Purchased Lists Aren’t Worth It

The thought of a ready-to-go list is tempting when you’re growing your email marketing, but purchased lists are a bad investment that can also lead to penalties for CAN-SPAM Act violations.

What’s wrong with a purchased list?

Buying an email marketing list seems like a fantastic shortcut, but you’re actually entering a gateway toward violating FTC laws.

One thing many people don’t consider when they buy a list for their email marketing is this: the list itself (in spite of promises from list vendors) is typically full of bad email addresses and outdated information.

By the time you have refined your purchased list and removed or suppressed bad emails, hard bounces, soft bounces, spamtraps, general inbox addresses (info@, admin@, sales@, etc.), unengaged members who are not opening your messages, and members who have unsubscribed, you are likely to have lost 75% of your list.

Think about it… What do YOU do when you start receiving a ton of unsolicited emails?

Most people take steps when they realize that they have become the victim of unsolicited email campaigns originating from a data vendor who sold their information.

Here are several ways people typically deal with an influx in SPAM emails:

  1. They change their email address.
  2. They abandon their email account, making it a dormant account that they never check.
  3. They report the sender as a CAN-SPAM Act violator.
  4. They unsubscribe from the email communications.

This is how those reactions impact your email marketing:

  1. Changing Email Addresses: If people from your purchased list change their email address, this renders the original emails outdated. A defunct email becomes a bad email address.

  2. Dormant Email Accounts: How many times have you heard someone say, “I never use that email account, so I just give that old email to marketers.” When a list member abandons their email account, this means they will never open or click on your message. This hurts your email engagement rate and does absolutely nothing to connect you with a new prospect. A very low open rate is an indicator that your email marketing is unsolicited and not legitimate. Plus, this could also result in a soft bounce if the individual’s email inbox is too full.

  3. CAN-SPAM Complaints: When you start racking up CAN-SPAM complaints, you’ll get your domain name blacklisted by mailbox providers and ISPs (Internet Service Providers). This means you won’t be able to send emails from a blacklisted domain unless you can (through a complex process) prove that you were not sending unsolicited emails.

  4. Unsubscribing: Your best outcome is when list members unsubscribe from your email marketing. This helps you focus your email marketing strategies on your truly engaged subscribers. However, increasing unsubscribe rates are another factor ISPs and mailbox providers use to determine blacklisting.

How Purchased Lists Could Get You Blacklisted

A blacklist is a list that determines and identifies which domains are sending SPAM. Blacklists are used by anti-SPAM vendors, ISPs, and mailbox providers to prevent SPAM. Things like spamtraps, bad email addresses, and a sudden increase in list size can get you flagged as a SPAM sender, resulting in blacklisting.

Purchased Lists May Contain Spamtraps

A spamtrap is an email address that is used by blacklists to find companies who are violating the CAN-SPAM Act. Spamtrap emails are not used by anyone, but they can be publicly found. This means data vendors harvest this information and unknowingly sell spamtrap emails in their lists.

Purchased Lists Contain Bad Email Address Which Create Hard Bounces

A hard bounce will result if an email address is invalid, fake, contains a typo, or is no longer in use. The benchmark for bounce rates is below 2%. Hard bounces can be very detrimental to your sender reputation. With purchased lists, bounce rates tend to be quite high. Increasing bounce rates is another piece of data that can get you blacklisted.

Purchased Lists Inherently Create This Blacklisting Red Flag: Surging List Size

An organically grown list steadily increases over time. A purchased list will show an obvious growth of thousands of members overnight. Blacklisters will notice this sudden influx and suspect that a purchased list is being utilized.

The Real Cost of a Purchased List

If you can lose 75% of your purchased list to unengaged members, bad emails, unsubscribes, and other bad data, does the risk of a $43,280 fine make it worthwhile? Certainly not.

According to the FTC, “Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $43,280, so non-compliance can be costly.” [https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business]

Your email sending reputation may currently be in good condition, so consider that a purchased list can ruin your this reputation with one just one launch to your newly uploaded list.

The Silver Lining

The good news is that it is easier than you think to grow your list. If you make a commitment to organically attract just five new email list members each week, you’ll have hundreds of new list members in just a year’s time.