Email Mythbusters: You can’t remove ALL spam traps from a list

There are more than a few myths in the industry about seemingly magical quick fixes for removing spam traps from your subscriber list.

It would be great if you could. Unfortunately, these claims are not true.

To understand why, let’s examine what a spam trap is, what the purpose of those pesky email addresses are, and how to avoid them in the future.

What is a spam trap?

The truth about spam traps is that they are valid email addresses. Because of this, it’s next to impossible to quickly identify these malicious addresses on your list. So ultimately, your efforts will be much better spent fixing the fundamental issues that got those email addresses on your list in the first place.

While spam traps can be a nuisance to senders, they have a specific and useful purpose for the mailbox providers: to catch bad senders.

The number of spam traps a sender encounters is heavily taken into account by IP and domain reputation. These are key factors that mailbox providers evaluate when deciding whether to filter email into the spam folder. Some blocklists even monitor spam trap activity and block senders when they send to one. So overall, it’s important to find the root cause of these pesky little addresses to make sure the problem is really resolved, rather than falling victim to a fake “quick fix”.

To restore your sender’s reputation and increase the likelihood of your emails being sent to the Inbox, don’t ignore this issue.

To make matters worse, not all spam traps are created equal.

In fact, there are two types of spam traps that can land on your subscriber list:

  1. Recycled spam traps. These are intended to catch senders with poor hygiene practices.

    Recycled spam traps are created from unknown user email addresses: Although an email address might have been a valid address when you first purchased it, if you haven’t emailed it in a while or haven’t sent it out Removed your list after it became inactive, the same email address could have been turned into a spam trap by the mailbox provider.

    You should no longer send to this address – not only because you cannot reach a real subscriber, but also because you are now endangering your sender reputation.

    Recycled spam traps are serious, but not as serious as pristine trap hits.

  2. Untouched spam traps. If the two spam traps were twin siblings, flawless spam traps would be the evil twin.

    There are pristine spam traps to catch senders collecting email addresses without consent. Although these email addresses are valid, they do not belong to any subscriber. Rather, these email addresses are strategically placed in suspicious list capture sources (such as list buying, list rental, and website scraping sources) and alert the mailbox providers and block lists of serious list capture errors.

    Sending it to pristine traps can ultimately have a serious impact on your sender’s reputation and the ability to get your emails into the inboxes of your actual subscribers.

How to avoid spam traps

There are services that claim to collect spam traps by keeping a list of known spam trap addresses that they have uncovered in the past. In these cases, however, no 100% guarantee can be given, solely due to the nature of the spam traps.

Can these services catch spam traps? For sure. But spam traps are constantly evolving, making them more difficult to catch. Just as you might have caught a trap, hundreds more are being recreated and are about to appear on your list.

The only real way to avoid spam traps from showing up on your list is to streamline your list collection and hygiene practices. Here are a few recommendations to get started implementing right away:

  • Offer subscribers the option of explicitly registering for their e-mail program with a confirmed or a double registration process. Clearly state the benefits of receiving your email to encourage subscribers to provide their valid email address.
  • Avoid buying, renting, or browsing websites for email addresses. In addition to being a frowned upon practice, these sources are notorious for hiding spam traps on their lists.
  • Tag all subscribers by their collection source and monitor unknown user and spam trap activity to identify collection sources that could be causing your spam trap problem.

For more tips on how to monitor spam traps and block lists, check out this blog post.

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If you find that you have fallen into a spam trap, don’t give up your email just yet. While these addresses can harm your sender reputation, taking steps to improve your email sending practices and identify the root cause of the spam trap will point you in the right direction.

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