The Truth About Email Scraping & List-Building

You’ve got it. The next big product. The gadget that everyone needs or the service that no one should be without. You just need to find a way to tell people about it. Should you use email scraping and list-building services to quickly expand your list of prospects?

It’s tempting, to be sure. You already have a genius email marketing campaign about the new product. Once people see it, you know you’ll have them — hook, line, and sinker. Your only hurdle is getting it in front of as many people as possible. As you peruse the internet, looking for strategies on how to increase your reach, you see that you can buy names and contact information from email scraping and list-building services. Should you or shouldn't you? 

Are There Reputable Email Scraping and List-Building Services?

There are three ways to build your email lists. First, there are providers who will sell you a list based on the psychographic or demographic information you provide them (a list of people who live in Montana and purchase pet products, for example). Second, you can rent an email list. This means that you never actually see the email addresses on the list. Instead, you pay the provider to send the emails for you. Finally, you can organically build your own opt-in email list. We’ll talk more about that option later.

Most of the information on the first two kinds of lists was scraped from various websites, meaning that the people on the lists definitely have not agreed to be contacted by you or any of the other companies the list has already been sold to. They only agreed to be contacted by the original company with which they signed up.

So, to answer the question of whether there are reputable email scraping and list-building services, the answer is kind of, but not really.

Cold-Calling Via Email

Keep in mind that if you contact people using the scraped information, you’re essentially cold-emailing them. They may or may not be interested in what your organization provides. As David Spark points out in Forbes, this can lead to eye-rolling and resentment on behalf of the person being contacted. The lack of reader engagement in your emails will eventually lead to ISPs routing more and more of them into people’s junk folders.

In other words, if you’re going to contact someone with whom you have no previous contact or relationship, your pitch had better be interesting and seem genuine.

Spam on the Run

Speaking of acquiring the contact information of people with whom you have no previous relationship, it’s important to remember that people hate spam. They hate it so much that in 2003, the United States Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act outlawing unsolicited email. In 2014, Canada followed suit with CASL.

Not only is sending spam illegal, but it can also get you kicked off your web-based email provider. And it can hurt your organization’s reputation, causing clients and potential buyers to lose trust in it. Because of this, it is best to use contact information from email scraping and list-building services to personally reach out to potential customers via the telephone, one-off emails, or snail mail, rather than mass emailing people and risk running afoul of anti-spam laws.

If you’re planning to purchase an email list, there are some laws that you need to know.

Purchasing an Email List Is a GDPR Violation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European law according to which you need the consent of email subscribers to send them emails. In other words, email subscribers must opt-in to receive emails from you.

Even if your organization is not located in Europe, your email subscribers may be. Therefore, you must comply with GDPR.

The CAN-SPAM Act Prohibits Sending Unsolicited Bulk Emails

The CAN-SPAM Act is a US law that controls commercial emails. This law does not prohibit you from purchasing or selling email lists; however, it does not allow you to send unsolicited bulk emails. So, if you purchase an email list for random bulk emailing, and send out a bulk email campaign to these contacts, you’re violating the CAN-SPAM Act.

CCPA for the Protection of California-Based Residents

According to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which was brought into effect in early 2020, organizations need to accept requests from California residents to delete or opt-out of sharing their contact details.

CASL for All Electronic Messages

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation is quite similar to the CAN-SPAM Act. The only difference is that CASL is applicable to all electronic media. It is not limited to emails.

Same Emails Being Used by Different Organizations

Email list providers advertise their emails lists as:

  • Clean
  • Verified
  • Targeted
  • Opt-in
  • Real-time
  • Unique

However, the fact is that these email lists are none of these. When purchasing email lists, you don’t know how many other organizations are using the same contact details. Also, there’s no transparency about which lists the subscribers opted-in for initially.

It’s important to understand that any email can end up in a scraped email list. Email list providers gather emails from conference attendee lists, survey lists, websites that are not related to your business, old databases, and whatnot. There’s a very high chance that the email subscribers may not even be interested in your business. For instance, you may have purchased an email list comprising a list of subscribers who supposedly opted-in for cooking tips. In reality, however, the email subscribers could have signed up for gardening tips. Big difference!

Organic Isn’t Just for Food

Building your lists organically takes time, but it also means that you’ve obtained those email addresses from people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

One way to build your list organically is by using cool website tricks like scroll-triggered boxes (yes, they’re still popup windows, but they’re much less likely to be ignored since they appear approximately 70% down the page). Another option? Run contests and giveaways that people can enter by filling out a contact form.

You can also offer lead magnets to draw prospects. A lead magnet is an incentive or freebie that urges prospects to subscribe to your emailing list.

Once you build your list, don’t make one of Entrepreneur’s “8 Rookie Marketing Mistakes” and sit on them without sending out information, newsletters, and offers. People who have taken the time to sign up for your emails have shown that they're interested, so show them what you’ve got!

We’ve specialized in email marketing programs for small and midsize companies since 2003. To learn more about how to generate leads using email technology, contact us today.

This post was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.