Tips for Avoiding Spam Traps

Spam traps can be an email marketer’s worst nightmare. It’s a sure-fire way to damage your domain reputation and possibly even blacklist your domain. Spam traps are just that - a trap. They are meant to catch people who have poor sending practices and keep those messages out of your inbox. There are lots of traps out there, but here are a few of the most common ones and how to avoid them:

  • Typo Traps - These types of traps use misspelled versions of common email domains to catch those with sloppy lists. An example of an email used as a typo might be instead of You can avoid typo traps by using double-opt in options on your forms, using an email validation tool, or doing a quick find and replace for common misspellings before mailing your list.
  • Gray/Recycled Traps - These are addresses that Email Service Providers (ESPs) use to catch spammers that were once active addresses, but are no longer in use. These are good for catching people who are continuing to mail old, out of date lists. You can avoid recycled traps by only emailing those who have engaged or subscribed recently, say in the past 6-12 months.
  • Pristine Traps - These are real email addresses that ESPs create that have never opted into any types of email communications. They know that if someone emails this address they have not acquired it organically. These can be a big ding on your reputation and can easily be avoided by only emailing addresses who have opted in to receive your communications or that have engaged with you in some way (met at a tradeshow, purchased your product, etc.).

Does anyone else have suggestions for keeping your lists clean and ensuring that you are sending to good contacts? We'd love to hear them!

  • Great tips, Jana! Thank you for sharing and getting this conversation going - I'm really interested to hear what others have found useful areas to focus on in this area, particularly as many organisations are transitioning from basic batch-and-blast campaigns to more automated marketing tools. If you are switching, or have recently switched, it is so important to prioritise your sending reputation in these early days, so that your chosen ESP sees that you're a good sender and looks after you.

    So - some bare basics:

    • List hygiene - take a long (hard) look at your hard bounces from each campaign - and cull the people from your list. If a lot of people on your list are invalid/don't exist, it is your reputation that gets penalised.
    • Don't buy lists. So simple. It used to be a way of doing marketing - but these days, it is not only bad practice, it can run you into trouble in many jurisdictions if you cannot prove when/where they provided consent to receive comms from you. Even if you operate in a market where that is not the case, you're still likely to get many individuals marking you as spam if they don't recognise/remember your business as one they signed up to - in which case, their ESP will be notified about it. Too many of those and your sending reputation continues to drop.
    • Use a recognisable 'from name' - following on from the above point - people can mark you as spam without providing a reason. If you've traded another a different business name or brand when you acquired an email address, you are well-positioned to consider how to use your from name/subject to help your reader bridge that gap. It goes without saying that your 'from' shouldn't be anything misleading - since that is illegal (CAN-SPAM)
    • On a similar note - no misleading subject lines either - also illegal.

    A few other more challenging items:

    • Dedicated IP address for sending. If you're using a shared IP address, and someone else was spamming on it, it can reflect negatively upon others who use it. Most good ESPs watch out for this (as it basically means an asset has lost value) and will do their best to minimise impact, but you can reduce the risk here by coughing up the extra cash for your own IP.

    • Work hard on quality content for both subject line and body copy. "Duh", right? Obviously you've got a call to action there, so you want your emails to be great.. but.. Gmail, etc do actually look at what your users do with your emails - both at the individual subscriber level, AND as a company on a whole. If users are regularly opening your emails/replying/adding to address book, that reflects on you a lot better (and hence, improves future deliverability of your campaigns to their other users) than say, delete-without-open / move-to-junk actions. This isn't just B2C advice either - since Google/Microsoft do power most enterprise email systems too.
  • Purifying the database and right content is very important.
    There is one more aspect to focus on trying to avoid blocking - think about the limitations that come from the tools' nature, inc Marketing Automation tool
    To understand what that means, first ask yourself if you ever received the content that suggests the product you just have bought from that one company and what your reaction to that message is...

    A lot of marketing automation tools are one-channel-tools in terms of outbound messaging and collecting feedbacks in the same channel! 

    As a tool, Marketing automation may never know the full picture of customer behavior until integrated with other sources.
    The solution for that is fairly obvious:
    1) to employ Customer Relationship Management system as a Source of Truth about customers of both demographic and behavioral data
    2) let Marketing Automation tools e.g. Sugar Market, to rely on that data in their nurturing logic, enabling ERP, accounting and other types of information for Marketing automation flows criteria.

    So that we finally never receive nurturing campaigns for the goods already bought

    (btw, it is not necessary to make costly custom integrations, you may use SUgar Integrate and Logic Builder for Sugar to make it with low code or even codelessly - with configuring)

    Best Regards,
    Dmytro Chupylka
    We make work in Sugar CRM system faster, more convenient and efficient

  • Hi Jana! As a primary user of Sugar Market, I find these tips really helpful. About a year ago, I did a large deliverability project where I and a teammate ran reports on the bounce codes we were getting. Our soft bounce rate had been steadily growing, so by implementing some best practices (such as you and others have listed,) and analyzing the bounce codes, we were able to identify a bounce that was being categorized as a "soft" bounce, but had a 99% probability of being a permanent issue. Rather than continuing to send to the email addresses registering that code, we created a custom report to use as an exclude on our email sends and our bounce rate decreased significantly. Digging into the data to understand your list is always a good place to start, and as your deliverability becomes healthier your emails have a lesser chance of making it to the spam folder rather than the inbox.