Spam Traps: What They Are and How to Manage Them Efficiently

spam traps

No email marketer wants to be accused of sending spam. But if you aren’t careful to avoid spam traps, you can end up getting blacklisted.

Of course, we’re not getting all the emails that are being sent to us. If that would happen, our mailboxes would be full of spam.

The percentage of messages that go through to the recipient is never a full 100%. Email server providers make sure that useless spam doesn’t fill our inboxes.

Not maintaining your mailing list can lead to complaints, low subscriber engagement, blacklisting and a drop in deliverability.

Amongst these ‘side effects’, there is one type of email addresses many marketers sometimes are not even aware of.

Spam traps. 

What is a spam trap?

A spam trap looks like a real email address, but it doesn’t belong to a real person and can’t be used for any kind of communication.

It’s a type of fraud management tool used by major Internet Service Providers and blacklist providers to judge your sender reputation . A spam trap is specifically designed, maintained, and monitored to identify spammers so they can block emails from them.

Spam trap addresses are kept secret to protect their identity. They are released to no one because making them public would render them quite useless. These are never, ever used to subscribe to mailing lists. So if a spam trap receives emails that they didn’t sign-up for, these messages are immediately interpreted as spam.

Since spam trap addresses can’t opt-in to receive email, the only way one could end up on your list is if you’re not maintaining healthy lists.

Oooor, if you’re not using proper list building practices, harvesting emails and purchasing lists from a third party. Don’t do that.

Spam trap emails can be hard to find within your database as many may actually look like valid email addresses. Keeping them to a minimum is important for the overall health of your email program.

THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF SPAM TRAPS:

“Pristine” or “Planted” Traps

These email addresses have been intentionally created by anti-spam groups. By leaving them out as bait, they lure spammers and catch them.

They do not belong to a real person. Thus, could never “opt-in” to any list since. It is impossible for the address to initiate, respond or give consent to having received email of any kind.

The only way this sort of spam trap could possibly end up on your subscriber list is if they were obtained without permission.

If you send an email to one of these traps, you will get exposed for using illegal marketing practices. As a consequence, you will get backlisted. And your deliverability and reputation will take a hit.

It also indicates that you send to unengaged users. Since no one owns the addresses, there’ll be no actions from the messages you send.

We recommend you to never engage in email address harvesting and other illegal practices.

And don’t buy or rent your lists from untrustworthy sources. It won’t do you any good.

“Re-purposed” or “Recycled” Traps

Recycled spam traps include email addresses that are abandoned by recipients or retired by email providers.

Mailbox providers can convert abandoned or retired addresses into recycled spam traps after just six months. After their pre-defined period of inactivity, providers turn accounts off and return hard bounce errors to senders. These addresses no longer receive email except to catch this sort of activity.

Sending to a “re-purposed” trap address will not usually result in being blacklisted. At some point, these addresses may have opted in to your list. However, it raises suspicion because you are sending to an email address that is out of date.

These addresses can also trap legitimate marketers with weak data-quality practices. You could hit this type of trap even if every email address on the list was obtained with permission.

In less words, if you’re not regularly removing inactive subscribers and processing hard bounces correctly you look like a spammer.

Moreover, sending to re-purposed addresses will affect your deliverability. 

Typo Spam Traps

This kind of spam trap works to catch spammers who don’t obtain permission to add people to their list.

Username typos can happen when:

  • Someone submits a deliberately fake email address and out of pure coincidence, it ends up being a spam trap.
  • Email addresses are collected offline and later have to be entered into a database.
  • Someone subscribes using an email address that contains a typo (@gnail instead of @gmail).

Anyone can accidentally hit a typo spam trap once, no worries.

The issue appears if the same person repeatedly sends mail to this type of trap. Just like an email marketer does when sending email campaigns.

TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR EXISTING SUBSCRIBERS LIST

1. Deactivate bounced email addresses

Pay attention to bounce notifications and make sure to remove invalid email addresses from your active mailing list. Your emails will never be able to get through to that contact, so you should delete them from your list immediately. 

There are two kinds of email bounces: hard bounces and soft bounces.

A hard bounce means that the email address has been deactivated or the domain name is invalid. Hard bounces are permanent.

Meanwhile, a soft bounce indicates a temporary problem with an email address. Let’s say a full inbox. This problem might get resolved later, so you shouldn’t delete the contact right away. However, if you keep getting soft bounces from a contact you might as well just delete them.

Add invalid addresses to a suppression list to make sure you don’t ever add the same address to your list or accidentally send to it again.

2. Manage your inactive subscribers

If certain people on your list never open your emails, there are a couple of possibilities:

  • That person might not be interested in your business anymore
  • Might have written their email address wrong by mistake/intentionally or
  • The email address might have been abandoned.

Whatever the case, there’s no point in keeping inactive contacts on your list, so clean them out.

Inactive subscribers aren’t of any value to your campaigns. Moreover, some of these addresses are at risk of being converted into spam traps.

Good list hygiene means monitoring engagement for all the addresses in your database. Check the opens and clicks in order to regularly remove those who are inactive after a period of time. 

TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR SIGN-UP PROCESS

1. Don’t EVER buy an email list

When buying a list, you don’t know whether or not the email addresses were being collected properly.

There is a big chance you are buying spam traps. It’s better to not take that risk.

2. Use double-opt in

The easiest way to avoid mailing to spam traps in the first place is to have a well-structured subscription process.

Double opt-in subscription adds an extra layer of security by requiring the subscriber to verify their email address that they wished to sign up with. This reduces the risk of someone deliberately adding a spam trap address to your list. Or, enter what they consider to be a fake address that happens to be a spam trap.

Subscribers have to give clear consent, understand what they will receive, and from whom they will receive it.

By using double-opt in you can make sure that an email address belongs to a real person. This is an easy way to catch typos and fake email addresses that could be spam traps.

3. Validate new email addresses

Use an address validation tool, like Verifigator, on your enrollment page to catch typos and non-existing email addresses before they make it to your mailing list.

Verifigator proactively validates the lead’s name and email address as the user types them. A robust, multi-level checking system ensures your lead’s email address has a correct syntax, the domain name is valid and can accept incoming emails.

It also helps users not to misspell their own email address. Verifigator’s email address validation process works with the email address typo fixing engine to prevent easily fixable email addresses (e.g. “john.smith@gmailc.om”) from being cleaned from your list.

Conclusions

Using an email list cleaning service can help prevent deliverability issues before they begin.

Always stick to organic acquisition methods, regularly clean out your list and continue to use email verification as defense.

It’s important to note that email verification is not a one-time fix.

If you notice:

  • bounces are higher than usual or growing at an unusual rate,
  • open-rates are lower than usual or decreasing at an unusual rate or
  • spam complaints are higher than usual or increasing at an unusual rate, something is wrong with the hygiene of your list.

It is much easier to take a proactive approach to email list maintenance. You do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are blocked by your ESP from sending email due to poor list maintenance.

So, do not wait until this happens.

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