If you’re a marketer, you’re likely juggling several tasks at once such as feeding the sales funnel, increasing brand awareness, driving engagement, and creating valuable content pieces. And if you use email as part of your marketing program (and I seriously hope you do), you have likely been soliciated by companies that want you to buy an email list.

These companies claim to have thousands of “legitimate” emails for purchase that can help you create more leads and make more money. And it’s as easy as entering in your credit card. But like most things in life, taking the easy way out rarely benefits you in the long run.

Read on to learn more about why purchasing email lists is a bad idea, what it can do to your sender reputation, and how you can implement alternative list building strategies.

Reason #1: Purchased email lists won’t help you achieve your marketing goals

Ask yourself what you hope to achieve with a purchased email list. Are you trying to increase engagement and drive more leads? If so, purchasing an email list often has the opposite effect.

Purchased contacts do more harm than good. These contacts may have, somewhere along the line, checked a box that they were OK with receiving email from affiliate businesses. However, these people have not specifically verified that they want to receive email from your business or organization and are now a risk to your brand’s reputation and health.

If somebody receives an email that they’re not expecting, they’ll likely ignore it or worse–complain. Now you’re annoying recipients and damaging your sending reputation. A poor reputation will lead to decreased inboxing and can even get you blacklisted and incapable of delivering all of your mail.

Until you improve your reputation (no small feat), many of your emails will be blocked and go undelivered. Protect yourself from blacklists by following the tips here. High-risk recipients can tarnish a reputation and take your mail program straight to the spam folder. It’s tough to meet your marketing goals if no one sees your content.

Reason #2: Reputable ESPs will shut down your account if you send to purchased email lists

If you’re not sending email through a dedicated IP and sending high volumes of email, you’re likely sharing your IP with several other email senders. If one email sender gets blacklisted or has a low sender score, this affects all other senders on shared IPs. And so ESPs, including SendGrid, just plain don’t allow email campaigns to be sent to purchased email lists.

ESPs have no choice but to shut down your account because we can’t follow through on business promises such as the highest possible delivery rates if some of our senders are sending email to a purchased email list. If you can’t play by the rules, you just don’t get to play at all. Read more about deliverability best practices in our newest guide, the 2017 Email Deliverability Guide.

Reason #3: You damage your sender reputation when you buy email lists

Many times purchased email lists also include emails that have long been shut down or are just plain fake. Known as a spam trap, these email addresses are known to be old and unused (i.e. have not given permission to receive email). When email is sent to them, it’s a clear trigger that the sender is spamming. Make sure you’re not sending email to spam traps by educating yourself about how to avoid them.

Your engagement rates will likely plummet after you send an email campaign to a list that includes purchased emails. Decreased engagement rates will negatively impact your sender score. Every email domain has a reputation that can be scored and here’s how you can find out how your email program fares.

All together now–don’t buy email lists

Hard and steady work pays off when it comes to building your email list. And if we can leave you with one piece of advice–don’t cave into the temptation to purchase an email list! There are better alternatives out there that improve your sender reputation, help you reach the right people, and convert more leads.

For a deeper dive into how you can grow a healthy email list or if you’re ready to build an organic, high-engaging email list, download How to Authentically Build Your Email List.


Kelsey Bernius
As content marketing manager at SendGrid, Kelsey oversees all functions of the SendGrid Delivery blog including scheduling, writing, editing, and publishing. Her downtime is dominated by either her mountain bike or skis (depending on current weather forecast)–and mixing up a salty marg afterward.