January 26, 2022

Why You Should Never Buy an Email List

Reading time about 8 min

It might seem like a tempting shortcut to buy an email list…but growing your subscriber base 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 in digital marketing.

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.

Lead generation can be slow. Suddenly, growing the mailing list from scratch seems like such a long and hard process. You start to lose patience.

And then shady businesses approach you with an offer to sell you a list of emails. 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. 

The Problems With Buying an Email List

Despite how tempting it seems, trust us on this one: buying an email marketing list is bad for your business.

Here’s why:

  1. Buying an email list in itself is not illegal BUT sending unsolicited messages to people without their explicit consent is illegal in many countries (think GDPR and the CAN-SPAM act).
  2. 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 flag your email as spam once it pops 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 (if you’re wondering how those spam filters work exactly, read our post)
  5. This’ll have a negative impact on your sender reputation, 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.

Now, many business owners don’t care about those laws and are willing to try their luck against them. But what about the potential customers receiving those messages? It tells them loud and clear that this business doesn’t respect their rights and privacy. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. 

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

Even if the list broker claims that the email contacts have agreed to receive promotional messages, you can’t be sure. Think about it – who does that? Who’d give away their contact information and agree to receive marketing messages en masse just because?

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 toward their specific interests. 

Related: Email Segmentation: How to Segment Your Lists for Targeted Email Marketing

If you purchase an email list, you pretty much know nothing about this demographic. You’re sending messages to strangers. What do they consider to be ‘relevant’? Are they even potential customers?

Well, you have no idea, which translates into your emails being ignored or, even worse, marked as spam. The email contacts you paid for will quickly unsubscribe and delete you from their inbox. You can’t hope for any decent open rate or conversion rate. They may also get annoyed by you, which brings us to the next point…

Purchased Lists Can Damage Your Brand Reputation

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

If you buy an email list, you can’t be sure that those purchased contacts are even in your target audience! Do they even care about what you’re offering to become new customers?

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 when exposed. It takes a long time to build up a brand, and just one mistake to really damage it. Negative brand awareness is a thing.

Denied Access to Email Marketing Services

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

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, email platforms don’t want to enable spammers or promote spammy activity. Spammers are notorious for buying email lists. Legitimate email service 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

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 email marketing campaigns, even if your target recipients actually gave you their consent, your emails will reach the spam folder at best. 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.

Related: The Top 10 Email Marketing Mistakes You’re Probably Making

So What To Do Instead of Buying Email Lists?

Forget buying lists. Sure, growing your own lists might take time but the return on investment is better in the long run. Engaging high-quality subscribers who are interested in your product is the only way to drive sales with email. 

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

Adopt a consent-based email list building. Stick to legitimate lead generation practices. Create email signup forms and place them on your website and social media. It’s super easy with our email signup form tutorial

Better yet, set up 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 valid and in active use.

Also, don’t forget an incentive. People need motivation to sign up for your emails. Here are some great newsletter signup examples to inspire you.

And finally, provide value in your emails so people actually open them and click through to your site. Use contact segmentation to create targeted email lists based on interests, needs, or preferences and send relevant content and offers to each. Here are 125 newsletter ideas and newsletter design tips.

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

Brevo’s email marketing software gives you all the tools you need to build quality email lists:

  • GDPR-compliant customizable signup forms you can embed anywhere on your landing pages and share on social media;
  • double opt-in email automation;
  • unlimited contact storage so you can grow your email list freely;
  • professionally-looking, mobile-optimized email templates;
  • rigid deliverability monitoring so you’re protected from other’s harmful sending activity.

Test drive these features now with a free Brevo account. You’ll also be able to send up to 300 emails per day at zero cost. 

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