15 Words Never to Use in Your Email Marketing

February 5, 2015 Karen Axelton

email marketing

If your small business uses email marketing, you know how important it is to avoid being mistaken for a spammer. If recipients think you’re a spammer, they can block you or mark your emails as spam, which can get you reported to your email service provider and get you in trouble.

To avoid having your email marketing backfire, it’s important to avoid some common words and phrases that can make your email sound like spam. Busy email readers flicking through their inbox on a smartphone may not trouble to read beyond the first words of the subject line before they hit “delete.”

So what words should you avoid in your email marketing subject lines? MediaPost recently highlighted some “red flags” to keep out of your subject lines.

  1. Urgent: This word is often used by spammers to create a sense of, well, urgency. At best, it’s associated with politicians seeking “urgent” donations to their campaigns; at worst, with Nigerian bank scammers. Stay away.
  2. PayPal/MasterCard/Visa or any specific bank name: This is a common scam used to get worried recipients to disclose financial information. Unless you actually ARE a bank, don’t use them.
  3. Present/Gift/Especially for You: The email variation of the “You’ve won a free trip” letter with the fine print that requires visiting a timeshare presentation first, these words could be legitimate in a marketing email, but it’s best to avoid them nonetheless.
  4. $$$: Spaminess aside, multiple dollar signs also look cheesy, conveying a poor image of your business even if they don’t get you reported as a spammer.

There are also specific words that different industries should avoid using in email marketing subject lines:

  • Retail: Free gift card: Chances are you’re not really giving away something for nothing, are you? “Receive a gift card with purchase” is a more legitimate approach to the topic. Order or Order Status: If using these words, be careful to include your business name in the subject line.
  • Financial services: 100% free, million dollars, cash bonus and collect your prize are among the terms to avoid.
  • Marketing: SEO, lead generation, sign-up free today and email harvest are all terms to steer clear of.

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Author information

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.


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