8 Phrases That Will Land You in the Spam Folder

Email marketers don’t need to be told how an email campaign can be damaged by spam filtration. Unfortunately, there’s no single, surefire way to prevent being blocked or marked as spam.

On the other hand, many things will get you labeled as spam. Spam filters scour your body copy and code for specific indicators. Many filters track the presence of these indicators through a cumulative spam score. The higher your spam score, the more likely it is that your message never makes it to the inbox.

In email copy, certain phrases are major red flags for spam filters. These phrases not only add significantly to your spam score, but they make you sound disreputable to human recipients as well. Here are eight phrases that will land your emails in the spam folder.

1. Click Here

1. “Click Here”

Generally speaking, people who are technology literate enough to have email address understand how a link works. Explaining that they should “click here” is unnecessary and unconvincing. It’s much more effective to present a link with descriptive text that sets expectations and gives a reason to click. Even something like “Find out More” is much better. “Click Here” and “Click Below” have been the preferred choices of spammers for years. Spam filters look for the use of such phrases in link text and body copy. Using “Click Here” as link text is especially bad. It’s lazy, undescriptive, and it makes it seem as though you have something to hide.

2. Dear _______

2. “Dear _____”

Spam filters look for the word “Dear” along with a capitalized noun. Spam emails often start with the traditional letter opening of “Dear _____.” The phrase “Dear Friend” is particularly bad. Aside from being nondescript and impersonal, it makes it pretty clear that you have no idea whom it is you’re emailing. Using any such phrases will add to your spam score. The best course of action is to use alternatives like “Hi _____,” “Hello _____,” or simply the name alone.

3. If you no longer wish to receive

3. “If You No Longer Wish to Receive”

This one is a bit tricky. In the United States, commercial emails are required to provide recipients the instructions to opt-out of further communications under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. In other words, not providing the “If you no longer wish to receive” instructions isn’t an option. The wording of such instructions, on the other hand, is optional. A little bit of creative phrasing can help you to get past this spam trigger.

4. Risk free

4. “Risk-Free”

If it needs to be described as risk-free, chances are it’s not. The term “risk-free” is overused in all kinds of spam, from TV to email. Accordingly, spam filters flag messages containing the expression “risk-free.” If you had to, you could use alternative phrasing. I would avoid such descriptors altogether.

5. Save $$$

5. “Save $$$”

Spam filters key on the overuse of special characters alone, but they pay special attention to the word “save” paired with several dollar signs. Some emails use dollar signs in an effort to draw attention to words like “save.” It’s a practice commonly associated with spam. For that reason, it’s best to limit the use of special characters and stick to typing out phrases like “save money” or “save millions” (if you have to use them).

6. Free offer

6. “Free Offer”

Spam filters look for the pairing of the words “free” and “offer,” as well as similar words like “discount,” “deal,” “trial,” and “coupon.” It may be difficult to remove such terms, as they are likely tied to the purpose of your campaign. The best thing to do is minimize your use of these promotional words, especially in combination with the word “free.” Whenever possible, get creative with labels like “partner special.”

7. Only $

7. “Only $”

Phrases with the word “only” close to a dollar sign also triggers spam filters. For example, a phrase like, “Get _____ for only $500!” would trigger this rule. Spam emails, almost universally, use a minimizing adjective like “only” to make their prices seem small. Avoid using such words. As a rule, if you effectively communicate the value of your product or offer, the “only” will be unnecessary.

8. Don't waste time

8. “Don’t Waste Time”

“Don’t waste time,” “order fast,” “waste no time,” and “limited time offer,” among others, are all phrases that alert spam filters. Time pressure is a tried and true tactic of spammers. Avoiding the use of time pressure altogether is the safest option, but if it needs to be incorporated, try alternative phrasing (e.g., “hurry” or “only available until _____”).


Beyond obvious deliverability benefits, a low spam score helps to prevent placement in the junk folder or promotions tab. Though such a change may sound menial, it makes all the difference. Messages received in the main inbox get a variety of visual and auditory notifications that those in the spam folder do not. Even if the user checks their spam folder from time to time, they’re less likely to read messages thoroughly – and they’re probably doing so with a grain of salt.

You should do everything you can to avoid the spam folder and the phrases that will land you there. Doing anything less is sabotaging your campaign before it ever runs.


Let us know what you think:

  • Were you guilty of using any of these phrases?
  • What other words do you avoid?
  • How much is reaching the inbox worth to you?


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Comments (2)

[…] “8 Phrases that Will Land You in the Spam Folder” (July 16th, […]

Great insight Matt, as filters get more advanced these phrases will certainly increase, cheers.

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