Do I include my email address on my Contact page?

March 5, 2007 •

While this isn’t, strictly speaking, the domain of the copywriter, it is a question I get asked quite often. In fact, this question came up recently in one of our forums (see Please critique my ‘Contact’ page.

As you might expect, my answer to this question is based on my understanding of usability, not copywriting. My reading tells me that you should always have your contact details easily accessible (on as many pages as possible). My own experience reinforces this.

If you’re interested, here’s the list of things I look for before buying online from a site I haven’t bought from before:

  1. the Google PR of their site
  2. whether or not their street address and phone number were available on the site – and to a lesser extent, a legit sounding email address
  3. whether someone answered the phone when I called
  4. whether they sounded legit when I spoke to them
  5. the professionalism of their site

But this raises the sticky question of what to do about spam. The moment you publish your email address on the internet (in a regular something@somethingelse.com format, the world’s legions of spam bots will pick it up and inundate you with spam (otherwise humorously known as ‘High Volume Email Deployment’, but that’s a ‘whole nother story’!)

I know from personal experience that the above is true. I receive 400-500 spam emails every day!!! And I’m one of the lucky ones…

But even so, I still think you should include your email address on your Contact page (and on every other page). My reasons:

  1. many of the published instances of my email address are actually in the bylines of my articles – my articles are everywhere on the Web and at the end of most of them, my email address appears. So much/most of the spam I receive is probably due to those articles.
  2. spam is manageable – read on to find out how I do it…

Overcoming the SPAM problem – A review of a spam filter

I simply use a Web host who provides a good spam filter. Check out http://www.aussiehq.com.au. They are – without doubt – the best web hosting company I’ve ever dealt with. (I’ve hosted with Web Central before and I’ve spoken to, and researched, dozens more. AussieHQ are far and away the best in my opinion.) They use a spam filter that’s part of their webmaster config software, PLESK. So if you find a web host that uses PLESK and has an email filter, they’re probably using the same one.

AussieHQ’s spam filter appends a string like “*****SPAM” to all suspect emails (you can actually set the string). You can then set up a rule in Outlook to send these emails to a dedicated SPAM folder, then check this folder a few times each day to make sure it’s not accidentally filtering out legit emails. (Alternatively, you can set the spam filter to simply delete the emails, but you have to be very confident of its accuracy before you do that.)

Additionally, you can set the filter’s sensitivity. i.e. An email must have X number of suspect elements before it is considered spam. I worked my way down from 7 and settled on 2. I find this has the best balance of catching ability and accuracy.

I also measured how many legit emails it caught on each of its levels. I tested each for 2 days. Here’s the results:

  • I get around 400 spam emails per day (sometimes 500-600)
  • In the 10 days I was closely monitoring, I received around 4000 spam emails
  • In that time, I had just 2 false positives (i.e. legit emails flagged as spam) and these were on Level 1 – the most aggressive spam detection
  • I didn’t test ‘7 Hits required for spam’
  • Set at ‘6 Hits required for spam’, the filter let through only around 20 spam emails per day (a capture rate of approx 95%)
  • Set at ‘5 Hits required for spam’, the filter let through only around 7 spam emails per day (a capture rate of approx 98%)
  • Set at ‘4 Hits required for spam’, the filter let through only around 9 spam emails per day (a capture rate of approx 98%)
  • Set at ‘3 Hits required for spam’, the filter let through only around 4 spam emails per day (a capture rate of approx 99%)
  • Set at ‘2 Hits required for spam’, the filter let through only around 5 spam emails per day (a capture rate of approx 99%)
  • Set at ‘1 Hits required for spam’, the filter let through only around 1-2 spam emails per day (a capture rate of approx 99.6%)
  • Oh, and these results were WITHOUT a white list. You can maintain a list of safe email addresses. The system just lets through any emails from these addresses.

Note that I only tested for two days per level, so my results may be a little too approximate in some cases.

For what it’s worth, I think AussieHQ’s product eclipses the product offered by WebCentral and that of Norton Internet Security 2006.

Hope this helps someone!

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