Email spam traps

Sending emails? Beware the spam trap

Sending emails? Beware the spam trap

Building or managing your subscriber list? Sending emails? You'll want to know what a spam trap is. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) & anti-spam organisations use spam traps in the form of email addresses to find individuals & businesses who adopt spammy list practices.


recycled spam trap

When you're working on email marketing, you'll need to be aware of two types of spam traps: pristine & recycled.

1. Pristine spam traps

Created specifically as a trap, these email addresses are hard to pinpoint. With no telltale format, the only way to protect yourself from them is to look for addresses that have never engaged with your emails.

2. Recycled spam traps

Originally set up by a real person, these addresses were once used for sending & receiving emails. After being abandoned, ISPs took ownership, turning them into spam traps.

Regardless of how & why they were originally created, spam traps catch you if you email one of their accounts. As their accounts don't belong to humans for email purposes, they'll know that you probably didn't gain (or recently regain) consent for email marketing.


So, what's the big deal when it comes to spam traps? One word: penalties. The consequences of emailing a spam trap vary & they can depend on a number of factors, from the type of trap you've hit & your level of sending to the trap owner's practices.

The one thing that you can be sure of is that your sender reputation will probably be affected. When this happens, your deliverability rate will decrease & you'll most likely see an increase in bounce rates.

So, how bad can the resulting deliverability issue be? If you've emailed a spam trap that's owned by an ISP, you could be blacklisted by that ISP. However, if you're caught by an anti-spam organisation, you might find yourself blocked from all ISPs. Ouch!

If you're not using a bespoke email marketing system to deliver your campaigns (i.e. you're using MailChimp, iContact Pro etc.) & your email service provider (ESP) finds evidence of spam traps, your account will be suspended. This is to protect their IP from blacklisting - your actions can impact the deliverability of everyone who uses that ESP. To cleanse & reactivate your account, processes differ so you'll need to contact your ESP right away.


avoid spam traps

Fake email addresses & addresses containing typos can also be a cause of spam traps on your email list. Here's how it works: if someone signs up to download your latest whitepaper with a fake address, it could match the address of a spam trap. The same can happen if someone signs up to your list, but makes a typo (i.e. - misspelling gmail). While you can't always prevent these types of mistakes or tricks, you can use re-engagement campaigns, email validation or manual review to find & fix potentially troublesome email addresses.


The good news is that having spam traps on your email list isn't unavoidable. With a little extra care & time, you can keep your list spam trap free. Here are 5 quick tips to consider:

Tip #1: Make sure you're always using best practice to get consent for email marketing - that includes avoiding scraping tools to grow your list!
Tip #2: When you're choosing an ESP, make sure that they're regularly removing bounced email addresses & keep an eye on your bounced emails after each delivery.
Tip #3: Get into the habit of regularly using re-engagement campaigns to remove unengaged subscribers. It's these types of accounts that can quickly turn into a spam trap.
Tip #4: Start using double opt-in for all of your new subscribers. Adopting double opt-in means that your subscribers confirm their subscription via an automated email before they're added to your list. This keeps your list free from fake email addresses & addresses with typos in your list.
Tip #5: Avoid purchasing lists; they're often full of unqualified addresses, many of which can be spam traps. Not to mention the fact that you'll be emailing people who haven't asked to hear from you (that's spam!).

There you go, 5 quick tips to help protect your sender reputation by keeping your list spam trap free.

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Author Amanda Beylkin

Amanda Beylkin is the founder of Words on Marketing. She began her marketing career in Australia in 2005, working for an early stage startup. Since this time, she's worked with brands big & small, from Microsoft & Montcalm Luxury Hotels to Quiz Clothing & cranberry panda. Now based in London, she spends her days helping individuals & brands achieve more with marketing.

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