Spam traps are the living nightmare of every email marketer. If you get caught, you may well be blacklisted and will find it nigh on impossible to get your emails delivered - which would be more than a major blow to your email marketing campaigns.
So what is a spam trap? Internet Service Providers (IPS) like to keep an eye on where emails are coming from and are relentless in their quest to search out spammers - which is good for us all. No-one wants their email inbox clogged up with rubbish. But if your genuine email gets tarred with the same brush and is flagged as spam, you have a serious problem.
Types of Spam Traps
There are two types of Spam trap to be aware of:
Classic Spam Traps – these are email addresses set up specifically to lure spammers. They are not published publically and have never signed up to receive an email, so should never get onto your database in an ideal world.
Recycled Spam Traps – once upon a time, these were real, live email addresses, but for some reason or another have become neglected and now lie dormant. The IPS notices this, and takes charge, eventually converting them to a spam trap to capture spammers and unfortunate email marketers.
What are the consequences?
If your email is sent to a classic spam trap, you will be flagged as a spammer and all hell will break loose (for you) as your IPS will be blocked. Your deliverability rate will drop alarmingly because you have morphed into a dreaded spammer.
If, however, your email is sent to a recycled spam trap, the implications may initially appear trifling in comparison – your email will be diverted to the Junk folder. Whilst this is far from ideal, the metamorphosis to a spammer has not occurred…… yet.
But take care. The IPS of the dormant email address will, in the first instance, very kindly send you a wake-up call – a hard bounce notification – which tells you there is a permanent delivery failure. Wake up! Wake up! Now is the time to remove this email address from your database. If not, things could still go horribly wrong. Sending more emails to this dormant address, will enrage the IPS which, instead of sending a notification, will just mark your email address as a spam trap hit, leading to, yes you guessed it, a drop in deliverability rate.
How do I Avoid Spam Traps?
Quite simple – don’t send emails to spam trap email addresses!! Easier said than done? Here are some tips to avoid introducing spam traps into your contact database.
Don’t purchase email address lists - You may inadvertently add a classic spam trap email to your database by purchasing aMany of these purchased addresses are obtained by web scraping, which simply means extracting data from someone else’s website. Not only may this be against the Terms & Conditions of the website, but the software used can pick up the unpublished spam trap addresses, which you then go and plonk into your database.
In addition, some of the addresses might be ancient and have already turned into recycled spam traps.
Don’t resurrect old email addresses – if you decide to email some of your older contacts that you haven’t contacted in years, think twice! There may be a whole lot of recycled spam traps out there.
Sleepy subscribers – you might think your inactive subscribers are just taking things easy, but perhaps they’re not responding to your emails for the simple reason that they have moved on and have abandoned that email. And yes, you’ve got it, that abandoned email address has the potential to turn to a recycled spam trap.
Try to re-engage them, and if there is no response, remove them from the database.
Remember: prevention is better than cure. You must be religious with your database hygiene – remove emails when a hard bounce notification is received, don’t be tempted to use old email addresses and put inactive subscribers in the bin.