Spam — which may be defined broadly as unsolicited communications — is a big problem for many business owners.
Spam takes many forms. Most obviously, it fills our inboxes with indiscriminate and poorly written pitches for just about everything under the sun. It bloats our online conversations in the form of automated comments. It even dials our personal cell phones, sometimes dozens of times a day.
While no anti-spam measure is perfect, there are some simple steps you can take to radically reduce the amount of automated noise competing for your attention.
Mitigating Spam is a Double-Edged Sword
First, we want to make this point abundantly clear:
Spam mitigation techniques are truly a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, research affirms that publishing your business contact information, plainly and obviously, increases trust and thereby conversion. Your customers want to know that they can ask a question and get a real answer from a human being.
Conversely, measures like CAPTCHA’s introduce a source of friction, however small, into the process of communicating with you. Many of your customers will understand and endure the minor inconvenience; some may not.
The flip side is that publishing your contact information to the internet immediately opens a Pandora’s box that you cannot easily close. Once spammers’ automated crawlers get ahold of your details, they may continue to abuse them for months, even long after you have removed mention of them from your website.
Finally, whatever measures you choose to implement, do take care to occasionally review any communications which have been quarantined as spam. Innocent messages can and do get caught in the cross-fire; you’ll want to ensure that legitimate activity isn’t left to linger in purgatory.
Akismet for [WordPress-based] Comment Spam
In our experience, Akismet is the most thorough and sophisticated anti- comment spam plugin for WordPress. Its algorithms are regularly updated to screen for the latest in spammers’ message signatures.
We install Akismet and provide our developer’s license key to all of our hosting clients, by default.
G Suite for Email Spam
Of all of the email providers we’ve used, G Suite consistently does the best job of differentiating between legitimate and spam emails.
They also offer enterprise-grade email at a very competitive price point, for as little as $5 per month, per mailbox.
Google reCAPTCHA for Form-Based Spam
There are several prominent anti-spam techniques you can attach to your forms; the most effective, by far, is Google’s reCAPTCHA.
The Invisible flavor only prompts a human user to solve the CAPTCHA in a minority of cases; thus, it strikes a terrific balance of flagging the vast majority of spam with minimal nuisance to your actual customers.
Our preferred forms plugin, Gravity Forms, is also readily compatible with reCAPTCHA.
Google Voice for Telephone Spam
Many of our clients are solopreneurs who use their personal cell phone to conduct business. Publishing your phone number to your website — any phone number — invites unsolicited callers, both of the automated and human variety.
One way to mitigate this is to claim a free Google Voice number, and then forward it to your phone. Again, it introduces a minor inconvenience to your real customers, but will succeed in filtering out a vast majority of the spam.
- Use Akismet to reduce your WordPress-based website comment spam.
- Use G Suite (as your email provider) to reduce email spam.
- Use Google’s reCAPTCHA to reduce form-based spam.
- Use Google Voice to reduce telephone spam.