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What Happens If You Buy An Email List

Is it A good Idea to buy an email list?

We’re sure you’ve heard that email marketing generates $42 for every $1 spent – you may have not known that before, but now you do. It’s a whopping 4200 percent of the ROI. For some, it’s even more.

You may be planning your next email marketing campaign while thinking of buying an email list. Stop. Don’t do it – dump the idea right away. We’ll explain why shortly. If you already own a list – keep reading and we’ll tell you what to do.

Procured Email lists: Harm or Benefit? 

According to a recent report, 306 billion emails are exchanged daily by 4 billion people. Other data reveals that 81% of small businesses use emails as their major customer acquisition tool, and 80% do so for customer retention. The truth is, email marketing is still really effective, and any serious-minded business owner should have an email list.


Truly, building an email list is sometimes slow and challenging, which is why many people choose a quicker and easier route of buying one. But going this way and using shortcuts for email list-building is usually detrimental in the long run. It turns out as a waste of resources with your list ending up in the bin. From having an unresponsive email community to facing bans, the problems associated with a procured list go further than the time required to build it. Those offering email lists aren’t always trustworthy. They may make a variety of assertions regarding the list, but there’s a good possibility you’ll find it to be riddled with flaws, including:

  • Obtaining email accounts from the Internet illegally;
  • Incomplete or missing data;
  • Non-existent information.

Simply speaking, purchasing an email list can be harmful to your business and productivity. You may even violate some laws like the US CAN-SPAM Act or the European GDPR law, leading to regulatory penalties or a suit.


Here’s what happens when you send emails to procured receivers

PS: These are facts, not hearsay!


Poor email delivery rate

Deliverability Benchmark Report states that about 20% of commercial emails never reach their intended destination. Instead, they are blocked or moved to the spam folder. Even worse, the market research asserts that 75% of advertorial emails are never read, especially from an unfamiliar source. The sum of these email delivery failures affects people that procure email lists more because they send unsolicited emails to those who never opted in.

If you buy a list, you can’t validate if the emails were secured from spamming and unsolicited messaging – and even if this happens, you’ll be flagged as a spammer. Similarly, spam traps are also there to recognize spamming activity. They’re programmed to reject emails and flag the sender as a spammer. These spam traps usually involve old email addresses or the non-functional ones that still get regular emails.



Most email service providers have expressly proscribed the act of purchasing or using a procured list on their platform. Even renting or borrowing the list is as condemned as buying the same.

You’ll soon exasperate your email service provider if too many messages are designated as spam. That means your account might be suspended, you could be penalized, and your email provider could take legal action against you. That’s why service providers that are not concerned about email list sources have a low deliverability rate.


GDPR restrictions and sanctions

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a data protection law enforced since 2018. It aims to protect digital privacy and data breach concerns, specifically in Europe. Per its provisions, procured email lists are non-compliant and illegal.

The GDPR changed how marketers use client data across media platforms in Europe. You don’t have to be resident or have your business there to acknowledge and follow the GDPR’s dictates. As long as you have clients in any European country, you’re bound to follow the GDPR.


Poor response rate

By default, email response rates aren’t so great, especially when emails come from an unknown source. In fact, research indicates that 75% of marketing emails are never read. It gets worse when coming from an unfamiliar source. So, if the average access rate is between 20 – 25% for opt-in and legally generated lists, procured lists would definitely have lower rates. What this tells you is simple: when emails are sent from a procured list, you’re basically a stranger sending messages to other strangers who don’t know you. And if at all you get a response, it comes from only a few.


Spammer alert

Even when your email is resourceful and packed with life-saving tips, or the secret to eternal life and unquantifiable wealth, if the receivers don’t know you or gave no consent to receive your emails, you’re just another stalker flooding their inbox. And with all the value, your emails are most likely to end up as spam.

When your emails are flagged as spam too frequently, email service providers start to filter anything you send to the recipients’ spam folders. Instead, you’d want to expand your email list naturally. Only connect with the folks interested in your message. Since they’re interested in your brand’s voice, they won’t turn to marking it as spam.


No leads, eventually

When buying a list, you’re likely to end up with no leads, sales, and profit! So, at the end of the day, you’d lose. With qualified leads, it may take some time to convert them into paying customers, but at least there’s stronger impact every time you send out messages, getting you a response or a click. With procured lists, you’d have to be lucky to get leads – and even if you do, they’d be insignificant.

If you already bought a list, here’s what to do

Trash it

You really should consider taking the list out – burn it or trash it. Do something that doesn’t involve using it. Then, build up a new list: it could take some time and resources, but it’s worth it in the end.

If not, validate the list

Assemble a team of five or more people able to research and manually validate the addresses. Ensure all the information there is correct and that your recipient exists.

Test the mail-out

You can randomly select a few addresses from the list and send out emails just to measure deliverability and response rate.

Still, follow the first suggestion.


Purchasing an email list is unnecessary and detrimental to your overall productivity and marketing objectives. Instead of buying, build your list organically and patiently – it’s exciting and insightful. It helps understand your target market better. Made-up lists are more likely to damage your brand, decrease email deliverability and cause a few legal issues.

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