What You May Not Know About Purchased Email Lists


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Using purchased email lists is NOT a good idea…here's why:

The other day my doorbell rang. Not expecting any visitors, I peered out my window to see who it was. Standing at my door was a 20-something year old guy wearing a bright orange logoed shirt with a clipboard in hand. Naturally, I figured this guy was a salesman peddling something I probably wasn’t interested in, so I ignored his presence. Now, if I knew who was at my door and was expecting their visit, I would’ve welcomed them in and extended my hospitality. Email marketing works very much in the same way. When a contact signs up to receive your marketing communication, they’re opening their door and inviting you in because they’re interested in what your company offers. This is why permission-based email marketing works – you’re marketing to an audience that wants to be marketed to.

Now let’s go back to the stranger at my door to whom I perceived as an annoyance, because he showed up uninvited. Sending your emails to contacts on a purchased, rented or scraped list will produce the same effect, and can also have a damaging effect on your marketing strategy. Worse yet, your Email Service Provider (ESP) can cancel and close your account for good because you are violating their terms. Most, if not all, reputable ESPs (including Pinpointe) have a strict policy that only permits sending emails to permission-based contacts. That means no purchased lists, association directories, traded lists or shopping lists – period! And if you send campaigns to Canadian-based emails from a purchased list, you risk getting a $10 million dollar fine by violating the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL). 

Maybe your still not convinced and your temptation to drastically grow your list overnight suppresses the reality of what is ethically right (hey, I wouldn’t throw this out there if it didn’t happen). According to Spamhaus, "Anyone selling you lists of 'opt-in' email addresses is very simply a spam outfit," yet you still may believe the list you purchased was from a trustworthy source and you have a great offering people would want to know about…at least that’s how you rationalize your choice to send to contacts on that unsolicited list.

Oh boy, you’re in for a surprise.

Though you may get a few bites from the contacts on your purchased email list, statistically you will gain more harm then good. Not to mention, you’re taking the risk of damaging your send reputation and becoming an “unwanted visitor.” The result – high bounce rates, low open rates, increased spam complaints, and an excessive amount of unsubscribes that will send a big, fat red flag to your ESP! And believe me, you don’t want that crimson flag. Most ESPs have domains that have been whitelisted by key Internet Service Providers and if your email campaigns are causing a threat to their safe sending status, you can bet they will drop you in a heartbeat. It’s important to know that ESPs are constantly monitoring the campaigns that are sent through their system and if they recognize a suspicious pattern of high unsubscribes, bounces and complaints – you will be banned.

So, if you still asking yourself if you can use a purchased email list – the answer is "NO!" Remember, your ESP is always watching you.

purchased email lists

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Need some hard proof?

MailChimp recently published a good blog article on this topic and used historical training data from Omnivore, their email anti-abuse prevention system. They examined a percentage of mailing lists that were purchased or scraped and compared them to email campaign performance. As you can see in the graph below positive engagement plummeted as purchased list correlation increased. What did go up was the complaint rate. 

purchased email list stats

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So as you can see, taking the quick route is not always the best option, and in the case of email marketing – just avoid that shortcut all together. There are multitudes of effective alternative ways to build an email list with contacts that actually want you to come knocking at their door.

Rather than using purchased email lists, put your brain power into thinking of all the opportunities that can convert prospects into email subscribers. This mentality should extend throughout all of your activities, online and offline. For starters, you should start capitalizing on each and every visitor that lands on your site by adding a simple email signup form that can be seen on any page of your website. This is just one of the many ways to capture contact information.

In conclusion, avoid using purchased, scraped or acquired lists at all costs. You don’t want to be that uninvited visitor and you definitely don’t want to get booted off the front porch for good!

Check out more tactics on using other ways to grow your marketing list the right way – read Optimizing Website Content for Conversions and Optimizing Online Content for Conversions.

optimizing website content

Pinpointe is only for sending permission-based emails. No purchased lists, association directories, traded lists or shopping lists… 

Yes, we do check. No, there's no such thing as a purchased opt-in list. Trust us. Please read our anti-spam policy to avoid a regrettable account cancelation.