What is a spam trap?
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Deliverability Impact - This answer is part of the Email Deliverability Best Practices doc community. Each answer's intention is to contribute to the betterment of the email community. These answers are only related to outbound messages, and do not have any impact to the improvement of inbound deliverability. For more information regarding deliverability's role at RightNow, please review the following answer page: Answer ID 2195: Email Deliverability Group (EDG) and Spam Considerations and Policy.
What is a Spam Trap?
There are two types of Spam Traps. One kind is a Recycled Spam Trap, which is an old or inactive email address that has been kept "alive" for the sake of catching senders who continue to mail non-existent or unengaged subscribers. The other is a Pristine Spam Trap, which is for the sole purpose of catching spammers. This type of Spam Trap never subscribes or opts-in to any kind of marketing communications, and can be extremely damaging to a sender's reputation.
Why Should I care about Spam Traps?
Spam Traps can have an extremely negative impact on a sender's email program. The more traps that reside in a sender's file, the more likely it is that they will see deliverability issues such as bulking, blocking, and blocklisting at multiple ISPs and Blocklists.
One of the most severe Spam Traps you can hit is a Spamhaus Spam Trap. Hitting a Spamhaus Spam Trap can place a sender's IP on the Spamhaus blocklist database. Several companies and large ISP's such as Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL consult the Spamhaus spam-blocking database when filtering their email, and then may choose to block emails until the listing is removed. Typically, we see over 80% of messages blocked for a sender whose IP winds up on this blocklist. This can obviously be harmful to a sender's email program, as well as their brand.
How do I Fix/Prevent Spam Traps?
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly which addresses are the Spam Traps within your file. Therefore a problem with traps is typically an indication of a bigger issue resulting from poor list hygiene and failure to maintain an engaged subscriber file. Proactive measures such as implementing double opt-in, proper bounce processing, and managing complaints are all great ways to establish an engaged subscriber file. In terms of a more short term resolution, it is recommended that senders only mail to subscribers that have opened or clicked a message within the last 12 months. This is a best practice that should significantly lower the number of trap hits and reduce the risk of bulking and blocking by ISPs.
For more information, please see the Managing inactive subscribers article.