Is email marketing still working?
Is it really worthwhile building a mailing list nowadays?
The short answer is: Yes.
Email marketing is still very much alive and kicking, and is well worth the time pursuing.
Take a look at these figures:
Facebook – the largest social media platform – currently has 1.71 billion active users.
Impressive. But not as significant as email.
Email has 2.6 billion unique users worldwide. Moreover, that number is expected to exceed 2.9 billion by the end of 2019.
Email is still the most widely used marketing channel. According to research from ExactTarget:
Email is not only alive– it’s the number one direct channel in terms of daily use and consumer preference for both personal and marketing communications.
I’d say that answers the question, wouldn’t you?
Selecting an email marketing service provider is the first step in your email marketing journey.
But if you want to maximize your email marketing campaigns, then you’ll need to start building your list. And the best way to do that in WordPress is by using an opt-in form plugin.
To help you on this step, we’ve compared three of the best list building plugins on the market so that you can build your list in the most efficient way possible.
So, if you’re ready, let’s take a look.
Thrive Leads is the complete list building plugin for WordPress. It has every type of opt-in form including Sticky Ribbon, Popup Lightbox, Slide-In, Opt-in Widget, and Screen Filler.
What we love about Thrive Leads
Thrive Leads has a well-organized dashboard area where you can create and monitor all of your opt-in forms:
- Lead Groups: Create and edit multiple opt-in forms at once, set them to appear in multiple places at once, and perform A/B testing.
- Lead Shortcodes: Create opt-in forms to be manually placed in posts or pages using shortcodes.
- ThriveBoxes: Create 2-step lightbox pop-up forms.
- Signup Segue – One Click Signup Links: Create one-click signups for existing subscribers; e.g. an email link that registers them directly to a webinar rather than directing them to a landing page to subscribe again.
Each section of the dashboard has a quick tutorial video to get you started:
And once you’ve created and deployed some forms, you’ll start to see how they’re performing:
(Note: This is a high-level view. You can drill down further into performance.)
The Lead Group lets you create the same themed form in different places on your site:
You can read more about these different types of opt-in forms and how to use each one in our Thrive Leads Review.
I love the powerful A/B Testing Engine in Thrive Leads. It’s simple to start a test, monitor the results and pick a winner.
You can test:
- Different Form Types: A lightbox popup vs. a slide-in form or a widget vs. a ribbon.
- Different Triggers: Show a popup after 3 seconds, once the visitor scrolls 50% down the page or when the visitor is about to exit your site.
- Different Design & Content: Change the headline, add a new image or switch colors.
- Different Offers: An ebook vs. a 4-day video course.
Here’s an example of a test with two different colored opt-in forms and slightly different text:
So far, the Yellow ‘control’ Form has performed better than the Blue ‘test’ form:
You can stop the test when you wish. Or you can set it to automatic and let Thrive Leads pick the winner. Either way, it’s a powerful feature.
Gone are the days when you only have one generic opt-in form for every type of visitor.
With Thrive Leads Targeting you can display unique opt-in offers that match the content your visitor is reading.
For example, you can Target:
- By Categories or Tags: Show highly relevant opt-in offers for specific categories and/or tags.
- By Post: Be even more precise and target by post. Display an opt-in offer for one or several specific posts. Or choose for the “Show on all Posts” option and exclude certain posts.
- By Page: Select any page you want to target, including your homepage, by checking the box.
- By Anything: Target by custom post type, custom taxonomy, URL, page type. Or add as many exclusions as you want. The possibilities are endless.
I love how simple this is to configure. As soon as you publish anything on your website, you can target it with a specific opt-in form. No more generic opt-ins.
Advanced trigger options
You can use the Advanced Trigger Options to display your opt-in form at the perfect time.
There are 4 different ways to serve up your opt-in form:
- Exit Trigger: Show your opt-in the moment a visitor is thinking about leaving your website.
- Time Trigger: Choose between showing your opt-in form instantly or after a certain amount of time (in seconds) has passed.
- Scroll Trigger: Choose between showing your opt-in form when a user scrolls to a specific part of the content, after passing a defined percentage of the content, or after reaching the end of your content.
- Click Trigger: Show your opt-in when a user clicks an element (like a button or link) in your content.
You can pick one or test different options to find out which works the best for your audience.
Like OptinMonster, Thrive Leads also has an excellent online support section.
The Thrive Leads Knowledge Base includes text articles with screenshots on various help topics, plus video demonstrations. (There are also online help videos in almost every tab in the Thrive dashboard on your site.)
What we don’t love about Thrive Leads
Picking fault with Thrive Leads is hard. If I were to get very picky, then I’d say that sometimes it can offer too many customization elements. Until you become familiar with the editor, you may be overwhelmed with the design options.
Thrive Leads is $97/year for standalone product or access all Thrive Themes products for $299/year with Thrive Suite membership.
Each price band includes ALL the Opt-in Form Types and Features:
Opt-in form types:
- Lightbox Overlay (Popup)
- ThriveBox 2-Step Optin
- Opt-in Widget
- In-Content Form
- Screen Filler
- Content Lock
- Multi-Step Forms
- Customizable Forms
- Conversion Focused Design
- Advanced A/B Testing
- Performance Reports
- Exit Intent & SmartExit
- Advanced Trigger Options
- Precise Targeting
Bloom is the WordPress list building plugin from Elegant Themes. It’s slightly younger than OptinMonster and Thrive Leads, but it still has plenty of features.
What we love about Bloom
I’m a big fan of the dashboards that Elegant Themes creates for all their products. And the one for Bloom is no exception.
The dashboard provides clear, easy access to your Optin Forms, Email Provider Accounts, and Statistics.
Unlike the other two plugins the statistics data includes information pulled from your email provider, like Conversion rate, Subscribers, and Subscriber Growth. It’s useful to have that information inside Bloom rather than checking separately.
Creating your Opt-in follows a natural flow:
1.Choose your opt-in from
There are six available opt-in types:
- Below post
- Locked content
2. Configure your email integration
You can connect more than one email service provider to Bloom, so this is just a case of choosing the one you want for this opt-in.
3. Design your form
Bloom has over 100 layouts to choose from, but they do look rather similar as far as style goes. All have images that can be changed out and animated, and placed in various areas of the opt-in.
Once you’ve chosen a template you can customize it as you wish.
Bloom has numerous options so that you can choose when and where to display each opt-in form on your website.
First, you decide when your opt-in form will be displayed:
- After time delay
- After inactivity
- At the bottom of post
- After scrolling %
- After a comment is made
- After a purchase (for WooCommerce)
- On click (via CSS selector)
The ‘inactivity’ and ‘after purchase’ are different types of triggers to what we’ve seen earlier. But then Bloom doesn’t offer an ‘exit-intent’ trigger like OptinMonster and Thrive Leads.
The targeting options in Bloom are excellent. You can choose to display an opt-in on your entire site, or you can decide to display it on individual posts or post types.
For example, you could target specific categories and posts:
And you can refine the targeting further by including or excluding specific pages and posts:
This extra level of refinement gives you complete control over your opt-in’s location.
Bloom, like OptinMonster and Thrive Leads, has excellent online documentation.
The plugin documentation is full of articles on everything from installation and basic settings, to overviews of each type of opt-in form you can create, to tips on creating effective pop-up triggers.
Every article has a video version and includes plenty of helpful screenshots.
What we don’t love about Bloom
Campaigns are driven by opt-in type
Like OptinMonster, Bloom drives its Opt-in campaigns by opt-in type. This seems the wrong way round to me.
No WYSIWYG editor
Bloom does not have a WYSIWYG editor like OptinMonster and Thrive Leads. You make your changes and then press a preview button to see if you have achieved the desired result.
The editing screen:
The preview screen:
It would be better to see your changes as you made them rather than having to visualize what they might look like.
Bloom is unavailable as a standalone plugin. Instead, you’ll have to join the Elegant Themes membership scheme and gain full access to all their themes and plugins.
There are two membership options:
- Developer: $89 per year
- Lifetime Access: $249 one time
Opt-in form types:
- Automatic Pop-Up
- Automatic Fly-Ins
- Inline Forms
- Below Content Forms
Widget Area Forms
Content Lock Forms
- Pre-made Templates
- Customizable Design
- Automatic Triggers
- Highly Targeted Display Settings
- A/B Testing
- Performance Dashboard
OptinMonster is not just a WordPress plugin. It’s a complete web-based app that’s available for different platforms including WordPress.
You can create and manage most things from your OptinMonster dashboard. But you’ll also need to install a WordPress plugin to connect the two websites via your unique API key.
What we love about OptinMonster
You can choose from seven types of opt-in form when you create your campaigns:
- Floating Bar
- After post / In-Line
- Full Screen
Each type of form has a selection of pre-designed forms which you can edit with drag-and-drop builder.
Several forms have themes that run across each type of opt-in form; e.g. Estate, Firm:
This helps create a consistent look and feel to the opt-in forms across your site.
Whichever type of opt-in form you create you have complete control of where and how your campaign appears to visitors.
First, you decide when the campaign should appear:
You can select more than one option from each panel to build your display rules, but all conditions will have to be met for the campaign to trigger.
For example, if you configure your campaign to load after a 5-second delay and set a 40% scroll value, then your visitors will have to be on your site for 5 seconds AND scroll the page 40% or more to trigger the campaign.
Next, you choose who will see the campaign:
Again, you can select more than one option from each panel to build your display rules.
For example: if you configure your campaign to load on pages containing the slug ‘blog’ and only after they’ve viewed 2 or more pages, then your visitors will have to view at least 2 pages on your site that contain the slug ‘blog’ to trigger the campaign.
All-in-all, this is a powerful way of controlling your opt-in campaigns.
MonsterLinks is the name of the 2-Step Opt-in technology from OptinMonster.
MonsterLinks can turn any link or image into a 2-step opt-in process. When a user clicks on the link or an image, a popup opens up asking them to subscribe.
If you’ve ever visited Backlinko, then you’ll have seen Brian Dean using MonsterLinks for his Content Upgrades. Here’s a gif from OptinMonster showing you how it looks in practice:
The concept of Content Upgrades is based on a psychology principle known as the Zeigarnik Effect, which states that those who initiate are more likely to finish the process.
When Syed Balkhi (Co-Founder of OptinMonster) used a combination of Content Upgrade + MonsterLinks he increased his conversions by 845% compared to a Generic Exit-Intent Popup:
The perfect time to catch your user’s attention is the moment right after they subscribe.
OptinMonster have created various action-specific success themes that encourage subscribers to take the next step in your funnel, such as:
- Download your lead magnet
- Watch a Video
- Like your Facebook Page
- Purchase your product
Here is an example of the Liked success theme encouraging new subscribers to Like the WP Superstars Facebook Page:
The OptinMonster support documentation is excellent. It covers every topic in detail so that you can create, install, and optimize your opt-in forms.
If you should come across a problem that you can’t find explained in the online documentation, then you can submit a support request to the team.
What we don’t love about OptinMonster
Each campaign is dictated by opt-in type
Each campaign you create is determined by your opt-in type. For example, Campaign 1 uses a Lightbox, Campaign 2 uses a Slide In.
I prefer to have a campaign that is determined by your lead magnet with multiple types of form. For example, Campaign 1 is “7 WordPress Hacks” and is created as a Lightbox, Sidebar, and Slide In. (Note: You wouldn’t want to use each opt-in form on every page. But page targeting controls that.)
With this method, when you track your campaign results you can see how well your lead magnet performed in each category.
OptinMonster has three pricing bands that vary the number of features and site licenses.
Basic: $9/month paid annually
- Unlimited Optin Forms
- A/B Split Testing
- Page Level Targeting
- User-friendly Reporting
- 1 site
Plus: $19/month paid annually
Everything in Basic, and:
- Floating Bar
- Sidebar Forms
- After Post / Inline Forms
- Content Locking
- 3 sites
Pro: $29/month paid annually
Everything in Plus, and:
- Exit-Intent Technology
- Referral Detection
- Mobile Specific Forms
- Yes / No Forms
- Slide-in Scroll Trigger Boxes
- Smart Canvas Forms
- Full Screen Takeovers
- Campaign Scheduling
- Unlimited Sites
- Priority Support
So which plugin is the best one for you to build your list? Well, that all depends on what you prefer.
Here’s a quick recap
Each plugin covers the basics of what you need to capture leads:
- Multiple types of opt-in forms
- Pre-made templates that are easy to customize
- Integration with popular email marketing platforms
- Ability to A/B Test your forms and pick a winner
However, some differences between the three could make or break your decision on which would be better for you:
- OptinMonster and Thrive Leads has the ‘Exit Intent’ Trigger.
- Bloom doesn’t.
- All three plugins have multiple triggers and targeting options.
- But each one varies the options and control levels.
- Bloom and Thrive Leads both have everything included in the price you pay.
- OptinMonster requires you to pay more to access certain features.
The biggest difference is the pricing
The one-off payment of $249 for the Elegant Themes Lifetime Access is certainly a tempting offer if you believe you’ll benefit from all their themes and plugins.
- $89 – Elegant Themes (87 Themes and 6 Plugins including Bloom)
- $299 – Thrive Suite (access to all tools, resources and plugins)
- $348 – OptinMonster (Pro package with all features included)
OptinMonster & Thrive Leads are only available as a subscription-based service, which means you’ll always have to pay a monthly or annual fee to use it.
- On the plus side, you can start with a small quarterly payment of $99 for the Basic plan, which is an affordable way of testing if it works for you.
- On the downside, it’s the highest-priced annual plugin/app, and there is no other software included in the package.
Our top pick
In our opinion, Thrive Leads offers the best value for money.
The plugin is well-designed and easy to use. Plus, it’s always evolving and is well-supported.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we may make a small commission if you make a purchase.