What are Email Spam Words (and How Can You Avoid Them)?

No matter how much time, money, and creativity your organization puts into an email marketing campaign, it won’t amount to anything if a large number of your emails end up in your recipients’ spam folders.

According to Constant Contact, the email open rate across all industries is 17.62 percent. (NOTE: If you follow best practices, you should have a much higher open rate.) One reason it can be miserably low, however, is that many emails are never seen because they’re being identified as spam. This is problematic beyond a disappointing open rate; it could also result in your business being identified as a spammer and blacklisted, preventing your messages from getting delivered in the future.

Several factors can send your emails straight to the spam folder. Among them are your business’s reputation (which is built on your past email behavior and sending patterns), the extent to which your subscribers engage with you, and your use of email spam words.

Spam filters typically check for warnings, such as:

  • Spam words
  • Messages in ALL CAPS
  • Links to suspicious websites
  • Colored fonts (especially bright red fonts)
  • Email not comprising a Subscribe button
  • Broken HTML codes

It’s that first factor we’ll look at in this article. What are email spam words and how do they work? Is there a good way to make sure your team is avoiding them?

Understanding Email Spam Words

Spam boxes are set up to do an effective job of filtering out unwanted sales pitches and scams. One of the ways they do this is through monitoring for certain keywords, or “email spam words,” that are commonly used by spammers. If your subject line contains one of these trigger words, the message will automatically land in the spam box, never to be seen by the recipient.

Spam filters can instantly track phrases and words associated with:

  • Free gifts
  • Gimmicks
  • Promises
  • Scams
  • Schemes

Also watch out for categories of spam words, such as:

  • Needy words and phrases
  • Manipulative words and phrases
  • Shady words and phrases
  • Far-fetched words and phrases

Some examples of common spam phrases and words are:

  • Double your income
  • 100%
  • Best price
  • Earn money
  • Free gift inside
  • Free membership
  • Increase traffic
  • Prize inside 
  • Special promotion
  • Giveaway
  • Pre-approved
  • Fantastic work from home opportunity
  • Weight loss

Avoiding these words can be frustrating, as the list of potential trigger words in your subject line encompasses hundreds of words having to do with financial, medical, and marketing topics, as well as discussion about employment, overt calls-to-action, overly enthusiastic adjectives, and even common greetings. A quick Google search will reveal exhaustive lists of common email spam words. If you reference these lists as you create your emails it will help you avoid any spam word pitfalls.

How to Keep Your Emails Out of the Spam Box

In addition to email spam words, there are other factors that can send a well-intentioned email campaign into spam.

Create Engaging Emails

As mentioned above, engagement with your audience is important, as spam filters learn to sort emails based on whether the recipients click on or automatically delete emails from specific senders. With every email you create, take the “Is It For Us or For Them?” challenge and ask yourself whether the content is something that’s interesting or useful for your audience.

Keep the Email Light; Avoid Heavy Files and Cluttered Content

How you communicate your message is as important as the message itself. Salesforce points out that image-heavy emails often end up destined for the spam box, as do emails that use excessive amounts of words in all capital letters. As for images, a 60/40 text-to-image ratio is a good guideline. Too many exclamation points or the inclusion of attachments can also cause your email to be flagged as spam.

Avoid Purchasing Email Lists

Do you know the truth about email scraping and list-building services? They are nothing but a SPAM game. Purchased email lists can ruin your organization’s online reputation as they instantly inform mailbox providers that you’re sending unsolicited spam emails. You don’t want to be branded as a SPAMMER, right? If you're going to buy a list, plan to reach out to the contacts with one-off emails, 1:1 campaigns, or via social media to determine the viability of the contact.

Partner With a Reliable and Reputable ESP

Email service providers (ESPs) are marked as genuine senders based on the authenticity and reputation of the domains of their clients and their IP addresses.

ESPs with low sender IP address scores typically land in the spam folders of email providers, such as Gmail and Yahoo! Mail.

Avoid These Emailing Practices

To prevent permanent damage to your online reputation, avoid these emailing practices:

  • Misleading subject lines starting with Re: or Fwd: to showcase ongoing communication.
  • Text in images to trick spam filters.
  • Misleading claims such as subject lines mentioning that you have won a lottery and the details can be found inside the email.
  • Hashbusting, which involves including special characters in the subject lines to trick spam filters.

These are a lot of factors to keep track of as you design an email campaign. When all is said and done, how can you ensure that you haven’t violated any of these guidelines? It helps to use A/B testing to see which subject lines and email content is more successful. However, the easiest way to ensure that your email marketing campaigns will be successful is to enlist the assistance of a marketing firm with experience in creating successful email campaigns. In addition to generating results, you won’t have to peruse long lists of email spam words (they already know the words to avoid) and you’ll be free to focus on running your business.

Want more help understanding the impact of email spam words and how to use power words and engaging content? Contact us today!

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.