Writing content for your next email newsletter can be one of the most stressful steps before hitting the send button, especially when you’re trying to avoid spam trigger words and get your email through to your customer’s inbox.
Spam filters and ISPs are working to create a better experience for consumers, one that excludes emails that are irrelevant to the recipient. According to ReturnPath, an email data solutions provider, less than 80% of commercial emails in the US reached the intended recipients’ inboxes worldwide. If you want your emails to make it into the 20% that get delivered, it’s important for you to understand how content and context affect your email spam score.
The good news is that spam filters used to be a lot harder to understand than they are today. Even five years ago it was hit or miss – you knew to avoid using too many exclamation points, too many mentions of anything “free,” and any mention of money. But we didn’t truly understand which trigger words caused spam filters to push our emails to the spam box without purchasing expensive third-party software.
But that’s no longer the case.
Spam filters are still a curious thing, but they’re a lot easier to gauge now. Spam filters are very similar to search engines and have become more sophisticated. Now, when you’re working on getting your emails into your prospects’ inboxes, there are a number of different aspects to consider.
Avoid Common Spam Trigger Words
The first step is making sure you’re avoiding common spam trigger words.
Email spam filters still look at the content within your email to decide whether it goes into the spam folder of your customer’s inbox, but (and I can’t emphasize this enough) it all depends on the context in which you use these words and phrases.
We’ve compiled a very thorough list of words and phrases you should try to avoid. You’ll notice that some of the words on this list are pretty innocuous – they may even appear in your favorite email newsletter, or another marketing email that made it into your inbox. That’s why it’s important to remember context is just as important as content.
|Email Spam Trigger Words|
|This isn’t a scam||Earn per week||Mail in order form||Reverses|
|#1||Easy terms||Maintained||Reverses aging|
|$$$||Eliminate bad credit||Make $||Risk free|
|‘Hidden’ assets||Eliminate debt||Make money||Rolex|
|100% free||Email harvest||Marketing||Round the world|
|100% Satisfied||Email marketing||Marketing solutions||S 1618|
|4U||Expect to earn||Mass email||Safeguard notice|
|50% off||Explode your business||Medicine||Sale|
|Accept credit cards||Extra income||Medium||Sales|
|Acceptance||F r e e||Meet singles||Sample|
|Accordingly||Fast cash||Member stuff||Satisfaction guaranteed|
|Act Now||Fast Viagra delivery||Message contains||Save $|
|Act Now!||Financial freedom||Message contains disclaimer||Save big money|
|Act now! Don’t hesitate!||Financially independent||Million||Save up to|
|Ad||For free||Million dollars||Score with babes|
|Additional income||For instant access||Miracle||Search engine listings|
|Addresses on CD||For just $ (some amount)||MLM||Search engines|
|Affordable||For just $xxx||Money||Section 301|
|All natural||For Only||Money back||See for yourself|
|All new||For you||Money making||Sent in compliance|
|Amazing||Form||Month trial offer||Serious cash|
|Amazing stuff||Free||More Internet Traffic||Serious only|
|Apply now||Free access||Mortgage||Shopper|
|Apply Online||Free cell phone||Mortgage rates||Shopping spree|
|As seen on||Free consultation||Multi level marketing||Sign up free today|
|Auto email removal||Free consultation||Multi-level marketing||Social security number|
|Avoid||Free DVD||Name brand||Solution|
|Avoid bankruptcy||Free gift||Never||Special promotion|
|Bargain||Free grant money||New customers only||Stainless steel|
|Be amazed||Free hosting||New domain extensions||Stock alert|
|Be your own boss||Free info||Nigerian||Stock disclaimer statement|
|Being a member||Free installation||No age restrictions||Stock pick|
|Beneficiary||Free Instant||No catch||Stop|
|Best price||Free investment||No claim forms||Stop snoring|
|Beverage||Free leads||No cost||Strong buy|
|Big bucks||Free membership||No credit check||Stuff on sale|
|Bill 1618||Free money||No disappointment||Subject to cash|
|Billing address||Free offer||No experience||Subject to credit|
|Billion||Free preview||No fees||Subscribe|
|Billion dollars||Free priority mail||No gimmick||Success|
|Bonus||Free quote||No hidden||Supplies are limited|
|Brand new pager||Free sample||No inventory||Take action now|
|Bulk email||Free trial||No investment||Talks about hidden charges|
|Buy||Free website||No medical exams||Talks about prizes|
|Buy direct||Freedom||No middleman||Teen|
|Buying judgements||Friend||No obligation||Tells you it’s an ad|
|Buying judgments||Full refund||No purchase necessary||Terms and conditions|
|Cable converter||Get||No questions asked||The best rates|
|Call||Get it now||No selling||The following form|
|Call free||Get out of debt||No strings attached||They keep your money – no refund|
|Call now||Get paid||No-obligation||They’re just giving it away|
|Calling creditors||Get started now||Not intended||This isn’t junk|
|Cancel at any time||Gift certificate||Notspam||This isn’t spam|
|Cannot be combined with any other offer||Give it away||Now||This won’t last|
|Can’t live without||Giving away||Now only||Thousands|
|Cards accepted||Great offer||Obligation||Time limited|
|Cash bonus||Guaranteed||Offer||Undisclosed recipient|
|Cashcashcash||Have you been turned down?||Offer expires||University diplomas|
|Casino||Hello||Once in lifetime||Unlimited|
|Celebrity||Here||One hundred percent free||Unsecured credit|
|Cell phone cancer scam||Hidden||One hundred percent guaranteed||Unsecured credit/debt|
|Cents on the dollar||Hidden assets||One time||Unsecured debt|
|Certified||Hidden charges||One time mailing||Unsolicited|
|Chance||Home||Online biz opportunity||Unsubscribe|
|Cheap||Home based||Online degree||Urgent|
|Check||Home employment||Online marketing||US dollars|
|Check or money order||Homebased business||Online pharmacy||Vacation|
|Claims||Human growth hormone||Only||Vacation offers|
|Claims not to be selling anything||If only it were that easy||Only $||Valium|
|Claims to be in accordance with some spam law||Important information regarding||Open||Viagra|
|Claims to be legal||In accordance with laws||Opportunity||Viagra and other drugs|
|Click||Income from home||Order||Visit our website|
|Click below||Increase sales||Order now||Wants credit card|
|Click here||Increase traffic||Order shipped by||Warranty|
|Click to remove||Increase your sales||Order status||We hate spam|
|Collect||Incredible deal||Order today||We honor all|
|Collect child support||Info you requested||Orders shipped by||Web traffic|
|Compare||Information you requested||Outstanding values||Weekend getaway|
|Compare rates||Instant||Passwords||Weight loss|
|Compete for your business||Insurance||Pennies a day||What are you waiting for?|
|Confidentially on all orders||Internet market||Per day||While supplies last|
|Congratulations||Internet marketing||Per week||While you sleep|
|Consolidate debt and credit||Investment||Performance||Who really wins?|
|Consolidate your debt||Investment decision||Phone||Why pay more?|
|Copy accurately||It’s effective||Please read||Wife|
|Copy DVDs||It’s effective||Potential earnings||Will not believe your eyes|
|Costs||Join millions of Americans||Price||Winner|
|Credit bureaus||Leave||Print form signature||Winning|
|Credit card offers||Legal||Print out and fax||Won|
|Cures baldness||Life||Priority mail||Work at home|
|Deal||Life Insurance||Prize||Work from home|
|Diagnostics||limited time||Problem||You are a winner!|
|Dig up dirt on friends||Limited time offer||Produced and sent out||You have been selected|
|Direct email||Limited time only||Profits||You’re a Winner!|
|Direct marketing||Loans||Promise you||Your income|
|Discount||Long distance phone offer||Pure Profits||You’re a Winner!|
|Do it today||Lose||Quote|
|Don’t delete||Lose weight||Quotes|
|Don’t hesitate||Lose weight spam||Real thing|
|Dormant||Lower interest rate||Refinance|
|Double your||Lower interest rates||Refinance home|
|Double your income||Lower monthly payment||Refinanced home|
|Drastically reduced||Lower your mortgage rate||Removal instructions|
|Earn||Lowest insurance rates||Remove|
|Earn $||Lowest Price||Removes wrinkles|
|Earn extra cash||Luxury car||Reserves the right|
Avoid Using Too Many Symbols
ISP filters look for more than just spam trigger words, they also scan your content for symbols, punctuation, and capitalization.
- Avoid multiple exclamation points – Try to avoid using more than one exclamation point at the end of a sentence. Expert copywriters often suggest you remove them all together, relying on your words to provide the emphasis instead of an exclamation point.
- Avoid all caps – The only time this may be appropriate is when using caps for a call to action. Adding “BUY THIS AWESOME PRODUCT NOW!!!!” in the middle of your sales copy is spammy and can land you in the spam folder.
- Avoid over usage of dollar sign$ –Like exclamation points, too many dollar signs can cause red flags with spam filters.
Try to find a nice balance of symbols in your email content, and stick to proper capitalization and punctuation as much as possible. You don’t have to avoid symbols completely, but it’s important that they fit into the context of the email.
Avoid Weird Formatting
How you format your content is just as important as what the subject matter of the content. Try to avoid suspicious formatting in your email, such as:
- Using punctuation when it’s not need!?!!
- Writing in multiple font colors for effect
- Using different font sizes in the same sentence
- CaPiTaLiZaTiOn issues
- Bolding or italicizing more than a few words in each sentence
Not only do these formatting issue cause spam filter issues, they can also annoy your recipients. If your email happens to get into their inbox using strange formatting, they may mark your email as spam anyway.
Avoid URL Shorteners
Want to look like a spammer? Use a shortened link in your email!
Avoid URL shorteners in your email copy. Spammers often use shorteners to hide their URLS and because of this, many popular URL shorteners, such as bit.ly, have been put on ISP block lists. This means your email will automatically be blocked, even if you follow every other best practice. Plus URL shorteners are not needed if you’re using a marketing automation tool; your tool will automatically attach any tracking parameters necessary to measure engagement with your email.
Subject Line Context is Important Too
Think of your subject line as an article headline.
It’s arguably the most important part of any email message. Recipients will choose whether to open your email depending only on the subject line and pre-header text.
Our advice when it comes to subject lines:
Your subject line should match and describe the context of your email.
This is your chance to set expectations for recipients. The best subject lines tell recipients what’s inside instead of trying to sell them something. Trying to sell something in the subject line will usually involve spam trigger words. There go your chances of getting into the inbox!
Wait… So you’re telling me my subject lines have to be stale and uncreative?!
Not at all! Be as creative as you’d like, as long as you are setting an appropriate expectation for what’s inside the email.
A common headline writing technique I’ve used is to write 25 different subject lines. Subject lines 1-10 are going to a breeze. It’s after 10 when it starts to get harder to think of creative subject lines. 20-24 get even harder, and number 25 is the hardest of all.
Why do I do this? It makes me think outside the box and be more creative. When drafting an email subject line, the first few you think of will be less creative than #24 or #25.
According to Mailchimp, the subject line you use can be the different between an open rate of 60-87% or 1-14%.
Subject lines should also match expectations from your signup form.
Are your subscribers expecting a traditional email newsletter or are they expecting to receive special offers and promotions from your company?
Remember the verbiage you used on your signup form before pressing send.
Is there a universal subject line that converts better than others?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: Still no, but there are some practices you can apply universally to increase your open rates, such as A/B testing.
Are you sending the email to influencers, a newsletter list, blog subscribers, or maybe even an email list you bought? (Please don’t buy lists; good email addresses aren’t for sale.)
Every case is different and it’s depends on the context, but here is what we suggest you do when writing a subject line:
- Make your subject line personal, if possible
- Make it relevant and within context
- Write like you’re emailing a friend
- Be creative, humor is allowed
- Promise something useful or actionable, if possible
Here are a few examples of subject lines that follow these guidelines:
- Thanks for Getting in Touch
- [Benefit] for [recipient’s company]
- [Number] tips for [recipient’s pain point]
- Your Next Step
- The [self-identifier]’s Guide to [Topic]
- Imagine [desired result] and Loving Every Minute of It!
You may have come here looking for a long list of email spam trigger words, but I hope you’re leaving with a better understanding of how to avoid spam filters and get subscribers to open your emails. Stop focusing on a long list of words to avoid and start focusing on the context.
What are your subscribers expecting? Does your subject line match that context? Does the subject line match the content of your email? What subject lines work best for you? Let us know in the comments.