How to Identify a Fake Signup on Your Email List

I recently talked about how to protect yourself from email bot signups to your email list. Now let’s talk about how to identify a fake signup on your email to identify a fake signup

Email Address

Many email addresses look obviously spammy. Outside of your website and list living in and serving to Russia, .ru email extensions always make me raise an eyebrow. In my experience, most lists get targeted by the same consistent group of spammy extensions which makes a large percentage of the spam bots on your list easily identifiable.

When you’re looking at your subscriber list and spot an address you suspect may be spammy, do a Google search for that email address. Many spammy emails are on public email spam lists. If you don’t find any results specific email address (another troubling sign of spam as most real email addresses will show a footprint somewhere else online other than a spam board), just search for the bit after the name, or just the @blahblah(dot)extension.

It could just be that the specific name tied to the extension is new, but there are plenty of cases where the domain/extension itself is tied to spam and this makes for an easy tell.

Once you’ve identified a domain or extension which is likely spammy, create a segment containing much or all of that name for your list so all subsequent signups from similar email addresses get dumped in there.

Clickthrough Behavior

I have to mention this because it’s such an influential element of how someone interacts with your list/emails, but it’s not the best indicator of spam.

Spam bots can easily demonstrate the behavior of a real subscriber in terms of clicks in your emails. They can open none, some, or all of your emails and click on none, some, or all of the links contained therein.

It’s easy to mistake a bot which ticks all the boxes for an overzealous but real subscriber. The pattern of bots who are already on your list is, as it was intended, very realistic.

Therefore I’m not comfortable unsubscribing someone, bot or not, based on their interactions with my list.

A Human Field on Signup

I preach this method because it’s the only one and true method for identifying a spam bot on your email list 99% of the time. Note that this isn’t a retroactive method but is more a protective method for moving forward and one which I recommend adding to your email list.

Also note that this isn’t any kind of captcha where someone has to click a box on the signup form or as part of the confirmation process to prove their humanity. Bots are designed to bypass most captchas of today.

No, I’m referring to adding a simple yet required field to your signup form in which you simply ask your new subscriber to answer a question which is relevant to your niche.

At the time of this article, aside from “name” and “email”, I have an additional required field titled “

Not only is this a good opportunity to conduct customer research and organize subscribers by segments based on their answers for better marketing purposes moving forward, it separates the bots from the humans in how they response to this simple question.

A human will give a short one or several word response related to online marketing. Bots will invariably treat this or any additional field like an author bio. They’ll give a stock spun response where they mention their name or hobbies.

This makes it simple to create a segment exclusively for the bots (which is all of them) which answer this question in this silly way. Find a common recurring word or words which these spam bots use which a legitimate subscriber wouldn’t use in that field and have new subscribers which match that behavior go in that segment so that you can easily or even automatically delete them each day.

Email addresses aside, this is the only true way of how to identify a fake signup on your email list.



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