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Email deliverability: eliminating and protecting yourself from spamtraps

The hunt for spamtraps (or more commonly called trap addresses) has become commonplace among advertisers with bad practices...

Looking to get rid of it? You want to protect yourself from it? This article is made for you, follow the guide!

1/ Spamtraps ?


A spamtrap address is an email address specifically used to catch spammers or companies with bad practices.

Types of spamtraps?

There are two types of spamtraps, recycled spamtraps (managed by ISPs/MSPs) and primitive spamtraps (managed by anti-spam organizations, or ISPs/MSPs themselves). Even if they are clearly different on the principle of creation & use, the purpose remains the same (trap, catch, punish).

Recycled Spamtraps:

These addresses were originally real addresses created by users (or humans :p) before being deactivated (after a certain time of inactivity) and then recycled by the ISP/MSP to make a trap address.

Primitive spamtraps:

Primitive spamtraps are email addresses created (mostly on BtoB domains) specifically to catch spammers and unscrupulous companies. They are managed by anti-spam organizations (like SpamHaus, Spamcop), or even ISPs themselves (Orange & Free have their own spamtraps network). These addresses are distributed on the Internet (through forums, websites, ...) in order to be sucked up by robots.

Note that these addresses are only known by these companies or ISPs, do not fall into the trap of buying a list of "spamtraps" addresses out of nowhere! 🙂

Life cycle of a primitive spamtrap
Life cycle of a primitive spamtrap

What are the impacts on my shipments?

In the end, is it so serious to target spam addresses? The answer is "yes"! It is one of the key indicators of your reputation.

However, the impacts are not the same from one organization (or ISP) to another:

  • +++ Blacklisting of your IPs and senders for an indefinite period.
  • ++ Blacklisting of your IPs, your senders for a determined period of time (a few hours)
  • + Your e-mails are delivered as spam (for an indefinite period of time).

2/ How to eliminate them?

How do you know if you have spamtraps?

The answer is simple and can be found in several places:

  • In your bouncesIf you have hit spamtraps, you will see your delivery rate drop drastically (especially if you hit spamtraps from big organizations - like SpamHaus) and your softbounces (or Anti-Spam filter) will pick up the information (more or less detailed)
  • In the Signal-Spam stream (if you are a subscriber): Orange uploads the information in the Signal-Spam feed (in addition to the complaints) by IP and by day but only for its network.
  • In the SNDS tool (if you use it): Microsoft makes available in its SNDS monitoring tool the number of spamtraps that an IP has targeted per day (or on a time slot).

Clean up your database

If there is one thing we know about spamtraps, it is that they will be in your inactives, simply because spamtraps will (almost) never open and click in your emails. So the only way to eliminate them is to clean your database of inactive addresses on a daily basis.

If you have a little time on your hands (and a lot of IP), you can always try to find them in the following way:

  • Find the date of 1er impact of spamtrap.
  • Search for the campaign (and its segment) where the spamtrap appears.
  • Isolate inactives from the segment where the spamtrap is located.
  • Split your inactives on several micro-segments and test them on several IPs until you find the right address(es).

3/ How to protect yourself?

Secure internal / external collections

It is important to secure all your internal & external address collections to protect yourself from multiple risks:

  • Internal Collection: Do you collect via your website?
    • Secure the registration form with a Captcha script (this will ensure that it is a human who has registered).
    • Opt for the double optin (well qualify an address collected upstream, will protect you from any inconvenience in your mass mailings).
    • Record the IP address of the person who filled in the form (in case of problems, you will be able to trace the person - and yes, a competitor could come and spoil your database with primitive spamtraps - some of them are known to all unfortunately)
    • Record the collection source (if you use several) of each address (this allows you to quickly know where a spamtrap comes from)
  • External CollectionDo you collect through one or more partners?
    • Requalify any new address not acquired by yourself via an automatic email as a double opt-in (this will allow you to recover the person's consent) on a dedicated IP/subdomain configuration.
    • Request as much information as possible from your partner (IP address of the record, source of its collection, date of its collection, etc.).

Secure your mass mailings

On this side, it is important to separate your different traffics in order to secure your mass mailings:

  • InactiveReactivation: Setting up a program to reactivate (or eliminate) inactive addresses is an important part of good basic hygiene. This will ensure that you limit the number of recycled spam addresses in your database.
  • Welcome e-mailThese automatic e-mails will allow you to qualify your freshly collected addresses before injecting them into your mass campaigns. This welcome email will use a very specific typology (1 dedicated IP and 1 dedicated subdomain). This will ensure that you do not contaminate your database with primitive & recycled spamtraps.

Securing your database

To secure your database from Spamtraps, you need to ask yourself the right questions:

  • Have I correctly ruled out addresses that have never opened, never clicked on a link?
  • Have I quarantined the deactivated and/or non-existent/no longer existing addresses (cf. hardbounces)
  • When was the last time I cleaned my database?

Therefore, remember to clean up your database very regularly.

4/ Conclusion:

In the end, you no longer have any excuses for not securing your collections, your mailings and your database of Spamtraps addresses.

And last but not least, don't forget one thing: spamtraps are secret so don't bother asking your router to provide them, let alone buying them 😉

Need a hand to better manage your email deliverability?

The author

3 réponses

  1. I like the idea of "primitive" spamtraps 🙂 For my part, I say "primary" spamtrap (in general we say pristine spamtraps in English). If not, we should also do an article on typo spamtraps!

  2. Fucking advertising agencies, you parasites.
    The energy we waste to eliminate your shit ...
    Fuck you all!
    That said, thanks for the article. Now I know how to put it deep into you.

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