Are you struggling to build email contact lists? And one of the pieces of advice you’re told is to buy email lists from vendors, right?

It is an easier path to success or accelerates list growth without waiting months or years to build a handful of subscribers. 

A great shortcut to success, you’d thought.

There is always a problem(s) with cutting corners, especially with something that practically takes time to build, and you want to make it happen in a shady way and the blink of an eye.

The danger in buying an email list outweighs the gains you’re looking at. It is far more damaging and outright illegal to purchase an email list of subscribers you never build organically.

In today’s post, you will learn why you must not buy an email list and how to ethically build a list of active subscribers.

Why Buying Email List is Illegal and Bad For Business.

When you attend a party you’re not invited to, one of two things is possible – you’ll either get kicked out or allowed out of courtesy or hospitality.

Either way, you won’t feel comfortable looking around the party.

The same thing happens in internet marketing. 

When a brand or marketer never gets permission to send you marketing newsletters and suddenly appears in your inbox, you get irritated or understandably suspicious of the message. 

You could mark it spam, trash it, or read it out of curiosity, then decide what to do next.

Whatever, the email never looks safe to open and read. It’s from a stranger you never know or come in contact with. 

When you purchase an email list, you’re invading people’s privacy which never permits you to do so. 

That’s outright illegal, against the law, and unethical business practices. 

As if that’s not enough, here are seven reasons you should never buy email lists.

1. You’re Violating Existing GDPR Law

According to the European Union GDPR law, you must have explicit consent from your contact before sending them marketing emails.

The checkbox on the email opt-in form must not be pre-checked when they see it on your website. Users must decide whether to opt-in to your mailing list.

This law applies to worldwide businesses that process users’ data within the European Economic Area (EEA). 

So it doesn’t matter if your business does not reside in the EU; as long as you process the personal data of people living in the European Union, you must have permission to add them to your list.

When you buy an email list, the people on the list do not give consent to hear from you. This automatically makes your newsletters non-compliance with existing GDPR law.

In a very serious situation, you could get sued and charged for non-compliance with protecting users’ privacy, security, and data, leading to a fine of up to 10 million Euros or 2% of total global revenue turnover – whichever is higher.

2. Email Service Provider Will Suspend Your Account

Reputable email marketing services providers will ask you to use double opt-in for your list. 

Though you might have a way around importing your purchased list to the platform, you only risk the entire platform deliverability score.

Of course, there are email service providers on shared IP that will allow you to run such a marketing list, but a user’s poor delivery rate can affect other marketers on the IP list.

You must sign up with reputable service providers to ensure your email reaches the subscriber’s inbox.

And build your subscribers list organically. 

3. Your Contact List Don’t Know You

Your purchased subscriber’s list never knows you from Adam. 

They’ve never read your content, followed your social media profile, engaged online, or interacted with your website.

And suddenly, you just showed up in their most private online hub – email – strange. Isn’t it? 

You’re a stranger, your email open rate will suffer terribly, and the consequence is that the click-through rate will be next to none.

Digital marketing is a people business. Don’t be a ghost or a faceless snake-oil marketer.

4. You Don’t Know Your Audience Interest.

This is one of the biggest reasons you must refrain from buying email lists. 

One of the key factors of successful email marketing campaigns is interest-based opt-in lists. 

The company selling email lists might say it’s a good idea to buy targeted email lists; they are only promoting their businesses. 

List segmentation is vital to building a responsive email list. You must know what topic, interest, web form, campaign, and traffic sources get people on your list. 

These metrics will allow you to send target and tailored content to your list in the future. But when you purchase an email list, you probably won’t have access to this data.

5. You Risk Brand Reputation

The first impression matters even more in an online marketing community.

What impression are you giving your audience about your business?

When you send an unsolicited email message to people, they might not open it or click the links, but they will remember the brand name that sends the email.

This could hurt your brand reputation and impact your online brand awareness, as the contacts might blacklist your business name and even leave negative reviews on major platforms.

6. Low Engagement Rate

“The money is on the list” sounds natural, right?

But that’s only when the list is responsive to your offers, engaged, and buys from your recommendations.

Purchasing an email list already puts you against all odds. 

First, your email subject line has to convince people to open your emails, then the body content gets them to read it, and the call to action makes them click through to your offer page.

These steps are easier to achieve if people already know you, trust you, and expect to receive your message.

But your email engagement rate will suffer since you have not had any initial conversation or engagement with these people before getting them on your list.

Better to have 1% of 20,000 subscribers click your link than to have 1% of 300,000 purchased lists do the same.

You might think 1% of the 300k contacts list is more in number, but what you have is the contact information of 300k people instead of email list subscribers.

This is because there is a BIG difference between contact information and the subscriber’s list. 

Anyone can have the contact information of anybody worldwide, but not everyone subscribes to a course, program, movement, newsletter, agenda, etc.

To be a subscriber, you must opt in or sign up for the course, program, agenda, or whatever it is.

Let me explain in case you don’t understand the difference.

To get the contact information of most website owners, editors, or publishers, you can look up the website’s Contact Us page, get the email address, and send them emails. Easy peasy.

But does that make the publisher, editor, or website owners your email list subscriber? 

I guess no, you’d answer.

7. If it’s so good, it’s not for Sale.

Why would you sell an email list that can consistently give you money? Think about it, why would anyone want to do that?

Unless the business is getting a new owner and the subscriber list is part of the deal, there is no way a legitimate business owner would sell its most powerful revenue sources.

Most purchased email lists have already been spammed to death, offer no value, and are sold to other marketers.

If you believe you can’t sell the email addresses of people who voluntarily subscribe to your mailing list, you should not buy email lists. Period.

8 Ways to Build Subscribers Without Buying

Now that we’ve discussed why you should not buy email lists, let’s explore several ways to build subscriber lists that are responsive, healthy, and help your business increase revenue. 

Initially, taking shortcuts might sound like a better idea to build your email list, but it will only benefit you with the shortcuts.

You must build your email list from scratch, leverage existing traffic channels and content, and explore different proven tactics to grow a healthy list.

Here are the best ways to build an email list to help your business grow and increase revenue.

1. Know Your Audience

Knowing your ideal audience is one of most businesses’ first steps to success.

You must identify your ideal subscribers and the people you want to get on your list. It is not enough to say I want to build an email list of digital marketing entrepreneurs.

You must be specific about your target audience, interest, age bracket, gender, educational level, average income, spending power, etc.

The more specific you get, the better your email list conversion, engagements, and click-through rate. 

Once you know the people you want on your list, you can have separate lead magnets or offer to target different audience interests on your landing pages. 

Next is to segment your list accordingly and ensure you send tailored content to each list to improve open and click-through rates.

2. Create High-Quality Content

One overlooked email list-building strategy is the importance of consistently creating high-quality content on your platforms.

It could be your social media profiles, blog, emails, ebook, etc. Wherever you’re writing online, ensure you’re giving your best.

You never know who is reading.

I have seen many marketers build a thriving email list by sharing valuable content on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

You can do the same on your favorite social media platform.

However, a blog is one of the best places to build a list of active subscribers organically because it allows you in a unique way to share your expertise and knowledge and demonstrates thought leadership in the industry.

Plus, a blog allows you to test different list-building techniques, lead magnets, audience, and traffic sources to see what works best for you.

These things may not be possible to explore on other audience platforms, like social media.

So, start a blog today to build consistent list-building strategies for the long term. Read my comprehensive blog post for more information on how to start a blog correctly. 

3. Use Content Upgrades

Content upgrades are powerful lead magnets designed to turn readers into leads.

A content upgrade could be a piece of bonus content or a downloadable PDF format of the current post the reader reads in exchange for an email address.

Doing content upgrades in the proper context is like turning every blog post into a lead magnet on steroids. You increase the potential and value of every blog post to build your email list.

It is a super effective email list-building strategy, but you don’t have to do it for every published blog post. It will be more effective and drive better conversion if you only do it on high-quality articles.

For example, consider a content upgrade for your pillar post, market survey, marketing statistics, resource list, cheat sheet, checklist, ultimate guide, etc.

One resource website that utilizes content upgrades potential to its fullest is Hubspot marketing. 

You can see a piece of content bonus or a downloadable PDF version of every blog post you read on the Hubspot marketing blog offer as content upgrades. 

Why Buying email is bad - Hubspot marketing blog post

It is easy to have content upgrades for your blog post.

You can offer readers the option to download the post in PDF for later reading. Many readers will appreciate it as most people don’t read but skim through content.

They can download and read the content in a PDF format at convenient hours and places. This is one of the excellent ways to build a subscriber list instead of buying an email list.

The advantage is that your list will be super targeted, as you can segment the audience list based on the content topic they subscribe to.

Read this post to learn more about content upgrades, examples, how to create content upgrades, and the best marketing tools to make the right content upgrades for your audience.

4. Build High Converting Landing Pages

Landing pages are one of the essential tools of high-converting email marketing campaigns. 

You can’t have a valuable lead magnet on a poorly designed landing page and expect to get a high conversion rate. Your efforts will not yield the desired results.

Your landing pages must be clear and concise, add value, have a unique selling point (USP), incorporate call-to-action elements, add social proof, and direct users on what action to take.

Also, use attractive headlines that make a promise, outline benefits, make announcements, or arouse curiosity.

If your headlines can deliver one of these elements, at least the sales copy body will get read. 

The Coschedule headline analyzer is an excellent tool to help you analyze your headline for various checks. It checks for SEO score, word balance, uncommon and familiar words, power words, keyword usage, etc.

You can check out the Coschedule headline Analyzer tool to master writing headlines that attract and convert.

5. Add Call to Actions

The best way to make people do something is to tell them to do it and show them how.

That’s what call-to-action elements are meant to do on a landing page.

Your call to action must make users take the desired action on your page based on the headline promise, body content story, and offer. 

Your call-to-action buttons or other elements must stand out on the page in bold, attractive colors and attract clicks. Then it must lead the user to the desired next page or offer.

So, you must test every call to action button and element to ensure they work correctly before launching your campaign.

This is a huge mistake marketers make when in a rush to launch and don’t test everything – links, buttons, loading speed, web forms, etc. It would be best to try these things, don’t assume they work.

A web form was not working correctly during a paid campaign, resulting in several lost leads. It was a result of a JavaScript error in one cache plugin. 

The ads ran for days before a user pointed out he couldn’t access the download. That was when I noticed and had to fix it.

Don’t make the same mistake.

Here is a simple yet powerful and converting call to action on the blog homepage.

You can see how it stands out from the rest of copy and clearly define what action and benefits the user need to take and get.

Call to action examples on Cybernaira blog homepage

You can use more call-to-action examples on your landing pages to drive more action and conversion. 

  • Buy Now
  • Learn More
  • Download Now
  • Subscribe Today
  • Don’t Miss Out
  • Get The Best Offer
  • Click Here
  • Read More
  • Download For Free
  • Try For Free
  • Take a Free Trial
  • Check Out
  • Try (Product or offer Name) Now

For more information on how to write a powerful call to action that leads to higher conversion rates, read this post on the Unbounce blog.

6. A/B Test Your Marketing Copy

You need to run A/B testing of your landing pages to know whether it’s converting at their full potential or less.

You may have high-quality content, a bright call to action button, fast-loading landing pages, good content, and an irresistible offer; without testing, you don’t know what works for your audience.

There are several elements and metrics you can A/B test within your landing pages.

You can test everything about your marketing campaign from traffic sources, copy, buttons, size, font type, CTA, campaign, ad set, ad copy, and color to see what is working or what to improve.

Facebook ads allow advertisers to create A/B test ad campaigns, and there are several tools like Crazy Egg you can use for A/B testing. 

Crazyegg is a powerful A/B testing tool for small business owners, and you can sign up for its free trial to see how it can help.

7. Run Paid Ads

Paid marketing is one of the best tactics to accelerate list-building growth legally without buying email lists.

After creating your landing pages, CTA, incentives, copy, and adding your web forms, the best you can do to double down on your growth rate is to drive paid traffic.

I have tested several paid ad platforms for email list building; Facebook ads give the best ROI and drive more leads in record time than other paid traffic sources.

But you must know how lead ads work on Facebook to get the best of it. 

If you don’t know how to run leads with Facebook ads, I suggest you start by watching the BenHeath YouTube channel.

This YouTube channel has been beneficial for my understanding of how Facebook leads ads work and how to run a successful lead ads campaign.

There are many YouTube tutorials on creating leads ads with Facebook you can watch to help you set up a successful campaign instead of going to buy email lists. 

Use that money on paid ads to build your list, know your audience, their interest, location, age bracket, and gender, and maximize your earning potential.

8. Create Tools

Another overlooked but fantastic tactic to build a high-quality, super-targeted subscribers list is to create something of great value, like free tools.

When you create helpful tools that sell themselves and deserve attention and put them behind the email address input field, people will naturally give you their email address to access it.

Anyone who wants to access the tool must submit an email address and first name to access it. 

This is a powerful method to significantly increase list building on steroids and build a lesser targeted subscribers list. 

However, you might think you don’t have access to thousands of dollars; how do you create tools worth attention?

The truth is it does not cost much to create a tool that people will find helpful. 

One marketer who is so good at buying tools to build his business is Neil Patel.

Neil Patel purchased Ubersuggest in 2017 for $120,000 and added it to his website for maximum growth and increased traffic.

Google search results - Neil Patel purchased Ubersuggest

And now he has bought Answer The Public for a staggering $8.6 million, a very powerful and famous longtail keyword tool.

Google search result - Neil Patel purchased Answer The Public

But you don’t have to go head-on spending millions of dollars buying tools like Neil Patel; you can purchase fantastic tools for less than $50.

Several marketplaces like Codecayon and Envato Elements allow you to get custom marketing tools for less than $50. 

You can buy a commercial license for these tools, edit them and make them yours. 

It is that simple.


Businesses must understand that buying an email list is illegal in many countries and can harm brand reputations and image.

Sending unsolicited marketing messages to people who never opted to receive your news is outright spamming, illegal, and could damage brand reputation and be flagged as spam.

Email marketing is alive and one of the best marketing tactics to build loyal audiences, increase traffic, earn more revenue, and get more brand followers.

Instead of buying an email list, follow these eight tips to build an email list described in this post, and you’re one step closer to building a responsive subscriber list.

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