What Are Email Spam Bots and How Do They Work?

Spambots are small units that crawl the web for email addresses found in social media channels, forums, comments and web pages such as ‘Contact Us’ pages and others. As the layout of email ID largely varies, spam bots can easily jot down programs to gather in that specific format.

It begins with spambots trying to locate “mailto” (HTML expressions that are used for presenting email IDs on the web). Here is an example to show how these work:

<a href=”mailto: yut@nmail.com”>reach us</a>

In this example, the information following “mailto:” is the email ID. To a web browser is appears as “Reach Us” and when clicked the link takes visitors to the default email client by stating the e-mail address which is mentioned within the tag.

While many users prefer using the “mailto” tag, some may choose words instead of symbols so that spambots cannot notice them. For example, they may write as “nmail dot com” instead of nmail.com. However, spambots have become creative in the ways they extract data within many variants of of “yut@nmail.com”. These bots will be able to scan through and look for formats such as, “yut at nmail dot com” or “yut[at]nmail[dot]com“ and still pull information.

In short, spam bots examine all types of formats that are used in current email address formats online, and then save the information for spamming functions.

The safest option for protecting your email address is to implement a graphic because spambots cannot scroll and read a graphic. For example, you can paste the email address on image editing software such as, MS Paint or Adobe Photoshop and put that graphic on various pages such as the homepage, ‘Contact Us’ or ‘About Us’ pages. Please note that comments or discussions in blogs and discussion boards cannot use a graphic image in the signature part, so you may not able to apply it in these areas.

Spambots are also defined as automated programs that crawl or run online to collect email addresses for individuals and organizations that will implement its data on email addresses to deliver (spam) email.

Why emails get marked as spam?

Spam bot filters maintain an extensive list of parameters when assessing the “spamminess” from email addresses they collect data on. These bots evaluate all possible factors and use those factors to define the spam score that determines if the email campaign can pass through the spam filter. If the spam score surpasses the specific threshold the email addresses get reported as spam and then push the email straight to the junk folder.

All spam bot filters function differently from each other, however, email “passing” scores get determined by specific server administrators. Email marketers should remember that when emails surpass the filter without any error they can still get flagged by Spam Filter B.

Because of this, it’s very important to know the factors that contribute to marking your emails as ‘Spam’. These factors include:

Visual elements and templates

Your email templates might look impressive, but your graphics may damage the connection between you and your subscribers, thus spoiling conversions with subscribers. Email clients like Gmail may often block your visual message that are found larger than or equal to 102 kB and mark that part as “clip off”, which stops your recipients from seeing the email message that is embedded in the graphic.   

Email clipping

A major problem in email marketing is delivery to recipients who use Gmail. Gmail users often cannot view the whole email if they do not click the “View entire message” button. In such cases, senders will not be able to monitor email open rates of those campaigns that users view on Gmail because those emails get clipped due to their tracking code being embedded at the bottom of their email. Additionally, when multiple images are contained in an email template the emails get not only marked as spam but Gmail also sends those emails to the “Promos” tab.

More images and less text

Having too many images in an email is one of the most common reasons why emails are blocked by spam filters. Marketers who are using visual cues or images in their event invitation emails need to rethink their selection of email design in order to prevent being marked as spam. If you  are sending an HTML version of your image-heavy email containing graphical presentation of the invitation consider sending an additional text version of the email by giving the full information of the event, special or promo in text. Inclusion of large graphics increases the chance of your email being flagged by spam bot filters which also increases the risk of higher bounce rates for an email campaign.

Spammy keywords

Inclusion of spammy keywords in the email subject line can trigger your email getting filtered by spam bots. Some of the most common words that trigger this filter include “Hello”, “Only”, “Remove”, “Never” and “Click.” Apart from these trigger words, email subject lines that are written in all uppercase can also be marked as spam.

Campaign metadata

Metadata is the “data about data” and, in context to email marketing,  communicates info about the email user including the IP address from which the email was sent, IP address of the recipients, the timestamp of emails, the information about email senders and also information about recipients. Spam bot filters inspect the metadata of emails to evaluate if the email is spammy. The following items should be taken into account regarding metadata to prevent triggering the spam filter.

  • Make sure you ask subscribers to add your address to their email address book to avoid being redirected to the spam box
  • Apply merge tags in emails to personalize the “To:” field in campaigns
  • Ask your subscribers to send you replies

How to cope up with spam bots?

  1. Though there are only a few ways to cope with spambots, one of the best methods amongst those is to refrain from posting and spreading the email address on the Internet. However, businesses need to spread their contact details for lead generation and to increase user engagement, especially when you are promoting your business through social channels, videos, and so on. In those cases, marketers can bind their email addresses in graphics or images, instead of sharing as text, so that bots are unable to scan and filter their email for spam.   
  2. Another way to deal with spam bots is to break the email address by entering space and tags in between the words within email addresses, and then render it accurately when the webpage is live. For example, if the email address is “you@nmail.com” then deconstruct the email address and craft it as:


Then store in different parts. When a visitor clears the captcha and confirms they are in fact human,  the email address will automatically arrange into the right format and be displayed in the right email pattern such as  “you@nmail.com”.

  1. Another method of dealing with spam bots is to replace with ASCII characters. That’s right, you can simply replace the symbol “@” (at) and “.” (dot), which determines a phrase as an email address, with their ASCII characters or other characters that are not permitted in email addresses. Following this method, you can make your email address “you@nmail.com” appear as “you&#64nmail%com”. However, one downfall of this method is that human visitors might find the email address confusing and not even realize it is an actual email address.
  2. Another technique to bypass spam bot filters for when your business needs to share email details on discussion boards or blog comment sections is to insert clear, textual instruction within the email address that your human readers can understand. One great technique is to include something similar to this:

“you[RemoveThisBeforeSending]@nmail.com”  or “you[at]nmail###.com (Clear # from your email ID before sending)”.

Your human visitors will be able to understand what parts of the email to remove before sending, however, spam bots will scan the entire email address and will not use it since they cannot understand how to read it.


How to identify spam bots?

The spam bot filters collect email addresses from websites, special-interest group (SIG) postings, social networking sites, forums, discussion boards, blog comment sections and chat-room conversations. These bots work as parasites by ruining your web analytics information as well as destroying your sender reputation. The first step in avoiding spam bots is to identify them as soon as possible. You can do so by utilizing the following tips:

  1. Spot the spam bots

These bots can be found spanning over the date range in analytics or you could spot a random thorn in your web traffic. You can notice bugs in the form of hundreds of sessions within a specified date range. Ensure they aren’t there by always following your data closely and analyzing anything that seems off.

  1. Identify behavior

Spam bots are implemented in wide scale and gradually. If you can identify the behavior of the bots, you will be able to understand the motive of those bots. The following are commonly noticed characteristics of spam bots:

  • Sourced from a specific geographical location
  • Traffic source can be direct or referral
  • Originate from the same specific IP address
  • Generate numerous sessions all at once
  • Short time on site
  • Increasing bounce rates
  1. Recognize the source

Now that you have spotted the location of the traffic originating from the spam bots, you need to examine the type of source of traffic, whether it is referral or direct. Check to see that the technology platform and network source have or have not been used by spam bots to create the traffic session.

Tips to avoid spam bots and protect email marketing against being spammed

These email marketing tips will help protect you against the risk of spam bot filters, further  protecting your sender reputation.

  • Build an email list organically

Marketers can place a web form on their website to enable visitors and subscribers to sign up to their email list when they want to receive industry-specific content, demos or offers within emails and newsletters. Marketers can also incorporate registration links to invite users to sign up on corporate social media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Apart from these, you can place a sign up sheet at within your brick-and-mortar store.    

  • Personalized confirmation message

Create a personalized confirmation message for your subscribers to inform them that registration is complete and successful. A confirmation message not only provides an extra special touch, but can also help in a technical aspect, as you can track who gets to the ‘Thank You’ page within your email marketing automation system and in Google Analytics to see trends, process complications or issues as well as track if this stat increases over time.

  • Include captcha

The captcha is a great tool for avoiding spamming as it can be placed in various places throughout the sign up process. However, do not use TOO many captchas or else you may prevent or discourage human users from going through the entire process, forcing them to abandon your sign up.

  • Set the right expectations

Utilize your landing page or a page on your website to explicitly guide your subscribers on what to do and how to sign up for a particular offer. Creating a welcome message on the landing/web page that carries over from an email marketing campaign, as well as describing what users will get once they sign up, will set clear expectations so that the user doesn’t lose trust of feel as though they have gotten tricked by your company. Likewise, a follow up and/or welcome email will also set an expectation on how often they will (or can) receive emails from your brand and the topic on which they will receive messages and information.

  • Plant a link to unsubscribe

You must place a link for your subscribers to unsubscribe within all your emails. Including guiding text such as, “If you do not want to receive our emails, please feel free to unsubscribe” will help make it clear for them to adjust communication preferences. Placing a button to unsubscribe within each email is the best and clearest option, as it gives your subscribers an easy way to opt out and also builds trust that you aren’t forcing them to stay on your email list.

  • Make use of HTML

Spam bots face difficulty when working with Javascript codes vs than they work with plain HTML. In order to avoid spam bots, you need to substitute the low-key “email field” type code that HTML contains with javascript codes so that spam bots can spot while they examine pages. By using Javascript signup form code, you can prevent spam bot issues vs if using just simple HTML codes.

  • Include Spam spotting field

Including spam identification helps counteract any spam problems quickly and effectively. To do this, all you need to do is place a simple text field (simple) into your sign up form. Something such as asking a question (IE: Mother’s maiden name? What is your pet’s name? etc.) can only be answered by a human, ensuring bots are stopped at this point in the process. To take this a step further, you can also ask a question closely related to your product, brand, or segment in order to get further data on your subscribers. This method is not only helpful in preventing spam bots from attacking your email list, but benefits you as you collect more data around your audience.