Spam Traps Part 3 – Avoiding Spam Traps

Clea Moore
Feb. 29, 2016 by Clea Moore

avoiding spam traps

First, a recap of Spam Traps: Part 2. In the last post, I talked about who uses spam traps and how they can impact your mail program. We established that mailing to traps can result in blacklistings and blocks, which limit your ability to reach your active, engaged subscribers. In the final part of this series, we’ll explore avoiding spam traps in the first place, and what to do if they have already made their way into your database.

There are two main reasons that spam traps end up on your list:

  1. Poor address acquisition practices.
  2. Poor list maintenance (commonly known as “hygiene”).

The easiest way to avoid mailing to traps in the first place is to have a well-structured subscription process. This means subscribers are giving clear consent, understand what they will receive, and from whom they will receive it upon sign-up. It goes without saying here, that purchasing a list is a terrible idea. The industry standard best practice is to have the user confirm their subscription, by clicking a link in an email sent to that address. This allows you as the marketer to verify that they entered the correct address, and to be certain they wish to receive your mail. For various reasons, not every program allows for this confirmation process (known as Confirmed Opt-In or COI). So, what can you do to protect your program? Practice good list hygiene.

Good list hygiene means monitoring engagement for all the addresses in your database (via opens and clicks), and regularly removing those who are inactive after a period of time. Guess what? Spam traps will not engage with your mail, so if they made their way onto your list – because a subscriber accidentally or intentionally entered the wrong address when they signed up – you will be removing them through this process. That means that you should start this culling of inactive addresses as soon as possible.

Savvy marketers will have a soft-COI process set up for new users, where they will send a series of welcome emails, which encourage the user to engage with their brand. If the subscriber doesn’t engage with any of these welcome messages, they are automatically unsubscribed from the program. In this case, a spam trap would only receive a small number of messages. In addition to this, but especially for senders who don’t have a soft-COI program, you should be removing subscribers who do not engage after a period of time. That timeframe will depend on your content, mailing frequency, and other program specifics, but a general rule of thumb is 6 months maximum with no engagement. Addresses falling outside that engagement window should be removed from your database on an automated, on-going basis.

Proper list hygiene, combined with a clear opt-in process, will reduce and prevent any negative impact that spam traps might have on your program. But wait! There’s a bonus! These practices are part of a strong foundation for a good sending reputation, so you will also see better delivery and inbox placement at the ISPs. We know that all major ISPs look at user engagement and inactivity as important signals about you as a sender, so why not set yourself up for success?

Okay, now let’s tie all 3 parts together:

  1. Spam traps have no value to you as marketer, because they don’t belong to a real user.
  2. Mailing to spam traps can cause big problems for your program by way of blacklistings and blocks, which stops you from reaching your active subscribers.
  3. Avoiding spam traps in the first place can be accomplished by having a clear, well-structured sign-up process, and maintaining your list regularly based on engagement. This will also result in a better sending reputation and better delivery.

There you have it! Everything you need to know about spam traps.

At SparkPost, we work closely with all of our Elite customers to ensure they are following email best practices, and are successful as a result. Find out more on our product page.

— Clea

Other posts in the Spam Traps series:

  1. Spam Traps Part 1: What Are They?
  2. Spam Traps Part 2: How They Impact Your Mail Program

9 Things ISPs Really Want Email Marketers to Know


  • Clea, great post.

    It was awesome to meet Karen and team at eTail West!

    One comment, many inbound emails are bogus, have typos or are later converted to spam traps. SafeToSend email validation helps keep IPs clean and client files pristine. We agree on the importance of being a best in class sender to avoid getting blocked/blacklisted and increase engagement rates.

    Kathleen Rogers

  • OK i have a lot of spam users registering on my, how do i get rid of them

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