What Is Spam In Email Marketing

Kristina Frunze, Jul. 13, 2015Email Marketing
What Is Spam In Email Marketing

WHAT IS SPAM? We might have our preconceptions about this. We might consider spam to be an email from a Nigerian prince or from a pharmaceutical company about some "free Viagra". These are definitely annoying but are not the only forms of spam email. In fact, you might be sending spam emails but just don’t know it. Below are some features you may be implementing in your emails that can make them come across as spam email.


The subject line is considered to be the real estate of the email marketing. It is the the first part people see and it determines whether or not people open your mail. There is an entire school of thought on subject line optimization, from the number of characters, to the use of action words. However, these are two factors that will cause your subject line to be viewed as Spam.

  • Use of certain words: Email technology has become more sophisticated and has built in filters that identify potential ‘spammy’ keywords. If you are not aware of those words, this might cause your well intentioned email to head straight to the spam folder. Luckily, there are publicly available lists of spam keywords relevant to different industries to help you avoid them. Below is a list of words that generally affect the finance industry. You can take a look at the full list here.
 spam words in email
  • USING ALL CAPS IN THE SUBJECT LINE: is generally a red herring that your email is spam. The use of caps lock is perceived as a desperate way to get the user’s attention by saying “LOOK HERE”. Users can get put off and it gives a sense that your content is not desirable on its own and that you need every trick in the book to gain attention. Just don’t do it.


Emails are spammy when they are not personal. For example you say, “Dear Sir” to a male or “Dear Madam” to a female subscriber or even worse, “Dear Sir/Madam”. This gives off the vibe that the email is not intended for the person and is an attempt to phish for information. It makes the user feel that you probably do not have their consent to contact them. Making it easier to discard your email in the trash or spam folder. To avoid this, try to be more personal with your email by mentioning the user's name instead.


Spam is email that is not relevant to your subscriber. If your company targets male fashion-forward millennials and you send emails to 50 year old women that are about to retire and trying to access their pension...That is Spam. Mail sent to the wrong target makes it irrelevant. Irrelevance is the main feature of spam mail. One cause of this irrelevance is buying a list of email addresses from 3rd parties. This is why it is important to implement an inbound marketing strategy and cultivate an email list of your own. This helps you reach people that have given you permission to reach them and have shown interest in your content.



Spam is not only about misleading people, but it is also about not giving them a way out. If your email is not considered relevant for a user, you should always provide an escape for them. Spam is intrusive and is about making the user see things he/she doesn't want to see. This is the old method of marketing, but with the new methodology, customers have a choice, and your emails should also give them a choice to stay or leave.

These are some features of typical spam mail. Always ask yourself “Is this mail relevant to the user?” So, to recap what SPAM is, don't send email that looks like this.

Example of Spam

If you see yourself writing this, feel free to hit the delete button as soon as possible.


What is your experience with email marketing and avoiding the SPAM box? Share your practices with us in the comments below!

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