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Monday, 23 January 2023 10:35

Avoiding spam traps with email list hygiene

By Guest Writer

GUEST OPINION: In recent years, spam has proliferated across the internet to an enormous degree. In fact, the vast majority of emails are classed as spam nowadays. As an email marketer, this can make your job difficult, as ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and mailbox providers alike adopt more severe practices in order to combat spam.

Spam traps, in particular, can pose a serious threat to your potential success in email marketing. Fortunately, it is possible to avoid spam traps with email list hygiene.

What are spam traps?

Spam traps are a method that ISPs use to catch senders who fail to follow email marketing best practices. They are also sometimes referred to as "honeypots" due to the nature of how they operate.

A spam trap is an email address that is not assigned to a normal email user. Instead, it is used by an ISP for the sole purpose of luring spammers. In order to achieve their objective, spam trap addresses must first become part of a sender's email list. There are three distinct types of spam traps, each with its own purpose, and they all achieve this in slightly different ways. These are:

1. Pristine traps

Pristine spam traps are email addresses created specifically for catching spammers, so they have no previous sending history. These traps are embedded in certain websites and are designed to punish senders who acquire their contacts through web scraping and list purchasing rather than a permission-based opt-in method.

The pristine trap is the quintessential spam trap and has the most severe consequences. When a sender hits a pristine trap, they are typically placed on a block list.

2. Recycled traps

Recycled spam traps are email addresses that formerly belonged to individual users. For one reason or another, these addresses have fallen into disuse, allowing ISPs to reclaim and repurpose them.

These traps punish those who send carelessly or indiscriminately, but the consequences are less severe. Those who hit spam traps repeatedly will experience bounces and subsequently find their emails being routed to recipients' junk folders.

3. Typo traps

As the name suggests, typo spam traps are addresses that contain typos. These traps exist to discourage the use of loose sign-up practices that neglect to confirm user information.

Hitting a typo trap will have a similar effect to hitting a recycled trap.

What is email list hygiene?

Email list hygiene is the practice of maintaining your email lists to ensure that outbound mail is sent exclusively to subscribers who are both active and engaged with your brand. This necessitates the systematic removal of invalid and inactive addresses from your email mailing lists.

Email list hygiene is a foundational aspect of email marketing best practices and a cornerstone of permission-based email marketing. Moreover, it is essential to maintain maximal deliverability.

As mentioned, email addresses often become inactive through disuse, which can lead to them being converted into spam traps. That means that even legitimate senders can occasionally fall foul of spam traps if their subscribers remain inactive for sustained periods. By maintaining list hygiene, however, it's possible to eliminate such addresses from your lists.

Consequently, good email list hygiene dramatically reduces the chances of hitting a spam trap, thereby preserving your IP reputation and deliverability.

4 ways to keep your email lists clean

The following are essential measures you should take to ensure optimal list hygiene:

1. Conduct regular list cleaning

As has been said, list cleaning is an essential practice in ethical email marketing. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to perform email list cleaning at least once every six months.

2. Use a double opt-in

To avoid hitting on typo spam traps, it's best to implement a sign-up method that requires users to confirm their details as they subscribe. A double opt-in does precisely this by way of a confirmation email.

3. Segment your existing subscribers

It's important to recognize that you can't keep all of your subscribers indefinitely. By tracking engagement levels, you can understand when subscribers are becoming inactive. Then, you can delete those addresses from your list during cleaning, notifying users of their removal should they wish to re-subscribe.

4. Grow organic email lists

All of your email lists should be acquired through organic, permission-based means. This helps to ensure that engagement levels are high and keeps the chances of hitting a spam trap to a minimum.

Avoid purchased lists at all costs. They are unethical, and with no way of knowing what kind of addresses they might include, they can have a catastrophic effect on your reputation and overall success in email marketing.


For a legitimate, ethical sender, spam traps can be a genuine pain at times. However, it's important to remember that they do far more good than harm and serve to maintain the integrity of the email marketing landscape.

By following best practices and maintaining good email list hygiene, it is eminently possible to avoid spam traps, preserve your reputation, and achieve success with your email marketing initiatives.

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