Sending to spam traps – Why are they so hard to resolve?

We get asked often what we think the hardest problem is to solve in order to increase inbox placement.

The most difficult deliverability issue to solve in my opinion is dealing with having spam traps as part of your list of recipients. 

Why? Because:

  1. Sending to spam traps is an indicator of sending to recipients who may not want those emails and affects inbox placement
  2. Getting rid of spam traps requires the hard decision to let subscribers go
  3. Fixing spam traps could be time consuming

Let’s explore each of the above points in detail.

It’s a serious deliverability issue

There are two types of spamtraps: recycled and pristine. If your spamtrap issue is due to a recycled spamtrap, this usually indicates a list management issue.

  • Examples include not removing email addresses even though they may have been bouncing for some time
  • Or you may have gone too aggressive with your re-engagement strategy

In these instances, proper bounce management should remove any addresses that bounce (especially hard bounces). Or if a trap hit happens in the midst of a re-engagement campaign, then you’ll have to make an adjustment to your strategy.

On the other hand, a pristine spamtrap usually indicates a list acquisition issue. Pristine spamtraps are addresses that have not signed up to anywhere, so these addresses are actually obtained without any opt-in consent.

Deliverability issue

Hitting any type of spam trap is an indication something is amiss – either something is needs to change with how subscribers are managed or with how recipients are added to your list. If ignored or if they are deemed serious by the spam trap operators, your domain/IP will be block-listed and should this happen, it usually results in a detrimental effect on your email marketing program.

It is time consuming to resolve

Spam trap addresses are never revealed because the concept of a spam trap. That is, if you have a proper opt-in process and are managing your mailing list properly, the chances of you hitting one would be very low. Getting block-listed for sending to a spam trap is a symptom of a larger problem. Once they get into your mailing list, the only way to see if you are successfully removing spam traps is to modify your mailing list segments and continue sending to see if the situation improves.

How long it takes to resolve this depends on the severity of the issue as well as your email marketing program. So, it can take anywhere between a few days, all the way to several months, if not years.

It requires data to be purged

Often we hear stories where a mailing list was successfully grown by an astronomical amount. And unfortunately, in most cases, this is due to buying/renting mailing lists. Not only are those addresses, in nearly all cases, not opted in to receive email from you, there is a very high chance of multiple spamtraps lurking in those lists as they are designed to identify and catch spammers.

Once spamtraps are introduced from bought or rented lists, not only have you wasted money on buying useless junk, you’re also likely to have to purge large segments of data. And this usually includes legitimate subscribers – simply because they were added during the same time frame of when the spamtraps were added to your list.

Deliverability issue spamtrap


There is a saying where “prevention is better than cure” – if you are managing your list well and all your addresses are acquired in an appropriate manner, the chances of hitting a spam trap are low. If you do hit a spam trap, time and patience is needed in order to resolve this issue as it is a very resource-intensive exercise.

And don’t let the temptation of adding recipients with no consent fool you. It may sound lucrative to spend a certain amount to quickly acquire new customers in order to gain a short term win, but once you hit a spam trap that blocks your entire email marketing program from a major inbox provider: it will result in needing to say goodbye to valid recipients and eat into the resources that could be spent on improving sending to those that do want to hear from you. Click here for a comprehensive article on spam traps and how you can avoid them.

Want more advice on other deliverability issues? Download our free deliverability 101 guide here.

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