| Thursday July 24th 2014

Feedburner

Subscribe by email:

We promise not to spam/sell you.


Search Amazon deals:

How Viagra spam works


Speaking of \/1@grA, there’s no escaping spam these days. Even with the best Bayesian filters, blacklists and other filtering techniques, most of us are still plagued with an endless stream of invitations for all sorts of weird and wonderful products and services. How Viagra spam worksOne of the most common forms is advertising for pharmacological products – and perhaps the most notorious form is for the “men’s health” variety- notably Sildenafil citrate, more commonly known as Viagra. But how do spammers make their money?

In the US, Viagra is available via prescription only, and will cost around $10 per pill. Pfizer still control the production and distribution of Viagra in the US, so in essence they can control this price to maximize profit and to recoup the cost of development.


However, in certain countries (for instance, India and Mexico), the patent on Sildenafil citrate has expired – meaning that it can be manufactured in these countries very cheaply indeed. Pharmacy websites have sprung up to act as a channel for distribution, likely operating outside of the USA, and charging in the region of $2 per pill – and at nearly a fifth of the cost to the US consumer, this mode of distribution is a very popular way to buy Viagra online.

With this profit comes great competition, however, so off-shore pharmacy sites have resorted to one of the most popular forms of product marketing on the internet – affiliation. With massive profit margins to fall back on, pharmacy companies can easily offer commission rates of around 40% to their affiliates – a very tempting offer to some people.

Affiliation of this nature is ideally suited to spam – the affiliates are legally separate from the online pharmacy, so the pharmacy itself is in no way liable for the illegal bulk email – the onus there falls to the mysterious spammer, likely hid behind false identities and proxy servers. Obviously, for the pharmacy this is ideal – and it provides an ideal opportunity for spammers to make a quick profit.

Gmail Viagra spam web 2.0Click rates for email campaigns are difficult to know exactly – it largely depends on the campaign, the success in evading email filters, and the format of the email itself. However, generally speaking it is very low – reports suggest a typical figure of around 0.02%. Supposing the spammer sends 1 million emails in a day – not an unlikely figure given the ease of sending email – this means the spammer can expect to see 200 clicks through to the online pharmacy store.

Conversion rates are likely to be much higher – I would expect 1% to be a typical figure, but again, this can vary between campaigns. At this figure, then, the spammer can expect to see a handful of orders per million emails. Typical order values are quite high though – price breaks help push the lowest viable purchase to at least $100. If we assume $100 as the average transaction, 40% commission means the spammer will net $80 per million emails sent – all considered, not a bad return.

Of course, there are running costs involved – DSL lines, computers, email lists – but assuming the spammer can send a million emails a day, he/she will earn $29,200 per year – not a bad sum, considering the minimal work involved.

And if you scale up the figures – say the spammer has the capacity to send 5 million emails a day, and the capability to attain the same sort of conversion ratio, then the potential yearly earnings are $146,000 – an impressive amount by any standards.

Of course, there’s a lot of competition out there – and only a limited number of erectile dysfunction sufferers, so these figures have to bottom out somewhere. As spam filters get better, conversion ratios will drop, so the harder a spammer has to work to hit those targets. I’m not confident in the example figures quoted in this article – there are too many factors to accurately predict conversion ratios and conversion rates. But, my email inbox will attest to the same – there certainly must be more than a few individuals out there making a living from this virtual form of ‘hard’ drug pushing. And all it takes is a few emails…

Related Posts: On this day...

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.