Email Marketing

Think Twice About Buying Email Subscriber Lists

Buying email subscriber lists is seemingly the quickest way to build your email list. But acquired lists frequently present problems that merchants should weigh carefully.

First and foremost, the email list you plan to acquire must be obtained from a reputable company. There are many companies out there that claim to be the best in the industry, with lists that fully comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, and targeted opt-in lists–but it is not always the truth.

Here are a few things to consider.

The Age of the List

It is important to know the age of the list you are acquiring. Ask how long ago were the email addresses generated, and how long the email addresses have been on the list. Buying a list with old email addresses can often lead to email deliverability problems, such as high bounce rates and many recipients wanting to unsubscribe from your list.

The Source of Data

Ask the list provider about the source or method by which it acquired or obtained the list of addresses it is selling. Is the email vendor buying lists from other email vendors? Or, is it simply contacting websites and buying email addresses and building its lists that way? Is the list vendor using unethical methods of acquiring email addresses? An unknown source of data could have you buying a list that is full of unqualified or spam email addresses.

How Targeted Is Targeted?

You can buy lists based on user interests and/or demographics, such as age, household income and gender. But, such lists can be less targeted and less qualified than an email list you built from scratch.

Users generally reach a website based on level of interest in products or services offered, either by word of mouth, advertisement or search engine query. Interest is compounded in users who make a purchase. They often will sign up for future special offers or information on products or services. The extent of interest from a stranger on an acquired email list may not be so strong when compared to the interest of customers who directly signed up for your email newsletter. In addition, acquired email lists offer little assurance that you are reaching your target audience.

Revalidating Opt-In

Consumers with email addresses on acquired lists are not always receptive to receive email. Users may not remember when they last opted in to such a list, or might not be interested in being on the list anymore. To be on the safe side, it is best to revalidate user opt-in. You will have to do it whether you are buying a list or building a list from scratch. Consider if it is really worth the time to go through an acquired email list and revalidate opt-ins. Why pay for a so-called targeted opt-in list when you have to revalidate user opt-in all over again?

Email Distribution Providers Don’t Allow Acquired Lists

If the above is not enough to think twice about buying email lists, running a successful email marketing campaign almost always involves using a reputable, self-service email distribution vendor. But, these vendors do not typically allow acquired lists to be uploaded for use within their programs as part of their anti-spam policy. This is a measure to prevent companies from getting complaints from email recipients and a way to safeguard email marketers’ IP addresses from being blacklisted.


Buying email lists for marketing campaigns can often lead to complications that are not worth taking the risk, time, and energy to resolve. A more advantageous and ethical method is to begin building your email list from scratch using an email subscriber form on your website.

Ankush Agarwal
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