Select Page

Email Marketing Pitfalls and Power Words (No, You Can’t Use the Word “FREE”)

Travis Balinas
September 20, 2013

A lot of you might be aware of the email marketing pitfalls that are around every corner. One of the words that you’d like people would like to see is “FREE” in all caps, but more often than not, that’ll put you into the spam folder. When doing a bit of research on what other words land you in the spam folder, I found this great list of email power words and language pitfalls that was definitely worth sharing.

Top Ten Language Pitfalls in Email Marketing


10. Typos and misspellings due to poor editing 

With spell check, there really is no excuse.

9. Subject lines in ALL CAPS

Writing in all capital letters online is the equivalent of shouting. You would never scream at your customers or prospects in person, so don’t do it in email, either.

8. Use of punctuation marks and numbers within the subject line

If absolutely necessary, use only functional punctuation such as a hyphen or colon. Do not put phone numbers in your subject line—ever! (This is interesting, hadn’t heard this one…)

7. ALL CAPS within the message body

Remember, no need to shout.

6. Excessive or unnecessary Power Word repetition

Especially of power word #1 – See below.

5. Copy written in passive rather than active voice

We need to get to the point quickly in email. Front-load sentences and paragraphs with action verbs and eye-catching benefits. We couldn’t agree more with this one!

4. False or inflated sense of urgency

The very nature of email implies expediency, immediacy. Pushing recipients to respond by intentionally creating an environment of panic or scarcity usually doesn’t provide an incremental lift in response. In fact, it can be a real turn off. Don’t we all hate the guy that marks every one of his email with high priority?

3. Vague calls-to-action

“Click here” or “visit our Web site” are too general; they don’t reinforce the subject of your message or your offer. Nor do they instill confidence in where a responder will land.

2. Exaggerated Modifiers

Like “Amazing,” “Revolutionary,” “Great,” “All New,” (when just “new” would suffice) and even “Special” and “Important,” especially when used in the subject line, can land your email in the junk folder. Hype is a hallmark of spam and is unnecessary when your messages are targeted and relevant. Assuming they are (targeted and relevant), they will already be perceived as important, special, or great. Why state the obvious?

And the number-one pitfall:

1. Including the word “spam” in your message (such as “this is not spam”)

The very existence of written justification that your email is ethical calls its legitimacy into question. I can’t think of a more self-defeating proposition than stating your message is NOT what you fear it will be.

[wpx_bannerize random=”1″ numbers=”1″ category=”generic_bottom_ads”]

Now for the Top Ten Power Words

Here are the top ten power words for your email marketing and communications:

10. New

Appeals to our basic human curiosity to seek novelty.

9. Save 

We all love a bargain.

8. Safety

Connotes reliability; appeals to basic human needs.

7. Proven

Justifies your claim, removes fear of the unknown.

6. Love

An all-time favorite. Maybe not so much in business email marketing?

5. Guarantee

If you have one, state it. It iron-clads your offer.

4. Immediate (Now, or Instant)

Instant gratification is the expectation online. If it can’t be found, completed, or received almost immediately, your offer is in the wrong channel.

3. Results

Provides rationalization for instant conversion.

2. You 

Remember WIIFM? Your audience wants to hear about what’s in it for them, not you. Articulate your benefits in personal, conversational terms.

And the number one Power Word: get ready for it….

1. Free

Surprised? Probably not. Because this is the time-honored, most potent motivator in direct response, be particularly vigilant of overuse. Just a dash’ll do. Strive to optimize placement, and test if necessary.


Must Read Advice 

When it comes to power words, less is more. Use them sparingly and strategically. Power words are just that—powerful—all on their own.

Thanks again to Karen Talavera, president and founder, of Synchronicity Marketing for the great tips.

[wpx_bannerize random=”1″ numbers=”1″ category=”generic_bottom_ads”]

Read Next

We write great emails

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of our blog, tailored for you.