Flush your email marketing job down the toilet with this one big mistake

This is Part 1 in the series about emailing a spamtrap email address. Read part 2

Funny toilet - where your email job is headed if you email a spam trap
This is where your job is
headed if you email a spam trap

If you want to lose your job as an email marketer, just send a few emails to a spam trap email address

What’s a spam trap (or honeypot)? It’s an email address used as a trap by the ISPs. You didn’t need me to tell you that, did you? You kind of figured that one out on your own? So, Miss SmartyMcKnowEverythingPants, you may know what a spam trap is, but do you know how they are formed, what happens if you send to email to one, and what to do if your sending reputation is in the toilet because you “accidentally” sent an email to a spam trap address? (And by “accidentally,” I mean “on purpose.”)

How spam traps are born

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are so sick and tired of all the whining and sniveling they hear from their customers about spam, that they use a lot of methods to catch Mr. Russian McSpammyPants at his game. So, the ISPs, like Gmail, might take an old, unused Gmail address and start monitoring it. Gmail knows it’s unused because no one has logged into it since Ronald Reagan was in office. And, Gmail follows the logic that if no one is logging in to the email account, and yet somehow, almost as if by magic, a marketer like you just sent a “subscription-based” email to that dormant email address, that something is amiss…..

“It must have been Jeeves the Butler who murdered old Mrs. Forthingtonwinkle in the library with the candlestick.” 

After all, if no one has logged into that Gmail account in quite a long time, and yet that email is starting to receive a new subscription based email, that you, the sender of said subscription based email, must, in fact, be Mr. Russian McSpammyPants; or you could be Jeeves the Butler. Either way, Gmail is not too happy with you.

What happens if you send an email to a spam trap address?

Well, let’s put it this way. In the movie “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, Jack Nicholson plays the role of an author who writes best-selling novels. Do you remember the scene when the receptionist (Helen Benz), fascinated by how well Nicholson’s character understood women, asked Nicholson, “how do you write women so well?“, and he responded, “It’s simple. I start with a man, and I take away reason, and accountability.” A more demeaning statement has never been made. The look on the receptionists face right after he said that is the look that will be on your face should you ever find you’ve emailed a spam trap email address. Even if you had a good sender reputation prior to this, sending to a single spam trap address just might cause your sender reputation to be flummoxed, thrashed, and not-so-politely tossed into ye ole spam folder. That look on your face is going to be on full display to your CEO as she asks you why she just got a call from an important partner who said that he’s not getting your marketing emails to which he is subscribed (enter sound of glass breaking, followed by the sound of gnashing of teeth, followed by a pink slip.)

Helen Benz and what she would look like after emailing a spam trap
This will be the look on your face
right after you’ve emailed a
spam trap email address

Your deliverability into the inbox after sending to a spam trap email address might move from 98% inbox deliverability to 65% (or 35%, yikes!) inbox deliverability. O-U-C-H. Recovering from this will not be easy or fun.

How do you avoid sending an email to a spamtrap email address?

  1. Stop sending to your un-engaged subscribers. If a subscribers hasn’t opened or clicked on one of your emails in several months, it’s best to stop sending your newsletter to them. It’s fine if you want to email them one last time and ask them if they want your email or not (a re-engagement campaign), but after that, stop sending. This email address may have gone dormant and has now become a spam trap address.
  2. Be sure you use double opt-in when enabling recipients to subscribe to your email list. Why? Because every once in a while a spam trap address becomes publicly known. And, if it’s your competitor that finds a known spam trap email address, he might just sneak over to your newsletter sign-up form on your website and enter that spam trap address as a subscriber. If your system doesn’t use double opt-in which auto-emails the new subscriber and asks them to manually confirm their subscription, then guess what? You’ve just accepted a spam trap email address into your list. (Thought Reach’s email marketing software offers double opt-in)
  3. No page scraping. This isn’t the scraping sound that you heard on the chalkboard in first grade when your teacher wanted to get everyone’s attention (70% of my readers just went, “Huh?” because they aren’t old enough to have ever seen an actual chalk board). Anyway, page scraping is the kind of scraping where an automated robot roves around the internet looking for email addresses that are visibly posted on web pages. Not only is that not a good way to create your newsletter sign-up list, but sometimes ISPs post spam trap email addresses on websites just to catch page scrapers who start sending email to that address. You just got busted.
  4. No purchased or borrowed list. Do not purchase lists, ever. I know, I know. It’s so tempting to go out there and just buy a big, fat email list to really get the word out. Might as well buy a big, fat lard sandwich while you’re at it. The lard sandwich will have the same effect on your ability to get into your skinny-jeans as the purchased list will have on your email sending reputation. The only difference is that you can go on a diet to fix having eaten too many lard sandwiches. You won’t get off that easy when trying to repair your email sending reputation if you buy an email list. You never know how old that list is, how many dead email addresses are on it, and how many of those dead email addresses have been repurposed as spam traps.

What to do if your email deliverability reputation is in the crapper because you sent to a spam trap email address
Unfortunately, you can’t just “call Google.” And, sorry, you’ll have to wait until our next post to get advice on what to do to repair this mess.
Read part 2 and learn how to repair your email sender reputation after having emailed a spam trap–>

About Nate Goodman

USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR Nathan Goodman is a freelance fiction writer and the author behind The Special Agent Jana Baker Spy-Thriller Series. "A terrorist on the loose, a country in panic, and time is running out..." FOR A FREE COPY of book one, visit the author's website.