by Anna Wybieralska Apr 10, 2016

Find out more information about exactly what spam traps are, how to make sure you don’t get one on your list and what to do if you’ve fallen into the trap.

Spam traps can be a bane of an email marketer’s existence, in this article we’ll explore how to ensure that you don’t fall into one of them.

If you noticed that your email delivery rate or sales rate has gone down lately, it could be that you’ve hit a spam trap.

How to identify spam traps? How do they work?

It’s the job of an ISP (Internet Service Providers) and mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail to protect their users from unwanted or unsolicited email. To do this, they create spam trap email addresses, they do this in two ways:

First method

They start by creating fake email addresses like john@yourdomain.com, fred@yourdomain.com - They don’t share these addresses with anyone or use them to sign up for anything.

They then place the addresses randomly on websites, online groups, forums, and other places. This is also called a honey-pot address.

These emails are now traps, waiting for someone to come along and spring them.

Any marketer who scours the internet and adds an email to their lists, is automatically classified as a spammer!

Second methods

Inbox providers and ISPs use old email addresses that belonged to someone before, but have since abandoned by the user to recycle these addresses by turning them into spam traps.


Then they wait for senders to email those addresses even though they are not getting opened by the recipient, and then conclude that the sender is not using good list hygiene.

Spam traps are a very clear indication that the sender is failing to uphold good email marketing and list management practices.

Should I be concerned about spam traps?

Definitely. If these email addresses are found to be a part of your contact list and you start sending emails to them, you’re likely to be identified as a spammer and experience delivery issues.

Inbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail have several checks and filters that they use to determine whether or not the email you send is going to reach the inbox. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Whether people are engaging with the email you send and appear to want and expect the mail,
  • The number of complaints, or people who simply mark the mail as “spam”,
  • The type of mail, format, spammy content, IP reputation and whether mail is coming from a verified domain,
  • Has the sender hit any spam traps?

How do I know if a spam trap is on my list? How to avoid them?

If you think you’re safe from spam traps… you might want to think again. Here are a few ways that spam traps can end up on your contact list:

  • Purchasing a list. Most Email Service Providers (including Elastic Email) don’t support sending emails to purchased lists.
  • Randomly collecting addresses from websites, forums, comment sections or other open sources,
  • By not ensuring that your subscribers have double-opted into your email,
  • By sending to an old addresses that are inactive (anything inactive for longer than 6 months),

You can ensure that your list is clear of spam traps by using our Email Verification Service. The EVS will help you filter your list to ensure you don’t get caught in a spam trap.

What should I do if I hit a spam trap?

We’re not going to lie here, if you’ve hit a spam trap, you’ve got a problem on your hands and your delivery may be impacted. The best thing you can do is to make sure you don’t send them any more emails. Most spam traps won’t have opened any mails from you, so it’s a good idea to filter out all addresses that haven’t opened your emails in 12 months and place them in a separate segment. You can then send an email confirming whether the owners of these addresses still want to receive your content.

However, the best way to remove spam traps will always be keeping up with best email practices and keeping your list up to date and clean by following good list management guidelines.

If you’ve noticed that your email delivery success rate or sales rate has gone down lately, it could be that you’ve hit a spam traps.

What are spam traps? How do they work?

It’s the job of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail to protect their users from unwanted or unsolicited email. They do this in a variety of ways, one of them is by creating and using spam trap addresses, they do this in two ways:

First way:

They start by creating fake email addresses john@yourdomain.com, fred@mydomain.com - They don’t share these addresses with anyone or use them to sign up for anything.

Then these addresses get placed randomly on websites, online groups, in forums and other places (you may have also heard the term honey-pot addresses).

These email addresses are now traps – waiting for someone to come along and see them for the taking.

Any marketers who scour the internet and add these addresses to their lists - then send to them - are automatically classified as spammers – you’ve fallen into the trap!

Second way:

- Mailbox providers and ISPs will use old email addresses that did belong to someone but have since been abandoned by the user, they then recycle these addresses by turning them into spam traps,

- They then wait for senders to email those addresses even though they are not getting opened by the recipient and then mailbox providers and ISPs can reasonably conclude that the sender is not using good list hygiene,

- Spam traps are a very clear indication that the sender is failing to uphold good email marketing and list management practices.

Should I be concerned about spam traps?

Yes. If these email addresses are found to be part of your contacts database and you send to them, you’re likely to be identified as a spammer and experience a lot of delivery issues. If you’re sending from a verified domain, it may become blacklisted.

Mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail have several checks and filters that they use to determine whether or not the email you send is going to reach the inbox. These can include, but are not limited to:

- Opens and clicks – whether people are engaging with the email you send and appear to want and expect the mail,

- Number of complaints, or people who simply mark the mail as “spam”,

- Type of mail, format, spammy content, IP reputation and whether mail is coming from a verified domain,

- Has the sender hit any spam traps?

How do I know if a spam trap is on my list? Or how do I avoid spam traps?

If you think you’re safe from spam traps, you probably want to think again. Spam trap addresses can become part of your list in several different ways:

- By purchasing a list – this is something most ESPs (Email Service Providers) will not support and will cause you a lot of delivery problems,

- By randomly collecting addresses from websites, forums comment sections or other open sources,

- By not ensuring that your subscribers have double-opted into your mail,

- By sending to old addresses that are inactive (anything older than 6 months),

- If you’re not working to keep your list clean and using good list management.

What do I do if I’ve already hit a spam trap? Help!

Well, we won’t sugar coat it. If you’ve sent to a spam trap, it’s not good and it can be tricky to get your sender reputation and delivery back up to speed. Most spam traps will not have opened any of your emails so the best way to start is by taking any addresses that have not opened your mail in the last 12 months and creating a separate segment for those addresses.

Then, you can send a confirmation email to that segment of addresses to find out which of them want to continue to receive your emails. Any address that does not confirm should be removed from your list.

Overall, preventing spam traps from becoming part of your database in the first place is your best line of defense. You can do this by following good list management guidelines, tracking your subscriber’s actions, and keeping your list up to date.

Anna Wybieralska

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