Don’t EVER Buy an Email List: 9 Reasons Buying a List Is a Terrible Idea

Don't EVER Buy an Email List

Should you buy an email list? For many, buying an email list sounds like a great way to get a bunch of email subscribers and start making money fast. Awesome. But, it’s actually a huge waste of money and can land you in serious trouble. Keep reading to learn several reasons you should never ever buy an email list.

I know, you’re excited to grow your business and you want every shortcut available. I get it. I’ve been there.

You want shortcuts to success, so you figure buying a ready-to-use list of names, email addresses, and other data is a great idea. If you search the web, you can find plenty of email lists for sale. No one is saying the data isn’t there. But should you use it?

Market research is clear. Email is a powerful tool for making sales or building a business. Arguably, it’s one of the best tools for selling – really anything – online. Whether you’re a small, independent marketer or a large company, you need to have an email list. That’s not up for debate. So, buying an email list is a great shortcut, right?

Not so fast.

In reality, buying an email list is a horrible idea – one that can destroy your reputation and set your business back in no small way. Let’s go through a few reasons you should never buy an email list. Then, we’ll take a look at what you should do instead.

The bought email list may be low quality

Lists you can buy are often way out of date. The names, email addresses and other info you’ll find on the list may have been accurate at one time. Well, may or may not have, depending on the source.

Fast forward to today. Is that info still accurate? Maybe. But probably not. If you try to email that list today, you’ll find many of the addresses are no longer valid or no longer accepting emails.


Even worse, many of these emails were likely obtained without the permission of their owners. Unscrupulous people can easily grab lists of email addresses from websites and add unwary individuals to marketing lists without consent. These unsuspecting people never agreed to receive additional marketing emails – much less from you.

That’s a major no-no. Not only is this morally reprehensible, it’s a violation of the US CAN-SPAM act. If you’re caught marketing to anyone without permission, you could be in for some major fines and penalties thanks to this hefty legislation.

Per the CAN-SPAM act, you could be fined up to $16,000 for each and every unsolicited email you send to your purchased list. Ouch! Multiply that by the number of “subscribers” you have… and you’re looking at a hefty fine.

What are you doing with your life? Don’t put yourself in this situation.

Buying a list will get you branded as a spammer

Let’s assume the people on this list did agree to receive emails from someone at some time. They may have subscribed for an email newsletter or free product. All perfectly innocent.

As long as the original marketer had permission to email these people, he was doing nothing wrong. This is permission based marketing. A person agrees to receive email in exchange for a product, discount, etc. That sort of thing. Cool.

But then some unscrupulous person sells that list of emails. Now, they’re getting emails from people they’ve never met and from whom they have not agreed to receive anything. Not cool. That is literally the definition of spam. (Well, that and a disgusting meat-like substance that pretends to be food.)

How do you think these individuals will react when you start blasting them with content they never asked to receive? Not well.

In recent years, most email providers have added the ability to report unsolicited email. Guess where your email is going? Right into the spam folder.


But it gets better (or worse).

As more and more people report your messages as spam, email providers will learn you’re a – wait for it – spammer. That designation will get you, at best, thrown in to subscribers’ junk boxes. At worst, a provider may block your ability to email its users entirely.


Buying an email list can destroy your reputation and your business. Don't risk it!

Email Service Providers HATE bought email lists

If that’s not scary enough, email service providers like GetResponse or ConvertKit absolutely hate email lists that are bought and not built. They know full well that these lists are fraught with problems and open up their users to serious trouble.

Some actually make a point in their terms to explicitly prohibit the use of bought email lists. If you get caught, your account could be shut down with no refunds and no recourse.

ConvertKit considers using “Purchased Subscriber lists” “inappropriate use of a ConvertKit account.

Aweber warns “Importing or in any way using purchased leads with an AWeber account is strictly prohibited. If you paid money or in any way purchased a group of pre-existing leads these may not be used with AWeber.

GetResponsestrictly prohibits users from renting, leasing and/or purchasing email addresses from a third party, as well as from gathering them through surreptitious methods, such as scraping or harvesting.

Gee. I wonder if they feel strongly about that?

These providers – and others – consider using purchased email lists the same as spamming, and rightly so. Remember, these people have not agreed to receive emails from you. They are simply innocent victims of another marketer’s poor life choices. These email service providers know this, and they are ready to take swift action against anyone who would abuse their systems by buying email lists.

In a word, don’t.

Buying an email list skyrockets your spam / bounce rate

Even if your email service provider doesn’t know you’re using a purchased email list, using a bought list can still get your account shut down indirectly.


Spam. Email service providers keep track of your campaign metrics. Did you know that? If they see too many people reporting that you didn’t have permission to email, they’re going to get suspicious and start to wonder if, in fact, you really did have permission.

That’s just common sense.

If 40% of your purchased subscribers unsubscribe, claiming you didn’t have permission to email them, what is your provider supposed to think? Clearly this is not a healthy email list, and something bad is going on.

If your provider has reason to suspect you’re doing something bad, you can bet they’ll shut you down.

Other people are using the same bought email list

Do you love the idea of eating off of someone else’s dirty dishes? Hopefully not. But that’s basically what you’re doing when you buy an email list.

This list is not unique. Other marketers are emailing the same people with the same names and email addresses. More likely than not, these subscribers are being deluged with unsolicited offers.

What makes yours any different?

How do you think Johnny’s going to feel if he’s suddenly subscribed to 20 different email lists he never signed up for? Not great! Do you think he’s likely to buy anything any of these 20 marketers have to offer? Absolutely not.

If he’s smart, he’ll report them all as spam – or even dump that email address and sign up for a new one.

Emailing people on a purchased list is like whispering to get someone’s attention in a crowded room. Not very effective.

Purchased subscribers don’t take action

Some desperate marketer may buy a list of 1,000 subscribers hoping that 10% of them will take action and buy what he’s offering. He knows most people won’t care. But maybe a small percentage will.

I see where he’s going.

Will it work? Probably not.

These are men and women with whom he has zero relationship. He’s not provided value to them. They have no reason to trust him. And now he wants to sell something?

Ha. Good luck.

Imagine walking up to a total stranger at the grocery store and asking if he/she wants to be your boyfriend/girlfriend.

“Ew! Gross!”

That’s not gonna go well. Why? Because there’s no prior relationship. He/She knows nothing about you and has no reason to agree to such a relationship. In the same way, someone with whom you’ve not bothered to build a relationship will have absolutely zero reason to open and read your emails – let alone buy anything you have to offer.

If you value your reputation, don’t buy an email list

People like to complain. Go check out Google Reviews or Yelp for proof of that. If someone’s not happy, he’s gonna let the world know.

If you or your business had no permission to send a marketing email to someone, do you think he’s going to be entirely thrilled? Absolutely not. Especially if your business is publicly viewable on Google, Yelp, etc, you can expect the negative reviews to start pouring in.

But let’s say you’re an individual. You’re not on Google Reviews, and you don’t know what Yelp is. You too need to be concerned.

Word travels. If you’ve been sending messages people didn’t ask for, you can bet others will find out. Go read forums with reviews of various marketers.

“Hey, anybody hear of <your name here>?”
“Yeah! He sent me a bunch of spam a while back!”

Don’t believe me? Test it. Go buy an email list. See what happens.

Buying a email list is buying legal trouble

Marketers need to be aware of – among others – two major laws: CAN-SPAM and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

While I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV, these laws make it quite illegal to send email to anyone who has not explicitly chosen to receive anything from you. Make sure you’re building your email list legally.

Fines can easily top thousands of dollars for each and every violation. And if you buy an email list, each and every email you send is a violation. You do the math.


No expert recommends buying a list

What do the experts in this industry recommend? NOT buying a list. Ask anyone who knows the ins and outs of email marketing about buying a list. They’ll laugh you out of the room.

Anyone trying to sell you a list is either out of touch with reality or worse – a scammer.

What you should do instead

Buying an email list is a sure fire way to hurt your reputation and permanently damage your marketing possibilities. Basically, if you care about being able to make money and grow a business, don’t.

What’s the alternative? Build your own email list!

I know you want something quick and easy, and you want results quickly. Trust me. I get it. I’ve been there.

Maybe you’re not sure where to start. Maybe you have something of an idea but need help executing it.

That’s where ListBootcamp comes in.

It’s a completely free course that will make sure you understand how to build a winning email list really quickly.

You really have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

What do you say? Are you in?