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What Makes a Good or Bad Email List?

Here’s a quick refresher on what we consider a good and bad email list. This information has been compiled from both our experience and user questions.
Feel free to use this post as a guideline, but we recommend you read our Terms of Service for more comprehensive details.

What Makes a Good List?

A good list is one made up of email addresses from people who’ve asked, and expect you to email them. For example:

  • People who signed up on your website by using a widget.
  • People who physically signed up for your list.
  • Customers who have asked to receive emails while making a purchase.
  • Your own internal employee list.
  • Members of the press who have opted in to receive emails.
  • If you are a marketing agency, sending to contacts on behalf of a client whose list meets opt-in criteria.
  • A fresh list that you’ve emailed in the last six months.

What Makes a Bad List?

A bad list is one made up of email addresses from people who have NOT asked, and do not expect you to email them. For example:

  • Any list you’ve paid for or rented from a third party.
  • A stale list that you haven’t emailed in the last six months.
  • Chamber of Commerce or business group lists.
  • An address book dump from Outlook or Salesforce (this may seem like the natural thing to do when you create your account, but there is no way to distinguish those who’ve opted in to receive emails from those who haven’t).
  • Any email addresses taken from websites or databases. This includes but is not limited to social media sites, public databases, university or educational listings, or real estate databases.
  • Any email addresses belonging to people who haven’t asked to receive emails from you, no matter how much you think they want to hear from you.
  • Email addresses collected from Facebook profiles when users log into your app via Facebook. Logging in this way does not mean they have opted in to receive emails from you.
  • Emails collected from business cards left in a fishbowl — unless of course you stated on said fishbowl that you would be sending them emails if they put their card in.
  • Press releases to members of the media who did not opt in to receive your emails.

If you are looking for more general information on when and when not to send email campaigns, check out Seth Godin’s email checklist.