Old addresses can send you straight to spam trap

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Answer: You see it all the time: promoters offering you a quantity of "targeted, opted-in" lists of e-mail addresses. Here's why you should never send an e-mail campaign to a purchased list.

Clever spammers continue to sneak through personal, corporate and ISP spam filters, so people are still faced with the unending task of sifting through their in-boxes to separate the spam from valid e-mails. Confusing matters are those e-mails that claim to have been requested, when, in fact, the recipient has no idea how the subscription was initiated. What is clear: Clicking on an "unsubscribe" link can tell the spammer that the e-mail was received, opened and read, thereby flagging the e-mail address as a candidate for resale to other spammers. Because "unsubscribing" can open the door for more spam, many just continue to receive, delete and hate these unsolicited e-mails.

This means sending e-mails to a purchased list can associate your brand with pain, frustration and mistrust—hardly what you want. Even worse, you may be reported as a spammer. The ISP will immediately blacklist you, blocking every e-mail you send to any recipient on its system—really bad news if that ISP is AOL, MSN or Comcast. The only way to get unblocked is to provide proof to that ISP of a double opt-in specifically for this list. Because you bought the list, you won't have that. So the block will remain for all future e-mails you send, even to your own opted-in lists.

When managed properly, e-mail is an incredibly powerful tool to reinforce existing relationships. A purchased list may appear to be an economical way to reach new people, but the real price you'll pay is damage to your company and your brand.

Tom Snyder is president and founder of Trivera Interactive (, a Web site development and online marketing company.

Question: I don't send a lot of volume campaigns. Can my list quality really impact my e-mail deliverability rates?

Answer: It's no secret that having a messy list can get you blocked at ISPs. If you send to too many "unknown users," you can look like a spammer. While that is more common with high-volume mailers, there is another list issue that can happen to anyone: sending to abandoned addresses that are now being used as spam traps.

Spam trap addresses have historically been those set up by ISPs and corporate receivers just to "trap" spam; because they never belonged to a real person, e-mail sent to them is assumed to be unsolicited. Now, some receivers are using abandoned addresses as spam traps as well.

If you have not cleaned up your e-mail list lately, you likely have a lot of old addresses on your file. By running your list through an e-mail list hygiene service, e-mail change of address (ECOA) service, and by making sure you run the proper bounce algorithm on your file regularly, you can limit the bad addresses on your file that can get your program in trouble.

By doing these things, you'll see your e-mail delivery rates rise.

George Bilbrey is VP-general manager at Return Path's Delivery Assurance Division (

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