What Are Spam Traps and Why Should You Care?

Getting your customers to open, read, click, and convert on your emails is hard enough, but what if the emails never even reach their inbox in the first place?

That’s why email deliverability is so important.

As you likely know, deliverability is the ability to get your email campaigns into your subscribers’ inboxes. To keep email users happy, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can’t let every email ever sent to its users slip into their inbox. Instead, they filter emails and decide to send some to spam and block others altogether.

The challenge is there are tons of email providers – Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Verizon, BT, etc. – and each one has different rules and metrics as to what they let in and don’t. They also keep their algorithms private so nobody can truly game the system.

What we do know is that sender reputation is one way that email providers decide where emails go. Sender reputation is the score service providers assign to your IP address that indicates how likely your email is to make it into your recipient’s inbox. The higher the score the better.

There are numerous factors that determine your sender reputation. This includes:

  • Open rates
  • Spam complaints
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • Opt-in rates
  • Hard bounce

But one other factor of sending reputation many marketers forget to consider can also have a huge impact: spam traps. We’ll examine how spam traps can impact your email marketing campaigns, and how to avoid them when sending email.

What is a spam trap?

Spam traps look like real email addresses, but they are actually fraudulent addresses that don’t belong to a real person and can’t be used for any type of communication. These spamtrap addresses are often already well-known to email providers or third-party blacklists.

There are three types of spam traps.

1. Pristine spam traps

Pristine spam traps are email addresses that can only be acquired by black-hat methods, such as buying bot lists or scraping websites. This is the worst type of spam trap to have within your email list, as it suggests that you might be a bot, or at least that you don’t bother to keep your email list up to date.

2. Recycled spam traps

Email providers remove email addresses from their servers that haven’t been logged into in a long time (the time range differs for each provider). These email addresses are known as recycled spam traps. If you are still emailing an address that hasn’t been logged into in a year or more, this will be flagged by the inbox provider and will hurt your sender reputation. Put simply, it signals you aren’t updating your mailing list.

3. Typo spam trap

If a domain name is malformed – for example alex@gamil.com – this is known as a typo spam trap. If you email this address then the message will bounce. One tip here is not to edit this typo and resend the email unless the person who owns it asks you to, as often people have entered the typo on purpose.

What happens if I email spam traps?

If you continually send emails to spam traps, this has a negative impact on your sender reputation and your emails are more likely to be blocked by the email inbox provider.

It makes sense — inbox providers want to provide the best experience for their users. If you are not keeping your marketing list up to date by removing spam traps, then it’s also unlikely that you are removing users who don’t engage with you or open your emails. This shows that you’re simply spamming a list without thought.

As inbox providers want to keep these types of emails out of users’ inboxes, you’ll likely be penalized. If you email spam traps over and over again, email providers are more likely to block your emails — or at least route them into the recipient’s junk email folder.

How can I make sure I don’t send emails to spam traps?

Keeping your email list up to date is the best way to ensure that you don’t send any emails to spam traps. While spam traps may inevitably make it onto your list from time to time, you can minimize the impact. If you continually clean up your list by removing any email addresses as soon as the emails bounce, you can avoid adverse effects.

If you are using email marketing software, then this should be able to remove these addresses automatically when it is notified that the emails have bounced, for example. Just make it a part of your usual email marketing strategy, and you’ll see huge improvements.

Use engagement filtering to weed out spam traps

Another tactic that can work well is engagement filtering. You should really only send emails to people who have engaged with your brand recently and filter out those that haven’t. This not only helps you understand who is interested and who is not and treat them accordingly, but it also allows you to weed out spam traps since those recipients will never engage with you.

We often see engagement filtering based only on email opens, but customers may be engaging with you in other channels. For example, they haven’t opened your emails in six months, but they visited your website last week, or they like your posts on social media on a regular basis.

To be able to filter effectively, you need to map all interactions to a single customer profile so you can get an overview of all their engagements with your brand.

If they are still engaging with your brand on another channel, you should keep them on your email marketing list, of course. But either try sending your inactive subscribers more personalized emails, rather than batch and blast campaigns. You could also try a winback campaign to try to re-engage them with your brand. If they don’t re-engage with your brand then – for the sake of your sender reputation – you should consider sunsetting them, or at least pausing campaigns until they reappear.

Engagement filtering is crucial as it ensures that you can keep your engagement rate high. This is one of the key ways to boost your sender reputation and ensure your emails land in your customers’ inboxes. As an email marketer, you should also consider sending lower volume, more personalized emails based on dynamic segments to try to not only boost engagement, but also create useful communication and a user experience that will delight your customers.

Really, avoiding spam traps just comes down to doing better, more personalized email marketing campaigns and making sure to keep an eye on your email list hygiene. If you’re not thinking about spam traps at all, you definitely should be! Make sure you keep a close eye on your sender reputation, and you’ll start seeing far better email marketing results.

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