Building a great email list takes time and effort and if you are setting up a new business or progress is slow you may be tempted to buy a public list to give your marketing a boost. Using a public list may seem like an easy shortcut to growing your subscribers but it could be devastating to your business and have far reaching consequences.

What is a public email list?

A public email list is one that is available for sale or rent. There are numerous vendors out there who sell or rent lists of email addresses for people to buy and use in their marketing.

If a list has been given to you by a third party instead of collected through people opting in directly to receive emails from you, it is considered a public list and you should steer well clear of it, no matter how tempting it may seem.

What’s wrong with public email lists?

When you use a public email list, the addresses have been gathered by a third party and there is no direct relationship between you and the people on the list. Email addresses on public lists can be collected through different means including harvesting from websites, people completing surveys or participating in online activities and sign up lists from industry events.

No matter how their addresses have been obtained, it is important to be aware that the people on the lists have not opted in to receive emails from you and this can lead to serious problems.

Under spam legislation you have to get express permission from a recipient before sending them a marketing email or you are breaking the law. Although the providers of the list may claim that the users have opted in to receive third party emails, its not enough.

To make sure you are legally compliant the recipients need to have opted in to receive emails from your business specifically.

Here are four of the main problems with using a purchased email list:

  • Using a purchased list is illegal and contravenes spam regulations. This can lead to massive legal headaches, fines and a damaged reputation for your business.
  • If your recipients don’t know who you are and haven’t opted in to receive your emails there is a high chance they will mark you as spam when you arrive in their inboxes. It only takes a handful of users to mark you as spam to alert the ISP spam filters and get your emails blocked permanently.
  • As well as affecting your own deliverability rates, if you are using an email service provider and your address is blacklisted, this can affect other users of the same ESP. Most reputable ESPs won’t allow public lists for this very reason.
  • Email lists aren’t a good investment. By sending to recipients who aren’t interested, you will get a limited amount of engagement and chances are your open and click through rates will be low. People who submit their email addresses under pressure may use a low priority email address and they may be so bombarded by emails that they don’t have time to look at them all.

If you are tempted to purchase an email list, think carefully. It may seem like an easy option but the consequences could be serious for your business, your reputation and your growth.

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