As a legitimate email marketer or a well-intentioned sender, you don’t want to be accused of sending spam trap email addresses. However, if you’re not careful to avoid them, your IP address may end up getting blacklisted.

Spam traps can also damage your sender reputation and decrease your deliverability. More so, if you hit a pristine spam trap, it is more severe than just hitting a recycled one.

So, in this post, we provide you a quick rundown on what spam trap email addresses are, the different types of spam traps, why they are dangerous, and what you can do to prevent them from being added to your list.

What are Spam Trap Email Addresses?

A spam trap, also known as a honeypot, is a fraud management tool used to determine and monitor spam emails. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), anti-spam organizations, and corporations use spam traps to catch spammers.

In a nutshell, spam traps are everywhere around the internet. They are just waiting for a set of bad behaviors or a small misstep on the part of email marketers to make the process more difficult for them.

Who Owns and Maintains Spam Traps?

In the fight against spam, the DNSBLs, IPs, and anti-spam agencies create and maintain spam traps.

  • DNSBLs – Domain blacklisting services own a database called Domain Name System Blacklists. Email servers can use this database or service to quickly check the spam potential of a certain IP address (or a range of IP addresses).

DNSBLs, such as Spamhaus Block ListSpamcop, and Barracuda, have access to email addresses known as spam senders. These DNSBLs are also highly active at places like blogs and public forums. This is because these are where spammers try to gather email addresses.

Most DNSBLs even have their own partner network and framework to generate and put spam traps across the internet.

  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – Major email ISPs, including Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo!, maintain spam trap email addresses. When you hit a spam trap maintained by ISPs, it is worse than hitting DNSBLs since it could permanently blacklist your IP address or send the domain. As a result, your email deliverability will be affected.

Types of Spam Traps

There are different sorts of spam traps, and each is distinct in its own way; one thing they have in common is that they will never have legitimately signed up to receive your emails, and there should not be a path for them to end up on your list.

Pure Spam Traps

Pure spam traps, also known as pristine spam traps, are email addresses created by ISPs and other organizations. These emails have never been used by anyone.

So, how, then, do they end up on a subscriber list?

It can happen because they are embedded in websites. When spammers scrape websites to grow their subscriber list, that’s when pure spam traps can end up in their list. Pure spam traps can similarly be found on rented or purchased lists.

Why is hitting a pure or pristine spam trap more severe?

Although all spam traps will negatively affect a marketer’s sending reputation, hitting a pure spam trap is more severe as it is more likely to blacklist your IP or domain.

Seeded Spam Traps

These are emails purposely kept hidden in different online resources, like a website source code. Some email list providers are using bots to scrape email addresses from some websites to generate their lists.

Recycled Spam Traps

Recycled spam traps are the kind of trap that you could hit even if your subscriber list is obtained with permission. What makes them bad news is that sending to these recycled email addresses will make you appear as a spammer.

Recycled spam traps contain old email addresses that have been abandoned for so long that the provider just repurposed them as spam traps to detect and block emails from senders who are not managing their email marketing campaign responsibly.

Invalid Email Addresses or Email with Typos

Sometimes, someone uses a deliberately fake email address or email that contains a typo when they subscribe. When these email addresses end up in your list, you run the risk of hitting a spam trap, even if it’s just out of pure coincidence.

Email addresses with common typos, like “yaho” instead of “yahoo” or “gnail” instead of “gmail” can be unintentional mistakes but will still lead to a spam trap.

Again, hitting this kind of spam trap may not be as severe as hitting a pure spam trap, but it still portrays that the sender is negligent and not cleaning their list.

Why are Spam Traps Dangerous?

Let’s say your list ends up with one of the spam traps on your list. Now what?

On the extreme side, a security organization or an ISP can block the IP from which your emails are coming.

“But can’t I just grow my subscriber list and drown out the rest of the spam traps? Sure, one spam trap on 5 million email addresses is not so bad,” you may say.

Well, sad to say, the ISPs or organizations running the spam traps may not know that you are sending to 5 million or just 5 recipients. As a matter of fact, they don’t care.

Other things that can happen when you hit a spam trap include a damaged reputation (which consequently leads to an increase in bounce rate and decrease in deliverability), your sending domain being blocklisted by the ISPs, or delivery of your email to a certain ISP.

That’s why your solution is not just to find and delete the spam trap from your list. Here are some things you can do to keep your list free from spam traps.

How to Avoid Spam Trap Email Addresses

sending emails that get opened

1. Use Double Opt-In Confirmation

The best advice we can give to you is to use double opt-in confirmation during the sign-up process. This ensures that a correct email address is really added to your list. Plus, the subscribers are genuinely interested in receiving emails from you.

2. Get Your Spring (and Fall, and Summer…) Cleaning On

Regularly cleaning your email list is necessary to avoid spam traps. By maintaining a healthy contact list, you can remove outdated emails or those that contain typos.

It would be a good idea to designate one or two people to ensure this best email marketing practice does not fall through the cracks. It can be twice a year, once a quarter, or whenever it works for your team.

3. Use Email Verification Tools

Email verification tools validate the authenticity of email addresses, and they help minimize bounce rates. These tools will scan your list and use various checks to remove dangerous or invalid emails.

Some tools even require you to upload your contact list via CSV file, and the tool will take care of the cleaning process for you. Others fine-tune the cleaning process by setting up blacklist and whitelist options.

4. Segment Your Audience

Another way to avoid spam traps is by segmenting your subscribers based on their recent activity. Preferably, users who received your email and opened or clicked it in the last 0 to 12 months can be a part of your marketing deployments to reduce the likelihood of hitting emails that are converted as spam traps.

5. Monitor User Activity Closely

Spam trap addresses are set up to receive an email but not to interact with it. That’s why we encourage you to monitor your list’s activity closely, like their acquisition practices.

If a user stops opening your email or clicking a link on your content for several months, you may want to consider retiring that list from further mailings.

Want to optimize your newsletters? Check out How to Improve and Maintain Your Email Deliverability.

6. Grow Your List Organically

We believe buying an email list opens up a world of marketing opportunities, and it’s not altogether a bad thing as long as it comes from a reputable provider.

However, growing your list organically is still better, albeit it takes a while. Doing so gives you better email delivery and open rates.

Come to think of it. If you send your emails to people who basically requested to receive your email, then the likelihood of their emails as actual email addresses and not spam traps is higher.

To grow your list the right way, you can publish high-quality content or blog posts, promote that content on social media, and add a checkbox to your Contact Us forms or conversion forms, too!

Win the Cat-and-Mouse Game

envelopes on table - Spam Trap Email Addresses and How to Avoid Them

You’re not a spammer, but you should care to win the cat-and-mouse game played between the ISPs and spammers.

Don’t ignore a spam trap alert. If a spam trap email address ends up on your list, know that it’s time for cleaning. If it’s still not working, use the other tips we shared above.

The whole process may take a few days or a couple of weeks, but so long as you’re willing to work with it, you can definitely go through the damage control in response to hitting a spam trap or avoid them altogether by being prepared as much as you can before the problem arises.

After all, spam traps can only surprise you if you let them.

At InboxAlly, we’ve found the most helpful way to help our clients avoid spam traps and maintain great email deliverability. Want to know how? Book a live demo with us today.