Ah, the elusive clean, active mailing list and the aspired email deliverability! It’s like the holy grail of email marketing, but boy, oh boy, it’s no walk in the park to maintain it. There’s a whole bunch of factors just lurking around, waiting to mess with your deliverability. And let me tell you, one sneaky aspect of the mailing list and your sender reputation management that deserves a spotlight is none other than spam traps. Brace yourself because they can be a real pain!
What is a Spam Trap?
What are spam traps? Spam traps are email addresses used to catch illegitimate senders. They look like real email addresses – you cannot usually recognise a spam-trap when you see one. They’re like undercover agents, posing as regular email addresses, waiting to pounce on illegitimate senders.
But how do spam traps actually work? The first thing to know is that these email addresses do not belong to any real individual. You could say that they’re like empty shells, abandoned and forgotten in the vast expanse of cyberspace (sounds very dramatic, right?). As such, they should not receive any incoming communications – they should be sitting empty.
No legitimate emails should ever find their way into these email spam traps. These spam traps are there to catch and identify incoming mail – as anything that lands in them will be considered spam – illegitimate emails. And if, for some reason, your emails end up in there, well, you’ve got yourself a problem, as your sending reputation might take a serious hit.
Spam Traps Lurk in Unloved Databases
If you have good database management practices (easier said than done), you have a low chance of hitting a spam trap. But email databases can get complex, with multiple data entry points, duplication and other issues that cause marketers many headaches.
So if you’re either in the process of cleaning up your mailing list or if you’re actively using stale or ancient email lists (by choice or not), or, even worse, purchased email addresses, well, my friend, you’re stepping right into the spam trap zone.
When you unknowingly stumble upon a spam trap, consider your sending reputation on the line. It’s like waving a red flag in front of the email police, screaming, “Hey, look at me! I obtained my mailing list in the shadiest way possible!” And trust me, they won’t be impressed.
Spam Trap Types
There are several types of spam traps, but the two most common ones are:
- pure spam traps
- recycled spam traps
These will have the most significant effect on your deliverability and sender reputation if you happen to hit them. Let’s learn more about them.
Pure Spam Traps
Pure spam-traps can really hurt inbox placement. These emails are created solely to act as a spam trap and catch spammers. These traps are designed to catch those unwanted emails and label them as spam without a second thought. It’s like a trap door that slams shut as soon as you enter.
All emails landing there will indeed be considered spam. And such senders will be identified as using improper mailing list acquisition practices. You know, those shady tactics that some people use to acquire email addresses? A great illustration of that would be website scraping for emails.
♻️ Recycled Spam Traps
Recycled spam traps, otherwise known as dead address traps, as the name suggests, are “recycled” email addresses. Once upon a time, they were owned and cherished by people just like you and me. But alas, they were abandoned, left to gather digital dust, and doomed to an eternity of neglect.
Unfortunately, we do not know the exact time frames of how long an inbox needs to be inactive. Each provider will have its own inactivity time frame set. So, when an email address sits silently in idleness for an extended period, the providers eventually pull the plug, sending (a very familiar to email marketers) “hard bounce” back to the sender. And this should stop the senders from trying to send emails to such an address. But here’s where the plot thickens.
Later, some of these email addresses will be resurrected or, as others call it, “gravestoned”. Rising from their digital graves 🧟, these dormant emails are reborn as Recycled Spam Traps. So beware, my fellow email marketers, for if you neglect your mailing list hygiene, these treacherous traps lie in wait to ensnare your unsuspecting marketing emails.
The likelihood of hitting a recycled spam-trap is much higher than a pure spam-trap. Even careful email marketers (who do not want anything to do with spamming) could accidentally hit them: so take care of your list health and remove those inactive email addresses and perform proper bounce management.
Ways to Avoid Spam Traps
Now that you’ve familiarised yourself with these main spam trap types, let’s dive into some clever ways to avoid falling victim to them. Brace yourself for a healthy dose of wisdom:
- Do not buy email databases. Period. They will surely get you into trouble. Buying them is like entering a maze with a sign that says ‘Danger: Dead End Ahead.’ Trust me, you don’t want that trouble.
- Embrace the beauty of organic list-building practices. Picture yourself as… an email gardener, allowing eager readers to willingly subscribe to your emails. Let them come to you like bees (or those beautiful hummingbirds) to nectar. Everyone will be happier for it.
- Once you start growing your email list, you must take good care of it. Mailing list health is crucial: nurture it and watch it thrive. You can read more about how to maintain your mailing list here.
- Double opt-in can come to the rescue! I’m sure you won’t hear that often… Double opt-in is like having a bouncer at the entrance of your subscription club, ensuring that only the genuine partygoers get in. Say goodbye to those sneaky spammy intruders.
- Manage your bounces. Yes, email bounces can give quite a headache, but fear not! Adopt the role of a bounce whisperer. Remove those hard bounces without mercy, and suppress soft bounces after a set number of bounce-backs.
- It’s spring-cleaning all year long when it comes to email lists. Grab your metaphorical duster and regularly sweep through your database. Wave goodbye to inactive clients who are as useful as snoozing sloth. Well, if they hit a spam trap, then they’re probably worse than a snoozing sloth.
How to Remove a Spam Trap from Your List?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to identify spam-traps. They’re spam traps for a reason. If you suspect your mailing list is infested with spam traps, brace yourself for a thorough database cleanup! Identify all your inactive contacts: now is the time to become a fearless email detective, seeking out the culprits of inactivity.
As such, you’ll want to establish an inactivity timeframe to mark your targets. Let’s say, twelve months. Any contact that hasn’t shown any signs of life within that period deserves the boot. Not only are you paying for them as they take up contact space, but they may also be spam traps! So, don’t shed any tears for them – bid farewell and suppress them from receiving your beautiful marketing emails.
Once you’ve executed this daring act of database cleansing, take a step back and evaluate the results. Do you see any changes in your campaign engagement and deliverability? If you still think you have a spam trap lurking in your mailing list, narrow the timeframe further or split your list into smaller segments, then analyse your reporting to try and identify potential traps.
Key Takeaway: Love Your Mailing Lists
Here’s the deal: if you’re even considering buying email addresses, it’s time for a reality check. That practice is as illegal as pirating movies in many countries. Not to mention, the ESPs (email service providers) won’t be too thrilled about it either. Let’s leave the shady stuff behind and embark on a journey of ethical email marketing. Remember, your email list is precious. Think of it as your digital garden: it requires love and care. You can’t let your mailing lists run wild like a bunch of weeds and shrubs. Look after your email databases, and clean them regularly. Your mailing lists deserve nothing less. ❤️