Building a new website? Make it spambot proof
Donald Nelson, copyright 2004
Building a new website?
Make it spambot proof
Spam has probably joined death and taxes as one of those
things that just can’t be avoided. However, there are prudent
steps that you can take to reduce spam or even prevent it,
especially if you run or are thinking about running your own
One of the chief ways that your email ends up on a spammer’s
list is because of the action of spambots. Spambots are
robotic programs that systematically go through the world wide
web collecting information, in much the same way that search
engines crawl the web. However in the case of the spambots
they are not seeking information to index in a publicly used
search engine. They are collecting any email address that
appears in the html code of the web pages they visit. These
email addresses are then sold to advertisers.
If you are launching a brand new website and proudly put your
email address firstname.lastname@example.org , then very soon you will
start getting spam email to this virgin email address, due to
the relentless searching of the spambots. It’s a dilemma; you
want your web visitors to be able to contact you but you don’t
need hundreds of spam emails adding to your burden of
Here are a few things that you can do.
1. Use a form to collect feedback from your site. If you use a
form to collect information from your web visitors then you
don’t have to publish your email address on your site.
However, you have to be careful about which kind of form
collection method you use. Some form systems require you to
put your email address in the html code of your web page.
Although your email address is not visible when looking at the
page in a browser, it will be collected by the spambots.
Remember, the spambots are not human beings, they are only
collecting the information that appears in your html code.
Choose a script where the email address is kept on your
2. Render your email address in the form of an image: Instead
using text to show your email address, make a jpg or gif image
with your email address. You can match the normal background
and text that appears on your page so that the image looks
like your normal text. Someone viewing the site can just copy
the address down and use it in their email program. Don’t try
to be clever and link your image link to your email address,
because the spambots will find your address in your html. Once
again, the spambot is a robot is “looking” not at your visible
web page, but, “under the hood”, at your html code.
3. You can
scramble your email using special software or through an
online utility. If you go to
http://natata.hn3.net/ you can download the Natata
Anti-Spam Encoder. You will end up with clickable mailto links
which are invisible to spambots.
You can also
visit the site:
http://www.proles.net/emailencoder/ and scramble your
email (but make sure that the link text does not contain your
actual email address.
So, it is
possible to maintain the interactivity and usefulness of your
website, but also to protect your email address from the
ruthless spam merchants.
Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has
been working on the Internet since 1995, and is currently the
director of A1-Optimization (http://www.a1-optimization.com),
a firm providing low cost search engine optimization,
submission and web promotion services.
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