Dear ETR: “How can I cut back on Gmail spam?”

“In your article about getting rid of excess spam, you stated that Google’s e-mail service has excellent spam filtering. I disagree with that. I use Google’s Gmail. I receive between 200 and 500 spam messages per day, and several arrive in my inbox. I am very careful what I click into, and certainly never spam, yet I get an irritating amount of Gmail spam.

“Do you know how I might be able to diminish this annoying spam? I am sure that many other ETR readers will gratefully appreciate your help with this problem. Thanks 200 to 500 times.”

Judy H.

Orlando, FL

Dear Judy,

200 to 500 spams a day with “several” in the inbox is not bad compared to the impact of not having ANY spam filtering.

Spam filtering is about striking a balance. It’s better to receive all the e-mail you should receive with the occasional spam arriving in your inbox than to have your e-mails filtered to such an aggressive extent that messages from clients and family are tagged erroneously as “spam.”

Gmail’s spam filtering uses heuristic algorithms to help identify spam. It “learns” what to consider spam when you mark e-mails as “spam”… or when you mark legitimate e-mails tagged as spam as “not spam.”

Because Gmail filters spam based on how you tag your e-mails, you should not mark as “spam” e-mail from senders you DO wish to receive e-mail from. And instead of simply deleting spam from your inbox, check the box next to the e-mail and click the “Report Spam” button at the top of your inbox.

It helps if you receive a large volume of legitimate e-mail. This gives the spam filter a good-sized sample to work with and compare to the spam you’re receiving. If you receive only a handful of legitimate e-mails a day, plus up to 500 spams a day, it will take a long time for any filtering system to build up enough data to accurately separate the wheat from the chaff.

No spam filtering system will ever be 100 percent accurate. In my Gmail account, I receive about the same amount of spam each day as you do. Only 10 to 15 spam messages make it into my inbox each week. And one legitimate e-mail a week (like my sister’s holiday photos) gets erroneously marked as spam. That’s about 3,000 e-mails a week with less than 15 that should have been tagged as spam that weren’t and 1 that was tagged as spam that shouldn’t have been. That’s a 99.995 percent rate of accuracy.

I can live with that!

To summarize:

1. Add the e-mail addresses of legitimate senders to your Gmail address book.

2. Create a filter in Gmail to mark e-mail from legitimate senders as “Never mark as spam.”

3. Check your spam folder and make sure you mark mail in there that was from legitimate senders as “Not Spam.”

4. Mark spam in your inbox as spam.

5. Try to receive more e-mail from a wider range of legitimate senders… if only for a while.

If you’ve published your e-mail address in any discussion forum, website, newsgroup, etc., it may be necessary to change your e-mail address. However, the steps I’ve outlined above should help.

Although David hails from Blackpool, England – which is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of England” – he shunned a career in show business and instead followed a meandering career path overflowing with “life’s great experiences,” working or living in over 20 countries along the way. Chef, teacher of Transcendental Meditation, guest presenter on QVC, earthquake relief volunteer, CEO of a web hosting company, marketer at a radio station and all combined with years of direct marketing, PR and sales experience for clients as diverse as health food stores, small charities and right up to multinational public companies. David brought unique talent and experience to his role for six years as Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Publishing Group. Working closely with Agora’s publishers and marketers to test new ideas and marketing campaigns, Agora’s Internet revenues topped $200 million in 2007. David understands and can communicate fluently with creative “right-brain” marketers and analytical “left-brain” IT and software teams, all with equal ease. He has a proven track record for generating results and creative thinking and excels at making trouble to find new ways of making things happen! He lives on a small farm close to Mount Hood in Oregon with his wife Cinda, a veterinarian, and their four children and a menagerie of animals (no more, please!). When not marketing or brainstorming you’ll find David following a dream of self-sufficiency for food, power and water within 10 years, tending the land and caring for the farm and animals. Not surprisingly, David is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker with many amusing anecdotes from his work and travels over the years.