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Spam Traps: Everything You Need to Know

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Industry Solutions using Marketing Automation

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Email Marketing

3 min read

What are spam traps?

I'm glad you asked. Spam traps are email addresses used to expose and trap illegitimate email senders who do not gain consent from recipients before sending. This is often because the senders have purchased a list or added emails to their list without opt-in. Spam trap email addresses also identify email marketers who may be lacking in list management and permission practices.

Essentially, spam traps are email addresses used solely for the activity of identifying spammers and email marketers who have not kept their lists up to date. These are differentiated by the type of spam trap.

Pure spam traps

Pure spam trap email addresses are email addresses that have straight up never been used in any way. These email addresses are created solely to lure spammers. These email addresses are left on the internet in places where people (or bots) can harvest them illegitimately. Because these email addresses have never been used to create an account, sign up for a download, been printed on a business card, or anything else, there is no way for them to have opted in for communications from a company. So, if these email addresses receive any messages, they know the sender isn't following opt-in practices.

Recycled spam traps

Whereas pure spam traps can only be sent to if the address was obtained illegitimately, recycled spam traps can be hit even if you obtained permission. Recycled spam traps are very old email addresses that have been abandoned by the original owner. The provider takes these email addresses and re-purposes them to see who is still sending to an email address even though no one has engaged with the sender in years. Recycled spam traps are used to see who is not responsibly managing their contact list and not following best practices for communicating with engaged contacts.

Incorrect emails

Let's say someone tries to sign up for your emails and that email contains a typo. There is a chance that the email address they entered is actually a spam trap. This is especially common if the typo is in the domain (after the @), but it can still happen in the username as well (before the @). You may get a typo in the username by collecting email addresses over the phone or via a paper signup form and then incorrectly entering the data into a database manually after the fact. Alternatively, if someone blatantly enters in an incorrect email address like "fake@email.com" to avoid giving you their real email, you also run the risk of hitting a spam trap as well.

What is the purpose of spam traps?

Frankly, no one likes receiving spam or emails they have not opted in to receive. I'm sure you've received a few emails in the past that you shouldn't have received. If it weren't for spam traps, that number would dramatically increase. If you are sending to a spam trap, your ability to reach the inboxes of your subscribers dramatically decreases and your IP address may be blacklisted. Spam traps are there to protect the end user against email senders that are either gathering emails illegitimately or aren't honoring email marketing best practices.

While spam traps may not seem like a tool for email marketers, they serve as a wake-up call that something in your list may not be right so that you can remedy the situation promptly.

What can I do to prevent hitting spam traps?

There are several things you can do to avoid spam traps:

Never, ever purchase an email list

I know, it may seem easier than manually collecting opted-in email addresses, but it's not worth it. Many email sending services (like SimplyCast) don't even allow you to use these lists for these reasons and more:

  • They violate CASL and CAN-SPAM laws
  • They can get a whole IP address blacklisted
  • The people on the list have not agreed to receive your mailings

Purchasing a third-party list is simply not worth the risk to your sending reputation and the reputation of the IP address you are sending from. As mentioned, pure spam traps are put on the internet to be harvested onto lists like this so using them drastically increases your risk of hitting a trap.

Use a double opt-in process

When someone signs up for your communications, send them an email asking them to confirm their email address. This ensures that the email address is spelled correctly and forces them to state twice that they wish to receive your communications. The double opt-in process is a best practice in email marketing and is offered by default within the SimplyCast email platform.

Stay engaged with your audience

If you have active and engaged contacts on your list, you're not likely to interact with spam traps. But, to be on the safe side, it is another best practice to re-opt-in your contacts at least every two years. To do this, just send a quick email asking your contacts to confirm and re-opt-in in order to stay in contact with you. Doing this ensures that your whole list is up to date, helping you avoid recycled spam traps.

The SimplyCast platform comes with several built-in fail-safes to help you stay compliant, follow best practices, and keep your lists up to date. To see the platform for yourself, sign up for a 14-day free trial.

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