I get asked about buying email lists a lot. So, here is my rundown on why you never, ever want to do it.
You want your customers to like you, right? Think about how you feel when someone spams you. Not cool — so great, don’t do it to others. If that doesn’t convince you to take the high road and build your email list the right way, then read on.
The Thing About Unicorns and High Quality Purchased Email Lists
Yes, both are figments of your imagination. If you are buying email lists, you are almost certainly wasting money better spent elsewhere (like building a list of qualified prospects who have opted in to receive your emails).
Earlier in my career I worked with an email marketer who purchased lists and then sent out marketing emails to those lists with my name on them. I got a lot of nasty replies, but one in particular stuck with me. A woman asked how I had gotten the email because it belonged to her husband who died two years ago. After that, I refused to allow my name to be on the marketing emails from that company.
It Negatively Affects Your IP Reputation & Your Deliverability
Your reputation is affected by factors including your complaint rate (how many people have marked your emails as spam or junk) and bounce rate (e.g., the email account is no longer active), whether your email sending volume is consistent, and whether your emails are coded and formatted properly.
When you buy an email list, you will almost certainly see an uptick in complaints, bounces, and your email sending volume will change. So, yes, it means your reputation will suffer, which will decrease your deliverability. And, if you have an email marketing platform like MailChimp or HubSpot, they may force you to use double opt-in or, much worse, shut down your account. What is email deliverability? SendGrid defines deliverability as “your message arriving in the inbox of the recipient as intended.”
Email deliverability failure occurs when your email goes to the junk or spam folders or, worse, is blocked by an Internet Service Provider. Particularly if you are in sales, now is where to pay attention: When your deliverability decreases, your emails don’t get through — including the emails to qualified prospects who actually want to hear from you!
A 2015 ReturnPath report found that only 21 percent of opt-in emails (i.e., emails that people have asked for) make it to the inbox. So, imagine what happens when your email list hasn’t opted in?
Beware the Honeypot that Gets You Blacklisted
Your purchased list may also include spam traps, also known as honeypots, that are either recycled email addresses or fake email addresses ISPs and blacklist providers use to identify companies that are using bad lists. Then, you are added to a blacklist database and/or your domain is permanently blacklisted.
Good Email Service Providers Don’t Allow You to Use Purchased Lists
If you aren’t convinced yet, know this. Reputable companies prohibit use of purchased lists, and your account can be disabled if you are caught using a list of users who did not opt in. Why is this? Because your crappy list can ruin deliverability for not just your emails, but for emails sent from their other customers.
Can you afford to have your ESP prevent you from sending emails? Sure, you can go to another provider, but vetting and budgeting for email marketing software takes time.
I know, it’s very tempting, but just don’t purchase lists.