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We only mail people who sign up!

I get a lot of calls from clients who can’t understand why they have spamtraps on their lists. Most of them tell me that they never purchase or rent lists, and they only mail to people who sign up on their website. I believe them, but not all of the data that people input into webforms is correct.
While I don’t have any actual numbers for how many people lie in forms, there was a slashdot poll today that asked readers “How truthful are you when creating web accounts?”. The answer seems to be “not very” at least for the self-selected respondents.

Slashdot Poll: 4196 total respondents

Slashdot Poll: 4196 total respondents


This is how spamtraps get on lists when the lists aren’t purchased. People who don’t trust your company with their data give fake data. Sometimes the data is easy to tell is faked “joebob@home.com” is clearly not a valid email address, neither is abcd@abcd.com or none@none.com. Even something like bill@microsoft or jobs@apple or obama@whitehouse can reasonably be filtered out. But there are a lot of other addresses that are handed over which aren’t obviously spamtraps. Some of them are handed over often enough that they turn into spamtraps, though. I once met the guy who owned someone.com and the amount of random spam he got from Legitimate! We never Buy Lists! companies was incredible.
Companies finding themselves with ongoing spamtrap problems when they are only collecting data through their own websites need to take a step back and look at their overall process. Often there are minor changes that can be made to lower the amount of invalid information submitted. Sometimes, though, there needs to be more aggressive data verification as part of the subscription or signup process.
We have helped a number of companies improve their signup processes. Those who implement our suggestions see improved delivery and fewer blocks as well as a more engaged and profitable audience.

4 comments

  1. Jordan Dossett says

    Why is it called a spamtrap? If someone adds bob@bob.com to my mailing list and I don’t catch it and then I do a send and it hits the non existent server while it is taxing on my end and irritating it does not lessen our send or lessen our ESP credibility or gray or black list any of the other sends… so why a spamtrap?
    I am kind of asking from a bit of a print designer background. We are going to a big conference and just “rented” the attendee list for a one time snail mail blast. Cool, no big deal. Then to my shock I found out the list was riddled with almost 100 “snail mail traps” which are there to see if you mass produce the labels and mail to the list multiple times.
    So I just wanted to check with you and ask if I am missing something on this idea of a spamtrap? For the idea of confirming data entered on forms we are in the process now of changing over so that when someone enters their email (say bob@bob.com) it would confirm that at the least bob.com is a valid email server. While it won’t fix every problem it should help?
    As always, love the reads.
    Jordan

    1. laura says

      The issue is that many times those addresses don’t go to a non-existent server. Often they go directly to a real server and to a real user.

  2. John Levine says

    Why is it called a spamtrap? If someone adds bob@bob.com to my mailing list and I
    don’t catch it
    Because bob.com didn’t ask you to send him mail, of course. From a recipient’s point of view, they can’t tell whether you’re spamming them because a customer lied when they signed up or because you bought a spam list, and they don’t care. Sleazy marketers have so thoroughly poisoned the well that assuming the worst is correct more often than not. And if customers distrust you enough to lie when they buy stuff, that suggests their opinion matches that of the people you’re spamming.
    This may be unfair, but in my experience, the louder that senders complain about unfairness, the cruddier their practices are.

  3. J.D. Falk says

    You’ve seen the old story of Nadine, right? http://www.honet.com/Nadine/
    Many people never even consider that the fake address they’re using might actually belong to a real person. I’ve pointed this out to friends on occasion, and they were shocked to realize they might be increasing someone else’s spam. It’s not at all uncommon for that “someone else” to turn a suddenly over-popularized address into a spamtrap, feeding it directly into their anti-spam software.
    If you’re particularly concerned about people putting fake addresses into your web forms, give them the option to not include an address at all. That way, you’re not sending unwanted email.

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