What is a spam trap email address? (Or, if you prefer the one word version, what is a spamtrap email address?) Perhaps more importantly, why do they matter? Here we explain spam traps, and how to avoid spam traps. People used to not really believe that spam traps existed, at least not so many of them that an email sender would really need to worry about having a spam trap on their mailing list. But they do exist, they are everywhere, and as an email sender you do have to worry about avoiding them. So let's start by explaining the definition of a spam trap, and where they come from.
Most (but not all) email tester and email list cleaning and validation services are generally frowned on by many (if not most) inbox providers and ISPs, and many consider their use to be a sign that you may be a spammer. The rise of list cleaning (also known as "list hygiene") and email tester services, by which we mean email address validation and verification services, has tracked in tandem with the rise of new ways to detect spamming activities, including adding email addresses to mailing lists without consent. It's this last bit, the "adding email addresses to a mailing list without consent" that is the sticking point, and it is that activity which list hygiene services are, for the most part, intended to facilitate. Which is why they are disdained by the email receiving industries (inbox providers, ISPs, and spam filtering services). There's a reason that they are called "list cleaning" services; and if you are building your mailing list with consent then your list won't be dirty and need cleaning. Note that it's important to distinguish these services that offer just these list "hygiene" services, and those who help you to not only clean up your email list, but also to make sure that you are following best practices.
There is a hidden legal danger in not confirming email addresses, and yes, even in the United States. We talk a lot about email deliverability (because hey, we're the original email deliverability service). And in that context we always explain how using double opt-in (i.e. confirmed opt-in) helps immensely with deliverability by reducing spam complaints and increasing interaction rates. But now we're going to talk about something that people rarely think about: not confirming someone's email address before you use it or add it to a mailing list can have serious legal consequences for you having nothing to do with CAN-SPAM, GDPR, CASL or any email-specific law. It can also have serious consequences for others, consequences that in turn can come back to you in serious, unexpected, but entirely avoidable, legal ways.
Sending email from a decoy, pass-through email domain which forwards to a primary domain is never a good idea. (Some people call this a 'dummy domain', but that's actually something different.) What they do is set up a decoy domain and send their cold email from it, with links in the cold email which point to their primary domain. They do it this way in an effort to protect the reputation of their primary domain, aren't they so clever? Here's the thing; actually two things: 1. It doesn't work, it will still drag down their primary domain's reputation, and 2. it doesn't work because they are spamming. Calling it "cold email" when what you've done is scraped or purchased an email address and put it on a mailing list without consent is spam, no matter how much you try to polish it up and call it something else.
Let's play a game that we like to call "Can I Use This List?" or "Can I Put This Email Address on My List?". Here are fifteen scenarios in which someone may come across or into possession of somebody's email address, or a mailing list, and you have to decide whether or not it is ok to use the email address or list. Which ones are fair game to use? The answers may surprise you!
You may not have heard of drip email marketing, or email drip marketing, but I can assure you that you know what it is. You have either sent it, or received it, or in some other way come into contact with it. Wikipedia - not always the most reliable source, but in this case accurate - describes drip email this way: "Email drip marketing is a form of e-mail marketing where a company sends ("drips") email messages to subscribers on a scheduled basis established using e-mail marketing software."
We've talked in the past about why address book importing is just not ok. But in addition to the fact that it trains people to enter their passwords at third-party sites, and to the fact that when you send out all those invitations it makes you look like a spammer, there's another big reason to not do address book importing.
You may or may not have heard the furor over Spamza - the website where anybody can enter any email address, and have that email address instantly signed up for hundreds of newsletter mailing lists. Of course, everybody is very upset because this site facilitates people getting spammed. BUT, there is also a very important lesson here for email marketers, newsletter publishers, and just about any other email sender who maintains a mailing list.