Signature files have been around since, well, before most current onliners were even aware that e-mail existed. Most will use their signature file as a quick identifier of who they are and what they do and provide a link to their website. Those online for personal reasons will serve up witty, clever and many times interesting quotes.
If online for commercial gain, the most important reason to use a signature file is that it allows you to promote your Web site indirectly, by simply going about your daily online business. Whether you are posting on message boards, e-mailing other site owners or participating in mailing lists, your signature file gets your basic information and a link to your site in front of everyone you e-mail or just read your post on a message board. Signature files are the ultimate in online passive promotion when used properly and effectively.
Let's first cover the DON'Ts
DON'T include everything about you in your sig file. If you have a website, include your URL to ensure the recipient can find out whatever they like about you. That is really what your sig file is for. Keep it to four to six lines, max. To have your pager, cell, home, business, work, accreditations, associations and slogan about how great you are will lead to the perception that you are overbearing.
DON'T throw in any sales-pitchy hype. Credibility online is very difficult to attain and maintain without undermining your efforts. Refraining from overzealous sales hype that ends in multiple exclamation points suggests you are a seasoned professional. A short and sweet comment about your product or service is sufficient. Let your Web site do the selling for you!
DON'T include formatting in your sig file (or your business e-mails). This includes ASCII formatting, colors or attached animated graphics. If you wouldn't turn your name or title bright red on your company letterhead, don't do it in e-mail.
DON'T close with your signature file reflecting anything but proper punctuation. Capitalize your name formally: John A. Smith, John Smith or John. Not typing your name formally with appropriate capitalization reflects a lack of education and busy savvy.
DON'T use a sig file until you have verified, reviewed and double-checked that all the information is correct. Send yourself a couple of emails and test your Web site link. I see signature files with errors every day! Sigs with errors can give the impression that you don't pay attention to detail.
DO make sure that your signature file contains the basic info a recipient needs to contact you. No need to include your e-mail address - that is automatically noted at the top of every e-mail you send. The only instance where you would include your primary e-mail address in your signature file is if you are using a different or secondary e-mail address to send the e-mail in question.
DO setup your e-mail program to automatically append your signature file. Make sure to include your sign-off so that you do not have to type your name with every e-mail. So, for example you can have:
John A. Smith Widgets Sprockets
Web Site Address Here Slogan
Additional Information Here