Every email marketer’s worst nightmare: the spam folder.

Nearly one in five emails gets caught by a spam filter and sent to the spam folder.

Spam filters check for red flags like:

  • The use of certain words
  • Links to sketchy websites
  • Messages in ALL CAPS
  • Colorful and different sized fonts
  • Broken HTML code
  • Emails without an unsubscribe button

In this article, we’re focusing on that first one: the use of certain words and phrases, aka spam trigger words.

Keep reading to learn:

  • What are spam trigger words?
  • 188 spam words and phrases to avoid
  • 6 deliverability tips to stay out of the spam folder

What are spam trigger words?

Spam trigger words are keywords or phrases that email providers see as red flags. You’ll often find these words in emails that people mark as spam.

As the saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Spam filters catch suspicious words and phrases associated with:

  • Scams
  • Gimmicks
  • Schemes
  • Promises
  • Free gifts

Gmail’s spam filter caught all of these promotional emails. Now they’re left to languish in my spam folder for eternity. (Or until Gmail automatically deletes them after 30 days.)

An important note before we share the list of words: Context matters.

Spam filters have become more advanced in recent years. They won’t automatically send you to spam for saying “limited time” or “get started now” — if you’re using those words responsibly.

If you…

  • Stuff a ton of spam keywords into your email
  • Use all caps, bright red font, and lots of exclamation points
  • Already have a low delivery rate

…you’re going to be in trouble.

If you…

  • Use one or two of the words and phrases in context
  • Code your emails well
  • Have a low bounce rate

…you’ll be fine.

188 spam words and phrases to avoid in your email marketing

With all of the above in mind, here’s the list of spam words.

Avoid spam words that make exaggerated claims and promises

  1. #1
  2. 100% more
  3. 100% free
  4. 100% satisfied
  5. Additional income
  6. Be your own boss
  7. Best price
  8. Big bucks
  9. Billion
  10. Cash bonus
  11. Cents on the dollar
  12. Consolidate debt
  13. Double your cash
  14. Double your income
  15. Earn extra cash
  16. Earn money
  17. Eliminate bad credit
  18. Extra cash
  19. Extra income
  20. Expect to earn
  21. Fast cash
  22. Financial freedom
  23. Free access
  24. Free consultation
  25. Free gift
  26. Free hosting
  27. Free info
  28. Free investment
  29. Free membership
  30. Free money
  31. Free preview
  32. Free quote
  33. Free trial
  34. Full refund
  35. Get out of debt
  36. Get paid
  37. Giveaway
  38. Guaranteed
  39. Increase sales
  40. Increase traffic
  41. Incredible deal
  42. Lower rates
  43. Lowest price
  44. Make money
  45. Million dollars
  46. Miracle
  47. Money back
  48. Once in a lifetime
  49. One time
  50. Pennies a day
  51. Potential earnings
  52. Prize
  53. Promise
  54. Pure profit
  55. Risk-free
  56. Satisfaction guaranteed
  57. Save big money
  58. Save up to
  59. Special promotion

Avoid spam words that create unnecessary urgency and pressure

  1. Act now
  2. Apply now
  3. Become a member
  4. Call now
  5. Click below
  6. Click here
  7. Get it now
  8. Do it today
  9. Don’t delete
  10. Exclusive deal
  11. Get started now
  12. Important information regarding
  13. Information you requested
  14. Instant
  15. Limited time
  16. New customers only
  17. Order now
  18. Please read
  19. See for yourself
  20. Sign up free
  21. Take action
  22. This won’t last
  23. Urgent
  24. What are you waiting for?
  25. While supplies last
  26. Will not believe your eyes
  27. Winner
  28. Winning
  29. You are a winner
  30. You have been selected

Avoid spam words that look like shady, spammy, or unethical behavior

  1. Bulk email
  2. Buy direct
  3. Cancel at any time
  4. Check or money order
  5. Congratulations
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Cures
  8. Dear friend
  9. Direct email
  10. Direct marketing
  11. Hidden charges
  12. Human growth hormone
  13. Internet marketing
  14. Lose weight
  15. Mass email
  16. Meet singles
  17. Multi-level marketing
  18. No catch
  19. No cost
  20. No credit check
  21. No fees
  22. No gimmick
  23. No hidden costs
  24. No hidden fees
  25. No interest
  26. No investment
  27. No obligation
  28. No purchase necessary
  29. No questions asked
  30. No strings attached
  31. Not junk
  32. Notspam
  33. Obligation
  34. Passwords
  35. Requires initial investment
  36. Social security number
  37. This isn’t a scam
  38. This isn’t junk
  39. This isn’t spam
  40. Undisclosed
  41. Unsecured credit
  42. Unsecured debt
  43. Unsolicited
  44. Valium
  45. Viagra
  46. Vicodin
  47. We hate spam
  48. Weight loss
  49. Xanax

Avoid spam words that are jargon or legalese (and everything else)

  1. Accept credit cards
  2. Ad
  3. All new
  4. As seen on
  5. Bargain
  6. Beneficiary
  7. Billing
  8. Bonus
  9. Cards accepted
  10. Cash
  11. Certified
  12. Cheap
  13. Claims
  14. Clearance
  15. Compare rates
  16. Credit card offers
  17. Deal
  18. Debt
  19. Discount
  20. Fantastic
  21. In accordance with laws
  22. Income
  23. Investment
  24. Join millions
  25. Lifetime
  26. Loans
  27. Luxury
  28. Marketing solution
  29. Message contains
  30. Mortgage rates
  31. Name brand
  32. Offer
  33. Online marketing
  34. Opt in
  35. Pre-approved
  36. Quote
  37. Rates
  38. Refinance
  39. Removal
  40. Reserves the right
  41. Score
  42. Search engine
  43. Sent in compliance
  44. Subject to…
  45. Terms and conditions
  46. Trial
  47. Unlimited
  48. Warranty
  49. Web traffic
  50. Work from home

6 deliverability tips to stay out of the spam folder

Here are more strategies for improving email deliverability and making it into your subscribers’ inboxes.

1. Run a spam check

Spam checkers scan your email content to check for… well… spamminess.

ActiveCampaign runs a Spam Check on every campaign and automation email you create. Our Spam Check tool scans the content of your message and gives you a list of issues that triggered at least one rule for “spamminess.”

Because email content can be nuanced — especially when it comes to spam words — Spam Check won’t stop you from sending your email. Plus, Spam Check only scans the content of your message. It doesn’t know anything about the reputation of your domain or the makeup of your list.

Learn more about Spam Check in this article.

2. Practice good email list hygiene

Good email hygiene means regularly cleaning out inactive email subscribers.

How does good list hygiene help your deliverability?

  • If you have a lot of unengaged subscribers, your open rates will be lower
  • Your open rates and engagement rates affect your sender reputation
  • Your sender reputation affects your deliverability
  • Low deliverability means your emails could be marked as spam — no spam words necessary

Once you remove unengaged subscribers, keep your remaining list engaged (and your deliverability high) with consistent, high-quality campaigns.

How can you clean your email list?

  1. Use engagement automations to track who opens your messages (and who ignores them)
  2. When a contact hasn’t engaged for 60 days (or the time period that makes sense for you), trigger a “last chance” engagement email
  3. Remove contacts who don’t interact with the “last chance” email campaign

You can learn more about how to set up re-engagement emails in this post (And if you use ActiveCampaign, you can set all of this up to run automatically).

3. Don’t break the law

The CAN-SPAM Act governs commercial email, aka any email sent by a business trying to promote or sell a product or service.

The rules of CAN-SPAM:

  • Don’t use false or misleading information
  • Don’t use a deceptive subject line
  • Tell subscribers where you’re located
  • Give subscribers a simple way to opt out of your emails
  • Honor all opt-outs quickly

Penalties for not following the law can add up to $16,000 per email, so it’s important to follow the rules. To learn more about the CAN-SPAM Act, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.

4. Consider a double opt-in

To stay un-spammy, only send emails to people who give consent to receive your campaigns. Double opt-in requires new subscribers to verify their email address, so they can’t give you a fake one.

A typical double opt-in process looks like this:

  1. A potential subscriber visits your website
  2. A form on your website offers a lead magnet in exchange for their email address
  3. After your new subscriber gives you their email address, they get a confirmation email
  4. If they confirm their email address, they get their lead magnet – and have officially gone through double opt-in

This helps lower your bounce rate and keep your delivery rates high.

5. Make your emails more engaging

The more people who open and engage with your email campaign, the better your sender reputation and deliverability. Two quick tips for creating more engaging emails:

  1. Write better subject lines. (If you need some help, check out our subject line generator.)
  2. Use segmentation and dynamic content. Serving up different messaging to different recipients can get more contacts to engage with your emails.

80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. Here’s how dynamic content personalizes your emails.

6. Be smart about your cold email marketing

Cold email marketing promotes your business, product, or service to someone that you don’t have an existing relationship with.

People who receive your email marketing expect your emails because they have opted in. No one signs up to receive cold emails, so you need to make sure your cold email marketing is:

  • Targeted
  • Personalized
  • Relevant
  • 1-to-1

This is the difference between cold email marketing and email marketing spam.

Unlike typical email marketing to opted-in contacts, you can’t blast cold emails to a list of prospects. If you do, you’re not sending cold emails. You’re sending spam.

You can’t blast cold emails to a list of prospects. If you do, you’re not sending cold emails. You’re sending spam. Click To Tweet

Conclusion: Spam words and avoiding spam filters

You’re not sending spam on purpose. I trust you. But a spam filter can still snatch your email before it can land in your subscriber’s inbox.

Here’s a recap of spam words and phrases to use with caution:

  • Words that make exaggerated claims and promises
  • Words that create unnecessary urgency and pressure
  • Words that look like shady, spammy, or unethical behavior
  • Words that are jargon or legalese

Avoid spam words and keep your deliverability high with the tips in this post, and you’ll be well on your way to steering clear of spam filters.