Why Buying Email Lists Is A Bad Idea (And How to Collect Email Addresses Fast & Free)

Why Buying Email Lists Is A Bad Idea (And How to Collect Email Addresses Fast & Free)

Buying lists of personal email addresses isn’t difficult. Many websites provide email lists on a massive scale, offering millions of emails on their landing pages. Although these email addresses are referred to as “future customers,” that’s far from the truth.

Even if you buy email lists from a reputable data provider, there’s simply no way to know the quality of the email contacts you’re getting. How many of them are in your target market? How many of them are inactive users? And how many of your email campaigns will actually avoid the spam folder?

All of these potential problems mean that business owners should think twice before buying an email list. Let’s talk about how buying email lists can hurt, rather than help, your email marketing efforts.

First of all, let’s look at one of the most common questions when it comes to buying lists of potential leads. Of course, the laws governing digital marketing will vary based on where you’re located, but we can give you some general rules of thumb.

In the US (and most other jurisdictions), there’s no law against buying email lists, so in general, you’re free to purchase an email list if you wish.

However, in most countries, actually using purchased lists to send marketing messages to potential customers is illegal. That’s because there are laws that require all recipients of email marketing emails to have completed an opt-in form. This prevents consumers from receiving unwanted emails.

7 reasons why you should never buy email lists

Now that we’ve looked at the legality of buying email marketing lists, let’s look at the 7 reasons why you should avoid buying them.

1. Email lists for sale are never accurate enough

When you create an email marketing campaign, you’re not trying to reach just anyone. Usually, you’ll have a specific target audience in mind. That’s why a purchased list will never cover your needs effectively.

It’s true that you can buy email lists that are filtered by general demographic characteristics such as location, age, gender, and sometimes even company, position, or revenue. However, you don’t know the most important thing: are the people on the mailing list you’ve just purchased actually interested in your products or services? Does your product solve their problem? 

When you send emails that don’t have relevant content for the people receiving them, you’ll see a dramatic decrease in your ROI.

2. You risk a GDPR violation

Violating the law is obviously not a good decision. It’s even worse when thousands of people have proof that you’ve violated their privacy in their email inboxes.

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) defends European people from spammy activity in their inboxes, feed, mobile phone, etc. Even if your company isn’t based in Europe, you can still be on the hook for violating GDPR if you send emails to Europeans without their consent.

The U.S. has the CAN-SPAM Act which prohibits you from spamming people who opt out of your emails. It also prohibits you from sending emails without identifying information that clearly communicates who the email campaign is coming from.

So, the main problem with your purchased email lists is simply that it’s illegal to actually put them to use. You can buy contact lists, but as soon as you start using them, you’ll be breaking the law.

In many places, it’s also illegal to use purchased email lists for your Facebook ad targeting.

3. People will mark you as spam

If you’re constantly sending email marketing campaigns to users who did not opt in to receive them, people will both unsubscribe and start to mark your emails as spam.

This means that you have to be careful: when someone unsubscribes, you need to make sure to take them off your email list. If you don’t, you can get in legal trouble, again.

And you can inadvertently re-add a consumer who has already unsubscribed if they’re included in further mailing lists that you buy!

4. Your email automatization software can penalize you

Email service providers (such as Mailchimp and AWeber) notice when lots of email recipients are complaining about spam from a particular sender and they can take steps to penalize you.

The more people do this, the more likely it is that your account will be disabled. You can be fined, and you may even face legal action for violating the terms and conditions of these services.

Make sure that you’re well aware of what your email marketing services consider to be prohibited actions.

5. If you can buy it, others can buy it

All the email addresses on that list are probably receiving way more emails than they should, and they’re getting tired of it. Some people might even delete their account or simply create a new one and stop using the old one.

If you’re constantly having to clean up your email marketing list in order to avoid a high bounce rate (which your email service provider will also notice), you’ll need to use software like NeverBounce or Hunter’s Email Verifier. Relying on software to filter out inactive email addresses will increase your costs.

6. Buying email addresses harms your reputation

Bad customer reviews and legal trouble can do a lot of harm to your brand reputation. 

Angry email recipients can attack your comment section and leave bad ratings about your services, and they may threaten legal action, too. This can prevent new customers from trusting you and choosing to purchase from you.

If you want to generate positive comments and 5-star ratings, you need to send relevant content to potential buyers who have actually chosen to join your email list.

When you buy an email list in an attempt to build brand awareness, it’ll backfire because you’ll only generate negative awareness.

7. TOP quality leads aren’t for sale

Email lists are mass products. That means that you’ll never find purchased lists that have the same open rates as built email lists. 

It’s not like these mailing lists were composed by a human with knowledge of your business. They’re simply scrapped together from all the emails posted on social media pages and other platforms.

If you’re serious about using email marketing to grow your business, you want quality leads.

How to build your own high-quality email list for free

When you build your own list, you’ll be able to communicate directly with an audience that’s happy and excited to receive emails from you. This will allow you to send effective marketing campaigns that actually convert.

In this section, we’ll share some essential tips for building an opt-in email list.

1. Give a good reason for website visitors to subscribe

Whether you’re running an email list building campaign on your homepage or a dedicated landing page, you need to give your website visitors a reason to subscribe. Online shoppers don’t want to give away their email addresses if they aren’t getting anything in return.

What counts as a good reason?

The best way to convince customers to complete a sign-up form is by offering them something valuable (a lead magnet). 

That value could be monetary, such as a discount coupon or buy one get one free offer, or it could be a non-monetary benefit like an ebook or cheat sheet. In general, you’ll gather more email addresses when the benefits you’re promising are only available to your subscribers.

2. Promote your lead magnet on your website

Once you’ve decided on a great lead magnet, it’s time to promote it.

First of all, you should make sure that your lead generation form is embedded into your website. You don’t want to take up the valuable real estate that’s above the fold, but you don’t want to bury it all the way in your website’s footer, either.

Make sure that you’re also promoting your list in your blog posts, so that you can turn organic search visitors into new customers.

Build email lists quickly

Lead generation popups are another vital way to gather consumer emails on your website. 

Popups are more attention-grabbing than embedded content, so you can be sure that people will at least see and consider your offer.

Don't buy email lists, use popups to build your own

You can get started with one of these list building popup templates in just a few minutes:

Using your social media channels is another great way to encourage your followers to join your mailing list. Posts on social media have a lot of reach, so use them to your advantage!

Finally, you can also use paid ads to drive users to a lead generation landing page.

3. Segment your email list

Segmenting your email list is a powerful way to personalize your email marketing campaigns. Instead of sending your customers irrelevant emails that never get opened, you can target the needs and interests of specific groups of customers. 

This is something you’ll never be able to do if you buy email lists, since you won’t know anything about those contacts.

If you want to segment your email list, you’re going to have to collect more information than just your visitors’ emails. Knowing things like whether someone identifies as a man or a woman, or what type of products they’re interested in, will allow you to place them in the correct segment.

Here’s a lead generation campaign that collects both email addresses and data about potential customers that can be used for personalization:

Segmented email lists help you personalize your messages
Segmented email lists help you personalize your messages

4. A/B test your marketing messages to get the best results

When you’re trying to build an email list, it can be difficult to know exactly which offers, campaign types, and design choices will lead to the best results.

That’s why A/B testing is essential to building email lists. With an optimized lead generation campaign, you’ll be able to gather as many email addresses as possible.

Learn how you can test different offers in your lead generation forms easily.

5. Personalize your messages for your target audience

If you’ve successfully gone through the first 4 steps, it’s time to take your list building strategy to the next level by using personalized opt-in forms. Personalized lead generation campaigns allow you to grow your email list even faster with more compelling messaging.

For starters, you can personalize based on interest. This is a good idea if your paid ads let you know which types of products your visitors are interested in. For example, you could show the campaign below to users who clicked on an ad about weight loss:

Use personalization to build your email list quickly

You can also use your visitor’s location data to personalize your messages to them.

Use personalization to build your email list quickly

Another way to personalize your opt-in email list building campaigns is by mentioning where the visitor came from (based on traffic source), like below.

Use personalization to build your email list quickly

There are many other ways to use personalization— check out the article below for more detail on building an email list quickly.

Recommended reading: How to Build an Email List Quickly: 18 Winning Strategies in 2023

What tools do you need to grow an email marketing list?

To reach your email marketing goals, you may need a boost from some useful tools that make building an email list quicker and easier:

  • Popups and opt-in forms: Popup software can help you create efficient opt-in forms and increase your conversion rates. Here are the 10 best popup software to boost conversions in 2023.
  • Email service providers: You’ll need an email provider such as MailChimp or Klaviyo to send thousands of emails with a single click and manage your subscribers.
  • Website personalization: Relevancy is key when it comes to list building. A website personalization tool will help you grow your list faster. When considering list-building tools, it’s worth exploring alternative options to Seamless.AI, such as Lead411 that offer more accurate data, a frequent re-verification schedule, and valuable growth intent triggers for actionable insights.

What about selling email addresses?

Now you’ve built a high-quality list with lots of users who are happy to receive emails from you. There’s a lot of value in that, which raises the question: do you want to sell your email list to another business owner?

If you have a great list, it’s best to only use it for yourself. To make it pay off, aim for campaigns that have a high ROI and generate lots of revenue from your email marketing list. Plus, selling your list would compromise your subscribers’ privacy and your integrity. Not worth it! In short, don’t sell your email lists to your competition.

The only exception is when you’re exiting a business. But in that case, you’re not just selling your list of contacts, you’re selling the whole business.

Wrapping up

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the pitfalls of using purchased email lists. As an online business, a list of contacts that aren’t interested in your brand just won’t cut it. Instead of watching your emails bounce and dealing with legal trouble, it’s better to build your own email list and invest in long-term growth.

When it comes to building an email list, you need the right tools. And there’s no better lead generation software than OptiMonk, which allows you to grow your list with its powerful personalization features, beautiful pre-built templates, and robust A/B testing capabilities.

If you haven’t created a free account yet, make yours today!

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