hide these aliases from the SPAMbots.
You can camouflage email addresses so they are human readable and yet don't look like email addresses to the robots. Or the address they harvest is not the address that is human readable. If this is my email address
what can I do:
- First of all, remove the Mailto: even though it won't fool all the robots
- MyName"at"myweb.org -- most humans can figure this one out
- Replace the @ with a graphical @ so it is visually correct
- Replace the entire email address with a GIF graphic
- Replace @myweb.org with a GIF and use text for MyName
- There is the HTML equivalent for the @ (i.e. @) which can be used, but I suspect the robots know how to read through that ploy. Note, that some HTML editors will automatically change the @ back to an @.
- You can replace the entire email address with HTML code numbers, as long as your editor does not come along and undo your careful work.
My church site has been using disguises for over a year and more than 95% of the email to the site is unsolicited email. The disguises greatly reduce the worst of the SPAM, but there are well meaning people (e.g. Christian businesses, and not so Christian businesses), who will take the time to read my GIF rendered email addresses and type them into their mailing list.
Because of my disappoint with disguised addresses I have gone to contact forms. Make sure the form does not reveal any robot readable addresses. You can now read the Contact Forms page.
Primary Author: David Buxton