First things first, what’s a spam trap? That name can indeed be confusing. Simply put, it is an email address. More specifically, it is an email address that’s used by the good guys to catch the bad guys. If you have spam traps in your mailing list, well that means you are going to be treated as a bad guy or spammer. Bad guys get punished with low email deliverability i.e., their emails get trapped as spam. You don’t want this outcome.
In this blogpost, we’re going to identify the types of spam traps and how to keep your mailing list free of them.
Types of spam traps
As the name suggests, these email addresses do not belong to any real person and have never been used for normal emailing purposes. They are usually purposely published on public websites in a hidden fashion. The only way to acquire pristine emails in your mailing list is through bad email harvesting processes or habits, namely by using crawling bots (aka harvesters, crawlers, spiders–yups kinda scary sci-fi names) to scrape emails by crawling/spidering through websites. If you didn’t do the harvesting yourself but you bought a list (oh-oh, now that’s NOT a good idea!), then chances are that you are buying poor quality data which include pristine traps in the lot.
These email addresses are a bit like ghosts. They’ve had a life once and were used by real folks, but then went inactive long enough for them to be deactivated. Some of these abandoned email addresses are brought back from the dead by the email service providers i.e., they are recycled and put on spam trapping duty, hence the name. If you’ve got recycled traps in your list, then sorry to tell you this so bluntly–but you’ve got bad email list hygiene and you need to do something about it.
What are the risks?
It is important to clearly understand that spam traps are created and used by the good guys to expose senders who use email addresses without consent and to spot marketers with poor list hygiene. This means that spam traps are not revealed by Internet service providers (ISPs) as they are part of the noble fight in identifying and filtering spam. Keeping your mailing list free of spam traps is really your responsibility and one that you have to take seriously in a web environment that is getting more stringent (heard of GDPR or CASL?). Low deliverability rates or getting blacklisted by ISPs are high risks for your business.
How can you come clean?
Here’s three little things you can start with to enter a virtuous cycle of maintaining a healthy mailing list.
- Well, first and foremost, NEVER buy mailing lists! This is not a good practice nor a good idea. If you want to collect quality leads (email addresses that are relevant to your business) with the consent of their owners, there are a number of cool things you can do: hold a free webinar, set up an online prize-winning contest, organize physical events or seminars. Activities that revolve around the themes of your product offering will attract the right audience and the ensuing registration process will allow you to build clean mailing lists without any spam traps in them. If you’re dealing with partners, make sure they too have good practices to collect emails.
- Use a double opt-in process with your registrants. Example: ask them to confirm their email address by clicking on a link they receive upon registration. This will ensure you don’t have email with typos (another potential source of spam traps). At the same time, you’ll also be making sure that the list you are building is made up of quality leads i.e., people who are actually interested in maintaining the conversation.
- Good list hygiene = pruning out unengaged leads and invalid email addresses. Manage your mailing list regularly by removing inactive email addresses that never respond–they have no business value for you and they risk becoming recycled spam traps. Likewise remove any invalid/bounced email addresses.
For more info on spam traps, on mailing list checkups, on deeper insight for the best emailing practices, and to find out more about our automatic quarantine management to keep your mailing list clean, feel free to reach out to Dialog Insight’s experts.