By Webbula Senior Marketing Manager Steve Wagner
There are few phrases that can cause an email marketer as much trepidation as “spam trap”. These hidden, invisible, lurking threats can be hard to understand and suddenly derail even the best planned campaigns. Countless hours of work can explode unexpectedly and lead to a damaged sender reputation, negative results, or even blacklisting. Spam traps are easily among an email marketers worst nightmares.
But understanding leads to solutions, so let’s spend some time getting to know more about spam traps and what they are used for. You could be sending to spam if you simply misspell a domain, purchase emails in bulk, or are sending emails to recipients that didn’t subscribe to your emails in the first place.
So how can marketers avoid spam traps, and also create an effective marketing campaign? There are solutions. Regularly cleaning your email lists can help avoid any nasty threats that might be popping up in your email data over time. As difficult as spam traps can be to understand, they can be even more difficult to detect. Spam traps indicate an email acquisition or management issue that needs to be addressed. What Webbula has done is pioneer and perfect a comprehensive email hygiene solution that identifies these acquisition and management issues – before they become an issue.
Before we get into detection and prevention, let’s take a closer look at the different types of spam traps and what they are used for.
What exactly is a Spam Trap?
Spam traps are created specifically by and monitored by blacklist and email providers and are intended to catch malicious senders. In this way they function as intended. Often legitimate senders can get caught up in them as well, especially if they are not using proper email data hygiene or acquisition practices. If you do get caught in a spam trap it could affect your deliverability, your sender reputation, and your campaign results, or worse. A spam trap looks like a real email address, but it doesn’t belong to a real person. It’s only purpose is to identify spammers and those not using proper email data hygiene.
Now that you have the basic definition down let’s dig a little deeper into some of the different types of spam traps. It is important to note that definitions and names can vary across the email industry, depending on the source, with that in mind we have strived for commonality and ease-of-understanding in the following definitions.
Recycled traps are old email addresses that are no longer in use by the original owner. The address has been dormant for so long that the provider has repurposed it to expose, and block, emails from senders that are not responsibly managing their email data. Hitting one of these
traps indicates to the provider that you are not regularly removing inactives and managing bounces.
Pristine traps are email addresses that are published on public websites, but hidden so that normal users never see them. The only way to obtain these addresses is by scraping sites for anything that looks like an email address. If you scrap for email addresses, or bought a list (which often include scrapped emails) – you may have picked up pristine traps.
These are email addresses that have never been used by anyone, never been opted-in to any mailing list, or signed up for a contest, or handed out on a business card. The only way they end up in your email data is if they were obtained without permission. These emails are pure bait, left out on the internet to lure in bots or people that harvest addresses illegitimately to find them.
Pure Traps come with many Sub type traps that are very similar in a way which include Whitespace Traps or Dictionary Attack Traps, Honeypots, and Message-ID traps.
Honeypot Traps are email addresses specifically created and placed in various areas online to collect information about IP Addresses, used to help combat email fraud and spam. They are deliberately hidden in websites, code, and forms to be picked up by harvesters, bots and malicious actors. They are another form of bait, intended to detect private and commercial unsolicited bulk mailing offenses and, overall, work to reduce the amount of spam being sent and received on the Internet.
These are exactly what they sound like, email addresses with a typo in the domain, such as @gnail instead of @gmail. These are the most common, but misspelled usernames before the @ can also be typo traps. These commonly happen when user data is collected offline and entered into your database manually, or entered incorrectly over the phone, or purposefully as a way for customers to avoid being emailed.
Message ID Traps
Message ID traps are intended to identify scrappers that grab any data with an @ in it, including message IDs. If you email to this trap, it will tell the owner of the trap that the sender is scraping addresses or buying lists from someone who is.
Dead Address Traps
These were previously valid emails but recently turned off. All mail to these addresses was rejected for a period of time, usually 12 months or more, and then the addresses are turned back on. This type of trap was made famous by Hotmail and is typically what most people think of when they think about spam traps. Most major ISPs utilize these traps because they are useful for them to identify senders with poor list hygiene.
These email addresses are created and submitted directly to senders. The reason for these isn’t to catch a sender doing something bad, but to monitor sender activity. This type of trap is useful for monitoring ongoing behaviour of a sender. Typically this is used to ensure the sender is using confirmation and proper email hygiene on their lists.
Spam traps are a serious problem marketers face almost every day and the only way to avoid them is to keep up with good subscriber acquisition and list management hygiene practices. Regularly cleaning your list will not only help you avoid spam traps but other hidden threats like moles, bots, phishing attacks and more.
So now that you’re educated on the various types of spam traps, it’s time to let Webbula cloudHygiene help you before they become a problem. Verification providers can identify a valid or invalid email address, but only Webbula cloudHygiene can go beyond simple verification and detect the hidden threats in your email data like spam traps. It’s also important to note that verification checks can detect a typo trap, but they cannot detect honeypots or pristine traps. These are real emails, which will pass a verification test. So this should truly make your decision easier.
Verification alone is no longer enough, email hygiene is now the best practice. And no one does email hygiene better than Webbula cloudHygiene. We’ll detect all the nasties hiding in your email data that verification alone will miss. Period.