Fix your sender reputation

Learn how to fix the negative effects a spam trap has on your sender reputation.


Spam traps can be a good thing, although, it’s best to avoid them. While complaints are a great indicator that the expectations of your recipients aren’t being met, hitting a spam trap can show that consent or the age of your contact data may be the problem. This is an excellent opportunity for you to make changes to your data collection, list growth and hygiene strategies.

Fix the effects of a spam trap

To fix the negative effects of a spam trap on your sender reputation:

Step 1 Identify the spam trap source

It’s not possible to disclose the address of a spam trap. Depending on the spam trap operator, it might be possible for us to provide information about the spam trap hits, such as the:

  • Number of hits
  • Type of hits
  • Frequency of hits
  • Subject line
  • Date
  • Sending domain

This information enables you to identify risky contact segments. You can then see how these contacts were added to the account. Make sure to identify all the ways the subscriber data was collected and added to your contact list. If a third party or purchased email address - this includes list rentals and data appends - were added to your contact list, remove them immediately. Sending email campaigns to a spam trap is a symptom of a larger problem, so taking steps to fix the root cause should be the focus, not identifying the individual spam trap.

Step 2 Create and use a sunset policy
You can create a good sunset policy by:

  • Reviewing the overall age of your email lists.
  • Thinking about your business and what conversation your customers expect from you.
  • Putting into place a sunset process to get rid of inactive subscribers.
  • Figuring out when your contacts tell you they don’t want to continue the conversation anymore.

Contacts who haven’t opened, clicked, or interacted positively with your email campaigns should be removed from your lists after one year, but the timing depends on your business and sales cycle.

Step 3 Segment data by engagement to rebuild your sender reputation
Segment your contact list based on contact activity, and only send to your most engaged subscribers, for example, contacts that either clicked, opened, forwarded, or deleted an email campaign in the last 90 days.

Step 4 Improve points of entry for contacts
Be sure that signing up for marketing emails is always optional, and that your contacts have to opt-in instead of opting-out. This make it less likely for your contacts to provide a fake email address that turns out to be a spam trap. You can also set up logic on your web forms and other online email recipient acquisition points to find misspelt email domains. There are free scripts available and several premium services, which can provide this same level of verification.

Step 5 Run the Global Suppression List (GSL)
The GSL is a collection of bad email addresses and domains that are known to Dotdigital, including spam traps. You can use the GSL to compare your list of contacts against it, and then remove any known problem email addresses. We recommend to run the GSL monthly because the Data Watchdog is constantly learning and identifying new spam traps, which are added daily.

Step 6 Use confirmed opt-in and CAPTCHA
The best way to avoid spam traps is to set up confirmed opt-in (COI) or double opt-in (DOI). COI and DOI helps prevent spam traps and many other forms of email abuse, and provides you with verified proof of a contact’s intent to receive your communications. Also, adding a completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart (CAPTCHA) to your email acquisition points helps to prevent malicious scripts from adding email addresses to your email contact lists. We recommend trying Google’s reCAPTCHA.

Step 7 Be patient
Recovering after a spam trap hit can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to resolve, depending on the severity of the spam trap issue; this usually takes into account the total, type and frequency of spam trap hits, your email contact list size, email frequency, and overall email contact engagement. The quality of your collected email addresses is the greatest influence, so if suspect data is easily identified and removed, your sender reputation recovery process can be quick.

See also

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