‘Spam’ the word that strikes fear into every performance marketer’s hearts. Ask yourself this question: Am I buying spam leads?

If you answered yes then skip the following paragraph, if no then read below:

So you don’t buy spam leads, eh? Are you sure your database is 100% clean? The only sure fire way to confirm you are free of spam is to phone each of your users to confirm they are who they say they are. I know you cannot do this so I’m afraid you are in denial – you are buying spam leads, now read below.

Okay, so you discover that some of your freshly generated leads that you had hoped to be selling lots of product to are in fact fake, fraudulent fiction. Call it what you like, they are useless and they are in your system causing havoc with email deliverability and corrupting your marketing KPI’s.

So what does spam look like? Well it can be served up in many equally disgusting flavours, generated from:

  • Users – people deliberately entering fake details, either because they are time wasters or are incentivised to do so.
  • Suppliers – a rogue supplier in the chain (often hidden) will happily flood your lead gen. campaign with spam. Unfortunately, email ‘services’ make this possible on an industrial scale with sites like fakemailgenerator or mailinator.com allowing the creation of millions of temporary email addresses on the fly!
  • Robots – or Bots, these automated scripts will hammer your forms, filling-in details automatically at breakneck speed.

I think it is realistic to swiftly arrive at the conclusion. I will always have spam prospects, but I want to limit the damage they cause. Here’s how:

Audit traffic sources  

No source can guarantee to be free of spam however premium it feels or may cost. Take Google CPC for example, which only recently started deducting fraudulent click costs from Adwords billing. By channel, you should be able to place a likely percentage spam count.

On-site verification

In-line validation is available for sign-up forms to help block users from entering fake details. For example, you can force users to enter email addresses with valid domain and email syntax. Better to leave fake prospects waiting on the doorstep than welcome them in for a cup of tea!

Processing validation

Most lead management platforms include validation processes which sit between the site and your CRM system. You can expect to lose between 5-15% of leads via deduping by IP address and removal of invalid email, invalid name syntax etc.

Check to see if your platform uses look-up tables to invalidate previously known fakes or can spot irregular sequencing patterns (e.g. rotating first names, repeat postcodes) that indicate automated hoax submissions

Lead Scrubbing 

Post automated validation processes, a manual sweep of leads is a ‘belt and braces’ approach to fake free lead gen. Just make sure your scrubbing process is fair, fast and transparent for your suppliers to follow.

Don’t pay for spam 

It sounds simple but if you pay for spam leads you are promoting spammers. Spammers can only survive by being paid for what they do. Indirectly paying them only legitimises their existence.

No single one of these measures alone will be enough to eliminate spam. On the flipside, they can also create unintended side effects such as:

  • More Expense – It costs money and potentially lot’s of it from a budget you didn’t plan for – thereby negatively impacting ROI of your lead gen campaign
  • No Sales – It doesn’t directly improve sales growth or revenues
  • Lost Prospects – Making it more difficult for genuine prospects to sign-up. I have had a few instances recently where over-aggressive in-line validation meant the rejection of valid email domains.
  • Hitting Target – Hitting lead volume and budget targets quicker. Perversely, this may not necessarily be a bad thing if your marketing KPI’s are flawed!

Regardless, the one big reason we all should be trying to eradicate spam leads is because they are unethical and have no place in the performance marketing landscape, full stop