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Why Buying Email Lists Is a Terrible Idea (+ 9 Things to Do Instead)

Email marketing is still a major strategy that marketing teams implement. And rightfully so.

HubSpot found that over 6.69 billion email accounts still exist, and 5.6 billion of those existing are expected to be active, according to Statista. What's more, nearly nine in ten professionals prefer to use email for communicating professionally. 

Your email marketing’s success depends on your email list effectively (and strategically) drawing from those numbers.

What Is an Email List?

To put it simply, it’s the list of emails you gather from visitors who come to your site. That list is the lifeline for your marketing. How else would you be able to contact and connect with leads?

For many marketers who are biting at the bit to launch lead nurturing campaigns, the first approach is to buy email lists.

Here’s a heads up. This is a terrible idea.




6 Reasons Not to Buy Email Lists

The question is, “Why not?” All you have to do is a bit of research to find a list of contacts relevant to your business and just buy it.

Too good to be true, right?

Sometimes, if it’s too good, it probably isn't true. Or, at least, it’s not going to work out in the way you hope it will. Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t buy lists:

The Lists for Sale Aren’t Good.

Sure, the emails on that list are real and may have been legitimate at some point. But by the time they make it on a list to be sold, they’re inactive, unresponsive, or unqualified for outreach.

They’ve also probably been spammed incessantly, so your business becomes just one more line in an extensive list of unopened messages.

Your Provider Might Penalize You.

Successful email clients like Gmail, Yahoo!, and Outlook avoid being associated with accounts that are frequently reported as spam.

If it happens enough times, some providers will even close your account without notice. Now you can't even access the emails you acquired organically from your site's CTAs.




Your Response Rate Will Suffer.

If you buy emails in bulk, only a tiny percentage may even open your message, let alone actually click through your site and turn into an actual prospect.

Assuming that any of those emails are active in the first place. So you’ve just spent money on a tactic that can, ultimately, damage your company’s metrics. 

You Will Hurt Your Reputation.

Spam traps and “honeypots” are run by organizations dedicated to fighting email spam. They use planted emails to identify negative activity, report the sender, and potentially have them flagged permanently.

When you purchase a list, even though your intentions are legit, you may get trapped in that net since you have no idea how often the emails on that list are targeted. It can not only ruin your deliverability, but your IP address as well.

You Violate GDPR.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European data privacy act that went into effect in May 2018, established rules of consent that comes with email marketing. Marketers are required by law to allow recipients to opt out of emails they no longer want to receive.

When you buy an email list, you’re buying into a system that isn’t compliant with these laws. To stay within legal boundaries, a person has to explicitly and personally sign themselves up to receive emails from you. This step is skipped when you purchase their email address, putting you in a precarious position.

You’ll Be Contacting the Same List As Others.

When you buy an email list, you aren’t getting exclusive rights to it. Plenty of others are likely to be using either the exact same list or one that has a tremendous amount of crossover.

It’s possible that even some of your competitors are following suit. The recipients can get tired of the flood of unsolicited emails and resort to flagging anyone they don’t recognize as spam, or, even worse, abandoning the account all together. Ultimately, this means you’ve, again, wasted your money.

There are a few different ways marketers can seek out acquiring new email lists. For example, you could rent from a list from a list provider, or purchase based on psychographic and demographic information.

Cheating won’t be as easy of an out for your business than you may have thought. The most legitimate and responsible way you can acquire a list without risking your company’s integrity would be to set up opt-in options for potential leads.

How to Get an Email List

An opt-in option, the inbound approach, gives your audience the option to willingly give their information. Some list providers may advertise that their list is opt-in since the recipients technically did sign up.

But don’t be fooled, because they didn’t opt-in to hear from you. Same rules are being violated.




It’s best to build your own email list. Try these strategies to help aid your email marketing:

Add Slide-Ins and Pop-Ups.

Pop-ups have a reputation for being a nuisance to the user experience, but a timed pop-up with relevant, valuable information in it can actually be effective. You can set rules and triggers for these features so that they appear only when certain behaviors are displayed.

For example, someone who comes to your site from a newsletter doesn’t need to see a slide-in asking them to sign up for the same newsletter. We have much more control over our content nowadays, and, when done correctly, these slide-ins and pop-ups can help bolster your email list.

Write Impactful CTAs.

When it comes to CTAs, word choice is everything. You want to write engaging content that properly relays the value of your offer.

Using action words, like “Access” or “Download”, rather than commands, like “Sign Up” or “Donate”, can contribute toward follow through and engagement.

Your audience wants to know that the emails they sign up for will actually be of use to them. Fill them in on the value from the start in your CTAs.

Create a Scroll Box.

A scroll box is a simple way of monitoring when your viewers are actually ready to convert. Using A/B testing, you can learn where your CTAs are providing the most value on the webpage.

When does your audience decide that they’re ready to, well, decide? A scroll box can be a useful tool in discovering that.

Add Personalized CTAs on Each Blog and Landing Page.

Not every person who comes to your site is looking for the same thing, so you can’t expect that giving the same content to every person is going to prove effective.

Based on your buyer personas and the content your company offers, you should have different landing pages that address every interest your audience may have.

Offer up a full buffet that has something for everyone. And give them options to spice it up with. Personalized CTAs that target whichever stage that viewer may be in within the buyer’s journey will deliver more value to them and expand your email list.




Promote Your Newsletter on Social Media.

Nowadays, no marketing campaign is complete until it loops social media in somehow. It’s a network of viewers for you and your brand that may be more extensive than even your email list.

Use that to your advantage and give your audience an opportunity to sign up on your social media channels. The people who follow you on those sites have already established an interest in what you can offer, so there’s a pretty good chance they’d sign up for your newsletter or another offer you may have.

How to Keep Growing Your Email Subscriber List 

It’s possible that even after you start your email list that you can hit a wall and plateau, which is frightening when you know how important email marketing is to your business. Generating more subscribers can be a struggle, admittedly, but there’s no reason to despair.

There are plenty of ways to keep your list growing.

Create More Awesome Content Offers.

Using your buyer persona research, you can brainstorm new, high value content offers for your audience to download in exchange for their email. A few great offers include:

  • Ebooks: A cost-effective method of offering valuable information on specific topics.
  • Cheat sheets: They offer specific solutions to specific problems with immediate results.
  • Pop-ups: These capture audience attention and give a quick, digestible amount of information about what value is being offered.
  • Giveaways: A straightforward method of allowing your audience to see the practical value of your products or services with a free giveaway.
  • Webinars: Live training offers much more in-depth information that holds the viewers attention and actually includes them in the learning process.

Start a Podcast.

With the surge in popularity for podcasts, this avenue can prove to be incredibly valuable for you if you’ve got the content to sustain it. A strong majority of viewers visit a podcaster’s website to learn more about them and their topics.

From there, they have a high chance of purchasing from their services or product. You’ve already proven expertise via the broadcast, and, using strong CTAs at the end of each episode, you can direct leads to your site because they’ve already invested in you.




Become a Guest Blogger.

By incorporating guest blogging into your content strategy, you raise awareness for your own brand while contributing value to another site. It’s kind of a win, win.

One, whoever owns the blog will likely refer you and give you a shout out, thus expanding your audience. Two, you can reference and link back to your own site and related blogs.

This boosts your SEO and credibility while simultaneously generating traffic that’s already interested in what you have to offer.

Build High Value Tools.

If you have a talented development team, this is a great way to offer more practical value to your audience.

You can offer a free demo of a tool in exchange for an email. A happy consequence of this swap is that you can follow up with them and get feedback on the tool. Two birds, one stone, and hopefully a happy user.

These growth tips can really work to drive your subscriber list through the roof when properly implemented. It builds more value into your site and marketing strategies in a way that buying an email list never would.

Instead of taking that sketchy route, invest your time in creating high value, epic content that will organically convince your viewers to subscribe to your email list.


Micah Lally

Micah Lally

I’m a Content Writer at Bluleadz. I’m a big fan of books, movies, music, video games, and the ocean. It sounds impossible to do all of those at the same time, but you’d be surprised by the things I can accomplish.