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Look Out For Spam Email Subscribers; Check You’re Getting Your Emails

A macro photo of a flower against a dark background

The first section of this post is specifically for bloggers, the second section for everyone.

Look Out For Fake Subscribers

I suppose it was bound to happen at some point, but it’s worked for so long you get used to it being fool-proof: it seems spambots have worked out how to sign up to and and then, crucially, how to confirm email subscription to blogs.

I discovered it very recently when I opened my email first thing in the morning and found 5 new subscriber notices. As my blog is hardly the most popular I smelled a rat straight away and sure enough these new subscribers had strings of random letters as their email addresses. None of them had included their name. (Whilst I dithered initially about adding the requirement for a name, this event has proved it’s a good idea.)

I expect that quite a number of people are going to start finding these fake sign ups so here is what I did to confirm my suspicions:

  1. I did a quick search on Google for the email addresses. In this case all of those I suspected were listed on sites that compile spam email addresses and no other sites came up in the search results.
  2. After this I logged into my MailChimp account and checked the activity of these ‘people’ – what had they been clicking on? It turned out that there had been traffic to every page linked in the email, including my Twitter account and the Flickr page of the photograph I had used. Every single link in the emailed blog post, baring, surprisingly(!), the unsubscribe link. From here you can delete the spammers. I expect this method is similar for other subscription providers.

You can be pretty sure that if every single link has been followed, the subscriber is a spammer. How many real people will click on every reference, your Twitter link, the link to the original source of the photograph, be from the very same place and have a spammy email address? One in a million, if that.

If you get notifications of new subscribers and you don’t check them all, try and make time to do so. Or, a potentially quicker option, log into the site that hosts your email subscription and check your list of subscribers. I don’t know about other services, but MailChimp is free up to a certain number of subscribers and I don’t know about you but I’d prefer to pay, one day in the far-off future, to send emails to real people who want them than pay right now to send emails to spammers because my subscription form has been attacked by bots inflating my number.

Check You’re Receiving Your Emails

I’m a little late posting this but it’s likely still relevent. Since the recent Gmail tabbed system was rolled out, many blog subscription emails are being placed under the ‘promotions’ tab rather than in the regular, ‘primary’, inbox, so if you subscribe to any sites via email and it seems they’ve stopped sending you blog posts, you may find they’re in your promotions tab, or another tab. This can happen no matter whether the blog is for a site that sells products (shops, for example), or if the blog is just one of thoughts (book blog, personal blog). Whether you’ve noticed a lack of emails you’re interested in or not, it’s worth going to the promotions tab to change the destination of any emails you’d like delivered to your regular inbox. You can do this by dragging on the email and dropping it onto the ‘primary’ tag.

Bloggers: have you found spammers signing up to your site? Readers: are you still getting your emails? (I’m not a Gmail user so I’m interested in hearing about this.)

Subscribe to this site via email and you’ll receive 3 posts a week. If you use Gmail, you may find the posts are stored in your ‘social’ or ‘promotions’ tab.


Laurie C

February 24, 2014, 11:32 pm

I received the email with this post today. I’ve had new subscribers lately, but I thought it was because I was bribing people with a followers’ giveaway this month, so I’ll have to go in and look at the emails now. Thanks for the tip!


February 25, 2014, 2:32 pm

I do have new subscribers that are spam. so what do you do with them?? I use wordpress, is there a way of deleting subscribers??

Katie @ Doing Dewey

February 26, 2014, 1:22 pm

Thanks for the helpful post! I’ve also gotten a few more new subscribers lately, so I’ll look into this. I’ve not been getting e-mail alerts either, which could be a setting that I need to change since I recently switched to self-hosted, but might also be gmail, so I’ll have to look at that too!


February 27, 2014, 12:29 pm

Katie: The alerts could be due to the switch, yes. You want to double-check it’s updated to your new website.

Emma: Responded to you on Twitter :)

Laurie: In your case here the subscribers are likely genuine, though yes, it’s worth checking. And thank you :)



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