January 28, 2020

Why You Should Never Buy an Email List

Reading time about 7 min

It might seem like a tempting shortcut to buy an email list..but growing your database in this way is actually a terrible idea. Let’s discuss why this practice should be avoided at all costs.

A solid email list is the foundation of a successful email marketing strategy. Having a bunch of engaged subscribers with genuine interest in you and your product/service is one of your most valuable assets.

But maybe you’re just starting out or venturing into a new line of business in a new market. Chances are that your email list is not yet as large as you’d like it to be.

The email signups trickle in slowly. Suddenly, growing the mailing list from scratch seems like such a long and hard process. You start to lose patience.

And that’s when you see offers from some shady businesses wanting to sell you an email list. Tempted by the possibility to grow your list by thousands, you start to wonder if this could be a good idea…


Don’t do it.  Buying an email list is never a good idea. 

Buying an email list: An overview

Despite how tempting it might seem at first, trust us on this one: buying an email list is bad news for your business.

There are lots of reasons for this. We can sum it up with six of the main ones.

  1. Firstly, and depending on where you are in the world, sending unsolicited messages to people without their explicit consent is probably illegal (think GDPR and the CAN-SPAM act).
  2. Secondly, by the very nature of sending unsolicited emails, this makes you a spammer.
  3. And people don’t react well to spam. They’re going to mark you as such once you pop up in their inboxes.
  4. That is, of course, unless their email client gets there first, classifying you as spam before ever making it to the inbox. (Oh and if you’re wondering how those spam filters work exactly, we’ve got a dedicated post right here)
  5. This’ll have a negative impact on your sender score, which in turn will hinder your email deliverability (i.e. your ability to land emails in the inbox). Worse still, your email IP might end up on an email blacklist.
  6. And top it all off, any email marketing service you sign up to will refuse your purchased list. Vendors aren’t going to risk the reputation of their shared IPs for you – no matter how legitimate your newsletter. 

Let’s face it: The best email address lists simply aren’t for sale. 

Now let’s dig a little deeper into some of the potential issues that come with buying email addresses.

Sending unsolicited email can lead to trouble with the law

It’s not illegal to buy an email list, but it can be illegal to use those lists to send marketing messages to individuals who haven’t explicitly agreed to receive such correspondence. This is determined by local laws where the email recipient lives.

(But even if no particular law exists, this is still terrible email practice and we strongly advise against it!)

Even if the list seller claims that the contacts have agreed to receive promotional messages, you can’t be sure. 

Another area of concern with purchased lists is the method by which the addresses were collected. Most of the time, these addresses are harvested by bots who crawl the internet looking for them.

By the way, if ever you’re listing your email address somewhere on a website, a clever way to avoid it being scraped by bots is to type it out like this:


Irrelevant, untailored content = poor results

Relevance is key to successful marketing. The best way to stand out in the crowded inbox these days is to send value-added emails to your subscribers. By  that we mean emails that contain useful content geared towards their specific interests. 

If you purchase an email list, you pretty much know nothing about the people on that list. You’re sending messages to strangers. What do these strangers consider to be ‘relevant’? 

Well you have no idea, which translates into a likelihood that any email you send them will either be ignored or marked as spam. They may also get annoyed by you, which brings us to the next point…

Purchased lists can damage your brand reputation

Nobody likes receiving emails they don’t want – even from sources they know and trust. Receiving emails from an unknown company, or a newsletter that they haven’t signed up to receive, is even worse.

Consider that if you purchase mailing lists, many of the individuals on the list don’t know who you are. By sending unsolicited email there’s a risk they’ll associate your company and brand with spam.

For larger brands, the decision to purchase email lists can have even more negative consequences. It takes a long time to build up a brand, and just one mistake to really damage it. 

Denied access to email marketing services

The best email services (Sendinblue included) don’t allow the use of purchased lists on their servers. 

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, email vendors don’t want to enable spammers or promote spammy activity. Spammers are notorious for buying email lists. Legitimate email marketing providers don’t want to help spammers in any way, shape or form.

Purchased lists also threaten the email marketing provider’s shared IP addresses, essential for providing an optimal service to all its customers.  

Damage to deliverability rate and sender score

If you get flagged as spam by an email client, your email IP will also get flagged. In the worst case scenario, your IP can get blacklisted.

This means that the next time you try to send emails, even if your target recipients did actually sign up to you, your emails won’t deliver. This would be a disastrous outcome for your business.

Keep in mind that when you buy email lists, you’ve a high chance of getting caught in ‘spam traps’ or ‘spam honey pots’. These are inactive addresses that have been purposely left out in the open by email clients in a bid to attract spammers. Nobody can sign up with that address…so it’s obvious that the sender is a spammer.

Consent-based email marketing is the way to go

Forget buying lists. Sure, growing your own lists might take time but the payoff from having organic subscribers will be far greater in the long-run. 

After all, those who actually want to hear from are a lot more likely to purchase from you. 

Adopt a consent-based approach. Create email signup forms and place them on your website and social media. It’s super easy with our email signup form tutorial.

You’ll also want to set up what’s called a double opt-in subscription process. This is when a new subscriber receives an email with a link to confirm their subscription. This serves two purposes: 1. To confirm the subscriber’s consent and 2. To ensure the address is correctly spelled and in active use.

Over to you

So now you know. The best email list are the ones you build yourself.

Sendinblue’s email marketing software gives you all the tools you need to build consent-based contact lists. If you’re looking for GDPR-compliant customizable signup forms and double opt-in subscription, we’ve got it covered.

Test-drive these features now with a free Sendinblue account. You’ll also be able to send up to 300 emails per day at zero cost. Don’t miss out on this opportunity ?

Design my next email with Sendinblue! >>

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