Avoid spam traps the right way

Deliverability Podcasts
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In episode 5 of the Deliverability Defined podcast, my co-host Melissa Lambert and I talk about spam traps and how they can be avoided with the right list collection and management practices

Note: This podcast episode was pre-recorded and since then, we have changed our terminology at ConvertKit to blocklist instead of blacklist.

How to avoid spam traps the right way

Avoiding spam traps the right way

Spam traps are often something that cause confusion and panic amongst email senders. We’re going to talk about how you can avoid spam traps the right way.

A spam trap is an email address that's created or maintained with the purpose of identifying senders with poor list health or collection methods. While it’s good for subscribers, sometimes as a sender you can get hit with penalties to your deliverability score without understanding why.

In this episode, we talk about the three types of spam traps, how to avoid them with proper list collection and hygiene, and more. We also answer a listener question about emoji use in your subject line.

Main takeaways

There are 3 types of spam traps:

  • Pristine
    • This is the most serious type. Pristine traps are email addresses that are created but never used to sign up for any email marketing or to purchase anything. However, they are typically added to a purchased list or a public website. This means, if a pristine trap receives email, the sender either purchased a list, scraped addresses from a website, or obtained a bad list in some other way.
  • Typo
    • This is an email address that appears to be typo'd, but since it is being used as a spam trap, it can receive mail. An example of a typo'd domain is gnail.com.
    • This isn't as serious as a pristine trap, but shows that the list collection and hygiene practices could use some improving.
  • Recycled
    • These are traps that were once valid, active addresses but that have since been retired.
    • Recycled traps are meant to catch senders who do not manage bounced addresses properly or senders who send to very old lists that haven't been contacted in a long time.

Spam trap addresses are always kept secret.

  • If it was possible to know which email address was a spam trap, they'd be pretty useless. Spammers would just remove the traps from their list and continue spamming.
  • So, you can't scrub your list of spam traps. To get rid of spam traps, you have to get to the root issue that caused them to be on your list.
  • Having spam traps on your list doesn't mean all of your emails will go to spam. It's the issue that leads to spam traps being on your list that will cause the majority of deliverability issues.
  • Spam traps are a sign of a larger problem, they aren't the problem.
  • We'll talk more about this on a future episode, but since traps are kept secret, list validation tools can't scrub your list of spam traps. They might coincidentally remove some, but they can't truly make your list spam trap free.

How to avoid spam traps

  • Having a double opt-in for your email list is a great way to make sure your list is “clean” and only includes people who want to be there.
  • Pay attention to misspelled email addresses. They can be genuine mistakes, but they can also be spam traps.
  • Manage your bounced addresses. They can become spam traps and hurt your list. ConvertKit manages your bounces for you, and most other ESPs do as well. Be careful not to send to previously bounced addresses if you change ESPs.
  • Never ever ever purchase a list. More specifically, only email people who have directly opted in to receive your emails
  • Tricky or forced opt-ins don't count, such as giveaways that your brand was involved in. Each subscriber should have consented to receive your emails, and not have been forced to opt-in in order to receive something else.
  • Don't email old lists that have been collecting dust. If you somehow come across a list of subscribers who opted-in to receive your emails, but you haven't sent an email to them in six or more months, it's best to let them go. At the very least, use a list validation tool to help weed out some of the bad addresses.

How to avoid spam traps the right way


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Alyssa Dulin

Alyssa is a Deliverability Lead located in Nashville, TN. She loves helping senders reach the inbox of their subscribers. Outside of work, Alyssa enjoys traveling, indoor cycling, and spending time with family.

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