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We are often asked “Where can I buy email lists?” or “Where are free email lists for marketing?” and the answer is “all sorts of places”. But the correct question is “Can I use a list of email addresses that I purchased or otherwise acquired?” and the answer is “No”, not even if it is a targeted list of email addresses. Now, to be more precise, of course you can use it, we mean you can physically load that list of email addresses into your sending platform and press “send”. But it will get you into a world of hurt, deliverability-wise. It also may get you into trouble legally, and it will definitely get you into trouble with your sending platform, because it will be a violation of their Terms of Service (ToS).

Why You Should Never Use Purchased or Free Email Lists for Marketing

You should never use purchased or free email lists for marketing because, and this is very important, you can’t transfer permission. Ever. Saying that it is possible to transfer the permission to send someone email – they opt-in with us, we sell the list to you, so they have opted in with you – is like saying you can transfer permission to let someone use your guest room. If we offer to let you spend the night in our guest room while you’re in town, you can’t transfer that permission to some stranger that we don’t know. If we wake up to find a stranger in our guest room bed we’re going to be pretty upset. We will definitely throw that stranger out out, and we may even call the cops on them.

“Ah,” you say, “but what about if you agree to my transferring that permission to stay in your guest room to someone else?”

Here’s the thing – yes, it is true that many “opt-in” lists are built with the recipients who have been added to the list checking a box saying “it is ok for third-party partners to send me email.”

We would even go so far as to say that some truly double opt-in or confirmed opt-in lists have been built with the recipients checking “I want email from third-party partners.”

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And maybe they even read that part.

And maybe it wasn’t even pre-checked and they affirmatively checked it.

But we all know that the odds of that are very slim.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that you have the opportunity to buy or rent a fully 100% confirmed or double opt-in mailing list, where each and every person affirmatively checked a box that said “it’s ok to sell or rent my email address to someone else.”

And you are the someone else.

Now, you send an email to the 100,000 people on that mailing list.

Do they have any idea who you are?

No.

Do they recognize your email?

No.

Did they ask you to send them email?

No.

Do they think that your email is spam?

Yes.

Do they report your email as spam?

Yes.

Does this make your email deliverability go down at all the places where you care about getting into the inbox?

Yes.

Is it worth it?

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