Over the past several months a disturbing spam trend has emerged--spammers exploiting "tell-a-friend" forms.

In most cases, spammers use robots to fill out tell-a-friend forms with email addresses and canned spam messages and send them. Spam sent from a tell-a-friend on your website not only annoys the recipients, but can be a source of spam complaints against your domain.

If your domain registrar (especially GoDaddy.com) receives enough complaints, they can seize your domain and shut down your website. Complaints filed with your web host can result in the suspension of your hosting account.

Protection against these spammers is easy:

  • Remove your form, especially if it isn't driving more traffic or customers to your website or email list.
  • Add a Captcha spam protection field to your form. Captcha fields require you to enter a series of numbers, letters, or words to prove you are a real person and not a spambot.
  • Remove the comment area of your form so users can't add a custom message to the tell-a-friend. Instead, compose a blanket message like "(sender's name) recommends this website to you." then describe briefly what your website does. Let senders know what the message says, so they know what they will be sending.

Apply just one of these suggestions and you'll cut spammers off at the knees.

Here's a quick tip to improve your email open rates and reduce SPAM complaints:

Study what's in your SPAM folder.

If the emails you send to your lists resemble what's in your SPAM folder, then you're sabotaging yourself.

The hallmarks of SPAM are deceptive subject lines and phony senders (From lines).

Take a peek at a recent screen shot from my Gmail SPAM folder.

Recent screenshot from my Gmail SPAM folder

Recent screenshot from my Gmail SPAM folder

Notice any patterns?

  • Subject lines that don't hide the ads for "enhancement" products, designer watches, or debt relief. (Hey, at least the scumbags are being honest with their subjects.)
  • Fake invoices, credit card charge notices, payment bounce notices, and other subject lines meant to alarm the recipient into opening the mail.
  • Fake news headlines. ("Obama is ill!")
  • "Personalization" of the subject line where your email address is used instead of your first name
  • Emails where your own email address is the sender or From line (shown in Gmail as "me")
  • "Hello" as the subject line. This is a very common subject line often used in personal email and by clueless marketers -- not just spammers.
  • Vague subject lines that could mean anything and offer no specific clues as to the message content. ("You've had a real close look, right?")
  • Jibberish subject lines from random word generators. (What idiots think this will work?)

Now take a look at the emails you've been sending. If your subject lines have anything in common with what's in your spam folder, odds are good that you have a problem.

  • Do you go too far in trying to arouse curiousity opens that your subject lines in no way resemble your message content?
  • Likewise, are your subject lines simply deceptive?
  • Do you use a display name and email address (eg., "Karl Barndt" karl@mydomainname.com) in your From line that your subscribers will recognize?

Bottom line: Do your emails build trust and strengthen the relationship between you and your subscribers, or are you trying to trick them?

Tricking a subscriber into opening your email may improve your open rates, but it won't do a thing to improve your bottom line.

So, if your email campaign resembles your SPAM folder, take a step back and try a little honesty. It goes a long way in email marketing.


Social networking is a hot topic among online marketers and Twitter is currently the place to be.

But what exactly is Twitter? At first glance, it appears to be a chaos of short "texts," much like you'd see on your cell phone.

Join me and my guest Warren Whitlock (co-author of the book Twitter Revolution) as we try to nail down what Twitter is and how you can use it in your marketing.

And if you're interested in learning more about Warren's book, you visit his website at TwitterHandbook.com. And you can find his book here on Amazon:

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