No matter how relevant your emails are or how upstanding your opt-in process is, monsters can still be lurking in your lists. More often than you might think, ISPs are recycling old email addresses into Spam Traps. Spam Traps can bring a mailing campaign to its knees, especially for a sender who hasn’t sent enough messages previously to build up a solid reputation. Additionally, old inactive addresses can also stir the pot by adding to your bounce count with an ISP. While no one wants to see these addresses in their database, they play an important role in reducing the amount of unwanted messages that negatively impacts the entire email industry. Let’s cover a couple of different list monsters:
Unknown Addresses – Unknown addresses are mostly acquired through people entering bogus addresses in sign-up forms or are simply addresses that have expired. When you deploy a large mailing that has many unknown addresses to an ISP, you appear to be a spammer. No matter how clean you think that list is, those ugly monsters in your pack are making you look bad. Sending to too many unknown addresses will cause ISPs to defer your mailings, and when mixed with enough complaints can lead to blocks.
Spam Traps – These addresses exist for one reason, to catch senders with poor sending habits. As mentioned above, a Spam Trap can either be created specifically to track spam or can be an old recycled address. When an ISP has an old address, they may start returning ‘unknown address’ bounces for several months. After several months of informing senders that this address is no longer valid, it’s turned into a “trap” — identifying senders who continue to send to the unknown address that should have been wiped from their list already. Where a spam complaint can be thought of as a slap on the wrist, a Spam Trap is more along the lines of “off with your hands.” If your mailings are tripping traps like these, then you’re doing something wrong.
Next week I’ll be following up with the second part of this post, explaining not just how to clean your list but how to keep it clean.