Email Spam Words To Avoid in Your Newsletters

Email Spam Words To Avoid in Your Newsletters
08 February, 2024 • ... • 233 views
Ana Balashova
by Ana Balashova

Imagine this: you’ve poured your heart into creating a newsletter, dreaming of the engagement and sales it will bring. But instead, it vanishes into the spam void, tripped up by a few simple words. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? 

Is the shadow of spam still looming over our emails? Can a handful of words really topple your marketing efforts? With this guide, you will learn the secrets of email spam words and get equipped with savvy strategies to ensure your newsletters land safely in inboxes, not spam folders.

Are spam words still relevant?

Google “email spam words” and you’ll find countless articles with words and expressions you should avoid to reach your audience’s inboxes. But if you banish these, will your emails for sure dodge the spam folder? 

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. The notion of what is a spam email and how the filters can identify it shifted. Spam trigger words are not the big bad wolves they once were. Today’s inbox service providers (ISPs) are smarter and look beyond these words when sniffing out spam. At the same time, spam trigger word lists are not entirely pointless either. Especially given that spam words can sneak into all parts of your email marketing campaign: subject lines, hyperlinks, image alt text, and even in the finer details like headers, footers, and the HTML or CSS code that shapes the email’s design.

Kirill Kolpakovich
Kirill Kolpakovich

Head of the Anti-Spam Department at Selzy

Lists of specific spam trigger words are still relevant as these make it easy for inbox service providers to quickly block emails of specific content. But it’s a 100% certainty that the providers don’t decide to block emails based only on a list of spam words. Rather, they assign extra spam points if these words are present.

Today, we live in the AI era, and spam filters analyze the email content as a whole and assess whether it’s similar to spam or not. The analysis goes beyond just individual words.

For example, spammers often substitute letters in words using letters from other alphabets to avoid triggering the stopword filters. But AI easily bypasses this as it analyzes the whole email content, its mood, etc. As for email marketers, having a spam word in an email with otherwise regular content sent to subscribers with double opt-in won’t get it blocked.

So, while avoiding spam words in marketing emails is a good practice, focusing on the type of content your subscribers expect is even more crucial. For example, hard-selling in emails is a classic mistake. With emails like these, you are not just triggering spam filters but rather compromising your audience’s trust and engagement.

So, are the spam trigger words still relevant? Absolutely. It’s a nuanced battle where knowing your audience and crafting genuine, engaging content wins the day. Spam filters might be evolving. But so are we. With smarter strategies, better content, and emails that make your subscribers click “open” instead of “delete”.

Why do emails end up in spam?

According to research, almost one out of every six permission-based marketing emails never reach the inbox: 6.1% end up in spam and 9.1% go missing. While this article is dedicated to email spam words, it’s important to clarify that spam is not just about those. And several issues could be tipping the scales against the email marketing experts in that case. For starters, your email will likely go to the spam folder without proper authentication. It’s like trying to get into a club without ID — a big no-go for inbox service providers. And if recipients mark your email as spam, this tarnishes the sender’s reputation. 

Misleading sender information, links that scream “sketchy”, content that misses the mark, poor design, emailing the long-gone inactive addresses, neglecting an easy unsubscribe option, and grammar faux pas can all raise red flags with Gmail’s and other providers’ spam filters.

It’s also worth understanding what is a spam trap and how it might affect your email deliverability. These traps can be set up to identify and block emails from senders who engage in poor mailing practices.

However, while it’s true that emails can end up in the spam folder for various reasons, the significance of avoiding spam trigger words shouldn’t be underestimated. So let’s talk about it in more detail. 

Want to learn more about email deliverability? Check out Selzy’s free email deliverability course for short, easy-to-understand lessons.

Types of common email spam words and writing mistakes

Crafting a good marketing email email is like cooking a meal. The right ingredients can make it delicious, but the wrong ones can spoil the whole dish. And just as too much salt can ruin a meal, certain common writing mistakes can make your emails less palatable. These mistakes are often seen in spam email examples, where overused phrases, symbols, special characters, covering of sensitive topics, and questionable tactics lead emails straight to the spam folder.  Let’s slice and dice these common mistakes and see how to avoid them.

Excessive promotions

An example of a spam filter triggering excessive promotions in a marketing email.

Emails that scream ‘Buy now!’ can be a turn-off. You know the ones — they’re packed with lines like “Purchase now”, “Limited-time offer”, or “Exclusive deal”. These phrases are like pushy salespeople who won’t take no for an answer. They not only annoy your readers but also trigger spam filters.

Some examples of excessive promotions spam words include: 

  • The best deal ever
  • Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
  • An opportunity for you only
  • Special promotion
  • Unlock huge savings
  • Mega discount inside
  • Flash sale alert
  • Price drop for a limited time
  • Exclusive access sale

Inclusion of random characters or numbers

“M@ke M0ney Fa$t!” or “B!g Sa1e T0day!” can make the email seem unprofessional and spammy, like a hastily scribbled note instead of a legitimate offer. Sure, it might look clever, but ISPs see it as a red flag. 

Here are some more examples of what to look out for: 

  • Fr33 T!ck3ts H3r3!
  • Gr@b Y0ur D3al N0w!
  • W!n B!g Pr!zes
  • $ave $$$ Now
  • F.r.e.e Offer!
  • C1a1m Y0ur Pr1ze
  • N0 R1sk Inv0lved
  • L!m!t3d T!m3 0ffer
  • Exclu$ive D3al!
  • Huge $avings

Financial claims

Money talks, but sometimes it screams “spam”! Phrases like “Competitive pricing”, “Billions in savings”, or “Investment at no cost” can make your email sound like a get-rich-quick scheme. Stick to straightforward, honest communication.

Some of the following phrases could indicate spam content:

  • Maximize your earnings
  • Financial freedom
  • Secure your future
  • Wealth-building strategies
  • Get out of debt fast
  • Increase your income
  • Retire early
  • Unlock your wealth
  • Secret to financial success
  • Double your investment
  • Free financial advice
  • High ROI guaranteed

Urgency and pressure

Spam check results for an email with urgency and pressure spam words
Spam mail overusing urgency-related words. The spam check is performed by a free tool by Mailmeteor

Creating a sense of urgency is one thing, but overdoing it is another. “Take immediate action”, “Limited time offer only”, or “Urgent matter” can push readers away instead of drawing them in. It’s like setting off an alarm. It gets attention, but not the kind you want.

Additional examples of words in this category known to trigger spam alarms include:

  • Act fast
  • Offer expires soon
  • Time-sensitive
  • Immediate response required
  • Hurry, don’t wait
  • Final hours
  • Last-minute deal
  • Deadline approaching
  • While supplies last
  • Exclusive early access
  • Hurry, limited availability
  • Offer closing soon

Misleading statements

Ever seen “This is not a spam message” or “100% satisfaction guaranteed” in an email? It’s like a stranger saying, “Trust me.” These statements are not necessarily outright fraud but can make your marketing email feel dishonest, even if that’s not your intention. “Free membership just for you!”, “Risk-free investment” and “You have been selected!” are all from the same boat. 

Watch out for these and similar phrases that often mark unwanted emails:

  • Claim your prize now
  • Exclusive access
  • Special invitation
  • Congratulations, you’ve won
  • Guaranteed win
  • Not a scam
  • Trust us
  • Free trial (no credit card required)
  • Just for selected few

Excessive use of exclamation marks and capitalization

An email with a subject line starting with “breaking news” in all caps
This marketing email from a legitimate sender ended up in spam, most likely because of capitalization in the headline

It’s like shouting in a library. Using phrases like “Amazing opportunity!!!” or “You’re a WINNER!” can overwhelm your readers. It’s just too much. Here are some more examples: 

  • FREE gift inside!!!
  • READ NOW
  • OPEN!
  • EXCLUSIVE OFFER!!!
  • LIMITED TIME!!!
  • BUY AND SAVE!!!
  • WIN BIG!!!
  • SPECIAL PROMOTION!!!
  • NEW PRODUCT ALERT!!!
  • SAVE SAVE SAVE!!!

Health and pharmaceutical claims

Statements like “Achieve weight loss” or “Reliable medication like Viagra” can not only trigger Gmail’s and other providers’ spam filters but also raise credibility issues. It’s important to tread carefully and authentically here.

Be cautious of these phrases (and other similar ones), which can be red flags for spam:

  • Miracle cure
  • Instant pain relief
  • Lose weight overnight
  • Eradicate cancer now
  • Secret formula
  • Anti-aging breakthrough
  • Revolutionary diet
  • Boost your immune system
  • Natural remedy
  • Guaranteed health improvement
  • Magic pill
  • Quick fix for chronic pain
  • Herbal healing
  • Scientifically proven results
  • Fast acting solution

Unrealistic offers

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Phrases like “Get rich quickly” or “You’ve won a million dollars!” are classic examples of content that screams spam. These offers are surely exciting but highly unlikely. And your average spam filter knows it. 

Although they might not always be caught by filters, be mindful of these and other similar expressions:

  • Double your money instantly
  • Free luxury car giveaway
  • Win a dream vacation
  • Get a free iPhone
  • Millionaire secrets revealed
  • Own a villa for nothing
  • Exclusive VIP membership
  • Free lifetime access
  • Jet set lifestyle
  • Become a celebrity overnight
  • Free shopping spree
  • Ultimate wealth package
  • Claim your mansion
  • Private island giveaway
  • All expenses paid world tour

Privacy and security measures

Spam email that uses privacy and security measures approach
One of the hundreds of very believable spam emails I received after the recent Ledger security breach

While ensuring user security is vital, using phrases like “Secure your account information” or “Password verification required” in emails can ironically make recipients suspicious. Imagine a stranger asking for the keys to your house. Does it inspire trust? Well, those phrases don’t either. To enhance your email security, remain cautious of these expressions:

  • Confirm your account details
  • Urgent security alert
  • Verify your password
  • Immediate action required for your account
  • Secure your funds now
  • Update your banking information
  • Protect your assets
  • Critical security update
  • Confidential account verification
  • Free security scan
  • Emergency data breach alert
  • Secure encryption service
  • Private account access
  • Guard your privacy
  • Safety compliance required

Employment-related spam words

Phrases such as “Guaranteed employment,” “Quick hiring process,” or “Earn big from the comfort of your home” might seem like attractive hooks to grab a reader’s attention. Yet, these are exactly the kind of terms that signal to spam filters your message might not be trustworthy. The goal is to communicate exciting career opportunities without resorting to the kind of wording that makes your email more likely to end up in the spam folder than in front of potential applicants’ eyes. 

Another set of examples to keep on your radar for potential spam includes:

  • Immediate job openings
  • High-paying work-from-home opportunities
  • No experience required
  • Make money fast
  • Unlimited earning potential
  • Be your own boss
  • Secure your position now
  • Fast track to promotion
  • Exclusive job offer
  • Top salary guaranteed
  • Work from anywhere in the world

Promoting unethical behavior

Phrases like “Get rich by tricking others!” or “Secret loophole in the law!” are the digital equivalent of a snake oil salesman’s pitch. They might grab attention momentarily, but they erode the fundamental trust between you and your readers. Moreover, promoting unethical behavior can have far-reaching consequences beyond just your email campaigns. It can tarnish your brand’s reputation, leading to a loss of credibility not just in your emails but across all platforms where your brand has a presence. So even if you aren’t scared of spam filters, steer clear of this one. For a safer inbox, familiarize yourself with these additional keywords often associated with spam:

  • Manipulate the system
  • Quick cash scheme
  • Earn without working
  • Black market access
  • Illegal gains
  • Foolproof scam
  • Hack your way to success
  • Exploit this trick
  • Cheat the system!
  • Undetectable loophole!
  • Instant success secrets
  • Bypass regulations
  • Get ahead unfairly

Poor grammar and spelling errors

Example of grammar and spelling errors in a spam email
A spam email with numerous grammar errors, according to Grammarly

Simple mistakes like “Exclusve deel inside!” or “Sing up for our newsltter!” can make your email appear unprofessional and hastily crafted. This signals “spam” to inbox filters and prevents your email from getting to its recipients.

Errors in spelling and grammar can distract from the content of your message. Instead of focusing on your offering or saying, recipients might fixate on the mistakes. This shift in focus can undermine the effectiveness of your call to action, no matter how compelling it might be. Moreover, frequent email mistakes might lead recipients to unsubscribe, affecting your engagement metrics and overall marketing strategy.

Misspelled something in your recent campaign or included a wrong link? Learn how to write an email correcting mistakes.

Other cases

An example of an email using different languages for the subject line and preheader resulting in it going to spam
This legitimate newsletter most likely ended up in spam because of the mix of two different languages in the subject line and preheader

And there are most certainly other, more unique scenarios when the words that were used for your email marketing campaigns triggered spam filters. Just jump into your spam folder and browse the captured messages, and you will start noticing the patterns. One example can be integrations of different languages across different parts of the email: main text and its preheader, for instance. This mismatch not only confuses your audience but can also trip up spam filters, questioning the consistency of your communication.

What if you cannot do without these words?

Let’s get practical. Sometimes, your email just needs those impactful words like “exclusive deal” or “limited-time offer” to really hit home. The key is not to avoid these words completely but rather to use them in a balanced way that enhances your message without overpowering it. This approach keeps your email’s integrity intact while navigating the tightrope of email deliverability. So those powerful words work for you, not against you.

Your email gets an overall spam score based on the mix of copy, design, and more, determining its fate — will it be the star of the inbox or banished to the spam folder? The key here is balance. To learn your email’s approximate spam score and adjust your campaigns accordingly, you can use free spam checkers. If you got a high spam score, your email is very unlikely to reach the inbox and you need to make changes to it.

If, after crafting a compelling email, you are still unsure whether it’s too “spammy”, you can use tools like Selzy’s integrated spam checker. It quickly evaluates your email, offering peace of mind that your message is strong without crossing into dangerous territory. This feature is available to all Standard and Premium plan users. Register in Selzy and secure your email marketing performance and get tens of useful integrations.

Part of spam check results recommending to exclude spam words like “#1”, “$$$”, “100% free”, etc
You can easily see any spam words you might want to remove in your spam check results

So, back to your million-dollar question: Can you use these words and phrases? Absolutely, but use them sparingly, thoughtfully, and where they make sense. Remember, in the world of email marketing, less is often more!

Final thoughts

As we wrap up, let’s revisit the key takeaways that can elevate your email marketing newsletter and secure its inbox placement:

  • Email spam words are still important: although spam filters are much more advanced than before, you still need to pay attention to words that can trigger them.
  • Mindful use of trigger words: Yes, words have power, but with great power comes great responsibility.  Don’t overuse words and expressions related to promotions, sense of urgency, health and medicine, privacy and security, and personal finances.
  • Crafting with care: Avoid common pitfalls like misleading promises, random characters in words, excessive punctuation and capitalization, errors, and promoting unethical behavior. 
  • Check before you send: And finally, the importance of using tools like Selzy’s integrated spam checker can’t be overstated. It’s like having a trusted advisor, ensuring your emails maintain integrity and effectiveness.

By keeping these points in mind, you’re not just stopping your emails from going to spam but also ensuring that your messages resonate with your audience. Each email is an opportunity to connect, engage, and build lasting relationships. So, harness the power of words wisely, balance your content thoughtfully, and make every email count.

08 February, 2024
Article by
Ana Balashova
I'm a seasoned PR and marketing pro turned tech writer, with a decade of experience working with big names like DuPont, Avon, Evernote, TradingView, and SAP. I've also dived into the world of crypto startups, contributing to several blockchain publications. Now, I'm bringing my passion for technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing to Selzy. Here, I combine my love for writing and excitement about contributing to the growth of a great product.
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