If email is an important part of your marketing mix – and it is, for most law firms – then you need to be concerned about spam traps. Many legal marketers understand that a spam trap might be out there and that it can hurt their efforts, but they don’t necessarily know what to do about it or how to avoid it. There are tactics you can employ to reduce your risk of landing in spam traps. Here’s what legal marketers need to know to avoid the dreaded email spam trap. 

But First, What is an Email Spam Trap? 

A spam trap is a real, deliverable email address used solely for receiving (“trapping”) unsolicited emails. They are hard to spot because they look and behave just like normal email addresses. They’re difficult to identify but they do a good job at keeping spam out of everyone’s inboxes. That’s a good thing, except when spam traps find their way to the list of a legitimate sender.  This is often the result of poor data hygiene, and the consequences can be drastic. 

It’s important to know that spam traps don’t just catch spammers or people emailing in bad faith. They catch “good guys” too. That can cause your deliverability to drop significantly, or even your one-on-one correspondence to be limited. This is more likely to happen to companies who buy lists or use cold email campaigns. 

There are a few types of spam traps. 

1. Fake address for a real person

These are commonly known as “pure” spam traps and are set up just for the purpose of attracting spammers. For example, if your email formula is  <first.last@company-name.com>, then you could set up an email of <first initial.last @company-name.com> and mark any emails that go there as spam. 

2. Real address for a fake person

Similar to the above method, you just set up an email for a “made up” person so you know that any emails that go to that address are not legitimate. Some companies even go so far as creating a social profile for this individual. 

3. Recycled email spam traps

Some companies take the emails of past staff and turn them into spam traps. Firms using older lists or lists that haven’t been cleaned lately are in particular danger of coming across these traps. Truthfully, any marketer can run into these traps because it’s tough to keep up with employee turnover for all of your contacts. 

How to Avoid Spam Traps

It’s impossible to avoid spam traps altogether but it’s essential to try. Your best bet for avoiding spam traps is to only send emails to opt-in contacts. You should also avoid purchasing data from a provider. Follow these steps:

1. Make sure your data is as up-to-date as possible

One important tactic is only sending to the most recent lists you have. Purchased lists are not up-to-date and in some cases are really, really old. These lists also tend to result in high bounce rates in addition to spam traps. If you work with a data provider, make sure they prioritize ongoing data hygiene and recency in contacts.

2. Clear out inactive contacts in your marketing stack

You know you need only the most updated lists – but how do you ensure your own lists are up to date? If someone hasn’t opened, clicked, or responded to an email of yours in several campaigns, chances are their address should be removed. Those addresses are at particular risk of becoming a recycled spam trap. Make sure to pull reports from your CRM and marketing automation tools that can help you see which addresses have been inactive for a while, and then clear them.

3. Use email verification services

You may want to invest in a program that can verify the emails in your list to make sure they’re real and updated before sending communications. These services can help but they don’t work on their own – you need to follow the steps above too. You have to keep in mind: 

    1. They don’t actually know which emails are spam traps. 
    2. Vendors often classify an address as “potentially dangerous” because it was on a list containing a spam trap.

Takeaway:

Email verification services are a great tool, but they shouldn’t be relied upon to do the entire job of avoiding spam traps. Your team will need to do its own work to clean up your lists and protect data. As privacy laws continue to evolve, it’s more important than ever to obtain first-party data, where people choose to opt into hearing from your firm. Combined, these factors mean it’s critical to put a system in place to enter their own contact information. Not sure where to start? Contact us and we can help you to build an effective email strategy. 

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