It’s a scary feeling. You’ve got sales breathing down your neck for new leads and management asking for the latest MQL figures. It can be very tempting to make an easy move that could turn out to have terrible consequences.

If you’ve been in marketing for very long at all you probably know where I’m going with this. The purchased list. 😱

As professional marketers, we all have access to the option of obtaining as many email contacts as we’re willing to purchase. But if you’ve ever watched a scary movie you know how the easy option usually turns out to have serious consequences.

It’s never a good idea for a legitimate marketer to purchase lists. It will almost certainly cause harm to your long-term email marketing strategy. Not convinced? Keep reading as I outline the very real dangers of purchased lists.

An Uninvited Guest

I have read many forum discussions, participated in many email list threads, and been part of many face-to-face conversations where a person responsible for sending email for a company asks another person who works for a large mailbox provider the following question: “Why do my emails go to the spam folder?”

The immediate reply, without fail, is always: “Are you sending to recipients that have requested your email?” Now, this may seem like a silly question, but as far as most mailbox providers are concerned, it is the most important factor in determining whether or not your messages get anywhere near the inbox.

Another question that is constantly being asked is: “Why is my domain on a blocklist?” Again, the response is almost always: “Are you sending to recipients that have asked for your email?”

There’s a very good reason why the question “Are you sending to recipients that have asked for your email?” is such an appropriate response when dealing with questions related to deliverability. This is because it is the exact same question the systems built by mailbox providers – like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft – are asking when deciding what to do with your email. It is also the foundation upon which many blocklists build their tools.

Are you sending email to recipients that have indicated they want to receive email from you? If you are sending to purchased, rented, or scraped lists, the answer to this question is always going to be “no.” And this can cause major problems for your email campaigns.

“Based On Actual Events”

Let’s begin by looking at things from the perspective of a mailbox provider. Their job is to ensure that their customer’s inboxes are filled with relevant email. If something gets to the inbox that a customer doesn’t want, it diminishes the customer’s faith in the mailbox provider’s ability to protect them from unwanted email.

As a result, mailbox providers build complex learning systems to keep out unwanted mail. Regardless of whether the lists are described as “clean, targeted, warm” or other misleading buzzwords data providers often use to try to convince you there is some value in their lists, they are still lists full of addresses that never asked to receive email from you.  And mailbox providers absolutely know when you are sending to these lists.

The bottom line is, if you are sending to purchased lists, it is almost guaranteed you will have a lower open rate and higher spam complaint rate. And this not only affects the recipients on the purchased lists, it also decreases the chance that any other email you send will get in the inbox. Sending to purchased lists will lower your reputation at mailbox providers, meaning it lowers the level of trust they have that you are sending emails that are wanted by their customers. If you keep sending to purchased lists, some mailbox providers will go so far as to start bouncing back all of your emails.

Don’t Fall (into a Spam Trap)

By now you’re probably sold on the fact that the negative impact of sending to purchased lists far outweighs any perceived value they may have. Still not convinced? Don’t worry, it gets worse!

As noted earlier, many data providers like to entice unsuspecting marketers with guarantees that their emails are “99% valid” or “high-quality” and “highly deliverable.” What this really means is that there is a server that is willing to accept mail sent to these addresses. It does not mean these addresses are owned and operated by individual potential consumers. When sending to a purchased list, there’s a good chance you’re hitting at least one of many spam trap networks.

Now you may be asking, “what are spam trap networks?” I’m so glad you asked! These are groups of addresses that are deliverable but were established with the intent of detecting companies that are sending unsolicited email.

To be clear, the email addresses that are part of these networks have never been used to sign up for anything. There is absolutely no reason they should ever be on a list of recipients that have asked to receive email. So, if an email is sent to one of these addresses it is a clear indication that the sender has obtained the list by a method that did not include consent by the recipient. And these spam trap networks are usually accompanied by a domain blocklist that lists senders who have sent to their trap network.

These domain blocklists are used by mailbox providers to bolster their own protective measures and ensure that only mail that is wanted by their recipients reaches their inbox. If you are on a domain blocklist, any mail you send to a mailbox provider that subscribes to that blocklist will be rejected.

None of your email will even reach the spam folder until you have been removed from the blocklist which can last days or in some cases months, or even years. And even after you have gotten off of the blocklist, you’ll still have to repair your reputation for each mailbox provider, which can take even longer. Clearly, this can have lasting impact on your ability to reach the inbox. In other words, it’s bad news.

Turn Back Before It’s Too Late

SharpSpring, like all other major marketing automation and email sending platforms, prohibits the use of purchased lists. At the end of the day, as marketers we all want to promote our products and services to a receptive audience. The best and easiest way to ensure the quality of this audience is by using inbound lead generation methods such as landing pages, SEO, social media ads, chatbots, and social outreach – all of which are available within the SharpSpring platform.

To sum it all up, buyer beware! Purchased lists may seem like an easy way to kickstart interest in your product or increase your visibility, but they actually end up reducing your audience and could cause massive harm to your ability to reach the inbox.

Jon Marburger
Jon Marburger
Director of Email Deliverability and Product Utilization, SharpSpring