Why You Shouldn’t Buy an Email List (and What to Do Instead)

Will Cannon
Last updated on January 10, 2024
Table of Contents

Buying email lists looks like such an easy way to increase your leads. All you need to do is pay a fee and thousands of emails will populate your list in your email service provider.

But there are many disadvantages to buying an email list that you may not have considered. Email lists can set your emailing marketing campaign back for years, and cause long-lasting damage to not only your deliverability but also your brand itself.

Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t buy an email list and what you should be doing instead to get those precious leads:

Quick Links:

  1. Why You Shouldn’t Buy Email Lists
  2. 10 Better Ways to Grow Your Email List
  3. Everything About Buying Email Lists

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Email Lists

Here are a few reasons why you should avoid buying email lists:

1. Bad for email marketing and IP reputation

As you may know, there are many organizations dedicated to fighting spam. One of their most effective tools is called a “honeypot.” Honeypots are simply planted email addresses. After the email address is harvested and emailed, the owner knows that the email can only be from a spammer, since it was definitely unsolicited.

This technique allows organizations to not only identify a spammer, but it also allows them to collect their data to limit the email volume they’re allowed to send.

Another danger to email lists is getting caught in a spam trap. These spam traps transform currently invalid email addresses into a spam monitor, keeping track of the emails they shouldn’t be getting because the email addresses are no longer active.

When purchasing an email list, you’re getting automatically-generated data, not opt-in email lists. As a result, you cannot confirm the activity or ownership of those email addresses. Emailing just one bad address can negatively affect your email deliverability and the reputation of your and your company’s IP addresses for a long time.

2. Low-quality leads

Leads are only as good as their quality. It’s not a matter of owning the largest list; it’s a matter of emailing the right people.

Unfortunately, those users are rarely going to be among the email lists you purchase.

The owners of those email addresses may not have heard of your company or product and are not likely not be interested in your solutions. Instead, you’ll have to email a large number of people just to reach a single interested prospect.

And if your emails finally reach the right prospect, the email will likely go to their spam folder due to the higher bounce rate you’ve had after all of those emails you sent that remained unopened. This will make it harder for even the best prospect to receive emails from you. 

3. Makes cold emailing harder 

Cold selling is hard enough. And when using email lists, cold selling becomes even harder.

Multiple email vendors will argue that their emailing lists are highly segmented and belong to real people. However, there’s usually no way to know the validity of those claims until after you’ve purchased the list and emailed the users.

And, since segmentation is so superficial and spotty, your cold emailing efforts have to start with an offering that’s as broad as possible, instead of focusing specific strategies on specific client personas.

If your emails don’t reach the right user at the right time, you’ll only end up hurting your brand’s image.

4. Higher competition rates

Even after spending money on email verification tools to optimize your list, there’s a huge drawback: if you can buy that email list, then so can your competitors. And the longer those email addresses have been sitting there, the more likely it is to think that your competitors have emailed them first.

This puts you in a harder position since you’re likely trying to entice people who have already been targeted. If a competitor already emailed them with a product similar to yours, the users have already decided if they need it or not and acted on it. 

If they had once needed a product like yours, they likely don’t need it anymore.

10 Better Ways to Grow Your Email List

Here are 10 great alternatives to purchasing lists to grow your email list:

1. Use Lead generation software

UpLead is a great tool for your email marketing needs.

What if, instead of buying email lists in bulk, you could search and find users who fit your client profile and only get their valid, verified email addresses?

You can do this with lead generation software.

Lead generation software gives you the quick results of buying email lists, without many of the drawbacks. Since you’re only emailing people who are likely to be interested in your product, they’re more likely to open your emails.

However, many lead generation platforms can’t even guarantee the quality of their data. That’s why you need to find platforms with a clear guarantee of the quality of their data. 

UpLead is the best place to buy email lists. With UpLead, you not only get access to over 155+ million professional profiles, but it offers a 95% data accuracy guarantee. That way, you know you’re getting the right information from your target market.

Business database lookup

Looking up leads through its business email database is incredibly simple. All you need to do is filter them through your customer profile characteristics, find potential customers that are more likely to convert, and download their data to start selling.

And you get a lot more data than just email addresses.

Rich Profiles

UpLead's rich profiles give you the information you need for your email campaign.

Once you download your leads’ information from the email finder or from leads that fit your description, it’ll be easy to learn everything you need to know from the data.

UpLead shows you the data you’ve downloaded through vibrant profiles. These profiles not only give you accurate information but also flesh out your sales prospects so you and your sales team can get to know your leads before contacting them. That way, you can adapt your process to more easily reach your goals.

Chrome extension

You will also get access to UpLead’s Chrome extension, which will help you find your lead’s phone number and other contact information all within your browser. And you can generate leads from UpLead’s email database as you browse through LinkedIn.

Data enrichment for your email campaign

If you already have your own email lists, you can improve your email marketing campaign by enriching or complementing your data with UpLead’s information.

All you need to do is to upload the list and let UpLead update it and enrich it with relevant data. 

All these tools make for a powerful and flexible process that allows you to select the right leads, segment them the right way, and even contact them through multiple platforms.

Don’t just take our word for it. UpLead is trusted by multiple users across the globe:

UpLead is trusted by multiple users across the globe to enrich their email marketing campaigns

Start with UpLead today.

Start Your 7-Day Free UpLead Trial

Lead generation doesn’t have to be all that painful. With UpLead, you can easily connect with high-quality prospects and leads to grow your company.

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2. Create a lead magnet

Lead magnets are incentives for users to provide access to their contact information. There are many iterations of lead magnets, like:

Specialized e-books

If your company can produce and edit a specialized, high-quality e-book about specific issues their clients are facing, you can easily use it as a lead magnet.

You can advertise them in blog posts and landing pages, asking your users to exchange their contact information for access to your PDF.

Resources newsletters

Newsletters are a great way of interacting with users, and they fit right into your inbound email marketing strategies.

By making formatted, valuable, and informational newsletters instead of just providing coupons and offers for your products, you can get a valuable number of users in your opt-in email database. These users are perfect for long-term lead generation and customer engagement.

When creating a newsletter, make sure you’re only including information that’s relevant to your audience, like high-quality blog articles and media news.


One of the easiest, most effective lead magnets is to offer a quick discount in exchange for someone’s email address.

You can incorporate pop-ups on your website to offer new visitors a small discount in exchange for creating an account or for entering their email address. There are also more complex, gamified options that allow you to collect email addresses in exchange for rolling a “discount roulette” to give users random discounts and offers.

If you can offer anything attractive enough in exchange for someone’s contact information, you can find a way to create a powerful lead magnet.

3. Build free tools

Signaturely, an eSigning platform, has a useful Online Signature Maker for everyone to use for free, no registration required.

An even more powerful way of capturing a lead’s information is through free tools. A good free tool should make the lives of your audience easier and only ask for their information in exchange.

You can allow users to create “free forever” accounts with limited features. This will allow anyone to use your platform, and ensure they upgrade to a paying tool from you instead of from someone else.

With SaaS companies, you can develop integrations to other tools your prospect is already using or create tools to accomplish simple common tasks and recollect data from external users.

For example, Signaturely, an eSigning platform, has a useful Online Signature Maker for everyone to use for free, no registration required. Then, if users may want to keep using the platform, they can sign up, and enter into Signaturely’s free service tier.

By developing a useful tool, you can target the right leads, give them a taste of your brand, and start developing user loyalty through a pleasant experience with the tool.

4 Use PPC ads

PPC or Pay-Per-Click is another great alternative to email lists, albeit a fairly more expensive one.

Start with your target audience, their needs and interests, and the places they may encounter brands like yours. You can then use that information to create PPC ads that not only click but convert.

Once your PPC ads are ready, test them out with different variations before putting all your budget into one. Continue testing your PPC ads to ensure you’re getting the best value out of them.

Once you have enough experience with PPC ads, you can start developing ads for multiple steps in your leads’ journey.

5. Run webinars

Hosting webinars is a great way to attract relevant leads and position your brand as an authority

Hosting a webinar has never been this easy or relevant. Using tools such as Zoom and YouTube, you can host a webinar whenever you’re ready, without worrying about setting up a landing page or trying to handle the traffic.

However, since users are expecting to spend a lot of time watching webinars, you need to ensure the content is perceived as high value. Achieve this by developing webinars with a good production value, like good narration voices and animations. 

If your narrator will only be heard, they need to speak clearly, without any background noise or microphone hissing. If the host will be seen, make sure they’re properly dressed, usually with the colors of your brand. Their voices must be recorded with proper mics to ensure they’re heard correctly. Pay attention to the framing, background, and lighting, and make sure the hosts are engaging and charming.

Finally, write the script and edit the webinar with efficiency in mind. Pay attention to the pacing of the script, ensuring valuable information is consistently provided. Remove any long pauses or redundant phrases, and make sure you’re only keeping the best takes.

Webinars will not only attract relevant leads but give your brand authority amongst its competitors.

6. Create a giveaway to collect email addresses

Everybody likes free stuff. That’s why giveaways and contests are so popular. They gamify the process and create customer engagement, albeit temporarily.

Besides generating leads, you can leverage referrals with giveaways. You can construct giveaways so users can only enter by sharing them with a referral, or they can have a better chance of winning by reaching as many people as possible. Whatever the steps or requirements for participating in a giveaway, make sure they’re as clear and as easy to follow as possible.

And, remember, the more valuable the gifts from the giveaway are, the more information you can collect, and the more users will be interested in participating.

Once you have a giveaway planned, you can use social media to advertise, creating engagement with your profiles as well. Set up a branded hashtag for participants to use, and make sure to publicize the winners, along with their reward experience, when the giveaway concludes.

7. Participate in social media groups (Facebook & LinkedIn)

LinkedIn can also be used to generate addresses for your email marketing efforts.

Social media groups are a very cost-effective way of finding good leads and engaging with them. The more participation in a social media group, the more your customer engagement increases, and your reach to attract and retain leads drastically improves.

Facebook groups allow brands to find niche audiences, gathering enough information to properly reach and engage with them. You can also create your own Facebook group for users and leads to interact and support themselves within a community. These allow your brand to tap into existent communities, gathering valuable leads through helping and empowering communities with valuable tools and content. You can further your reach by using Facebook to define which users are interested in your content and target those users for their email addresses.

Your LinkedIn Company Page can also be used for generating leads. It allows you to keep other professionals engaged through your posts and is a great way of sharing your blog content and free tools. LinkedIn group discussions are another way of sharing expertise and valuable information to relevant users. Just ensure your comments are always welcome additions, bringing useful information to the conversation.

8. Syndicate your content (on platforms like HackerNews or Medium)

You can syndicate your content to larger websites looking for new content and share it as guest content on blogs that discuss similar topics.

Content Syndication is reposting content, such as a blog post, an infographic, or videos, on multiple websites. This allows those websites to provide their readers with fresh, new information and allows you to expand your reach and attract a larger audience.

To do it properly, make sure you’re following Google’s advice to avoid it being flagged as duplicate content. You can usually convey to search engines that it’s syndicate content by placing a link back to your original article and get the syndicated content to include a canonical link.

You can syndicate your content to larger websites looking for new content and share it as guest content on blogs that discuss similar topics. If your content is good enough, it will quickly get picked up by other publications.

When choosing where to publish your content, look for websites that have similar or better authority than your website. That way, you can also build strong backlinks to your site. Then, narrow the websites down by defining which readership is more similar to your buyer persona. This will ensure not only proper engagement with the content you’re promoting but can increase engagement with your brand itself.

If the website has low authority, or cannot reach audiences that fit your buyer persona, you may want to avoid the effort of syndicating your content with them.

9. Set up a co-marketing campaign

If you want to cut down on marketing costs, co-marketing campaigns can allow you to reach a larger audience and share the cost.

First, decide on how you want to carry out a marketing campaign and share the costs and profits. You should define how many partners you need and what each of you will be doing during the email campaigns. It may be a simple split of costs or sharing articles and pages from the other partners.

Then, you’ll need to find the right co-marketing partner to work with. Ideally, they should be complementary companies that share the same target audience, instead of competitors aiming to sell the same solution to the same audience. The right partners should have expertise you don’t have and must enjoy a good reputation among the community. Finally, the brand’s employees should also be easy to work with.

If you partner with other companies to create content and products, you can easily share audiences, produce high-quality content, and only pay a fraction of the cost of producing and advertising them. 

10. Optimize conversion rates on your website and blog

Offer relevant and valuable content on your blog to attract the right leads

Sometimes, even when you have good content and engagement, you end up with very low conversions on your blog. This can happen for several reasons but can easily be fixed by optimizing your content. 

Start by perfecting your audience persona. You should know exactly whom you’re trying to reach, specifying in detail what they’re like and what they’re interested in. Then, make sure you’re providing a lot of value to that audience through content aligned with user intent. Finally, link to relevant products or features of your solution.

By focusing on offering relevant and valuable content to your audience, you can ensure you’re attracting the right leads by addressing their pain points and showing them how your solution can remove them.

Everything About Buying Email Lists

Here are answers to common questions about buying an email list:

Is it legal to buy email lists?

Not exactly. Current commercial laws were defined in 2003 in the CAN-SPAM act. US law allows users to buy and rent email lists because it doesn’t require you to get recipients’ consent before contacting them.

You also need to provide your audience with clear options to unsubscribe from your list and being taken off the emailing list.

How do I buy an email list?

Email lists are usually sold by list providers. Those list providers use bots to crawl websites looking for email addresses. They may even have some level of segmentation depending on where the email came from.

Email service providers then assemble those email addresses into different email lists for you to choose and buy. They’re usually divided into demographic and psychographic information, so you can choose how many email addresses to get from a particular group of people.

How much does it cost to buy an email list?

A user-focused email list usually costs anywhere between $100 and $400 per thousand emails, while business email lists cost from $500 to thousands of dollars per thousand emails. 

Email lists are usually as expensive as the quality of information and segmentation offered to their buyers. The more targeted they are, the more expensive they’ll be.

Why should you never buy an email list?

Email lists usually lack value. They’re almost always automatically generated, instead of being opt-ins, which means the content you send will likely be unexpected and even unwelcomed. They can easily be victims of spam traps and can heavily affect your deliverability.

And since an email list is not likely to be personalized and tailored to your needs, your message must provide wide appeal to increase the chances of conversion. Plus, an email list is usually prone to being used by competitors, allowing them to fulfill the needs of those users first.

Finally, spammy behavior can create bad brand perception and may even turn away potential leads.

How often should you update your targeted email lists?

You should update your target email lists often enough to keep them interested without annoying them. That usually translates into sending emails from two to four times a month. If you’ll be having hyper-relevant content or offers, you may switch to two or even three times a week, as long as the content remains relevant, like during a sale.

Make sure to keep an eye on your campaigns, focusing especially on engagement to learn and develop a repeatable and reliable process.

How can I get targeted email lists to connect with USA prospects?

The best way to get targeted email lists is by generating them yourself according to your needs with lead generation platforms like UpLead.

UpLead allows you to specify where in the world you need your leads from, breaking it down by city and postal address along with the rest of your buyer persona so you can generate hyper-focused leads that are more likely to engage with your brand.


Buying an email list is rarely a good idea for any company that values its brand reputation and email deliverability. If you want to generate leads instead of buying an email list, you can generate your own leads with user personas similar to your buyer persona. You’ll want to find email addresses from users who are more likely to make a purchase.

Of course, all data is only valuable if it’s accurate and up to date, and most reputable email marketing services should be transparent on the quality of leads their users may generate. That’s why UpLead guarantees a 95% accuracy rate on its data. Start with UpLead today.

Start Your 7-Day Free UpLead Trial

Lead generation doesn’t have to be all that painful. With UpLead, you can easily connect with high-quality prospects and leads to grow your company.

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