What is a Spam Trap (And How to Avoid It) – The Ultimate Guide
At the moment of writing, there are about 89 billion (with a B) spam emails sent every day. And as harmless as spam messages are, they present a huge problem for businesses like yours.
If you want to send legitimate business emails, it’s becoming harder to stand out because of all the unsolicited messages out there.
One of the reasons is spam traps. Even if you’re abiding by all the rules and sending proper, clean emails, you could land in the spam folder and have your addresses blacklisted, because of spam traps.
Today, we’ll show you what spam traps are and how to successfully avoid them when sending emails.
What is a spam trap?
A spam trap (also known as a honeypot) is a fake email address that internet service providers (ISPs) and businesses create to capture or trap spam emails. In simple words, a business will create an address with just one purpose – for someone to send a spam email to it.
If you have a list of legitimate email addresses, it means you’re sending emails to actual people. However, a spam trap is a fake or outdated email and if you send a message to such an email account, it means you acquired the spam trap email address through black-hat methods and that you’re sending spam.
And when you’re not sending to a real email address, it has consequences, such as higher bounce rates and a decreased sender reputation.
In short, a spam trap is an actual trap designed to prevent spammers from cluttering a company’s inbox. The problem is, you could accidentally send an email to a spam trap even if your intentions are good and you’re sending the most legitimate emails in the world and you’re trying to reach a real person from your contact list.
Anti-spam organizations use spam traps to help weed out the spammers from legitimate senders.
Before we get into the details of how to avoid these spam traps, let’s discuss the different types that exist.
Two different types of spam traps
Depending on how serious a business is about preventing spam, it could have different types of spam traps set up. Let us rank them, from most to least serious, so you can easily avoid these invalid email addresses.
➡ Pristine spam traps
When something is pristine, it means it’s untouched. Pristine traps are email addresses that are never used to send or receive emails and their only purpose is to trap spam. A business or internet service provider sets up a spamtrap email address like this one with one purpose only.
Falling for these spam traps is pretty easy. A website can embed a huge number of emails in its code, for different people in the organization. Among them, they will slip in a fake, pristine spam trap. That way, when a spammer scrapes an entire website for a list of contacts, they will also get the pristine spam trap included.
Once they send out emails to everyone on the list, nothing will happen, until they send an email to the pristine spam traps. That’s when the sender’s email gets blocked and all future emails end up in the spam folder.
Out of all the spam traps, this one is the most harmful to your sender’s reputation. If you get hit with a pristine spam trap, you could end up hurting your sender’s reputation so much that you’ll have problems sending any emails in the future. Bad news for email marketers who care about email deliverability.
Luckily, this type of spam trap is easily avoided with proper email hygiene, and we’ll show you how to dodge it in a minute by using an email validation service.
➡ Recycled spam traps
A recycled spam trap is not as harmful as pristine spam traps, but it’s still best to avoid it as it belongs to invalid addresses and could harm your sender reputation. Recycled spam traps could be some of the following:
- Misspelled emails (think [email protected] instead of [email protected]), otherwise known as typo spam traps
- Expired emails from employees who no longer work at a company
- Misspelled domains (e.g. [email protected])
A company can set up one of these as spam traps for you to accidentally send an email to. If you get a recycled spam trap in your list of legitimate addresses, it could mean that you scraped the list, purchased it, or got it through some other shady method.
The penalty for hitting these recycled spam traps isn’t as severe because they’re harder to set up and manage. You could accidentally send an email to an employee who no longer works at a business. You could just as easily make a spelling mistake that could result in hitting a spamtrap.
However, it’s best to try to avoid recycled spam traps as well. Sending emails to an address like this one repeatedly can end up getting you on the blacklist and hurting your legitimate sender reputation.
How to avoid spam traps
If you care about your email marketing campaign and reputation as a sender, you’ll want to avoid sending emails to spam traps at all costs. This is actually a lot easier than it seems – all you have to do is check your email addresses. Here are some steps to get started.
❌ Do not scrape websites for emails
Nothing good can come out of a scraped email list. You want to send messages to legitimate email addresses, which is why scraping websites is a big mistake. Sure, you can get a larger audience, but what are the chances of the right person reading your email? Even more importantly, do you want to make the risk of sending something a spamtrap?
✅ Validate your emails
When you have a list you send emails to, it can get outdated over time. And even if you collected a list of emails in the most honest way possible, errors and spam traps can slip through. Employees leave companies, people misspell their email addresses when submitting, and more.
Enter email validation as a way to identify spam traps.
To prevent sending emails to spam traps, validate your contact lists for undeliverable and toxic email addresses frequently with a tool such as Bouncer. In a matter of minutes, Bouncer looks through your list of emails and shows you which email addresses are legitimate and worth reaching out to. You’ll also know which toxic email addresses to avoid in the future to keep yourself safe, thanks to real time validation.
If you’re ready for a spotless email list, sign up for Bouncer today!
❌ Do not purchase email lists
One of the most basic bits of advice in marketing is to never buy email lists. These are people you never had contact with before and you have no idea if they’re a good match for your offer or business. Most importantly, these people never agreed to receive emails from you.
Building a list is hard and even a smaller one with a few hundred emails can take months to gather. This is why purchased lists seem like a neat shortcut, but in reality, they always do more harm than good.
✅ Prune and update your lists regularly
As mentioned, people come and go from companies and their addresses are no longer used. Moreover, people who subscribed for one reason may stop being interested. Or maybe, they stop using an address altogether.
This is why you should often validate your existing list to avoid spam traps. Within your email marketing tool, you can see the list of addresses that have not read or opened your emails in a few months and you can remove these from your future email lists.
Removing inactive subscribers not just reduces the chances of sending something to spam trap addresses, but will also improve your email marketing metrics overall, starting from the open rate. You’ll eliminate bad data and avoid the junk folder.
✅ Use double opt-in
When collecting email addresses from your website, use a double opt-in system to make sure potential recipients confirm their addresses first. This is actually a common practice in permission based email marketing and you may be even required to do it if you’re abiding by GDPR . In other words, double opt-in is important even if you don’t care about spam traps at all.
This way, you’ll prevent people from entering email addresses with typos. At the same time, you’ll avoid a competitor or someone with bad intentions from manually adding a spam trap to your list.
Keep your email lists free of spam trap email addresses
As you can see, avoiding spam traps is actually not that difficult. If you regularly validate, clean and prune your email lists, you’ll be out of danger from a spamtrap. Your metrics will look better, your offers will land in the right inboxes, internet service providers will love you and you’ll see an immediate impact on your bottom line.
Ready to make that first step towards cleaner mailing lists? Sign up for Bouncer today and validate your emails instead of taking shots in the dark and risking a spam trap.
Frequently asked questions
I only send emails to my subscribers and I don’t send any cold emails. Should I be afraid of spam trap?
You should still validate your email lists because addresses frequently get obsolete and you might accidentally send an email to the wrong address.
How do you identify a spam trap in the easiest way?
Identifying all the spam traps is impossible, especially as the best ones are not known publicly. If someone assures you they can identify spam traps – most likely, they have access to the old, publicly known ones that are not necessarily in use anymore.
However, verifying both the deliverability and toxicity of email addresses should protect you and your sender’s reputation.
Validate and check your emails every few months to make sure you’re sending to the right people and not fake addresses.
Can I create a spam trap of my own?
Yes, it’s a pretty straightforward process and it depends on the email marketing tool and internet service provider that you use.