Sending to Public Data Lists

Date posted: Fri, Aug 10, 12 | Author: Dan Lukens | Category: best practices, email marketing

So you've found a publically available list on the internet. It seems to be a group of individuals that would be interested in your product. It would be very easy to grab the data and send out to this list.

You're thinking, "What could go wrong? I might get some sales if I email to it!"

If you find yourself in this situation it's time to get feisty and talk back to that voice in your head. Grabbing public data and trying to send unsolicited email to the members is NOT a good idea. When that little devil on your shoulder appears, use some of the following information to fend him off.

Most email marketers know that they are only supposed to send to an "opt-in" list. Unfortunately, very few of them have a firm grasp on what opt-in really means. List brokers frequently spew out claims of lists being opt-in or even double or triple opt-in. Frankly those kinds of claims are downright silly.

The internet denizens that go out of their way to monitor and attempt to defeat SPAM have a fairly strict definition of what they considered an opt-in. At, we don't even like the word "opt-in" because it has been abused so frequently by email marketers and list brokers alike. We prefer to discuss "permission" and whether or not a list member has given you permission to send them an email. It seems a bit more clear when it is discuss in these terms.

The best way to protect the integrity of your email marketing efforts is to send only to individuals who have given you their express permission to send to them. People can give their permission in many ways including a sign-up form. Public data lists most certainly have not given you permission to send them email.

Some individuals who collect addresses will often try to get false permission by using confusing language, misleading information, and bad sign up forms.  The result is that many people accidentally sign up for a mailing list that they never wanted to be on. These unsuspecting list members will likely not remember where they gave out their email address and consider any email they get completely unsolicited SPAM. Using a list collected in this morally questionable way can only result in your email being reported as SPAM, complaints to your ISP, and general negativity directed at your brand, cause, or organization.

The point is that real permission is important to obtain, and even lists that claim to be opt-in do not have permission to send to the list members. In a public data list, the information is out there for anyone to see, but no specific permission has been given unless such permission is expressly stated. Even if such a statement did exist, it would be prudent to be skeptical.

The ease of obtaining a public data list can make them tempting, but the risks almost always outweigh the rewards. A public list will not only increase your risk of complaints, but it will always provide a much lower ROI than a list collected through proper methods and best practices. We encourage and support all of our users in their attempts to build and grow their email lists. We provide QR codes and great sign-up form tools for all users. If you are unsure of how to start building your list or want some ideas on how to increase sign-up rates, contact us! We'll be happy to discuss any issues you may be having and give you some expert advice.