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What are spam traps and how to avoid them?

In this article, we will explain what are spam traps and how to avoid them.

What is a spam trap?

A spam trap is an email address that looks like a legitimate email address but that is not used by a real person. It is used to identify and filter spammers and senders with poor contact list management

Unfortunately, this means that if they're not being careful, even legitimate businesses can end up with spam traps in their contact lists. By sending them emails, they could damage their sender reputation and email deliverability. 

There are three main types of spam traps: pristine, recycled, and typo.

Pristine spam traps

Pristine spam traps, also referred to as "honeypots", are email addresses that have never been valid and that were created with the sole purpose of attracting and detecting spam emails, as well as their sender’s email address. They are created by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and anti-spam operators to identify and blocklist email addresses from potential spam senders.

These email addresses are usually embedded in websites and are captured by spambots scrapping email addresses. Purchased or rented contact lists can also contain pristine spam traps.

Sending emails to pristine spam traps will have a negative impact on your sending reputation and can result in your IP address being blocklisted.

Recycled spam traps

Recycled spam traps, also referred to as repurposed spam traps, are email addresses that were once valid (e.g. the email address of someone who left a company) but that have since been repurposed by their provider to catch spammers.

Your contact list may contain recycled spam traps if:

  • The contacts in your list have been added more than one year ago.
  • You don't send emails to the contacts in your list frequently.

Recycled spam traps usually don't have the same impact as pristine spam traps but can highlight poor contact list management.

Typo spam traps

Typo spam traps are email addresses that aren't real ones due to typos. Most of the time, these spam traps are not intentional and are the result of a person filling in a subscription form wrongly (e.g. example@gnail.com, instead of gmail).

Most of the time, there are no or very few consequences to sending emails to typo spam traps. However, you have to be careful and make sure you don't keep sending them emails.

What are the consequences of spam traps?

Being caught in a spam trap could have a negative impact on your sending reputation and deliverability:

  • If you send emails to a pristine spam trap, your domain or IP address could be immediately blocklisted.
  • If you regularly send emails to recycled or typo spam traps, you could see your emails landing in the spam folder.

All of this could result in decreased revenue for your business.

How to avoid spam traps?

Spam traps are usually caused by poor data acquisition practices and poor contact list management. To avoid spam traps and prevent any negative impact on your business, we recommend using the following Brevo features and email best practices:

  • Do not import contacts for whom you have no proof of opt-in collection.
  • Make sure to follow GDPR regulations:  do not purchase or rent contact lists and only send emails to contacts who have opted-in to receive your emails.
  • Secure your subscription forms by adding a ReCaptcha to avoid spam traps being added by bots.
  • Enable double opt-in subscription to allow contacts to confirm their email addresses and their consent before receiving your emails.
  • Regularly clean your contact lists and keep them up-to-date by removing inactive and unengaged contacts.
  • Create an Automation workflow to automatically send a re-engagement email to inactive or unengaged contacts before blocklisting them if they do not respond positively.
  • If an email generates a hard bounce, which means that it fails to be delivered because of a permanent error, Brevo will automatically blocklist the contact and you won't be able to send them emails anymore.

How to identify spam traps?

To help you identify these spam traps, we suggest you:

  • Identify contacts who are generating soft bounces repeatedly by segmenting them with the following criteria: several emails were sent to them but were not delivered.
  • Identify inactive or unengaged contacts by segmenting them with the following criteria: emails were sent to them but they didn't open them or click the links you added.
  • Detect any unusual volume of new contacts added to your Brevo account.

If you identify any spam traps, we recommend you blocklist them immediately to avoid sending them any emails.

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