Spam traps (also called honeypots) are used to identify and monitor spam email. Anti-spam organizations, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and corporations use spam traps to lure spammers. 

But why should you care? You’re not a spammer! Unfortunately, even well-intentioned senders can end up with a spam trap on their contact list. Spam traps can cause your IP address or even your domain to be blacklisted, affecting your sending reputation and email deliverability

You may not be a spammer, but it’s important to know what spam traps are and how you can prevent them from being added to your contact lists. 

Types of spam traps

Pristine spam trap

Pristine spam traps are email addresses created by ISPs and other organizations. These email addresses have never previously been used by a sender. 

So how do they end up on contact lists?

The email addresses are embedded in websites, so when spammers scrape websites to grow their contact list, the spam traps end up in their list. Pristine spam traps can also be found on purchased or rented lists.

If an ISP sees someone sending to a pristine spam trap, it’s a tell-tale sign that this sender is practicing suspicious methods of gathering contacts.

While all spam traps negatively affect your sending reputation, the pristine spam trap is the most severe. Landing this type of spam trap in your contact list is more likely to blacklist your IP address or your domain. 

Recycled spam trap

Recycled spam traps are often domain registrations or email addresses that were once valid but have been reassigned for trapping spam. A couple of common examples are role addresses (sales@, info@, support@) or email addresses of employees who are no longer with the company. 

The recycled spam trap generally isn’t as harmful as the pristine spam trap, but will still cause damage to your sending reputation over time.

Email with typos

Emails with common typos, such as “gnail” instead of “gmail” or “yaho” instead of “yahoo” can also be used as spam traps. This could be an unintentional mistake of the person signing up but can still lead to a spam trap on your end.

Keep an eye out for emails with domains that are misspelled. 

Once again, the consequences of the typo spam trap are generally not as severe as pristine spam traps. But, it does portray the sender as negligent in not regularly cleaning their contact list and can harm their sending reputation.

How do I prevent a spam trap from entering my list?

There are a few ways spam traps can end up on your list, but all are generally caused by poor email list management and upkeep. Spam traps can usually be prevented by maintaining a healthy contact list and following email best practices. 

Purchased lists

Avoid purchased lists—they’re bad news! This includes any contacts who have not opted-in to receive your company’s communications. Using a purchased list almost guarantees that you’ll run into a spam trap, not to mention that the subscribers on these purchased lists likely have no allegiance to your brand and will probably mark the mail as spam or delete the email. All of these behaviors negatively affect your sender reputation.

List contamination

List contamination occurs when an actual email address is the spam trap was added deliberately or accidentally to an unconfirmed list. 

To avoid list contamination, check the correct spelling of the email addresses on your list. Incorporate Email Validation into your signup forms to automatically check the legitimacy of an email address and prevent typos. 

You should also include a double opt-in for all of your subscribers. This allows recipients to confirm their email address before you start sending them your content. A double opt-in: 

  1. Double checks that your recipients want your emails 
  2. Verifies that only legitimate senders are on your list 

For other contact list best practices, check out our guide, How to Grow Your Email Marketing List.

Outdated emails

Another crucial strategy to preventing spam traps is keeping your list up to date with subscribers who are regularly engaging with your content. Like previously mentioned, spam traps are sometimes sourced from outdated email addresses that are no longer valid. Going for long periods of time without sending mail to an address can lead to getting caught in a spam trap, as can sending to an email address that has not opened your email in a number of months.

To prevent spam traps, regularly clean your list.

Send re-engagement campaigns to subscribers who have not engaged with your material in the last couple months. Remove subscribers who do not respond to the re-engagement campaigns to weed out any contacts that could be spam traps.

How do I know if there’s a spam trap in my list?

If your IP address or domain has been blacklisted, it’s likely that you have a spam trap on your list. (Not sure if you’ve been blacklisted? Here’s information on blacklists and how to find out if you’ve been added to one.)

Keep an eye on your delivery rates to make sure your lists aren’t afflicted by a spam trap. If you see your delivery rates steadily decline (or tank!), it’s very possible you have one on your list. 

For a more detailed look at the spam traps in your contact list, you can use tools like 250ok Reputation to determine how many and what types of spam traps your list is hitting. 

How do I remove a spam trap?

If you believe you have a spam trap on your list, it’s time for a thorough cleaning. Remove contacts who have not engaged with your list for 6 months. (Still not working? Narrow the window to 3 months.)

If you’re still having issues after scrubbing your list, try removing spam traps through list segmentation. Identify clean list segments that are free of any possible spam traps and separate them from the rest of your list. Continue to narrow the segments until you are able to locate the spam trap.

For professional help in removing a spam trap, utilize our Expert Services. Navigating the email landscape is tricky, and we know the ins and outs of ISPs, spam traps, and blacklists like the back of our hand. 

Takeaways

Remember that the purpose of spam traps is to catch spammers. So if you’re worried about spam traps, know that the best way to avoid them is to not act like a spammer. This means:

  • Don’t purchase lists. Ever.
  • Regularly scrub your list of typos and outdated emails.
  • Use a double opt-in to confirm that your recipients are legitimate senders. 

Maintain a healthy contact list and follow email sending best practices and you should be just fine. For even more tips on how to avoid spam traps and stay out of the spam folder, check out our free guide, Tips and Tricks to Stay Out of the Spam Folder.



SendGrid Team
Expert advice and insight about all things email including best practices tips, examples, and advice for marketers, developers, and everyone in between.