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Spam conversion statistics

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Friday November 14, 2008 )

I’ve always been curious about spam response rates – here’s some interesting stastics from a “controlled” spam campaign.

A study was carried out earlier this year by researchers at University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego who infiltrated a major zombie network (botnet) to try and track activity. A zombie is a machine that has been remotely hijacked for nefarious purposes such as becoming a spam relay – and the owner of the system is usually none the wiser.

The network the researchers observed, known as Storm, was believed to have 1 million computers at its beck and call.

So how did they track and measure conversions? By hijacking the hijacked and sending out their own spam pharmaceutical campaign. I’m not sure if or how they were able to legally do this, but anyway.

The results – after a few weeks and nearly 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales – a 0.00001% conversion rate. All that garbage, all that bandwidth, all that annoyance for a few thousand dollars gross. It seems that consumers are learning to ignore spam.

It’s quite possible that the researchers weren’t marketing gurus and the products being touted would only appeal to a small group – but from what I’ve seen, many spammers aren’t marketing geniuses either; very much favoring quantity over quality.

So the moral of the story – don’t do spam, it’s just not worth the legal risk given the return – not to mention the ethical considerations. Unfortunately in many countries, just USD $500 in revenue can amount to a month’s pay (even in the midst of an ailing US dollar), so spamming will remain attractive to many.

However, legitimate email marketing to people who have confirmed they want communications from you is another story altogether – it’s a great way of generating added revenue for your business. One company I’ve worked with used to somewhat dread the day I sent out their newsletters as their phone lines and inboxes would be swamped with sales inquiries. It was a tough problem to have :).


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