In order to ensure consistent delivery to your email lists, SharpSpring’s compliance team closely monitors the health of our IP pools. SharpSpring uses shared IP pools for our users. Keeping those pools organized and clean is of the utmost importance in order to maximize deliverability for our customers based on their sending habits. In this article, we are going to touch on protocol for dealing with these issues to ensure delivery health.
Email best practices are extensive, but are built on the idea that email communication should be done on an opt-in basis, meaning that the potential recipient of the message has expressed their consent to receive content from the sender. Spammers and list merchants (organizations/persons who harvest email addresses and sell these lists to potential senders) make money based on either sending to or gathering as many email addresses as possible. Harvesting addresses can be done in a multitude of ways: scraping internet sites for addresses, spamming random addresses looking for bounces and unsubscribes, or sharing email addresses with other, less ethical senders, to name a few.
In order to combat this, ISPs have created spam traps. Spam traps are essentially email addresses that are created that are not opted in to receive emails. ISPs monitor spam traps to identify IP addresses or domains that send to these addresses to provide their filtering systems with potential spammers. In general, spam traps can be classified into three categories of various severities: Pristine, Recycled and Typo.
Pristine Spam Traps
Pristine Spam Traps are email addresses that are created fresh by ISPs and are not used to opt into any email. By using addresses with no history, the ISP can determine that any email that pristine spam trap inbox receives is completely unsolicited and is not due to stale lists. Presumably, this means pristine traps are the worst to hit as a sender, as it indicates that the sender procured the address in a way that does not conform to email best practices.
The easiest way to avoid pristine spam traps is to send opt-in emails to addresses that have been acquired with the consent of the recipient. By using purchased lists or scraped email addresses, senders run a significant risk of hitting these spam traps and hurting their domain reputation as well as SharpSpring’s IP reputation. Our compliance team takes reports of this type seriously and can result in a more restrictive sender status, which can include restrictions from our higher quality sending pools or suspension until infractions are addressed.
Recycled Spam Traps
The second type of spam trap to review is the Recycled Spam Trap. Recycled Spam Traps are emails addresses that have been abandoned and reclaimed by ISPs to work as spam traps. The thing to note is that recycled spam traps were once valid emails in circulation that may have opted in for email, but after becoming dormant, the ISP can now use the box to see who is still sending emails to non-responsive recipients. These are obviously not as severe as Pristine Spam Traps, as it may be indicative of a sender not keeping up with list practices instead of gaining the email from shady sources, but are still something ISPs and our compliance teams keep a close eye on.
The best way to avoid Recycled Spam Traps is to maintain and update your lists to remove those who are not interacting with your emails. If you notice a lead has not opened an email for quite some time, please consider removing them from your list. Recycled spam traps are hit because a sender doesn’t remove unengaged recipients and ISP reclaims the address. By implementing a sunsetting policy of removing unengaged addresses, incurring recycled spam trap infractions can be greatly reduced.
Typo Spam Traps
Typo Spam Traps are traps that are created to replicate addresses that may have been recorded incorrectly. For example, these could include addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. These traps are used to track IPs and domains that have careless address collection methods. For instance, after purchasing a product from a site, the customer or cashier may have mistyped or misspelled their email address into the system. These may seem benign, but Typo Spam Traps can cause you reputation hits and blacklisting just the same as the above traps.
As these hinge on human error, it can be difficult to avoid these types of traps. A sender could create a double opt-in policy to send an email to the address after collection and hold off on sending to that address until that email address is clicked. If using webforms to collect inbound recipients, “Confirm Email Address” form fields could be used to ensure that the email address typed correctly. Additionally, like the above traps, purchased lists may include these types of address in order to create more list volume and these typos could be overlooked.
ISPs are not the only organizations using spam traps in order to monitor IPs and domains. 3rd party Blacklists are organizations that have created spam traps and other tools in order to better the general email environment. These organizations, while not mailbox providers, create spam traps and list IPs and domains on public blacklists. ISPs and 3rd party spam filters query these lists and may reject listed offenders from the mailbox. Having your IP or domain blacklisted can lead to your emails being placed in the spam filter or even soft bounced back to you by recipients who reject the message based on the Blacklist.
The best way to avoid Blacklists is to follow the above advice on how to avoid spam traps. If you see elevated soft bounces or suspect higher than normal spam filtering, you can check your domain on tools like MxToolbox, which consolidate blacklists and can alert you if you have been blacklisted.
SharpSpring's Compliance Team
As stated above, our compliance team works tirelessly to keep our IPs as clean and organized as possible. We use tools like Google Postmaster and Microsoft SNDS in order to track how these ISPs view the aggregate traffic being sent over our IPs. We also use MxToolBox’s blacklist monitor to be notified of when any of our IPs are placed on Blacklists so we can investigate the reason. After reconciling the issue, we reach out to every Blacklisting and get delisted as soon as possible to minimize delivery issues.
Our team also uses 250ok and SNDS to track spam trap hits. This allows us to identify which senders are hitting traps and what types of traps they are hitting, allowing us to reach out and work with that customer to fix their lists. We also use a service to suppress email sends to identified blacklists before they can have an adverse affect on our IPs or our customer’s domains. These specific spam trap addresses are not made public, as they could easily be circumnavigated by spammers if this is the case, but nevertheless, these tools are essential to keep our sending platform in tip top shape.
I hope this article has helped educate on spam traps and blacklists, as well as what our team does to combat these on our platform. It’s important to note that you also have a vested interest in the above information. By using the above methodologies to avoid traps, you will inadvertently be following email best practices and should see significantly better deliverability by keeping clean and updated lists.