Spamtraps, again.


The DMA and EEC hosted a webinar today discussing spam traps. Overall, I thought it was pretty good and the information given out was valuable for marketers.
My one big complaint is that they claimed there were only two kinds of spam traps, and then incorrectly defined one of those types. They split spam traps into “pristine” and “recycled.” Pristine traps were defined as addresses that never belonged to a user, but were seeded out on the internet to catch people harvesting addresses off websites.
While dropping addresses on websites is one way people create spam traps, there are uncounted numbers of traps that receive spam (even from some big name brands) that have never been published anywhere. One very common source of trap addresses is Usenet message IDs. I don’t think anyone can really say these were seeded in an effort to catch people harvesting, they were part of posting to Usenet. Another common source of trap addresses is spammers creating email addresses; they take the left hand side of every address on a list and pair that with all the unique right hand sides of the same list. Massive list growth with a chance that some of those addresses will be valid.
I’ve talked about different kinds of spamtraps in depth previously and how the different traps are used in different ways. I also talked about how those different types of traps tell the recipients different things.
Another critical thing to remember about traps is they are not the problem. Spamtrap hits are a symptom of a larger problem with your list acquisition process. Every spam trap on your list is a failure to actually connect with a recipient. If you’re using an opt-in method to collect addresses traps mean that either a user didn’t really want to opt in or you managed to not accurately collect their information.
One of the things I get frustrated with when dealing with potential customers is their laser like focus on “getting the traps off our list.” I really believe that is not the right approach. Just getting the traps off is not going to do anything to improve your delivery over the long term. Instead of focusing on the traps, focus on the reasons they’re there. Look at how you can improve your processes and address collection so that you actually get the correct addresses of the people who really do want that mail.
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  • A lot of my spamtraps were created by buggy scrapeware, picking up addresses or message IDs and then dropping or changing a character or two.
    I agree with you that if your lists have enough spamtraps that you need to wash them, you have worse problems than listwashing can solve.

  • Yeah, what John said. While I suppose technically ‘typotraps’ either fall into the ‘pristine’ or ‘recycled’ categories, they’re important enough to warrant special mention.
    I’d also point out the big receiver domains that were completely dead for on the order of years, and then quietly got turned back on with no real users- those remain great sources of data on people who really aren’t paying attention.

  • Good point Laura, and if we had had time, there is definitely more information we could have shared on the types of traps. And I agree, while marketers are short-term focused on ‘getting the traps out of their list’, the bigger issue is how did the traps end up there and the need to stop those practices.

  • As somebody on the other side from marketers, I’m not too impressed with senders who focus exclusively on removing spamtraps from their lists. Spamtraps are tools, part of what most blocklists and reputation services use to spot mailers who do not verify subscriptions, do not maintain their lists, or email purchased or appended lists. As Laura has said repeatedly, spamtraps are not the problem — spamtraps are a symptom of the problem.
    When a sender talks about getting rid of spamtraps, what I hear is “I’m happy with how I manage my list, so I just want to get you pests off my back.” What I wanted to hear is, “We’re doing something wrong in how we acquire and manage our lists. We want to fix it.”

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