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Nothing is more important to the success of your email marketing than your list of subscribers. The success of your campaigns, not to mention your business, depends on having an interested and engaged list.

You may be tempted to accelerate your list building efforts by buying an email list, but buying a list will lead to poor email results and possibly damage your mailing reputation for a long time.

And buying an email list breaks the golden rule: I bet you hate when you get unsolicited emails in your inbox, because it adds clutter and distracts you from the emails you actually want to read. If you don’t like it, you can assume your subscribers don’t like it either.

Still tempted? Buying a list can also violate 2003’s CAN-SPAM act.

Why purchased email lists are a no-no if you want your email marketing to be successful

But don’t be disappointed. Buying a list might seem to be a great way to boost your number of subscribers, but unengaged subscribers are worse than no subscribers at all.

We’re sharing just a few of the reasons why buying an email list is a big don’t for email marketing:

1. Email service providers won’t allow purchased lists

First, as long as you use a reputable email service provider to send your email campaigns, you won’t be allowed to use a purchased list.

Most email service providers (ESPs) ask up front whether or not your email list is opted in, meaning those on the list opted in to specifically receive emails from your company, and some ESPs will ask list members to opt-in again as well (double opt-in).

Plus, ESPs monitor everything in their system and will know if you’re trying to send to a questionable list. Keeping an eye on their customers and the quality of their emails allows the ESP to maintain a good sending reputation, which means the emails their customers send actually get delivered. In fact, ESPs depend on having a good sender reputation to continue and grow their own business, so it’s something they take very seriously.

If something causes a problem with the platforms deliverability, impacting their business and customers, they’ll find the culprit and bar them from their system.

2. Bad addresses, bad delivery rate

A purchased list is likely to contain contacts that are a poor quality. Of the addresses that are still active, most will be old and it’s unlikely they’re being used much, if at all.

If you send to a purchased list full of unused contacts, you’ll see higher bounce rates and the overall campaign stats will be underwhelming since a majority of the list is likely to be undeliverable.

One other thing that can happen with old addresses is that they become spam traps or honeypots. These are email addresses used specifically to find people using questionable lists and will cause serious damage to your sending reputation. A bad sender reputation will result in lowering your deliverability meaning fewer of your emails will reach your subscribers’ inboxes.

If you hit a spam trap used by a domain like Yahoo! or Gmail, or an anti-spam company like Spamhaus, you’ll find yourself blacklisted or blocked from sending.

Free guide: Get your guide to email list building in the new era of email marketing

3. Too many bounces

Since most of the addresses on this purchased list will most likely be old, many of these contacts won’t be active and anything sent to them will bounce back as undeliverable.

Typically, a bounce rate below 2% is optimal, and if it goes over 5% there’s a definite problem with the list.

Even if there are active email accounts on this type of list, they’re very likely to delete the email without opening it since they don’t know who sent it or why. Or worse, they’ll mark your email will as spam and you’ll be on your way to a bad sending reputation.

The ESP you’re using will also note the poor response to your email campaign and start asking you some tough questions about how your list was built. They might even go so far as to prohibit you from sending another email campaign until you’ve addressed the issues with your list.

You’ll find fewer people actually interacting with your email with a purchased list, no matter how large it seems. And because these poor results will lower your deliverability, your emails might not even make it in front of the active and engaged subscribers who want to see them.

4. Invading the inboxes of strangers

Remember you’re sending email campaigns to people. You design your email to make it easy for a person to read and add calls-to-action to encourage your readers to click and convert.

If people didn’t ask to hear from you and suddenly receive an unexpected email in their inbox from a sender they don’t recognize, they’ll delete it and report it as spam.

Forcing your way into someone’s inbox without permission is like showing up to a dinner party hosted by someone you don’t know, uninvited. It’s not a great way to start a relationship with a customer or client.

Most people are savvy about their email address and will know if they signed up for your email list or not.

And if all of these reasons weren’t enough to convince you to never buy a list again, there are also anti-spam laws around the world to take into consideration. Most spam laws explicitly outlaw mailing to purchased lists.

Should you ever buy an email list?

A large list doesn’t mean a high-performing one. You want the people on your list to open your email and take an action.

A smaller list of engaged readers will benefit your business far more than a large list of uninterested ones.

The best approach is to grow your list organically, get your readers to opt-in, and send interesting and targeted emails.

Growing an email list

There are many ways to grow your email list. It all depends on what type of business you have.

An easy way to get started is putting a sign-up form on your website. You can customize how the form looks and what data you collect. You can also use it on your blog, if that’s a good channel for your business.

If you do in-person events or have a brick-and-mortar store you can have people sign-up in person or using the Enlist app.

Remember: the goal isn’t to have the most subscribers, but rather to have a list full of active subscribers. Contacts don’t mean anything for your business if they aren’t engaged with your brand.

Wrap up

There are a number of crucial reasons to invest time into growing your email list instead of buying one.

Buying a list may seem like a quick fix, but in the long run, it will lose money and damage or ruin your sending reputation.

If you want your email to get to the inbox so it can be read, make sure your email lists are opted-in and have been grown the right way. The time spent building a good email list will pay off when you have a high-performing list of people who can’t wait to read your emails.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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