Articles on: Deliverability

What is a Spam Trap and How to Remove it?


Spam traps (also called honeypots) are often used by anti-spam organizations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to identify spam emails and catch spammers.

But if you are not a spammer, why should you care? Unfortunately, even good senders can end up with a spam trap in their contact list. Therefore, it is vital to know what spam traps are and how to remove them.

What is a spam trap?

A spam trap is an email address used by anti-spam organizations, ISPs, and other groups to identify senders who are not following best practices or sending unsolicited emails. Spam traps look like regular email addresses and are often created from old email accounts that are no longer in use by their original owner.

New spam traps are created all the time, but since these are not real humans, these addresses don't sign up to receive mailing. If you send them mailings, neither opens or clicks will be generated.

In case you send emails to spam traps, it indicates that you didn't follow the good practices when collecting your customers' email addresses. It makes you look like a spammer to the inbox providers and anti-spam organizations, resulting in a huge impact on your sender's reputation and the delivery of your emails. It may even prevent your emails from being delivered to your customers' inboxes.

Different types of spam traps

Pristine Spam Trap

Pristine spam traps are created with the intention of finding people who are sending spam or not following best practices. While all spam traps negatively affect your sending reputation, the pristine spam trap is the most harmful one.

These emails are never used in real-world instances and are brand-new addresses, so hitting a PST is likely to cause your IP to be blocklisted or your emails to go to spam. In the eyes of inbox providers, that means you either bought a list or do not follow best practices since these addresses are not legitimate and do not open emails.

Recycled Spam Trap

Unlike pristine spam traps, recycled spam traps are addresses that were used as real addresses at some point in the past. It is common to see this type as domains provided by free services, such as @gmail or @yahoo. However, in some cases, you may see domains of closed businesses being repurchased with the intention of making them recycled spam traps.

An out-of-date email doesn't always become a recycled spam trap immediately after it falls out of use. Some inbox providers may delete the address after no activity - i.e., if the address stops receiving emails. Once the address is deleted, if you send messages to the address, the email will hard bounce. AVADA automatically suppresses hard bounces.

Generally, an in inbox provider will leave an account deleted for 6-12 months before recycling it as a spam trap. The purpose of a recycled spam trap is to identify people who are not following best practices when it comes to list cleaning, not necessarily to identify spammers.

Below is a chart that covers when an inbox provider may delete an account for inactivity:

Typo Spam Trap

Have you ever misspelled "Google" in your web browser's location bar, but it still took you directly to Have you sent out an email to "Gmial" or "Outlok" and noticed it didn't bounce?

Typo spam traps work like that. They are real email addresses which, in spite of their domain misspelling, do not bounce. ISPs set them up to get insight on marketers' best practices.

Although it could be just a mistake of the person signing up, it can lead to a spam trap on your end. The consequences of the typo spam trap are typically not as severe as pristine spam traps. However, it shows that the sender is not cleaning the contact list regularly.

Why should you remove spam traps?

Sending to spam traps or real humans who do not engage (open/click) with your emails will cause deliverability issues. Repeatedly emailing unengaged recipients will cause ISPs (i.e., Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, etc.) to evaluate whether each recipient wants to receive emails from your domain.

If there is a continuous period of time, often around 60 days, when a recipient receives multiple emails from you but does not engage, ISPs will take that as a sign that they don't want to receive your emails and will likely route them to the spam folder or block the delivery outright.

Plus, filtering companies use spam traps to identify which emails they should place in the junk/ spam folder. In their eyes, it is a sign that you are not obtaining emails legitimately or following email best practices. To make it worse, sending to spam traps can lead to AVADA IPs being blocklisted, which leads to deliverability issues on our infrastructure, ultimately impacting AVADA's other customers who are making an effort to implement best practices.

Identify spam traps

It is impossible to identify specific email addresses that are spam traps because this information is not publicized. However, finding people who are not engaging with your brand and are potential spam traps is possible. To do so, create a segment of anyone who has never engaged with your brand.

For example, you can create a segment of contacts who haven't opened or clicked your emails in the last 90 days. The number of days depends on each business.

This is one of the most common cases you can try.

Or, we all know that spam traps are not real people, there are some things they simply cannot do. A spam trap can't open/ click an email, place an order, start a checkout, be active on site, view products, open support tickets, leave product reviews, or forget their password because these events require human action. Utilize this data in AVADA to segment out totally unengaged contacts.

How to remove spam traps

After you've identified the problematic segment of contacts, the next step in removing spam traps from your account is to suppress them. To suppress these contacts, following our instructions to list cleaning.

You can export your totally unengaged segment, then re-upload to your suppression list, which is found in the Audiences tab of AVADA.

Best practices to avoid spam traps

Avoiding spam traps is not as hard as you would think. As long as you follow best practices and keep an eye on your engagement rates, your email hygiene shouldn't be at risk.

Here are some practical tips to help you keep spam traps away from your email list and achieve only the best email marketing results:

- Never ever buy an email list. First of all, it is against the law to send emails to people who didn't give you their consent. At the same time, when buying a list, you don't know whether or not the email addresses were properly collected, so there is a reasonable chance you are paying for a list full of spam traps.

- Use double opt-in. By using double opt-in, you can ensure an email address belongs to a real person. It is a robust way to catch typos and fake email addresses that could be spam traps.

- Clean your email list regularly. If you believe you have a spam trap in your list, it's high time for a thorough cleaning. Remove contacts who have not engaged with your brand for 3-6 months.

Remember, maintain a healthy contact list and follow email sending best practices and you should be just fine.

Updated on: 06/09/2021

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