Good deliverability is essential if you want your emails to reach your subscribers’ inboxes. Unfortunately, maintaining inbox placement is not an easy job. Many factors can affect it, and one of them is called a spam trap.

Spam Traps: what are they?

What is a Spam Trap?

Spam traps are email addresses used to catch illegitimate senders. Sadly, they look like real emails – you cannot usually tell it is a spam-trap when you see one.

Their purpose is to catch spammers. How do they do it? Well, these emails do not belong to any real individual. Thus, they should not be used for any communications at all. Any emails landing to these inboxes will be considered illegitimate, or, in other words, spam. And yes, hitting a spam trap will damage your sending reputation and deliverability.

Spam Traps Lurk in Unloved Databases

You need to keep spam traps in mind when you monitor your mailing database, especially so, if you have poor list management or do not maintain good data quality. Even if you think you are not spamming, but you keep bulk emailing to all your database – including those silent, inactive contacts – you are very likely to have sent an email to a spam trap.

It means that you do not have to be sending malicious emails around to be considered a spammer. And if you have hit a spam trap, inbox and blacklist providers will know that you have either collected your emails in a dodgy way, or you just don’t take good care of your list. Both, obviously, are not good email marketing practices.

Can You Identify Spam Traps?

Unfortunately, you cannot easily find spam-traps in your mailing lists. You might have already sent emails to spam traps, but you just don’t know it.  Buying email lists is one of the surest ways to get spam traps in your database. Also, sending mail to addresses that have been inactive for a long time is another good method to land in a spam trap. 

As mentioned before, after hitting a spam trap, inbox providers or other anti-spam organisations might view you as a spammer. It will, in turn, hurt your sending reputation, making it hard for your emails to land to inboxes.  You are also risking to be added to a blacklist too.


Spam Trap sign

Spam Trap Types

There are many types of spam traps, but in this article let’s focus on the two main ones. The most common spam traps are:

  • pure spam traps
  • recycled spam traps

These will have the biggest effect on your deliverability and sender reputation if you happen to hit them.

Pure Spam Traps

Pure spam traps are the ones you need to be aware of. These can really hurt your inbox placement.  Pure spam traps are the ones that are created solely to be a spam trap and catch spammers. All emails landing there will surely be considered as spam, as most likely such email addresses are obtained through bad practices. For example,  website scraping can give add spam traps to your database.

Recycled Spam Traps

Another main category of spam-traps is called Recycled Spam Traps, otherwise known as dead address traps.

As the name suggests they are “recycled” email addresses – once they were owned by people, but were abandoned and not used in a very long time. When this happens, Internet Service Providers will switch the account off and return a hard bounce to the senders.

Later some of these email addresses will be resurrected or as others call it “gravestoned”.  These dormant emails will be turned into Recycled Spam Traps. Thus, you are very likely to hit such a spam trap if you do not keep good mailing list hygiene and keep deploying your emails to inactive contacts.

Ways to Avoid Spam Traps

There are ways to avoid hitting spam traps, and here are a few suggestions:

  • Do not buy email databases; they will surely get you into trouble
  • Practice good list building practices, let your readers subscribe to your emails themselves
  • Use a double opt-in to avoid spammy subscription entries
  • Maintain good quality, clean email lists
  • Manage your bounces. Remove hard bounces straight away, and suppress soft bounces after a set number of bounce backs.
  • Utilise sunsetting practices, remove inactive clients. You can read more about sunsetting here.

Bonus: Online Email Validation Tools

This section contains affiliate links

There are tools you can use to validate emails. Unfortunately, these will not tell you if they are spam traps or not, but at least you can check if they are valid not.

So, one of the email verification tools is called Neverbounce. They easily bulk clean your mailing list for you. They also offer Real-Time Email verification, which integrates with many platforms, including MailChimp, Marketo, and Campaign Monitor.

You can try them for free. A clean database makes a big difference!


Codemefy author: Adele Baltuoniene
December, 2017