Spam traps

By | 8th January 2020

What is a spam trap?

Spam traps are mailboxes either created for the sole purpose of identifying spammers, purchased list users, list harvesters or they are abandoned mailboxes belonging to real individuals.

Types of spam traps?

There are two type of spam traps:

  • Pristine spam traps which are created by ISPs, webmails and even blacklists to identify spammers and list harvesters, these mailboxes have never subscribed to any email related program. The spam traps addresses are published on public websites but in a way that they appear as hidden for normal user.
  • Recycled email addresses which were belonging to real individuals and have been abandoned, after couple of months of inactivity the ISP will set these email addresses to send a ‘invalid address’ status, this will last for couple of months. The mailboxes are then re-activated to identify and block emails from senders who are not properly managing their email marketing programs.

What are the risks?

The risk depends of different factors:

  • Type of spam trap you hit
  • How many times you are hitting spam traps
  • How the ISP/Operator handles this at its end

Here are the potential damages spam trap hits can cause:

  • Impact on sender reputation, causing soft bounces to be generated and eventually leading to part of your email stream to be directed to the junk box (decrease of email delivery and deliverability)
  • Your sending IP address(es) might be added to a blacklist, again leading to a degradation of your deliverability towards ISPs / Operators making use of the related blacklist
  • If you hit spam traps operated by an Anti-Spam organization such as Spamhaus, your delivery to the largest ISPs, as well as companies who consults their databases, will be affected since all of them are using this data to filter inbound emails

How to avoid hitting spam traps?

The best way to avoid hitting spam traps is keep your lists as clean as possible:

  • Review regularly the activity of yours list to ensure that recipients are opening your communications and isolate the recipients which have not been active for a while, 6 months to 1 year depending on your sector of activity
  • Send re-activation campaigns to inactive users to try to re-active them and them back to your email program
  • Avoid using purchased lists nor use any list of recipients which have not directly opted-in to receive your communications. Additionally, these recipients are likely to mark your communications as “this is spam” or delete your messages, badly impacting your reputation
  • Ensure that your sign-up forms are protected against list contamination by integrating reCAPTCHA and sending a confirmation email to ensure that the related recipient exists

How do I remove spam traps from my list?

Spam trap email addresses are not opening or clicking meaning that these email addresses would have not been active in your recent sending history.

To get rid of spam traps, start by excluding recipients which have been inactive for over 6 months from your segmentation. If you are still hitting spam traps, exclude all members which have been inactive for over 3 months from your segmentation.

Once you have identified your clean segments put them aside of the rest of your database.

Double opt-in is your best friend

In order to ensure that your email list is fully qualified and verified, the best strategy would be to go for a double opt-in subscription process where the intended recipients are added to your email lists only when the email address owner has validated the subscription by clicking on a confirmation link.

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