How to handle spam trap email addresses

Updated on: November 1, 2017 Category: SPAM & Abuse, Troubleshooting

How to handle spam trap email addresses

A spam trap is an email address traditionally used to expose illegitimate senders who add email addresses to their lists without permission. But they are also set up to identify email marketers with poor permission and list management practices.

Sending to a spam trap can be very damaging to your sender reputation as well as causing deliverability problems for others using Robly.

This article explains how spam traps are created and used to help you understand how they can end up on your subscriber lists, even if you abide by the rules of permission-based email marketing.

If you’ve hit spam traps

If we have contact you about having spam traps in your list, rest assured our main goal is to fix the problem as quickly as we can.

Spam traps are very seriously damaging to your sending reputation as well as as Robly’s sending reputation as an Email Service Provider. And because you share an IP address with other Robly users, this impacts deliverability for all our other customers.

Even good email marketers can have spam traps in their list and it’s not always 100% obvious how they got there. Potential causes include using stale lists, not using double-opt in for new signups, or using a list whose origin is unknown or unclear.

The good news is our compliance team will do whatever they can to fix the problem and help you get back to sending as soon as possible.

 

Why spam traps cause problems

The bad:

The overall impact of having spam traps in your list depends on how many of them are in your list, how many times you send to it, and how the owner of that spam trap email handles a send to it.

In order of bad to worst, here’s what can happen if a spam trap is sent to:

  • Your sender reputation will be damaged, causing an increase in bounce rates and as a decrease of successfully delivered emails.
  • Robly IP addresses may be added to a blacklist database, which means deliverability for you, your clients, and/or our other customers would also be affected.
  • If you hit a spam trap operated by an ISP, such as Yahoo! or AOL, that ISP could permanently blacklist your domain.
  • If you hit a trap operated by an anti-spam organization (e.g. Abusix, Spamhaus, SpamCop) delivery of your emails to all ISPs and companies who consult that organization’s database will be affected because they use that information to filter incoming emails.

The good:

It’s not all bad – here are some of the pro’s about fixing the problem:

  • Spam traps actually keep your inbox clean. For every junk email you report, you’d probably have three times as many without spam traps.
  • This gives you an opportunity to clean/revise your list and potentially drop any “dead weight” as well as improve your overall strategies for email marketing.

Types of spam traps

It is possible to hit a spam trap without knowingly doing anything wrong. This is because of the different ways that spam traps are created.

Pure spam traps

These are email addresses that have never been used: they’ve never been opted into a mailing list, used to sign up for an account, or handed out on a business card.

The only way this sort of spam trap could possibly end up on your subscriber list is if they were obtained without permission.

Pure spam traps are set up with the sole intention of luring in spammers, which is done by putting them in places where they can be found online by people or bots that scrape emails illegitimately.

These email addresses are often shared with other spammers and/or added to bulk mailing lists that are then sold online.

Recycled spam traps

This type of spam trap is one you could hit even if your list is an opt in list. However, the negative impacts are still the same.

Recycled spam traps are old/outdated email addresses that have been abandoned by the original owner. The address has been unused for long enough that the provider has repurposed it as a trap (or “honeypot”) to expose and block emails from senders who are not responsibly managing their email marketing lists.

Hitting a recycled spam trap indicates that you are not keeping your lists up to date. The best way to do keep your lists clean is to regularly remove inactive subscribers and manage your bounced emails.

Typos and fake emails

If someone subscribes using an email address that contains a typo, or they submit a deliberately fake email address – because they don’t want to be emailed – you run the risk of it coincidentally being a spam trap email address.

 

The best way to avoid both of these trap types is by using the double opt in option on your signup form(s). When you require new subscribers to confirm their subscription directly from their own inbox, you can rest easy knowing that  this will prevent spam traps from being added to your list.

This type of spam trap isn’t likely to cause you to get blacklisted, but you’ll still be required to take action to remove them.

How to bounce back from spam traps

Spam trap data is not included in your campaign reports (and is NOT the same as a spam complaint). This information is reported directly to Robly on the back end, in which case our compliance team will contact you directly.

Because spam traps are so damaging, your ability to send will be suspended until the issue is resolved.

The review and recovery process will involve:

  • Identifying all the ways subscriber data has been collected and added to your list. If for any reason, third party or purchased email addresses have been added to your list, they must be removed immediately.
  • Reviewing the age of your lists. We need to find out how old your database is and how regularly, or irregularly, they have been sent bulk commercial emails.
  • Segmenting your list based on recipient activity: opens, clicks and forwards. When the suspension is removed we’ll get you to send only to your most engaged subscribers to start with, which will help to repair your sender reputation.

This process usually takes a day or two to resolve once we’ve received a response from you. As long as you’re willing to work with us as a legitimate sender to solve the problem, it should be smooth sailing.

Going through damage control in response to hitting any kind of spam trap is actually a great opportunity to review and improve your sending and list management practices with the help of our expert compliance team.

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