CATEGORY: Deliverability

Everything you need to know about spamtraps

Everything you need to know about spamtraps

Deliverability, measured by inbox placement, is key to a successful email marketing program. After all, subscribers cannot engage with emails they never receive. With over 20% of commercial emails never reaching the inbox, this article will try and explain why and help you improve your inbox placement rate.

Due to large number of spam and fraudulent emails, the major email providers and cyber security cloud services apply filters and blockers to try and protect their clients. Unfortunately, the methods used are at best, educated guess work, which has many false positives and results in genuine emails not getting through as well as fraudulent emails sneak through the barriers.

This creates a challenge for email marketers, even when sending genuine and sometimes valuable information, there are no guarantees that the message will not be caught for one reason or another in the complex sometimes very arbitrary net of antispam engines.

! Remember the algorithms used are always top secret and are never revealed or shared.

But you will be pleased to know that not all is bad and there are several important aspects of delivering email campaigns successfully which can make a meaningful difference. Most email clients use sender reputation. This is a critical part of the way email providers evaluate the incoming email. Sender reputation is the score service providers assign to the sending IP and from address. Your Sender Score indicates how likely your email is to make it into your recipients’ inbox. The higher the score the better.

There are a number of factors that affect your Sender Score:

·         Open rates

·         Spam complaints

·         Unsubscribes

·         Opt-in rates

·         Hard bounces

An essential ingredient that plays a significant part in the equation is the dreaded spamtrap.

So what is a spamtrap?

Spamtraps* are broadly defined as email addresses which have not opted into any email. There are, however, many types of traps.

  • They are used by various reputation systems to highlight senders who add email addresses to their lists without obtaining prior permission.

  • They are also very effective in identifying email marketers with poor permission and list management practices.

  • Spamtraps are never revealed by their owners, for various reasons:

    • They are a component of reputation systems' secret sauce;

    • If the trap is provided, the trap is useless to its owner from that point forward;

    • It often happens in the event a trap address is provided to a sender that is listed, that only the trap address is suppressed - and no other work is done to solve the underlying data collection/maintenance issue.

*From Spamhaus

These are the 3 main types of spamtraps:

1.       Pristine spamtraps

Pristine spamtraps, (aka true traps or honeypots), are email addresses created exclusively to capture spammers. These email addresses were never used as a legitimate email address, do not subscribe to email programs, and do not make purchases.

Blacklist operators post pristine spamtraps on various websites across the Internet. Pristine spamtraps are usually hidden in the background code of webpages and are acquired by spambots scraping email addresses. Sending to a Pristine trap is almost a guaranteed blacklisting that is almost impossible to remove. It will also land you a hefty fine and probably suspend your account with most ESPs.

Severity – HIGH

How to avoid?

  • Don’t scrape or buy list from unreputable source that cannot prove the source of their list

  • An easy indication is that these lists will contain only email addresses


 2.       Recycled traps

These are often addresses that were once valid or set up by a real person but not used in a while and converted by the email provider to a trap to catch irresponsible senders.

Preventing these traps from ‘catching’ you is easy with simple and regular health checks of your list (mainly interaction and engagement).

Typical inactivity period used by ISPs is 3-9 months.

Although these traps are not as severe as the Pristine traps, they will hurt your reputation and deliverability.

Severity – Medium

How to avoid?

  • List hygiene – remove or try re engagement campaigns with non-engaged addresses

 3.       Typo spamtraps

These are addresses with misspelled domains. For example – it could be a genuine typo by a human but some are used to catch irresponsible senders. The most common 'typo' domains are,, and One tip here is not to edit this typo and resend the email unless the person who owns it asks you to, as it is possible the person has entered the typo on purpose. 

Severity – Low - Medium

How to avoid?

  • Double opt in will filter these out before they can reach your list

  • List hygiene and regular engagement health checks


So, to improve your inbox placement, you should:

Keep your data fresh and clean

If you are not keeping your list up to date by avoiding and removing spamtraps, then it’s also unlikely that you are removing users who don’t engage with you or open your emails. This shows that you are simply spamming a list with no benefit or thought.

As inbox providers want to protect their customers from spammers, you are more than likely to be found, identified and pay the price. If you email spamtraps, email providers WILL block you or place your emails in the junk box instead of the inbox.

Make sure you are regularly refreshing your list and run re-engagement campaigns or remove non engaged. There is absolutely no benefit in keeping them, of they are not engaged they will only cause harm

Use engagement to prioritise your sends

You should only send emails to those who are engaged with you. This not only helps you understand who is interested and who is not, but it will also enable you to be more focused and targeted with better results whatever your KPIs are.

Try ‘win-back’ campaigns specifically designed and focused on re-engage with your brand. And those that don’t are better off your list. They don’t benefit you, but they can certainly harm you.

Technically, you should use engagement filtering as a crucial tool to ensure that you improve your inbox placement and interaction rates. The added advantage is that it will boost your sender reputation and ensure better results with those who are interested in your message.

Read more in: When reputation is everything.

Watch our webinar

There are many technical elements to making sure your email marketing gets delivered, but the most important aspects of good deliverability relate to your data and your content. Learn about the five things you should be doing to keep your emails out of junk in our dedicated webinar.   

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