The Ugly Truth About Buying Email Lists

Experience, as the saying goes, is the best teacher.

Unfortunately, sometimes that experience is really painful.

This is never more true than when a well-intentioned business, eager to grow, gets suckered into a “quick fix” by someone offering them an inexpensive “shortcut” to building their email list.

I recently came across an example of someone who learned a hard lesson about bulk email marketing, list-building and email deliverability…

Buying an Email List Is An Awful Idea

I can already hear a lot of you saying,

“Yes, yes, we all know… don’t buy email lists, they’re not good prospects, they don’t know you and never gave you permission to email them, blah blah blah…”

I know it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse here.

After all, buying email lists is so… 1999. Right?

Unfortunately, for new email marketers, it’s not always obvious what is and isn’t a bad idea.

Some Companies Prey On These New Email Marketers

They’ve learned there’s money to be made by offering new email marketers a “shortcut” to building their own subscriber lists.

So they compile email address lists and advertise them as…

  • “Targeted”
  • “Opt-in”
  • “Verified”
  • “Clean” (shouldn’t that be a clue that purchasing lists is inherently dirty?)
  • “Real Time”

…and a whole lot more.

What those companies don’t advertise are the consequences of sending to purchased email lists.

One Company Learned Those Consequences The Hard Way – And Turned To The Internet To Share Their Lesson

Javelin Marketing, a marketing/consultancy firm in the financial advising sector, got lured into buying such an email list (of supposed financial advisors).

No doubt they expected to find their message well-received by many of those advsiors, and to quickly grow their prospect list as a result.

As you might expect, it didn’t turn out quite that way:

Upon emailing to 100,000 of the records, 85,000+ bounced, clogged up the mail server and also got them fired by our web-based email provider.

There’s No Quick Fix.

Attracting subscribers is a deliberate process.

The only thing you’re really buying when you buy an email list… is a massive headache.

Because that’s what you end up with after dealing with the damage that purchased email lists do to your email deliverability and your reputation as someone doing business online.

OK, I’m climbing down from my soapbox now… :)

All kidding aside, I know most (hopefully all) of you realize what a bad idea it is to buy email lists.

But for those who don’t, or who want to see what the real-world consequences are, Javelin provides a classic example.

Please, when someone asks you about buying email addresses, point them here so they can see why it Just. Doesn’t. Work.



  1. Haywood

    7/29/2008 10:21 am

    I know first hand about those email lists people sell you.
    Another great informative blog! Keep them coming.

  2. Codrut Turcanu

    7/29/2008 11:28 am

    Ha, ha..

    These type of offers are usually similar to those about "targeted traffic" or get "10,000 hits for a one-time $49 fee".

    If you’ve seen those, you already know what I mean.

    Buying leads and/or targeted traffic is another way to throw money hoping quick fix results.

    There’s NO quick fix formula on the Internet, or if it is, then it won’t last more than a day.

    We get what we pay, so pay close attention to whatever you’re buying these days.

  3. Chris Lockwood

    7/29/2008 12:41 pm

    Good article. Even if there were no spam laws, the obvious question is if these lists are any good, why are companies selling them rather than just sending offers to them?

    I don’t know anyone who has built a list who would be willing to sell it like these companies do.

    Too bad the constant stream of new people coming online aren’t always able to see what a bad idea this is.

  4. Shirley George Frazier

    7/29/2008 2:47 pm

    What a painful lesson for that company and a great lesson for those of us who’ve considered buying a list as well as those who vow never to rent one.

    As a snail mail example that parallels this story, I remember working as a temp for a company that rented a mailing list and seeing the thousands of returned envelopes from their efforts. It was overwhelming and an obvious waste of money.

    AWeber has made the task of collecting Emails super easy, and the investment cost is well worth it. Can you imagine trying to collect this data on your own?

  5. Michael Davis

    7/29/2008 11:35 pm

    I totally agree. My biggest problem with obtaining email lists from someone or some other company is that the individuals on these email lists answered an ad that could be vastly different from I am trying to sell them! Thus being my main reason for working on my own email list since I want my subscribers to genuinely want what I have to offer.

  6. Steven Vrancken

    8/2/2008 2:17 am

    I do not agree.

    In Belgium, there are some really good and clean services, and they give good e-mail lists, with good results, they sent the mail you give to them.

    I do not believe in good / bad – vision; not all the email lists you buy are good, not all of them are bad. IN my opinion, it just depends, nothing more, nothing less.

  7. G

    8/2/2008 5:49 pm

    Yes, I agree completely.

    Never buy any list of E-mails!

    I learned my lesson many years ago.

    It was only a small list of 1000 people, but I saw that only 20 received my E-mail, without to purchase anything.

    Build your list for Free is the best way!

    It is not a fast process but it is a strong way!

  8. Justin Premick

    8/4/2008 10:26 am

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for presenting a dissenting opinion!

    What you’re referring to, where someone else sends an email promotion on your behalf to his/her list, is commonly called list rental. What I’m referring to in my post above is purchasing a list of email addresses and assuming ownership of that list as your own.

    That said, I and numerous other email marketers disagree with you, and feel that list rental is simply a poor tactic. It’s fraught with risk to your reputation as a sender of email (and in turn, your deliverability) and yields a poor return compared to building your own subscriber base organically.

  9. Don Massey

    8/4/2008 2:35 pm

    I was in direct mail for several years renting a lot of direct mail "lists". What I learned with mailing lists is directly applicable to email lists.

    In the direct mail scam world are people who pull lists from telephone directories and sell them as "hot prospects". This is the same as harvesting emails by having bots roam the Internet.

    I found the only lists that worked for me were those who had purchased similiar products or had an interest similiar to what I was selling.

    All other lists were duds!

    So the lists (both direct mail and email) that work are buyers want a product like yours or have purchased from you before.

    In goes without saying my best returns were the lists of my own customers. The conversion on those were 10 times or greater than those of great lists that I found.

    And there is nothing new under the sun. Spam laws were passed. Before it was "Do not Call" legislation. No one could ever get Do Not Mail lists legislation started. Why? It is so expensive to mail and if someone is really sending "Junk" mail they go out of business. Junk mail kills itself.

    Junk email does not because it is cheap cheap cheap and just as ineffective.

    But the newbies in Internet marketing don’t know any better.

  10. Chris Desouza

    8/5/2008 9:19 am

    I disagree to an extent. There are instances when a competing company buys another, eg Wal-mart buys Target along with its customer base. When the company which was bought loses its entity in the acquisition process, the customer list is brought into the fold.

    Obviously, in this scenario, the customers are notified of this action.

    Acquiring customer lists during acquisition of company assets is an exception.

  11. JonathanB

    8/5/2008 11:24 am

    In general, the article is correct — there’s no magic bullet — but there are plenty of lists out there that DO work, it’s just VERY unlikely that new internet marketers will know what to look for.

    Who owns the list?
    Reputable national magazines, trade groups, charities, seminar lists — there are thousands of properly built lists that the owners would like to monetize further.
    Look for: Owner must approve your mailing and one-time use.

    What data is provided?
    Sort by dates added to list; HOW was the list built – subscribers?, warranty cards? etc.

    Sponsored or unsponsored mailing?
    If the people on that list wouldn’t know who you are, i.e., you’re not a national brand, then you need to be introduced by the list owner.

    It’s not rocket science, but you DO have to learn how to do it right, and then read up on Open Rates even when you have a quality list.

  12. Dan

    8/5/2008 11:49 am

    Yup, I agree.

    A long time ago, I bought those DVDs full of harvested email addresses and was thrilled (at the time) to know that I had the whole AOL databse in my hands and could mail out to them.

    Wow, that was SOOO pre-Aweber days for me, and not only was it bad marketing, but it was also a lot more expensive because their mailer was more than Aweber, plus the cost of buying those lists was high,too.

    For the total investment of 800 I spent a long time ago, I could have done 30 -50 Ezine solo ads, paid advertisements, and built a real list using Aweber.

    Buying lists is actually the HARD way out.

    I’m a big Fan (and Beta tester) of Aweber, and I reveiwed it here

    Maybe I’m drinking the Aweber Kooliad, but I also have Aweber’s blog snippet on my blog as well, that’s how much I think of Aweber, and their widget works better than’s blog widget,figures..

    Thanks for the post

  13. Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D.

    8/5/2008 6:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing the downfall of buying email lists. As with all other "quick fix" offers on the Internet, buying email lists is definitely asking for trouble.

  14. Alex Cole

    8/6/2008 9:29 am

    Great article…except the important part is missing- what does a new marketer DO to build a list? How can you market without STARTING? If not buying lists (which I fully agree with) then offer examples of what TO DO. It would make discussion more lively, I’m sure, and would be much more useful.

  15. Jodi Kaplan

    8/7/2008 12:22 pm

    Absolutely, do not BUY email lists. If you do rent, rent carefully… use lists of subscribers, seminar attendees, associations, etc. As Dan said, you want people who have already bought something similar.

    To answer Alex’s question, you build your own list by driving traffic to your site, offering a white paper, a book, or something else of perceived value, and asking for the opt-in. You drive traffic by writing articles, commenting on blogs, sending press releases, using AdWords, etc. etc.

  16. Peter Gold

    8/7/2008 6:20 pm

    I think the view of *never* buy a list is somewhat simplistic and utopian.

    Writing a white paper and then sending out PR is surely SPAM as the recipients most likely do not know who you are. However, if they are an Engineering magazine publisher and you are an Engineer are you saying this is not SPAM? If so, then surely buying a list of opt-ins from the same Engineering publisher of readers who have requested information from the third party suppliers of the publisher is acceptable??

    Aweber is proving to be a fantastic tool and works very well for people that subscribe but more ways of building your list would be really useful to add to the mantra ‘Never buy a list’.

    Rob Nixon has a nice way of building a list which involves cold calling; kind of telephone SPAM although they get sent a letter and have to subscribe to get further details.

  17. Brian

    8/7/2008 9:11 pm

    While it definitely takes longer to build your own lists, the payoff is well worth it. When people like Robert Allen talk about being able to generate thousands of dollars in 24 hours, that’s how they do it, folks.

    They mail to their lists.

    Done properly, Email Marketing is a powerful tool

  18. Justin Premick

    8/8/2008 10:19 am


    if they are an Engineering magazine publisher and you are an Engineer are you saying this is not SPAM?

    That’s really up to them as the recipient, isn’t it?

    surely buying a list of opt-ins from the same Engineering publisher of readers who have requested information from the third party suppliers of the publisher is acceptable??

    In short, no :)

    It’s important to realize that email lists are not valuable. They’re not, in and of themselves. What’s valuable is the attention of the people behind the addresses on those lists and the relationship you have with them.

    And you have to build those things. You can’t buy them. When you purchase a list, you get neither of those things. All you get are a bunch of email addresses of people who are going to report you for spamming when they start getting email from you out of the blue.

    Buying lists is a rotten deal for the people on the list and for the person buying the list.

    Thanks for the tip to include some list-building ideas. We actually publish quite a bit on list building. Check out the tag cloud in the sidebar for posts on that and other email marketing topics.

  19. Peter Gold

    8/8/2008 10:32 am


    I don’t disagree with you but what are your thoughts on Jodi’s comment about renting lists? And what do you see as the difference? I often see claims of what I think are rental lists where Seller X maintains the database e.g. an industry mag but based on feedback from others, response rates are poor and bounce rates high.

    I think the seminar attendee lists make a lot of sense but still seems to sound like list buying; albeit focused.

    Thanks for your response.

  20. Justin Premick

    8/8/2008 12:32 pm


    I think we need to clarify that renting and buying are not the same thing.

    "Renting" a list is email industry slang for having the list owner send an email on your behalf. Unlike buying an email list, when you rent you don’t at any time take possession of the actual list.

    While in theory list rental could help you to market a product or build your own list, in my professional opinion the money spent on it would be far better spent elsewhere – say, on an AdWords campaign.

    It’s important to keep in mind that even with list rental, spam complaints can and do occur, and that those hurt not only the reputation/deliverability of the sender of the message (the list owner), but also your company as the one being advertised.

    Even though you’re not sending that message, if your site is linked from within it, ISPs can use complaints against that message to decide whether to block email from, or linking to, your company.*

    This is what I was referring to (albeit not in as much detail) when I responded to Steven’s comment above.

    * Incidentally, this is also one of the perils of offering an affiliate program for your products. When it comes to email, affiliate marketing can be highly similar to list renting – the affiliate marketer (who owns the list) emails about a given product, and people purchase that product or sign up for the product owner’s mailing list.

    The big difference to me between outright list rental and affiliate marketing is that the affiliate is paid on conversions, not on the mailing itself. Affiliates have a greater incentive to make sure that their subscribers are interested/responsive to the content/promotions they send, since if they’re not, the affiliate doesn’t make sales, and thus doesn’t get paid.

  21. Alex Cole

    8/8/2008 4:08 pm

    Are we talking subjective SPAM or CANSPAM compliance? Yes, compliant emails can be identified and reported as SPAM- but isn’t the false reporting also a crime? Has anyone been sued or fined for reporting falsely?

    CANSPAM compliance is easy. It applies only to solicitations for business (ie advertising) and requires a physical address of the sender, and an easy way to unsubscribe.

    So if I offer something free for a certain list of people is SPAM even a consideration?

    And if I deliver the freebie from a webpage that happens to have ads on it for other (priced) products- well, explain what the problem is with either the email free offer or the download page?

  22. Peter Gold

    8/11/2008 6:24 am


    Thanks again; I did think renting sounded the same i.e. SPAM but we don’t hear that term so much in the UK. I’ve not bought or rented lists and feel this has been the right decision now based on this post.

    I do use Adwords and have found it a great way of getting people who are actually interested in what we offer.

  23. Mark

    8/12/2008 12:13 pm

    great article, can you keep me posted?

  24. Justin Premick

    8/12/2008 1:27 pm


    Absolutely – the best way to stay posted on articles here is to subscribe via email or RSS.

  25. A

    8/16/2008 2:43 pm

    It’s much better to take out ad space in someone else’s mailing list who has an opt-in list than to purchase an email list. It’s also better to form relationships with other list holders and then offer to provide articles to publish in their online newsletter. You’ll get better exposure that way.

    I once had a client who did buy an email list and she did get business out of it. She bought it after we stopped working together. I didn’t want to go that route and she did…. which is fine with me because I can keep looking at myself in the mirror and like what is looking back at me.

  26. matjaz krajnc

    8/19/2008 12:48 pm

    probably is the safest way to start building your own list but it may
    take to long to build big list.

  27. Haroun Kola

    9/8/2008 6:59 am

    I’ve always believed in this philosophy, and live by it but now I’m working for a company that wants me to search the net looking to buy a database for the product it’s selling.

    My dilemma is that I believe in the philosophy of building your own list but to do this task properly, I have to find the list of targetted leads and pass the info on.

    Tough, hey?

  28. david

    10/16/2008 10:25 am

    Alex cole has hit the nail on the head, what does someone new to the business DO to build a list?
    They may have a good product to sell but little or no knowledge of internet marketing or even many of the terms used in blogs such as this.
    I have friends who ask "what is this HTML thing people talk about" but they are not idiots, just people who have bought a modern computer which does everything for them and have thus never had to learn the nuts and bolts of how it all works.
    For them there is not only the lack of knowledge to overcome but also the inate fear that if they do try something they will make some simple mistake and end up with a disaster.
    Maybe there is a good e-book out there which explains it all in non-techno speak, but I have yet to see one.

  29. Patricia Reszetylo

    11/29/2008 9:35 am

    Better to JV with somebody in your niche who already has a list. They have a relationship with those people, and can say, "Hey – this is something you need to know about" and the list listens.

  30. Michael

    3/22/2009 6:52 pm

    There’s no substitute to building your own mailing list. Aweber’s advantage is the ability to add new features to help grow your list faster. Kudos on the post.

  31. Kathy Dobson's Blog Building your with AWeber

    5/13/2009 8:34 am

    […] out the article on…. AWeber It’s definitly worth the read…especially if you’re a […]

  32. Jean Paul Quenneville

    6/3/2009 11:47 am

    I was ask many time to buy a list but I never believed in buying some one ells privacy It is good to read abbot this infraction that could happen to me. Thank you for all this informations

  33. Jacky Fung

    10/19/2009 11:35 pm

    I agree with this article.

    As even I try email broadcasting someone has communicated before, they sometime (low %) would report it as a spam…

    So, by just buying a new list without any evidence would surely be just a disaster to the marketers.

    ps. Hi aweber folks … Thanks for your great information and support..
    it helps a lot.

  34. Marjorie Butler

    5/6/2010 10:45 am

    I had to laugh. SO TRUE about email lists!
    The best part is that image
    you chose.

    Good stuff.

  35. Jery Jeritza

    6/30/2010 10:39 pm

    Been there. Done that. Several times.

    I have tried so many "so called" opt-in lists, as well as verified lists. Always a very poor if no return.

    Trying to find better options, but as always my own database does do better than any others.

  36. Chris

    7/21/2010 1:35 pm

    Let’s say I rent one of those so called "targeted lists" I pay them to send only one message to 10.000.000 addresses for example.

    The email is short and its only purpose is to direct them to a squeeze page where hopefully they will be converted into an actual double opt-in subscribers, my golden AWeber list so to speak…

    Even a conversion of one per thousand would be a nice result…

    What’s your thoughts on that? Anybody try that one?

  37. Justin Premick

    7/22/2010 9:52 am


    Sending email (or paying someone else to send it) to a non-permission list to get them to sign up to your AWeber-managed email list is not permitted.

    See the 5th & 6th items on the "Things You May Not Do With AWeber" list on our anti-spam policy page:

  38. Chris

    7/22/2010 12:37 pm

    Thank you Justin for bringing some clarity.

    I think I will just stay away from those things then…

    I am looking to build a business and not for some quick fix, I guess the answer will always boil down to GOOD CONTENT!

    I am happy I found this post.

  39. Jeff

    8/18/2010 1:44 pm

    Very valuable information, literally. Use your marketing budget wisely and always be weary of shortcuts, they very rarely put you where you want to be.

  40. Tati Leoni

    12/5/2010 5:31 pm

    Ok,what if email marketing is not a part of your company’s publicity but a big part of it. How else could you get mailing lists that matters?

  41. Amanda Gagnon

    12/6/2010 10:36 am

    Tati ~ There are many ways to find subscribers; to get started, here are six of the most popular!

  42. Tati Leoni

    12/6/2010 11:52 am

    Thank you Amanda,Im gonna check those out…

  43. Thinking of Buying an Email List?

    1/27/2011 10:34 am

    […] a one-way ticket to the spam house – the first time, at least. But it will at a minimum mean a lot of unpleasantness. Here’s […]

  44. WCP

    3/1/2011 6:09 pm

    Wow, I was actually going to buy a list. I was checking out the different web sites seeing what they offer and their prices. All of the stuff listed here is true. They all say everyone is opted in double opt in. ect ect. I don’t know if it is worth it to try it but I am going to pass for now!

  45. Justin Premick

    3/2/2011 11:07 am


    I’m glad that this was helpful for you, and that you found this article before you bought an email list. It’s simply not worth it.

  46. abir_ahmed

    4/19/2011 2:23 am

    I agree with you.Some days earlier had a bitter experience with buying email list.The list did not work out ! Then in a blog,I had some discussion and knew that,That seller was a fake one ! so be sure not to be cheated when buying email list.

  47. Codrut Turcanu

    4/28/2011 2:06 pm

    There’s a better way to buy lists though. When you get a web site, blog or product attached. I mean, people enter and exist web businesses all day, if someone is selling their business/project on Flippa or other related sites, then it could be a good chance for you to get a list too :)

    That means the business is exclusively sold to you, I am not talking on PLR packages or a “replicate” business

    Think in perspective, get the whole story about something before making assumptions or decisions… and avoid putting a label on a specific strategy or concept just because that’s all you know about it.

    (In depth) research is required in everything we do, right? :)

  48. Ian Thirsk

    7/24/2011 8:45 am

    Great information thank you. I have purchased two Email databases, one for specific businesses and one for cosumers. The business database worked well, the consumer one did not.

  49. Digby

    10/23/2011 8:46 pm

    Yes, getting email addresses is so hard.

    I am looking to find the email addresses of online computer stores to sell them my new products.

    Many of these companies, especially the big ones, do not list any email addresses, or often even phone numbers !

  50. G

    3/1/2012 7:32 am

    Thank you Justin, You saved me from the disaster, I was about to buy a opt in list, since i am new in email marketing and list building.
    There is a tendency always people new in this field fall into these traps.
    Thanks again

  51. Roger

    3/13/2012 9:12 am

    Actually, this problem could have been avoided if they would have cleaned the list. Some companies do it really cheap. Just do a web search of “deep clean email lists” and you’ll find the ones that will clean the hard bounces before you mail.

  52. Justin Premick

    3/19/2012 12:51 pm

    Hi Roger,

    I respectfully disagree that this would avoid the problem.

    Even if such a service did what it claimed to do (I am skeptical that it would reliably do so, but let’s suppose I concede you this point), it doesn’t address the other issues that arise from sending to non-permission email addresses (such as purchased lists).

    There are many such issues (see the articles linked from this blog post). For brevity’s sake I’ll stick to one: no such service is going to reliably remove spamtraps (which don’t necessarily bounce) from a list.

  53. Knoleggs

    5/25/2012 1:41 am

    I should be lucky to found this post on first page google with keyword “buy email lists online”. I am going to buy email lists, but luckily, i found the answer.
    But, let met tell a bit of my story. I’ve ran an online store before, and got 11k email list of customers, but it’s on my database. And I’ve lost the business, and start to be an Internet Marketer. Can I input it on my Aweber?

    Waiting for answer,
    Thanks Justin!

  54. Justin Premick

    5/25/2012 2:07 pm

    Hi Knoleggs,

    If you went out to eat, and you gave your email address to the restaurant, and then the restaurant went out of business… would you want to start getting emails from the old restaurant owner about his new carpet cleaning business? I suspect not.

    When people sign up to an email list, they’re doing so to hear about specific content, from a specific business.

    From what you’ve indicated here, the business people signed up to hear about you from is no longer in business. So the reason that people signed up for email no longer exists, and emailing them about some other unrelated business would not be OK with AWeber.

  55. Kenneth

    5/29/2012 8:21 am

    Really good article. When you start out it’s definitely tempting to buy an email list, but I’m glad that I didn’t do it with my business. I hate when I receive an unsolicited email from a company that I’m not familiar with. I imagine that most people probably feel the same way.

  56. Demian

    5/31/2012 3:01 am

    Sending an unsolicited email (spam) is like sexual harrassment. If the other person is in to what you are offering everyone is happy, if they are not….get a good defense attorney.

  57. Chris Silvey

    6/24/2012 12:38 pm

    I disagree to an extent.
    Buying Email lists is like buying anything else.

    1. Make sure they are Opt In as advertised.
    2. Make sure they are Targeted
    3. Make sure the Emails are Valid.

    Many Email Marketers just shoot from the hip. That is what gets people into trouble.
    I always Validate the Email Data first on all my lists, get all the data. You have to wash your email contacts first so you are compliant with Can Spam (#1) as well as to avoid IP Bans, blacklisting, bounce backs.

    Once you have a Clean list then follow through with a Can Spam Compliant Email.

  58. Justin Premick

    6/26/2012 8:06 am

    Hi Chris,

    It sounds nice in theory, but the 3 steps you mention do not work in practice.

    It’s one thing to say “make sure” of these things before you email the list, but the only reliable way to make sure of them is… to email the list and see what happens. Not a risk that a responsible business owner would take.

  59. Chris

    7/30/2012 7:46 pm

    I didn’t purchase a list, but am given access on a monthly basis to new people who want to hear from suppliers. In this case, the company that provides me with the details is a wedding directory where brides are looking for people to get in touch with them.

    Specifically, I’m a photographer and only targeting the people who have not yet booked their photog yet, which is included in the given info.

    As the leads per month are around the 350 mark I find it’s just as easy to email each person individually.

    What are your thoughts on this and how could it affect my business?

  60. Rebekah Henson

    7/31/2012 8:05 am

    Hi Chris,

    You’ll still run into the same problems as buying a list. The people you’re emailing did not request information from you directly, and will likely view your messages as spam. The more complaints you get, the worse your delivery rate will be.

    I’m a bride myself and I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve marked as spam from venders I’ve never requested any information from. They received my email address from the shop I bought my wedding dress from and tried to sell me services I never asked for. I marked every single one of those emails as spam because I never gave them permission to email me. I also had no idea that my dress shop had shared my email address with other vendors.

    It’s best to stick with getting permission to email prospective customers to avoid getting reported for spam.

  61. Robin Hood

    8/1/2012 4:23 pm

    I am a scientist. My e-mail has been drawn from publicly-available sites related to science. My name and e-mail is being sold as part of a 7 Million+ e-mail list to biomedical companies and anyone who wants to buy targeted lists. I NEVER gave permission to use my name and e-mail and in fact requested that my name be removed. The company continues to make profits by selling my name + 6.999 million others. I don’t care what country you are from, this is UNETHICAL and ILLEGAL (in my eyes). Of course, who as the money to try and persecute such crooks? Worse yet, if I live in South Africa and the company is selling from India, how can US laws affect or cover me? These guys work across transnational borders because they know that they can operate across international borders online, without any regulation (unless they operate from the US, perhaps). So no fear, no penalties, no recrimination, no fines, just sickening profits from unjust and unfair and illegal marketing methods. Because frauds all abuse innocents.

  62. Graham

    8/19/2012 5:12 pm

    It seems the most reliable method would be writing your own webcrawler that collects and stores email addresses. It seems to unreliable to buy lists of emails; which are probably overused / spammed anyway.

  63. Travis

    8/27/2012 11:47 am

    I think it can be easy to fall in the trap of calling “purchasing a list” and “list rental” synonymous. List rental is a widely accepted marketing tactic.

    Unfortunately, there are individuals off in who-knows-where selling worthless databases containing hundreds of thousands of outdated contacts for next to nothing. Not only is this shady and immoral, but it is creating a blanketing negative stereotype of the data industry.

    If a marketer does their research to find companies with a proven track record instead of whoever is cheapest, they will find there are quality, well-meaning companies out there.

  64. Vicky

    9/17/2012 5:21 pm

    In this day and age, there is no need for these services. No one wants to hear from you via email, phone or snail mail. If we did, we’d contact you. Unless a person speaks to you specifically and requests to be contacted, they did NOT opt-in. We were sold by some company who lied when they claimed to respect our privacy. We HATE being contacted by you, and feel violated each time it happens. People all over the world make fun of marketers of all sorts, and wish it were illegal for you to contact us in any manner. Curious to see how many spam email I get from this post.

  65. Gellihaf

    12/1/2012 3:43 am

    This is one of the most interesting threads I have seen in a long time. It discusses a challenge that many of our customers face when trying to identify and increase their customer base. Whilst purchasing lists may reap rewards, the reality is that you just don’t know the quality of the email addresses you are obtaining.

    Deliverability of Emails comes down to a number of core areas:

    1. Technology
    – Sending Infrastructure, Spam Filters, Authentication
    2. Best Practices and Reputation
    – Dedicated IP Addresses, IP Warming Strategies
    3. Data Management, Relevance, Optimization, Engagement
    – Daily monitoring of Blacklists, SenderScore and blocking
    4. Legal Compliance
    5. Timeliness and Relevance of Communications
    – Targeting at best day of week, time of day & segmentation/ AB Testing

    Even with this structure in place to maximise deliverability of the emails that you send, none of this matters if the email addresses that you have purchased are of low quality or their sourcing questionable.

    Building a list of valid email addresses is definitely the best way to ensure quality, but it takes time. Historically this has been difficult to achieve, but nowadays new channels make it easier to build prospect pools or identify fresh data to introduce to your customer database.

    Take Social, you can leverage Social channels such as Facebook and Twitter to deploy campaigns (you no longer have to be a coded / programmer), there are wizard-based tools for doing this to create Apps that are publishing directly to these channels. When people respond to your App (e.g. Photo Contest, Refer-A-Friend for incentive, etc.) they opt-in to direct communications and provide an email address and address (or whatever it is you customise that you wish to capture). These people are then immediately available for your direct marketing campaigns.

    Benefits of this include:

    1. The information volunteered is more likely to be current (how often do you update / change or use multiple personal email addresses?)
    2. The information contained is captured in a consistent form which you have control over – easier to integrate back into your customer database or tie to existing customers leveraging social channels (did you know that before? doubtful)
    3. The information captured provides all the legal governance – i.e. they are opting in to direct communications channels – you offer this as part of the terms and conditions of sign up / contest entry
    4. The people responding are showing an active interest in your brand by participating in the campaign – this is key as they are already a “warm” instead of “cold” list prospect
    5. The data is fresh, in other words its not sat on a database for 18 months plus and the email address is more likely to be current.

    Now take these steps to capture data, find a reputable Email Service Provider that covers the deliverability steps above and you have taken steps towards a successful email campaign.

  66. Kate M

    2/20/2013 2:43 pm

    Sorry but I’ve just proven this info to be wrong. I bought a highly targeted list, wrote a highly targeted offer and received 8 strong leads. The rate per lead was $13.75 per lead. Incredible when compared to my seo rate of $250-$500 per lead!

    I’ve already received a 500pc return on my investment. needless to say I’m going to buy the rest of the lists for my city, sydney.

    The original list was 1500. 50 bounces. 20 unsubscribes. 32pc open rate. Fabulous ROI. I put my name, business address, a suitable offer and unsubscribe option clearly in the content. Clearly not SPAM.

    My message to struggling marketers: try everything but measure your ROI. Eliminate the stuff that doesn’t work, do more of the stuff that works. Good luck.

  67. Crystal Gouldey

    2/20/2013 3:23 pm

    Kate – The problem many marketers will face is that most reputable ESPs will not accept purchased lists, targeted or not. That’s because they can wreak havoc on your deliverability in the long run. Purchased lists often contain “spam traps,” email addresses created specifically to catch people using these lists, and once you’re flagged with them most email clients will put your emails straight to the “Spam” folder.

  68. Kate M

    2/21/2013 2:53 pm

    Thanks for the warning re ESPs, spam traps & spam treatments Crystal. That’s a shame. Who puts the Spam trap in there & I wonder what they’re trying to achieve? The clients I have already picked up with this purchased list may save our business. As mentioned, at $250-$500 per lead through our SEO campaign, this lead acquisition rate was unsustainable. In brief, this would not be a business. But at $13.75 per lead through the purchased cold email list, those are metrics which make a profitable business. I wonder why anyone would try to block this efficiency with Spam traps? Thanks for your time to help.

  69. Crystal Gouldey

    2/22/2013 2:16 pm

    Internet service providers (GMail, Yahoo, etc.) and anti-spam organizations create the spam traps to prevent spam from reaching people’s inboxes. The important thing for everyone to remember is if you use a purchased list, you are technically spamming the people on that list. Spam is unsolicited email and those people did not request your information.

    It’s tempting to think of short-term ROI, but Return Path reports just one spam trap address can decrease your inbox placement rates to 81% and lower. It’s hard to increase business growth if your emails can’t reach your subscribers.

  70. Luke

    3/7/2013 10:59 am

    Awesome article!

    It has never appealed to me to send people emails in order to make a sale, I just delete spam emails sent to me!

    It will do you more harm than good, thanks.

  71. Kevin Wolf

    5/15/2013 10:33 am

    Used and tried, never again. Best way is with your own contacts not from a paid for database in my opinion. Most people now see as spam and delete with opening therefore a huge waste of money and resources.

  72. Robert

    6/5/2013 5:02 pm

    I agree never to purchase an email list if you do it is no longer opt-in. However email rentals have worked for me. I have found that testing is key as well as repetition. I think people expect sometimes to send on email to a rented list and have more hits than a direct mail campaign..that just isn’t realistic.

    I guess the same people would put up a single poster on telephone poll about an upcoming performance and wonder why the audience was empty.

    I have found that opt-in email rentals do not work well for direct sale unless you are a well known brand – but have worked very well for me in lead generation through newsletters, lead generation through coupon offers and brand awareness campaigns.

  73. Simon

    8/21/2013 7:32 am

    Hey everyone I am an email marketing newb. I think that buying lists to spam is bad business obviously I have read this through to the bottom of page.

    But I think that people are not thinking outside the box here.

    If you find a source of prospects from a targeted website and purchase an email list … you pretty much know they are visiting the website for certain reasons but I suppose this list could be useless too

    Why not use the power of social media and filter the bad from the good if they exist on that list and determine whether you are sourcing responsive lists?

    What I was planning to test was to try find and buy an email list then add the emails to a free email account like gmail in batches.
    then connect this gmail to a facebook profile.

    when you upload contact csv from your free email account for requests to add as friend to facebook profile, then the people who respond see your profile, find relevant info then add you – are good prospects.

    I would rather create a targeted profile on face book and then filter the paid data by requesting all that data as friends. this way you can see who is real and you turn it into your list of prospects.

    for example i buy list of 200,000 from pretty much know people who visit the site are builders looking for supplies (if is valid data).

    I then create a gmail account called bobsbuildingsuppliers(at)
    I then create a facebook profile bobsbuildingsuppliers.

    When I upload contacts to gmail I can then import list to facebook to invite as friends. I will then delete the contacts from gmail as my invitations are sent through facebook and will pop up as a friend request notification on the targets profile if they are valid emails.

    I will then repeat this process going through the list.

    when a valid builder see’s invitation to be friends with bobsbuildingsuppliers they will 9/10 add you. this conversion IS a targeted list you are building from bad data. Even if just 5 people out of the 200,000 add you these could be worth more than the price you paid for the list

    Does anyone else think this could be utilized to clean up those data lists and build your own targetted prospected friends list per profile using paid email lists an email account plus facebook or other social site?

    Just an Idea as a facebook/social friends request is slightly different than a push to read my spam email and less intrusive. the prospect has the choice and through this decision you can pretty much ascertain they are looking for what you are offering or interested in the targeted keywords your profile centres around- when you are friends start a conversation and follow up.

    Any thoughts on this idea would be appreciated.

  74. NL

    10/17/2013 10:42 am

    Hey Simon, why do you think that people who you add as friends will add you as a friend, just because you know their email? you would be still a tranger for you…

  75. NDB

    11/28/2013 6:10 am

    I agree with the subject matter and disagree to some extent. Yes, it is true that; buying email lists is not ideal because with email marketing, the marketer is expected to have acquired a list through the rightful source and or format. What i mean is that; the person to be emailed must have given their consent to receive updates and or news which means by signing up.

    However, there is some juice when you buy emails list. If you buy 100,000emails and 85,000 happens to bounce it means you have a conversion rate of 15%. This is quite significant and why should I not buy if 15,000 are going to be good? How long does it take to have 15,000 people subscribe to ones list? If one is able to maintain and convert this 15,000 to become part of a sign up list, then can we not see that buying email lists could be a gold mine?

    On another note, this topic is here because the writer is trying to build up more subscriber to his/her product. There are soft wares out there that will send out millions of emails in a short while as compared to some of the subscription base that will allow you to send 50,000emails for about $50 or $100.

    There are corporate companies in their thousands selling out peoples details every now and then. If buying these details had no way in the society, would there still be the business of selling emails? The answer is no.

    Even though the law condemns spamming, spamming is here to stay because people that think out of the box are making good money from it. I for one will delete any email that I do not know the source. However, if the headline or the subject matter is of interest, I will open the email before deleting it. Am I alone with this behavior? Surely not

  76. Rachel Acquaviva

    12/2/2013 8:51 am

    Hi NDB,

    While some may see different results from a purchased list, most reputable email service providers – like AWeber – won’t allow you to use them to ensure premium results and deliverability.

  77. Jeremy Davis

    2/8/2014 4:46 pm

    Thankyou for taking the time to write this article, I was just about to buy a mailing list myself! Your site looks really good too.

  78. Tilly

    3/17/2014 2:05 pm

    Good information on this article. I am struggling with this myself. My company doesn’t want to risk its reputation, and there is too much conflicting information out there. I like Simon’s idea of comparing the list to social media – you can find just about everyone on there.

  79. Xavier Beatty

    3/27/2014 11:45 pm

    I have found that testing is key as well as repetition. I think people expect sometimes to send on email to a rented list and have more hits than a direct mail because the writer is trying to build up more subscriber to his/her product. There are soft wares out there that will send out millions of emails in a short . It was overwhelming and an obvious waste of money.Emaillists is one of the major facts of email marketing if someone wants to dissociate its work then what can be done?Though one company is using such tactics is it bad for their website or business?

  80. Rosa @ScamsReports

    4/16/2014 4:08 pm

    Well, I think it’s not ethical to promote anything from email lists that we buy from someone, because they are not know anything about us.

  81. Marv White

    5/1/2014 6:57 am

    There really isn’t a shortcut to building a list. It takes time and effort but there might be one alternative. Buy a web property that has a trusted list and continue from there. It’s really a off-line strategy of acquisition but it works online too.

  82. Dentistas

    5/4/2014 10:44 pm

    There no safe way to buy an email list period. You never know what kind people or even bots you are buying.

    Create your own email signup process an “colect” optin emails. Thats the way to go.

  83. Walter Koti

    5/9/2014 12:06 pm

    I bought a computer that did automated calling in the 90s for about $ 7000 and the result was a disaster. Probably not even .001 % ROI. Its been a while and I was considering buying an email list but after reading your comments, I will not do this. What about fax blasting? Is that an option?

  84. Ivan

    5/26/2014 6:58 am

    Job boards sell access to their job seekers via their newsletters. Cheap, and targeted (both industry and location). Better results than the purchased email lists usually.


  85. Walter Menuet

    6/21/2014 11:42 am

    This list buying is a very tricky subject and I agree that there must be something to it (demand and utility) or there would not be pages on google advertising . I am really tempted but not with a purchased list . I have 24000 emails from my customers from my website listed above that has been up about 10 years. These are people who have requested automatic rate quotes from our db. About 1/3 of them we had email correspondence with . This are years 2012/13. Now I am into internet marketing and would like to have some good advice about mailing to this list without hurting my present web traffic Thanks Walter Menuet

  86. Yi

    6/25/2014 1:33 am

    I’m not saying that you are wrong, but I can hardly agree with your simple answers to everything, particularly in the case of marketing and purchasing marketing list.

    Is bounce rate an accurate metric to look at when valuing your email marketing campaigns and the quality of your marketing list? I don’t think so. Most of email blasts have an average bounce rate of 20%. It’s just the reality of it. Instead, I would use ROI as a standard metric for any type of marketing efforts.

    Most legitimate list suppliers or list brokers provide customized, personalized and comprehensive marketing lists. Take our school marketing lists as an example, you can get not just the email address, but the name, position, mailing address, fax, phone number and more info about the person and the organization.

    We provide marketing lists to many well known global companies. I’m sure they wouldn’t have came back to extend their license with us again and again over the years if their marketing campaigns results are so poor as you said.

  87. Brandon Olson

    12/11/2015 10:01 am

    Hi Yi. Thanks for your comment. Bounce rate is most definitely a key indicator of the health of your list. Your hard bounce rate should be no greater than 5% – that’s the industry standard. Using a purchased or rented email lists is not permitted by reputable ESPs.