Isn’t it frustrating when we put a ton of time and hard work into creating a marketing campaign and into growing an email list when you begin to realize a significant percentage of your subscribers might not have received or even seen your email?
What happened? How might you help your future self from encountering this nightmare?
There is no doubt email marketers now face a ton of difficulties, one of the most disappointing is low delivery rates, and low deliverability means your customers don’t see you.
Spam traps are the ones that create the most questions and concerns, and that’s the way it should be. To help, we’ll take an in-depth look at what spam traps are.
Spam traps block those spam emails nobody needs in their inbox. However, if your email falls prey to spam traps, they affect your sender reputation, they ruin your deliverability, and they can even get you blacklisted.
Spam traps are hard to identify and even harder to remove, but with the right steps and some planning, you won’t get caught off guard.
What are Spam Traps?
Spam traps are email addresses used to trap senders of spam messages. Spam traps are claimed and operated by anti-spam organizations, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or security organizations to detect spammers.
A spam trap utilizes a genuine email address, are keenly observed, and are not used for any communication but instead monitor for spam email addresses.
“How do I make an email list free of spam?” marketers always try to find the answer for this. Here is the list of the most important, actionable tips to avoid your email meant for your customers falling into spam traps.
Why Should you care about Spam Traps?
You might have unknowingly sent an email to spam traps, and depending on the type of trap, having your emails in even one spam trap can impact your ability to get your emails to the inboxes of your subscribers.
It’s considered a bad practice to collect lots of email addresses. To anti-spam organizations, this makes you look like a spammer, which has an impact on your sender reputation, so it’s best always to keep your email list clean.
Senders with a bad reputation may not get their emails delivered to their subscribers.
How Do I Know Whether I’m Sending to a Spam Trap?
There are a few tools you can use that will help you to evaluate your sender reputation and show you whether you’re sending emails to any spam traps or to your legitimate customers.
For example, Microsoft’s Smart Data Network Service (SNDS) is one such tool. Spam traps look like regular email addresses, so it’s hard to spot them in your email list.
Types of Spam Traps
1. Pristine: These spam trap email accounts have never been valid emails and couldn’t even opt into receiving an email. These are available on public websites but hidden within the site’s code.
The primary purpose of pristine traps is to identify email marketers who use poor list building practices.
2. Recycled: This spam traps were once valid email addresses but have been repurposed by their provider. Someone could have used this address to opt-in at one time, but these addresses may have been abandoned.
→ Recycled spam traps might be on your sending list if any of the following apply;
- Your email list is too old
- Your email list is not frequently used
- There are mistyped or invalid addresses on your list. (e.g., [email protected])
The best tips on how to avoid falling into a spam trap email address:
1. Choose a reputable Email Service Provider (ESP)
Email Service Providers increase your reputation greatly depending on how good their status is.
When Email Service Provider’s clients send valuable and relevant content and have a high score on their IP addresses, their emails become trustworthy.
Non-reputable ESPs, however, have their IP addresses typically blocked by reputable ESPs like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, or Hotmail.
2. Never buy email lists!
Are you thinking of purchasing an email list? Legally, it represents a violation of ISP’s terms of service. Selling or transferring email addresses to others is illegal and will land you in hot water with the law.
It also represents a violation of privacy to those people whose addresses are on the list as they didn’t accept contact with you.
The examination from Convince and Convert demonstrates that email records that have 10% unknown user addresses tend to have 44% of their emails undelivered by ISPs!
These email lists contain info that is out of date and as such, usually includes inactive or dormant addresses or recycled spam traps.
These lists are harvesting, and chances are they will contain real spam traps. It is a one-way trip to email marketing hell to end up in a spam trap, so avoid buying email lists!
3. Verify your email lists periodically
You need to make sure your email lists are verified and have no chance of a hard bounce, or being undeliverable.
You have to check your email lists to find which email addresses and domains no longer exist, and which addresses are suspicious.
Having a high-quality email list helps reduce hard bounces, which means you send emails to only those accounts which exist. This is an excellent marketing practice to follow.
If you send emails to invalid addresses, you’ll end up with a hard bounce. These email addresses hard bounce your emails today, and spam traps them in the future.
You can detect invalid email addresses, and prevent ending up in spam traps as a result, by using email verification services.
4. Regularly send an email
Your subscribers will forget you if you send too few emails. On the other hand, send too many emails, and your subscribers will get annoyed.
Therefore, it’s better to send emails on a fixed schedule that maintains frequency. As you can see in the above graph, industry average open rates change in different categories.
With regular frequency, you can spot if any of your email addresses become invalid. You can then suppress those emails from your email list before they become spam traps.
Most leading ESPs consider the following factors when dealing with spam complaints.
5. Avoid spam trigger words
Pay attention to the subject line of your email to avoid hitting spam filters. The ideal approach to avoid being ‘marked as spam’ is to avoid acting like spam. Utilizing spam trigger words can increase the probability of being caught in a spam filter.
Certain words and phrases are blacklists with spam mail. Words like ‘free,’ ‘best price,’ and ‘cash’ are usually collected from spam emails and should be avoided.
Review every one of your email subjects to understand that offering a free prize in the subject line is a byproduct of following two or three stages the customer receives once they open the email.
Here are examples of good subject lines:
“Hi [name], [question]?”
“Did you get what you are looking for?”
6. Monitor open and click rates
Sending out an email is half of the process of your email marketing campaigns. You need to consider open and click rates to understand the full engagement picture.
The addresses that consistently fail to show open rates, especially long term like the past six to twelve months, are prime candidates for future spam trap.
If people don’t open your emails or are not interested in your emails, why send them emails? It’s better to ask them if they’d like to continue receiving your emails than it is to be blacklisted.
The best way to avoid that is to verify your email list with bulk email verification service. Using these services, you come to know valid email addresses and can reach your intended audience.
Separate email addresses that haven’t engaged for nearly a year and inform them they can continue being on your email list by opting in again.
If users still don’t opt-in, remove them from your email list, and eliminate your risk of being caught in a spam trap.
7. Recycled spam traps
Remember that old email address you abandoned years ago that went something like [email protected]?
Of course, we all do. Well, sometime after you chose to get rid of it, your provider turned it into a trap. “smartboy111” is currently attracting spammers to expose and block them. Smart-boy indeed!
It is also possible that you collected legitimate emails years ago that now are spam traps. That’s tricky! Years ago, you had no way of knowing their abandoned emails would be used to attract spammers.
8. Use a double opt-in
If you are building an email list of new subscribers, how will you verify that recipients want to receive emails from your brand?
Almost everyone recommends using a double opt-in method, which requires a subscriber must confirm before officially ending up on your email list.
Having subscribers utilize double opt-in demonstrates they have an authentic enthusiasm for your emails, and they are not spamming traps.
For example, I am searching for Puma shoes, and I find a website that has an email sign-up box. When I enter my email address, I typically receive an email where I need to confirm my subscription. Only after clicking “confirm subscription” am I officially a subscriber to the Puma shoe website.
9. Authenticate your email with SPF, DKIM, and DMARC
Email authentication can be complicated, but it’s easy to remember that authenticating email verifiers you are who you say you are!
Providers like Google and Yahoo! trust authenticated email more and are more likely to deliver mail from an authenticated email into the inbox.
Here is the graphical representation of how emails are authenticated:
Here are some methods to validate your email and prove to the inbox providers your email is worthy of the inbox and not a spam folder:
- Sender Policy Framework (SPF) – SPF ensures you are who you say you are by comparing the sender’s IP address with a list of IPs authorized to send by that domain.
- Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) – DKIM ensures that the email was not tampered with during transmission.
- Domain-Based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) – DMARC leverage the power of both SPF and DKIM. It requires both to pass in order to send and deliver email.
10. Avoid blacklists and monitor your IP reputation
Every email domain has a reputation associated with it, and if it slips up or sends an email to a spam trap, you may find yourself in an email blacklist. Unluckily, even cautious senders may find themselves on a blacklist.
You can reduce the risk of ending up on a blacklist by considering some of the following:
- Use double opt-in
- Implementing a policy to remove unengaged subscribers
Using real-time email address verification helps if someone raises the false spam alarm and your sender score suffers or if you send an email to an invalid email address.
Watch out for your delivery rates as well since it will advise whether you might be on a blacklist.
You have to clean your database regularly to keep your email list safe from spam traps. Create a list of subscribers who haven’t opened any of your emails in the last 6-12 months — design a newsletter to reengage specifically with them.
If it does not work and they don’t sign up, delete them. By doing this, you will save time and money on clients who can purchase your product or service.
Unfortunately, no magic equation ensures your emails won’t fall into spam traps. ISPs, ESPs, and anti-spam laws and regulations are relentless, and there is no definitive guide for deliverability issues.
Trying to find email marketing perfection is a fleeting yet straightforward goal, no matter how hard you try. But, it doesn’t mean you can’t get close! Follow the above tips, and your email campaign’s performance will have the best chance.
Always consider this – the higher your email engagement the more likely your email will wind up where it is supposed to and not get trapped in a spam trap.
By focusing on technical issues, cleaning email lists, taking significant considerations to keep away from spam triggers words in the subject line and email bodies, and by following up correctly and on the time you are bound to save your credibility, sender reputation, and protect your IP address and domain from getting blacklisted.
Here’s a famous email marketing quote by Bob Frady:
Have you ever faced your emails ending up in a spam trap? We would love to hear about your experience. Please comment below.