Spam Traps and How to Avoid Them
What Are Spam Traps?
Spam traps, also known as “honeypots,” are used by the primary Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and anti-spam blacklist companies. They use this tool to help prevent email fraud by identifying and blocking spammer emails.
While a spam trap resembles an authentic email address, it isn’t connected to an actual person and is useless for any correspondence. Because a spam trap address is unable to opt-in to an email list, it can only wind up on a poorly maintained list or if the list owner is disregarding consent-based rules for email marketing.
Should a spam trap email address find its way to your list and you send with this list, you’ll hit a spam trap. If your delivery rates plummet or you get a denied IP address or domain, there’s a strong possibility you have a spam trap.
Ways of Setting Off a Spam Trap
It’s possible to hit a spam trap without intentionally doing wrong. This is due to the various ways spam traps are formed.
1. Pristine (or Pure) Traps
Pristine spam traps are addresses that no one has ever used. The email address was never a mailing list opt-in, used in account signup, or given on a business card. The sole explanation of how this trap could be on your list is by acquiring this address without consent.
Spam traps are put in place as a lure, with the main purpose of enticing spammers. The spam trap address is posted on the Internet so those who illicitly harvest email addresses can discover them.
Through this illicit method of collecting addresses, the harvesters typically share these addresses with other email spammers. Or these addresses become part of bulk email lists that are sold or rented to customers who are unaware of the repercussions of sending emails without recipient consent.
Once an ISP finds a sender has used an address from a pristine trap, it’s a strong indication this person is using unscrupulous means of collecting addresses. Pristine spam traps are the most drastic of all spam traps, and detrimental to your reputation as a sender. A pristine trap among your contacts results in a stronger possibility of denials of your IP address or domain.
2. Recycled Addresses
Even if all addresses on your list were supplied with consent, you could still hit this trap. These are still trouble since using these email addresses can give you the appearance of being a spammer.
Recycled addresses are obsolete email addresses no longer used by their original owners. Being abandoned for such a long time, the providers repurpose the addresses as a spam trap. The new purpose is to reveal, and prevent emails from, those who are irresponsible in their email marketing management.
Examples of recycled spam traps include title addresses (such as support@, sales@, info@) or addresses of former employees no longer at the organization.
Falling into a recycled spam trap shows that your lists are not being kept current through regular purging of inactive addresses and email bounces. Though not as damaging as a pristine trap, over time, a recycled trap still harms your reputation for sending.
3. Invalid Addresses
Whether a subscriber opts in with an email address containing an unintentional typo, or avoids submitting a required address by giving a false one, either scenario is at risk of becoming a spam trap.
- Typographical Errors Errors in email addresses can originate from a misspelling by the address owner, when given verbally, or as an input error during transcription into a database. These errors might be a typo in the domain name, such as @yhoo.com instead of @yahoo.com or @gmal.com instead of @gmail.com. These are the most prevalent of spam traps. However, traps can originate from typos in usernames (before the @ sign), as well. Although typographical spam traps usually aren’t as critical as pristine traps, they do put the sender in a negative light and spotlight neglect in routine contact list upkeep, which can damage reputation for sending.
- False Email Addresses Registrations on websites and forms on shopping carts often draw bogus email addresses, especially when a freebie is offered. When such addresses are submitted, they could be spam traps. To prevent phony addresses from entering your list, implement an opt-in confirmation. When subscribers are required to confirm their email address, your list will be free from invalid addresses that end up as spam traps.
4. Inactive Email Recipients
Not keeping your list fresh with subscribers who continually engage with your content is another way to encourage spam traps. These traps can originate from invalid or outdated addresses or through infrequent emails. However, traps can also be triggered by sending emails to recipients whose inbox contains months of your unopened emails. To take a preventive approach, run campaigns for subscriber re-engagement for those who haven’t been actively engaging with your content in recent months. Those not responding to this campaign should be removed, avoiding any addresses that might end up as potential spam traps.
5. Contaminated Lists
Contaminated lists happen when a valid address is used as a spam trap, through a deliberate or accidental addition to an unproven list. To avoid this, confirm the proper spelling of your list’s email addresses. Use automated email validation in your opt-in forms to promptly verify addresses, preventing typographical errors.
Subscribers should also have a secondary opt-in. This will allow them to affirm the validity of their address prior to your email contact. Having a double opt-in will ensure they actually want to receive emails from you and verify that authentic recipients are in your email list.
Consequences of Spam Traps
Consequences of falling into a spam trap have variables, such as the kind of trap, how often it’s hit, and what penalty the spam trap operator will enforce.
On the spectrum of bad to worst, these are the possible consequences of hitting a spam trap:
- It will harm your reputation as a sender, increasing your bounce rates and decreasing the volume of your emails to reach your subscribers’ inboxes.
- Your IP address might be put on the blacklist, impacting deliverability for you and others with the same IP.
- If you have a major ISP, like Google or Yahoo, a spam trap might result in being indefinitely blacklisted from sending from that domain.
- Hitting a trap administered by anti-spam companies means your emails delivered to all ISPs, and organizations consulting these databases, will have consequences since they use that data for screening inbound emails.
Spam Trap Prevention
All spam traps usually derive from poor management and lack of upkeep of an email list. These traps can be prevented through healthy list maintenance and adhering to proper email practices. Any purchased or leased lists should be avoided, including anyone who hasn’t opted to receive communications from you. A purchased email list is an inevitable spam trap. Email recipients on this list, with virtually no loyalty to your organization, may categorize your mail as spam and/or delete it. All of this can bring negative consequences to your email sending reputation.
Removing a Spam Trap
If you hit a spam trap, there are companies that can help. These companies monitor and will alert you if they find any problem. However, there will be a suspension on all outgoing emails while the team learns what caused the issue and resolves the problem.
Or, you could try to remove the spam trap yourself. To begin cleansing your list, delete addresses that haven’t interacted with your communications in the past six months. If that doesn’t work, try narrowing this down to the past three months. If the problems still exist, try using list segmentation to remove the spam trap. You could segment by how the data were gathered and added to your list, the age of your listings, or by subscriber activity (opening, clicking, forwarding). Pinpoint what segments are free from any spam traps and keep them separate as you go through the remaining segments of your list. Keep narrowing down these segments until the spam trap is found.
Although avoiding email spam traps may seem intimidating, keep in mind that these traps’ chief objective is to ensnare spammers. By not imitating the actions of a typical spammer, you’ll go a long way in spam trap prevention.
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