Spam Traps, Are They Good Or Evil?

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Unethical email marketers know the quickest way to sink your company’s reputation, if not the company itself, is to hit a spam trap with one of your campaigns.

Yes, spam traps may be necessary to separate the legitimate ESPs who are performing best practices, from the batch-and-blast, hit-and-run spammers that can kill the progress of a growing industry. That doesn’t mean you should feel safer with their existence. These honeypots are a constant threat, even to the most innocent and ethical email marketers.

But understand, no one – nor any other company in the industry – can use any sort of filter that avoids or removes spam traps. This is because they are moving targets, with new ones being created and others being deleted on a daily basis. Even if you know a disengaged email account is not a trap now, it might be recycled into one before the end of your work day. That doesn’t mean you can’t do your best to avoid them by using a couple simple best practices.

1. Don’t acquire data or lists from outside companies: There is no way to really document and verify a legitimate opt-in from very specific domains or affiliate networks. If you didn’t secure that address yourself, there is no way to be sure it’s not a honey pot. In fact, lists gained by web crawlers and hackers are usually sold on the cheap. They make off with the cash, while you’re left with the permanent ban by big ISPs.

2. Clean your lists regularly: An account that’s active today may be inactive and recycled as a honeypot next week. Weed out your disengaged customers, or those who haven’t clicked through or even opened an email in months. Self-cleaning will trim your list about as much as unsubscribers will, but will help in the long run with avoiding spam traps.

3. Vet your affiliates: The World Wide Web is exactly that, a complex web of relationships that can hurt you as much as it helps sometimes. When a company hits a trap, the penalties can extend sometimes to all “known associates” as well. If one of your affiliates is playing fast and loose with CAN-SPAM laws, proceed with caution. Guilt by association is very real.

How crucial is it to avoid these high risk email accounts? Consider a political campaign that bought its lists from a third party for fundraising. That list included a spam trap, and the campaign’s emails went from 90-percent inbox penetration to nonexistent overnight. Not surprisingly, that candidate lost on the first Tuesday in November. If it can change the course of an election and history, what will it do to your company?

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