How To Deal With Spam Traps

One of the more common issues that we deal with when helping clients who have been hit with a Spamhaus SBL listing is getting rid of spam trap addresses. These addresses are email addresses that are not actually owned by a person (and in fact, may never have been owned by someone). Instead, they only exist to receive email that the owner (Spamhaus, in this case) considers to be spam.

The great problem of spam trap removal is that no one knows which addresses on a list are actually spam traps. Thus, it is impossible to say which addresses must be removed. The owners of the spam traps will not disclose that information. For them, that information is proprietary and those addresses are very closely guarded secrets.

If the spam trap addresses continue to receive mail after a listing has been removed, the listing will be reinstated. So, the removal or suppression of these addresses is not merely an academic exercise or something done for the sake of social kindness.

Since these addresses need to be removed and we don’t know which one they are, the question quickly arises: “Which addresses do we remove?” The answer to that will often depend on exactly what happened in the mailing and how we choose to move forward with the affected list segment(s) in the future. But the two most common answers are:

  • Segment suppression
  • Opt-in re-engagement

With segment suppression, once the list segments that have the spam traps have been identified, the sender will then suppress those segments from any further mailing. The advantage to this method is speed. The disadvantage to this approach is inaccuracy. It often does not take long to identify list segments that are suspected of having spam traps on them. But, many marketers often see suppressing those entire segments as a rather draconian measure.

The other option is the opt-in re-engagement campaign. This means taking the identified list segments and sending them an email campaign that requires the recipient to click on a link in order to remain active on the sender’s list. Any recipients who complain about the email, click on the unsubscribe link, or who fail to click on the “remain on the list” link are suppressed from receiving any further mail.

While this will often result in a much smaller list than the original list, it does at least allow the marketer to reclaim some of the original list (as opposed to the outright suppression), while still getting rid of spam traps and complainers. Also, the opt-in re-engagement campaign has the advantage of getting rid of subscribers who just don’t care enough about a marketer’s mail to remain engaged with the brand any longer. This results in a list with higher long-term engagement metrics and ROI than the original list. So, even if your mailing list doesn’t have a problem with spam traps, it still might benefit from an opt-in re-engagement campaign.

Learn more about how ExactTarget can help you hit the inbox by visiting our Deliverability Services page.

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