More on spam traps


A couple weeks ago I had a discussion with Ken Magill of the Magill Report about spam traps. He had moderated a webinar about spam traps and I publicly contradicted some of the statements made about spam traps.  He contacted me and interviewed me for an updated article about traps for his newsletter. The next week he had a rebuttal from Dela Quist of Alchemy Worx, taking anti-spammers (and presumably me) to task for pointing out that some folks use typos as spam traps.  This week, Derek Harding of Innovyx continues the discussion about traps and how they are a reality that senders need to deal with.
Spam traps are a reality and they’re not going away at any foreseeable point in the future. No entity that actually cares about blocking spam is going to give up the information that spam traps provide them. Not A Single One. They are some of the original tools in the filtering arsenal and they have proven their use and reliability for people trying to keep inboxes useable.
Dela focused on typos in his rebuttal to Ken, but typos aren’t the real issue. The real issue is that any address acquisition technique (and I do mean any) is subject to errors. Those errors end up directing mail at people who didn’t ask for it. If there are too many errors or mail to too many of the wrong addresses, that will result in delivery problems.
Yelling at the people monitoring the accuracy of your email marketing doesn’t make your marketing any better. It doesn’t stop mail from going to the wrong people. It doesn’t actually help anything.
My focus is on helping marketers market better. My focus is on helping folks sending email get that mail to the inboxes of people who want it. I don’t really care if my clients hit traps, traps are, as Derek said, “the canary in the coal mine.” What I really want is to make sure every person who asked for mail from my clients gets that mail. Every trap on the list? That is a lost sale, a lost touch, a lost opportunity. The traps are just the addresses we know are wrong. If there are traps on a list, then it is guaranteed there are deliverable addresses that belong to someone who is not a customer. This generally means two lost customers, the one who isn’t getting the mail they asked for and the one who is getting mail they never asked for.
Traps are a way to quantify missed opportunities, but they’re not the only missed opportunities. If mail is going to traps, it’s not going to your real customers. That is why marketers should care about traps.

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  • Great posting, Laura. While I understand that an argument can be made that this practice is good for the industry – advancing the notion that all email addresses should be opt-in – there are few, if any, marketers that believe that turning typos into spamtraps, as Spamhaus has done, are good for their business.
    But, as Derek states, hygiene errors as spamtraps are “a reality that senders need to deal with.” And as you succinctly stated, “If mail is going to (hygiene) traps, then it’s not going to your real customers,” which means lost direct revenue opportunities, not to mention all of the costs associated with getting blocked or blacklisted.
    The best way to stay off the radar of Spamhaus and other spam-filtering organizations is to correct these hygiene errors BEFORE they get into your marketing database. Fortunately a simple cost-effective solution (with a significant ROI) to this problem is readily available.
    Nearly 15 years before Spamhaus started turning hygiene errors into spamtraps, which resulted in holiday emails being blocked from companies including the GAP and others, FreshAddress built an email hygiene correction technology (patented in 2004) to solve the hygiene errors we were experiencing on our worldwide consumer email change of registry. Following your line of thinking, we did this so as not to miss the opportunity of connecting with individuals that were registering on our site.
    Flashforward 15 years later and this service has evolved into our SafeToSend service, an email hygiene, correction, and validation service that has helped thousands of companies keep nearly 4 billion customer email addresses fresh, up-to-date, and safe to send.
    Thanks for the relevant article. Email deliverability remains an issue for even the most responsible and ethical marketers. Fortunately, most marketers are learning that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

  • I appreciate your attempt to sell your service to my readers. I do want to remind them, however, that services similar to yours do nothing to verify the identity of the address owner.
    As I have said repeatedly, the focus on keeping spam traps off a list does nothing but keep the spam traps off the list. It does not do anything to make the address collection process actually collect the addresses belonging to your customers. If someone provides an address belonging to a different person, one that is deliverable and not a trap, there doesn’t seem to be any way to actually identify these errors. It is the mail to real not-your-customer people that are the the true lost touches and lost opportunities. Even more, as I said above, the sender has now lost two customers: the one who wants their mail and the one who got spammed.
    Keeping traps off a list will increase the perceived value of the list, but will do nothing to increase the actual value. You’ll stay off Spamhaus (maybe, if you’re lucky), but you may still experience delivery problems due to complaints, mail to internal ISP traps, or mail to traps that have typos in the username.
    “Hygiene traps” are neither new or the only kind of traps that matter. Simply addressing hygiene errors will only catch a small number of the actual problems.
    In terms of history, 15 years ago a lot of trap addresses were simply unused email addresses at catchall personal domains or unused addresses at ISP domains. But some typo domains (, for instance) were registered by 1998.

By laura

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