Spam Works

So far today, our mail server has tagged about 1950 email messages as spam. It’s still early. In a typical day, we see about 4500 spam messages. That’s about 56% of our total email volume.

Every week, I field questions about spam. What can we do? How do we get on these lists? Don’t we have a filter that takes care of this stuff?

The problem is this: Spam works. According to CipherTrust, it costs $0.0004 to send a spam message. Let’s say half of those messages are actually delivered to people. The others are sent to bad email addresses or are caught by filters and not delivered. Now, 500,000 people see the spam message. Let’s say 1% of them actually click on the link and go to the site, and of them, 1% actually buy something. How much money does each person have to spend to make this worthwhile for the spammer? $8. After that, it’s all gravy.

Unfortunately, spam is much more lucritive than that. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that 5-6% of adults purchase products from sales spam. CipherTrust pegs the response rate for pornography-related spam at 5%. With numbers like this, it’s easy to see why the problem is getting worse.

The response rates for other types of spam are lower. Only one in 13,000 people respond to Rolex watch spam, while one in 150 buy prescription drugs through spam messages. Still, until we stop clicking on the links and buying the products, the problem isn’t going to get any better.