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Spam Traps: How to Avoid Getting Caught

By Jonathan X. Livingsworth

Spam is the worst! It fills your email inbox with useless garbage and reduces internet efficiency. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have created spam traps to try and catch and eliminate those who send out the barrage of spam every day. These spam traps are basically email addresses set up with the sole purpose of finding spammers and alerting the ISP. The ISP can then block all future emails to their addresses and ruin your sender reputation. If not careful, even valid email marketers can be caught if they fail to practice good sender practices. The good news is that it is fairly easy to avoid the traps if you know how they work and what kinds of things will get you caught.

What happens when you are caught in a spam trap?

Pure spam traps are the worst kind to get caught in and will result in stiff penalties. Once caught, your IP address is blocked by the ISP and your sender reputation is marred for a long time -sometimes upwards of a year or longer. They are called "pure" spam traps because they are set up for no other reason than to catch spammers. If you have one of these in your email database, you obtained it in a questionable way.

Recycled spam traps are also a threat to your email marketing success. This type of trap is definitely the lesser of two evils, but also not great for your reputation. Recycled spam traps are inactive email addresses that the ISP's have re-claimed. If you send email marketing to one of these addresses, you will receive a hard bounce notification to let you know that this account is inactive. If you then fail to remove this address from your list and continue to send email, you will feel the repercussions eventually when the ISP identifies you as a spammer.

Are you at risk for getting caught?

You need to know if you are at risk so you can watch for the signs of entrapment. The likelihood of getting caught in a spam trap is very high if you have ever purchased an email list, used old emails from your list or emailed new, unengaged subscribers. If you think you may have participated in any of these activities, watch your delivery, engagement and bounce rates very carefully. It is probably too late if your delivery rate drops and your engagement and bounce rates are low - these are tell-tale signs of a trap.

Always practice good sender policies

Avoid buying email lists at all costs, no matter how tempting it is - this is the easiest way to get caught in a spam trap. Failing to update your contact database and remove any addresses that send hard bounce notifications will also put you at risk for getting caught, so keep the list current. If you think it is possible that you have a spam trap on your list, it is imperative that you double check all of the contacts to make sure they are legitimate. This will be a lengthy process and probably result in fewer contacts, but it is necessary if you want to keep your good sender reputation and continue sending marketing emails.

The goal of most B2B email campaigns is to reach as many potential clients as possible to increase sales and revenue. Acquiring mass amounts of email addresses can be a daunting task, and some marketers may be tempted to obtain them through questionable means to save time. However, this is a huge mistake and is likely to result in getting caught in a spam trap. Once ensnared, your current campaigns and any future ones are doomed. It won't matter how many addresses you purchased because all of your emails will be blocked and all of your efforts will be wasted.

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