“I get tons of unsolicited e-mail, often the same message from many (20-25) people. Most of these are sex-related, with NO unsubscribe link. There are also lots of other e-mails that are not similar, but mostly sex-related (although there are a few about real estate, vitamins, software, and anything else you can think of). I get between 200 and 400 a day, which makes it difficult to conduct my business. It also makes it easy to overlook a legit e-mail that needs attention.

“I killed that e-mail address for over a year. When I reinstated it, it was only about a month before the junk e-mail began again. What do you recommend?”

Ginger L.

Dear Ginger,

This is a common problem for small businesses, usually triggered when you post your e-mail address on your website. That makes your e-mail address easy pickings for spammers’ harvesting programs. Here are three ways you can nip the spam problem in the bud:

1. Some website hosts allow you to do spam filtering. For instance, I note you host your website with Dreamhost. You can switch on spam filtering within your control panel.

2. You may also wish to disable your domain’s “catchall” e-mail address. The “catchall” address allows spammers to e-mail anyaddress@yourdomain.com, and it will go through. Use only e-mail addresses you actually need, and specify their use – such as yourname@yourdomain.com, info@yourdomain.com, sales@yourdomain.com, etc. You can disallow any others by refusing mail to those addresses. Tech support at your website-hosting company will advise you how.

3. Keep your website hosting with Dreamhost, but consider moving the e-mail portion of your business to an external e-mail provider – say, Google’s hosted e-mail program. This is free, gives you 6GB of space per e-mail account, and has excellent spam filtering that should all but negate the problems you are experiencing. You can use your existing domain name and e-mail addresses, and Dreamhost recently made it very easy to make the switch. (It’s within your control panel under “e-mail settings.”)

And for everyone – small-business owner or not – “whitelist” or add to your address book any senders from whom you DO wish to receive e-mail (such as ETR), so their e-mail is not erroneously labeled as “spam.” If you aren’t familiar with whitelisting, check out ETR’s “whitelist us” page. You’ll find instructions there on how to ensure you get e-mails from people you know and trust.

– David Cross

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.

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