Updated: May 13, 2021
As an email marketer, it is your job to compile a list of email addresses in order to encourage those contacts to make a purchase with you. Email marketers are responsible for ensuring that the email addresses on your list are legitimate and also willing to receive email communications from you. While many email addresses are added to email lists when they make an initial purchase with the company, there are also other ways to join an email list: maybe they signed up for a free newsletter on the company’s website or they used their email address to receive a free book or report.
At this point the contact and the company have reached an agreement: the contact will provide their email address in return for valuable content, information and/or promotions from the company. It is also understood that the contact can unsubscribe from the list at any time through the use of an unsubscribe option somewhere in the email message.
So how are these companies’ email practices monitored? How do we as internet users know that a company is engaging in ethical email practices? The most common answer: Spam traps.
What is a spam trap?
A spam trap (aka "honey pot") is an email address that is used for the purpose of monitoring email messages and identifying spam emails. At first glance it may look like a normal email address, but it is not being used by an individual, but rather a third party company. One of the largest of these companies is Spamhaus. Per their website:
“The Spamhaus Project... tracks spam and related cyber threats such as phishing, malware and botnets, provides real time actionable and highly accurate threat intelligence to the Internet's major networks, corporations and security vendors, and works with law enforcement agencies to identify and pursue spam and malware sources worldwide.”
Essentially, they’re the internet’s spam police.
How do you avoid spam traps?
The short answer is you can’t. If you have a decently sized email list, chances are very good that a spam trap is already on your list.
So what do you do to avoid being labeled as spam? How do you ensure that an organization like Spamhaus doesn’t put you on a blacklist? That answer is honesty and transparency. If you promise your email subscribers something, you must fulfill that promise. If you publish information, you must ensure that it is accurate and in no way misleading. If you sell them something, you must ensure that they receive their purchase exactly how it was advertised. If you are doing all of these things, then you are in a very good place.
When it comes to the actual copy of your email, including your subject line, avoid making outrageous claims. DON’T USE A SUBJECT LINE THAT IS ALL CAPS. And avoid using question marks and exclamation points in excess!!!These attempts at grabbing the subscribers’ attention are huge red flags and may give you some unwanted attention from the spam traps on your list. If you get to the point where you are blacklisted by these Spam seeking organizations, your IP and Domain reputations will suffer greatly, and it will be very difficult and time consuming to regain a good reputation.
Email list health = email list wealth
At the end of the day, having a core ethical code is imperative in the email marketing industry. It is the only way to maintain any long term success. If you try to take short cuts or “game the system” in any sort of way, you run the risk of destroying your trust with your email contacts and your reputation in the email marketing industry. You cannot make any money or reach the people you want to reach if you can’t get into their inbox. Stay tuned for my next post, as we will be diving into the different kinds of spam traps and where they come from.
Stay safe my friends,