22 August 2013
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Why you should not purchase Email Lists

Email marketing is one of the best ways to build an online business and this has been true for a long time. The problem many new marketers have is in actually building a large, responsive list.

One apparent solution to this obstacle is to purchase an email list. This can be tempting, as it can seem like a way to save you months or even years of hard work. Yet there are some very good reasons why you should not buy an email list!

What is a Purchased or Rented Email List?

You have probably seen ads that say “email list for sale”. They will tell you the number of people on the list and perhaps other information, such as niche or geographical location. These lists can be either expensive or temptingly cheap.

Some people also rent their email lists. This is a similar concept, except that you don’t actually own the list. You pay for permission to have the list owner send out a newsletter or email for you.

The reasons people are tempted to buy email lists are obvious enough. It can take a long time to create your own list. Top marketers often spend years creating lists with thousands of email addresses. Buying a list looks like a shortcut. For a relatively smaller investment you can call yourself the owner of a big list and compete with the big dogs of internet marketing!

Problems with purchased email lists

There are two major problems with lists that you buy or rent. These problems are quite serious and should be enough to prevent you from ever thinking about doing this.

  1. The email list is probably poor quality

    You may be buying a list scraped together from lots of random places on the internet. You have no way of knowing how the list owner actually acquired the email addresses. Successful email marketers don’t just have big email lists – they have targeted and responsive email addresses in their lists!

    The chances of someone selling an email list like this are slim to none. Why? Because a great list is a marketer’s most valuable asset. Think about it. A good list can bring in hundreds or even thousands of dollars of income with a single mailing. Why should someone sell a list like this for a one time fee of $100, or whatever they happen to be asking?

    There’s a very good chance that once you buy the list, you’ll find that a large number of the emails will bounce. The rest probably won’t be very responsive. Worst of all, some may accuse you of spamming. This brings us to the next point.

  2. No one opted-in to be on your list

    Most people selling email addresses will claim that everyone on the list opt-in legitimately. This may or may not be true. Even if it is true, however, the subscribers did not opt-in to be on your list. At best, they agreed to receive emails from someone else – the original list owner.

    This means that by the current rules regarding spam, you don’t have permission to email people on a purchased or rented list. There’s a very good chance that some of these people will report you for spamming. After all, even if they opted in to the original list, they have never heard of you and will not recognize your name.

    Spam complaints are very serious nowadays. They can cause your hosting to get canceled and your IP address blacklisted across the internet. This can ruin your online reputation and make it very hard to establish yourself as an honest business.

    Is it really worth risking all that just to get some email addresses that probably won’t do you any good anyway?

Alternatives to buying or renting email lists

  1. Get your own subscribers

    The best alternative to buying a list is to take the time to build one yourself. Get your own newsletter subscribers.

    This is time consuming, but if you do it in a focused way it doesn’t have to take that long. This way you can establish a genuine relationship with your subscribers and provide them with the information and products they want. Best of all, your own email list is safe and legal!

  2. Solo ads

    As I mentioned, renting an email list has the same problems as buying one. It should be noted that purchasing solo ads on someone else’s newsletter is not the same thing. In that case, the email is still coming from the list owner’s address. You have simply purchased an ad with a link that is to be included in the email.

    A legitimate solo ad, where your ad takes up the whole email, is done in a way that the recipient knows that the message is coming from the known list owner. This is usually done in the newsletter format, so people will recognize the newsletter name.

  3. Safelists

    A safelist is something different. This is a list where every subscriber agrees to receive messages from other members. This is what makes it “safe”. What makes it ineffective, however, is that everyone who signs up for the list is only interested in sending out offers. Hardly anyone actually reads the messages they receive!

    Members often have a special email address where they receive – and delete – their messages. So in this way, a safelist is not a genuine email list at all.


There is no substitute to building your own email list.

Like most marketing shortcuts, purchasing an email mailing list is not the solution it may appear to be. At best it will cost you money and leave you with a poor quality list. At worst it can get you labelled as a spammer!

Out of all the alternatives discussed here, solo ads are the best. This is the closest thing to legitimately renting a list. However, even this is not as powerful as building up your own personal email list. That is what the most successful email marketers in the world have always done.

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