Why Email Harvesting is a Poor Method for Growing Your Email List


Growing an email list for your email marketing program isn’t always a straightforward process, taking you from point A to point B. It develops organically and can sometimes meander as marketers ideate, create, and test. It takes a lot of time and effort. 

We understand that lead and revenue goals can be steep and that it might be tempting to just throw some money at a purchased list and then market to it. However, in the long run, your company will be at risk of running afoul of the law, in addition to producing inefficient, poorly performing campaigns that will cost you more money to put together than they will return.

What is email harvesting?

Email harvesting is gathering email addresses through questionable means, such as purchasing lists or scraping websites for the purpose of sending emails in bulk to the harvested lists. 

Why is it a poor method for growing your email list?

This is a poor idea for several reasons. For starters, it’s illegal. But, if that doesn’t deter you, harvesting emails and spamming the list will not deliver the results which you hoped. Since the people the addresses belong to did not consent to communicate with you, they are likely to ignore your email, trash it, or mark it as spam. 

That’s not the worst of it, though. Harvested addresses inevitably house spam traps and honeypots. If you hit one too many of these inboxes, your IP will get flagged, be blocklisted, and your sender reputation will take some serious damage.  If your IP is blocklisted, all email traffic will halt. Email delivery is crucial for any and all business operations. 

How you can grow your email list on the up-and-up:


Starting from Scratch 

If you’re starting from scratch, we wrote a blog not too long ago about email acquisition best practices.

Here are a few ways we recommend growing your email list:

  1. Gated content: Relevant content in the form of ebooks or guides that provide value by answering a common question your target buyer persona has will attract new subscribers.
  2. Email signatures: An opt-in link in each employee’s email signature is an easy way to catch low-hanging fruit. 
  3. Free tools: Free online tools, such as a checklist or SlideShare, that require an email address to access are also an easy way to acquire new email subscribers.
  4. Social Channels: Promote your gated assets or offer a sneak peek at the type of content that will be available in your weekly or monthly newsletter, encouraging folks to subscribe. 
  5. Website: Your website can be a lead generator so long as it’s optimized well. 
    1. Well-timed pop-up forms encouraging folks to subscribe can be really successful. 
    2. Keep your lead-capture forms as brief as you’re able.
    3. Include relevant calls-to-action on each page. 
    4. A/B test call to action copy to determine which is most effective on your audience.
    5. Create outstanding content, such as a blog or webinar series to attract people to your site and convert them. 
  6. Leverage Thought Leadership Partnerships: Broaden your reach by partnering with others in your industry. People don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do businesses. Network and make connections. Include guest posts in your blog strategy, and offer to guest blog on other sites that serve your target audience. Co-promote partner email newsletters. Create additional co-marketing offers as part of your blog or webinar series.  


Leveraging an Existing Contact Database

If you’re not building your email list from scratch, but are revisiting old or outdated records, the above methods can still work for you. In fact, you should absolutely use them. Email addresses collected as recently as two months ago can be considered “old.” However, you also need to do some database management. 

  1. Verify your list and flag threats: Email verification plus a threat detection service, like Webbula Email Hygiene, are crucial. Verify the contacts in your lists to determine which ones are deliverable, valid email addresses first. Then use a threat detection service, like Webbula Email Hygiene to flag which deliverable emails are reputation, fraud, or conversion threats. 
  2. Run an opt-in campaign:  To help you figure out which subscribers are still engaged with your content, run an opt-in campaign. Ask subscribers if the content you’re delivering is still relevant. Give them the option to change their email preferences. Ask them to select an email frequency and tell you which subjects or services they’d like to hear more about. 
  3. Review your segmentation strategy: Do you have buyer personas in place to help you send personalized emails based on demographic, content, or service preferences? Consider creating behavioral triggers with a marketing automation system. For example, if a subscriber visits a page on your site, send an automated follow-up email with a relevant offer or promotion. A/B test your segments to figure out which content and lead magnets are the best at converting readers into clickers and converters. 


The bottom line is that there are more effective (and legal) ways to grow your subscriber base than by harvesting emails. Like all good things, it takes a bit more effort, but you’ll find that the return from your campaigns will be well worth it in the long run.

Verify, Protect and Grow Your Database