What Are Spam Traps and How to Avoid Them

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You have tried your best in email marketing.

You provide value through your emails, build your list using opt-in, craft personalized campaigns for your audience, send email regularly, so on and so forth.

But you forgot one thing that has now made you a scammer!

And that is cleaning and maintaining your email list. Now you might be confused about how not cleaning your email list can make you look like spam, and this is where the concept of spam traps comes into play.

A spam trap is an email id used by mailbox providers to find out if you are still sending people emails even if they have not opened or engaged with your emails for over a year.

So, it means that if you have not cleaned your lists for over a year and are sending emails to people who have not opened your emails, then you could be hitting these spam traps.

So if you want to succeed in email marketing, you do not have to become spam first. We have written this blog article to tell you precisely what you can do to avoid these spam traps.

Table of contents

What are spam traps?

Spam traps, also called honeypots, are email addresses that mailbox providers (ISPs, email clients, blacklist operators) use to identify people who send spam emails.

These email addresses can be old email addresses of actual people or email addresses created just to be used as a spam trap. So all of your old personal and work email ids that you haven't used in years could now be potential spam traps.

What are the different types of spam traps?

The different types of spam traps are as follows:

Pristine spam traps

Pristine spam traps are the email addresses created by mailbox providers and other organizations solely to use as spam traps and have never been used by anyone before.

These traps are put out on public websites, but they are not directly visible. Instead, they are hidden and embedded within the site's background code. Mailbox and blacklist providers use this type of spam trap to find out who is scraping sites for emails or purchasing contact lists to create their email lists.

So these email addresses have never been used to sign up for an opt-in email list, log in to any website, or give out through a business card. Thus, it indicates that the only way a list will contain such email addresses is if the person has used questionable means to build the email list.

Recycled spam traps

Recycled spam traps are the email ids that people once used and abandoned, which are now repurposed by the email providers.

These people may have signed up for your email list through their old work or personal email ids that they have now stopped using. So the only way you would hit this trap is if your list has never been cleaned or not been cleaned for over a year.

Hitting a recycled spam trap is usually not as detrimental as hitting a pristine spam trap. But, over time, if left as is, it can damage your sender's reputation.

Email Id with typos

Typo spam traps are misspelled email addresses intentionally or unintentionally provided by people when they sign up.

Sometimes a person can accidentally misspell their email addresses while filling the signup form, and unfortunately for you, this misspelled email id could be a spam trap.

Most commonly seen typos like "gnail" for "Gmail" or "yaho" when writing "yahoo" could potentially be a spam trap.

Hitting these typo spam traps is also not as severe as hitting a pristine spam trap. But, it shows that you are not regularly cleaning your mailing list and can harm your sender's reputation.

What happens if you hit spam traps?

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If you hit a pristine spam trap even once, you may get added to a blacklist database, and your IP address or your domain can be denied, which damages your sender's reputation. It can also affect your deliverability and cause higher bounce rates as mailbox providers think you are spam.

And, while recycled traps are not as nasty as pristine traps, your emails will end up in the junk folder if you hit them regularly.

How can I even know if I have spam traps on my list?

Spotting spam traps on your own can be tricky, but if you keep an eye for the following symptom, then you can determine whether your list contains spam traps or not.

Your bounce rate has increased, which can mean that your IP address or domain is denied. If you are on denylist, then there is a high chance your list contains spam traps, and you might be blacklisted.

To know for sure, check your domain reputation with tools like MXtoolbox or 250ok to find out the spam traps in your list and how many you are hitting.

Best practices to avoid spam traps

Now, you know the consequences of having lousy email list maintenance and what will happen if you keep hitting spam traps. So if you want to lower the chances of having spam traps in your mailing list, you can follow the best practices mentioned below.

Don't buy email lists at all

An email list bought off the internet has contacts who didn't opt-in to receive your emails, which means there is a high chance of your list containing different types of spam traps.

Also, subscribers on such purchased lists can get annoyed by emails you send because they haven't signed up and mark your email as spam.

Use an email validation service to check your email list

To prevent typo spam traps from entering your email lists, you can add an email verification or validation tool to your signup forms to check if it's an actual email id of a person.

You can try out Zero Bounce, Bouncer, TheChecker, etc.

You can also verify email addresses after it has been collected by using APIs to check your mailing list or manually checking your list for misspelled or fake email ids.

Use double opt-in in the signup process

Double opt-in is when people who sign up are sent a confirmation email to verify their email address, and only after verification are they added to your email list.

So it will ensure that the email address in your list belongs to a person who checks their inbox.

Clean up your email lists at least bi-annually

You can use methods like sunset policy, suppression list to clean your email lists. Sunset policy is when you remove subscribers from your email list if they haven't opened or engaged with your emails for a certain amount of time.

And, it will ensure that your list stays clean, with only subscribers engaging with your content. And since actual people do not use spam traps, they don't act like engaged subscribers, which will make it simple for you to detect them.

Send re-engagement or confirmation emails

If people have not engaged with your emails in a while, you can send them a final re-engagement email. And if they still don't respond, you can remove them from your list.

You can also send people a confirmation email to ask them if they want to receive emails from you and what topics they are interested in. There will be several who might not confirm, so it's best to put those people in a separate list as they could be potential traps.

Wrap up

Spam traps are a pain in the butt that can ruin all your efforts to build a great email campaign. The foremost thing you can do is build your list correctly and clean and maintain it regularly.

Spam traps are meant to catch spammers, and as long as you don't behave like one, you don't need to worry about them. So follow the above-mentioned best practices to make sure you never fall into such a trap.

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