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Valentina Pacitti
29 September 2020
Reading time: 7 min.

Buying mailing lists: all the consequences of this tactic

If you’ve just started Email Marketing or have been trying for a while but haven’t really gotten into it yet, you may be considering buying contact lists. Buying mailing lists is a quick way to get ready-to-use databases, but is it really worth it?

No prejudice here: my goal is not to convince you that buying mailing lists and contacts is wrong at all costs, but to show you what happens when you buy databases instead of working on lead generation, so that you can evaluate if you want to proceed in this direction.

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Buying mailing lists: the advantages

Why do those in Email Marketing decide to buy email addresses, despite people saying more or less everywhere that it’s better not to? Buying contacts from specialized companies is much easier and faster than creating databases with contact forms on your site, especially if it doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

If you Google buy mailing list or buy database for Email Marketing, you get thousands of results you can click on to buy packages of email addresses to send your offers to. In many cases you’ll also be able to choose between a B2B or B2C audience and you’ll be guaranteed that:

  • the addresses are all valid
  • they are classified and geo-normalized
  • there are no duplicate names
  • all the addresses are opt-in and collected in full compliance with the GDPR
  • the contacts are profiled.

How much does it cost to buy a mailing list?

There are all kinds of offers online. Taking a look at the top Google results, I found a company that offers 1,000 names in the B2B sector for just over 200 euros. Another at the same price offers a database with about 350,000 contacts.

That’s a big difference… but what does it depend on? I was quite curious, so I Googled for more details about the companies offering to sell me mailing lists. It was no surprise to find that the one with the lowest offer doesn’t have a good reputation.

You may be thinking that 200 euros isn’t too expensive of an investment: in the worst case scenario you’ll have lost a small amount, which you can recover with a few conversions coming out of the total.

Which leads me to the trouble spot of the topic, to why those who professionally work in Email Marketing always advise against buying databases and contacts.

Why it isn’t a good idea to buy mailing lists

Buying lists of email addresses may seem like an easy and inexpensive way to increase your database, but in almost all cases this practice is associated with low engagement, an erosion of deliverability and damage to the reputation of the brand sending the emails.

These consequences are due to:

  • incorrect or non-existent names in the purchased databases
  • non-profiled lists
  • the addresses collected are not opt-in and do not comply with the rules established by the GDPR.

What happens when you buy low-quality email databases?

Bounces increase

Sending to outdated, inaccurate or fake email addresses causes bounces: most of your emails bounce because many of the addresses contained in the purchased databases are not active. A bounce rate of less than 2% is optimal, but beyond this threshold, your reputation as a sender is in danger.

Engagement decreases

Another big problem that you’ll face if you decide to buy databases for Email Marketing relates to recipients’ engagement with your messages: it’s not very likely that people who don’t know you, who haven’t voluntarily subscribed to your newsletter or offers from your company, are interested in what you have to tell them.

Negative feedback is generated

If the new contacts in your database which you acquired for a fee and not organically don’t open your emails (because they come from an unknown sender or because they see your message as an invasion of their inbox) the ISPs will receive negative feedback regarding your business.

What are the consequences of buying email lists?

First and foremost, your reputation as a sender will be challenged. Connected to this is your deliverability, which will also begin to suffer (ISPs carefully monitor users’ response to emails and a high number of soft and hard bounces will label you as a spam sender, relegating your messages to the spam inbox).

But buying non-profiled mailing lists of people who haven’t asked to receive your messages can cause another problem: spam reports. The consequences are very serious in this case too: not only will your reputation as a sender be affected, affecting your future mailings, but also your reputation as a brand, one of the most important values online today.

Even professional Email Marketing platforms look down on buying email lists: before proceeding with a mailing, many of them ask you if the contacts are opt-in. This check allows ESPs to avoid jeopardizing their reputation too (in fact, the sending IP addresses are also involved when it comes to spam reports).

The last consequence to consider concerns the legal repercussions that you could suffer if the names you purchased are not fully GDPR compliant: you can expect high fines if the privacy legislation is violated.

Building mailing lists organically: why it’s the best solution

Now you know how sending emails to databases purchased online works, how much it costs and what the consequences are. You can go in this direction, and put your reputation as a sender and brand at risk, or you can consider building your Email Marketing contact lists organically.

What are the benefits?

Working on database building is always the best choice because:

  • you acquire contacts meeting your company’s target
  • you collect the names of people who are truly interested in what you offer
  • the recipients of your emails accept your messages: your open rate increases, as does general engagement and, of course, your conversions
  • you can profile your lists and customize your mailings, increasing their effectiveness
  • you improve your reputation as a sender and therefore your deliverability (ISPs trust you and deliver your emails to your recipients’ primary inbox)
  • the email channel is transformed into a means for increasing brand awareness and building a relationship of trust with those subscribed to your mailing list
  • increased email marketing ROI.


Buy mailing lists or build organically profiled databases – the choice is entirely up to you. Your brand’s story and its relationship with contacts will go in different directions depending on your decision. Sometimes it takes a little patience to get started and build something solid, but the results pay off ten-fold.

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Valentina Pacitti

Copywriter and translator since 2012, in charge of SEMrush Italia's blog since 2015. Words are my means of communicating with people - I read and write plenty of them. I like to know them inside and out, so that I can pick the best ones for every story I'm telling. Simple, clear, precise - this is the writing style I prefer. I'm more offline than online, but you can always find me on my social channels to discuss ideas and projects.

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