Then I made a fatal mistake. I listed that email address in plain text on the site. And in the years following, my website actually became somewhat popular within its niche. This was great for me, but bad for my email address. Because the more popular your site is, the more likely it is to get harvested for email addresses. I didn’t realize at the time how email harvesters work. Spammers have programs that just surf the web all day for them. These programs go to a page, follow all the links off that page, and then repeat the process on the next page. While they’re reading in a page, they’re also saving off all the email addresses for spammers to use.
And I definitely got spam. Not much at first, maybe one spam email a day. But over time, the spam built up and built up. Finally, five years after I’d purchased the domain and set up that main email address, I was getting hundreds of spam emails a week. I got sick and tired of it. Fortunately, I had (and have) the skills to custom program an online form that visitors to my site could fill out. That form would then send me an email. The email address would never be visible in the HTML that the site visitors (including email harvesters) could see.
However, my email address was already out there. It was way, way too late for that. So I made a difficult decision. I deleted that email account. Not right away, mind you. I set up my new main email address, and emailed everyone in my contact list to let them know about my new email address. I checked both emails for a few months. Whenever one would come in on my old account, I let them know about my new email address. Then, finally, I deleted the old email address like amputating a disease-ridden limb. Ever since I developed that form, I have also been offering it as an option to my clients on their site. I share with them the story I just shared with you, and they tend to opt for that form, versus putting their email address on the site.
However, I recently came across an article by an author whose work I respect and enjoy, and I’ve mentioned him in several of my entries. His name is Scott Ginsberg, and he’s the national expert on approachability. He wrote an article on how to make your website more approachable. In that article, he made the following comment: Don’t have one of those stupid forms that says “we’ll try to address all entries and get back to you.” Forms suck. People hate them.
Ouch. Scott, an author I respected as an authority in approachability, had just said that people hated my forms. This is one case where what is best for me and what is best for potential clients of mine is directly at odds. For them, the best thing would be to see my email address on my site, even if I also had a form. Scott pegged it when he said people hate those “Contact Us” forms. However, like many out there, I’m sure you tire of the endless amounts of spam you receive. And later Scott told me that he gets plenty of spam. Understandable, and it merely reinforced my personal experience. So the decision is ultimately up to you. Personally, Email Harvester try to make my website as approachable as possible by listing my office and cell phone numbers, as well as my mailing address. But after receiving hundreds of spam emails a week, I just can’t bring myself to list my email address on there.