Email List Hygiene — Part 1: Spam Filters and Spam Traps

Spam is a huge issue for digital and email marketers. Negotiating between delivering targeted emails while avoiding the spam filter or spam traps can be a tough road to navigate. There is nothing worse than to spend time crafting a message only to see it land in the spam folder.

Having said that, spam filters are a necessary utility that keep inboxes clean and useable— just open your junk folder to see what your inbox could look like without them. But they can also affect legitimate email marketing and even the smallest error can mark your email as unwanted spam. Fortunately, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to avoid the filters and spam traps so your email arrives at the intended inbox.

Spam Filters and Spam Traps

Before we dive into how to avoid them, let’s discuss how email service providers (ESPs) find and deal with spam. The two major systems ESPs use to defend against spammers are spam traps and spam filters. Both of these tools work differently, but used together they are very successful at stopping spam.

Spam Traps

Spam traps are simply email addresses that are used to track and identify spammers. When the email receives a message, the sender is automatically flagged as a spammer by the ESP. Both the domain name located in the sender’s address and the IP address are flagged blocking anything you try and send.

There are also recycled spam traps which are inactive email addresses that an ESP acquires. Unlike the emails designed specifically as spam traps, these recycled addresses reply with bounce notifications telling the sender the email is inactive. However, continuing to send to these addresses will eventually flag you as spammer.

Spam Filters

Where a spam trap is the big gun, spam filters are more of a sniper. These are programs and algorithms which can identify and stop spam from ever reaching the inbox. Spam filters use different criteria such as using too many images or large font sizes to scan and identify spam.

Spam filters not only scan what is going on inside of an email but how a user interacts with the message. How many times they open messages from the sender, how long they keep the email open, and whether they scroll down to the bottom of the message are all indicators. Of course, there is the big indicator which is when a user mark a message as spam, sending it to the junk folder.

Spam filters are not perfect and sometimes mark legitimate email as spam. Now that we have a basic idea of how spam is caught, the next several parts in this series will detail how to avoid your emails being misidentified as spam.

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