Here’s the deal:
You need to build an email list.
The larger and more engaged your email list is – the faster your website will grow, and the more money you’ll make.
But, the old solutions of just using any old opt-in form that came with our email provider aren’t enough.
We need to deploy opt-in forms in more locations on our websites, use page level targeting, add content upgrades, trigger forms based on user behavior, run split tests to boost conversions and leverage other cutting-edge tactics.
Here’s the good news:
All of this (and more) is possible with the WordPress list building plugins I’m about to show you.
I’ve tested countless plugins over the years and spent plenty of cash. I’ve found hidden gems, and I’ve wasted money on tools that faded into obscurity. In this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned.
My goal is to help you find the perfect list building plugin. A plugin that’ll do what you need it to do now, and will do what you’ll need it to do as your site continues to grow. So you can sit back and watch your email list grow like wildfire.
First I’ll run through the list of plugins, then I’ll show you a comparison where we look at which plugins fit into certain scenarios best (if you’re pushed for time, click here to scroll to the comparison section).
Let’s dive in:
Top list building plugins for WordPress
Thrive Leads – Top Pick
Thrive Leads is without a doubt, the most impressive list building plugin on the market right now.
The plugin comes with every feature you’ll need to rapidly grow your list of email subscribers.
You get the ability to add a variety of opt-in form types covering everything from popovers and scroll boxes.
Each opt-in form type has a great selection of templates and you can use the drag & drop editor to customize them to look exactly how you want them to.
You can create as many opt-in forms as you like and select which pages/categories/tags you’d like to display them on.
Thrive Leads handles split testing in a unique way. Instead of just being able to split test forms against each other, you can split test different opt-in form types against each other.
For example, will a ribbon or a scroll box convert best? You can find out. You can also run split tests to find out which type of form triggers convert best.
Reporting is insightful and comprehensive. You get a general snapshot overview of your progress, but you can then dig into a variety of reports. I particularly like the “content marketing report” which shows me which posts/pages are converting best.
Latest features and updates:
- Smart Links – This feature allows you to show a different call to action to your existing subscribers. Now they’ve signed up; you could display a link to a product or something else.
- Digital Asset Delivery – Have you ever wanted an easy way to send your new subscribers a PDF or free download for signing up? Thrive Leads will do that too!
- Content upgrade templates – The content upgrade strategy will deliver impressive conversions. Thrive Leads has their own set of templates that make them easy to setup.
- Content locking – If you want to hide premium content behind an opt-in form, you can now do this in Thrive Leads too.
- 50 + Opt-in form templates.
- Drag and drop editor makes for easy form customization.
- Add opt-in forms to key locations on your blog.
- Various popover triggers such as Exit Intent.
- Advanced opt-in form targeting options.
- Advanced split testing functionality.
- Actionable reporting/statistics.
- Supports any email provider that uses HTML forms.
- API integrations for all popular email providers (they add new ones every so often).
- Supports 2 step opt-in forms.
- Supports shortcode placement.
- Supports multiple form fields, radio forms, check boxes and drop downs.
Price: $67 (includes one year of support and lifetime updates – awesome!).
Bloom is a full-featured list building plugin for WordPress, created by the team at Elegant Themes.
You can use this plugin to add various opt-in form types such as popovers, fly-ins, below post, inline and widgets.
You can also use it as a content locking plugin, where your readers can enter their email address into a form within your content, to reveal premium content such as a free download.
You don’t get a visual editor like you do with Thrive Leads, it’s more of a list of settings to work through – you can then use the preview button and the form will appear on the screen.
Bloom doesn’t have the exit intent trigger, but it does have plenty of other triggers for popovers/fly-in forms.
I particularly like that you can choose to trigger popovers after inactivity and after a comment – these types of triggers are rarely found in other plugins.
There are a lot of templates to choose from, but a lot of them aren’t unique designs, they just have different colors. Still, there are plenty for you to get started with and they look great.
- Multiple opt-in form types – popover, fly-in, below post, inline, locked content and widget.
- Multiple form triggers for popovers/fly-ins – time delay, activity, after comment, % scroll, on click and more.
- Large number of integrations with email providers (including custom HTML for any not integrated via API).
- Large selection of templates.
- Page level targeting.
- Content locking feature.
- Import/export plugin features.
- Basic reporting functionality.
Price: $89/year (membership includes access to a social sharing plugin, lots of themes and more)
OptinMonster started it’s life as a WordPress plugin, and is now a cloud-based app.
This means that all your opt-in forms will be managed from a central location – giving you a great over view.
You can edit forms, deploy new ones, start split tests and monitor your progress, all from within the app.
This is great if you run multiple WordPress sites, you can focus on improving conversions without diving into a bunch of different sites.
And the added benefit is that you can now use OptinMonster on any HTML based website, not just WordPress.
The guys behind this plugin really know what they are doing – Syed Balkhi (founder of WP Beginner) and Thomas Griffin (creator of the Soliloquy slider plugin) have put together a great list building tool that integrates perfectly with WordPress.
A large range of opt-in form types are supported and you can do basic customization from within an easy-to-use editor.
Latest features and updates:
- Yes/no feature – Instead of displaying an opt-in form, you can display yes/no style buttons. You can choose to link the yes button to a landing page or an opt-in form.
- Advanced display rules – These are what allow you to choose when and how to display your opt-in forms. You can display them globally, when clicked on a link or even based on whether someone opts into a campaign or not. This just scratches the surface, a lot of complex automation is possible thanks to these display rules.
- Content locking – Great news, you can now use OptinMonster as a content locker. Whereby you hide premium content behind an opt-in form, it’s then revealed once someone enters their email address.
- Dynamic text replacement – This allows you to personalize opt-in forms based on certain variables such as URL queries and cookies. Not so straight forward to implement if you’re a beginner, but VERY powerful.
- Multiple opt-in form types including; popover, slide-in, sidebar, after post, canvas, mobile only popover and footer (only popover included on basic plan).
- Great selection of templates.
- Exit intent feature.
- Easy to customize.
- Supports multiple email marketing platforms and autoresponders.
- Ability to add custom CSS.
- Support for shortcode placement.
- Page level targeting.
- A/B split testing.
Price: Starts from $19/month, (or $9/month when paid annually) with additional plans to unlock more features
Popup Domination supports just one type of opt-in form – popovers (or popups).
That being said, this list building plugin does the job incredibly well.
The great thing about Popup Domination is that you can either install it as a WordPress plugin, or install to any website with the standalone version.
With this plugin you will get one year of support but unlimited updates.
The only downside to this plugin is that their popovers aren’t mobile responsive.
- 24 design templates.
- Comes as WordPress plugin or standalone software.
- Easy customization.
- Supports all major email marketing platforms.
- Built in analytics.
- A/B split testing.
- Forced subscription to protect content.
- Page level targeting.
- Exit intent.
Thrive Landing Pages
Thrive Landing Pages is an impressive plugin – it makes it easy for you to create high converting landing pages, without any of the hassle.
You can use it to create course pages, webinar pages, opt-in form pages, sales pages and anything else you can think of.
You get a full drag & drop page builder so you can customize your pages to your hearts content.
What I love about this plugin is how the templates are designed.
With most of these sorts of tools, you tend to get beautiful landing page templates all designed in isolation – so when you come to create a sales funnel and you want a thank you page, confirmation page and an opt-in form page, they all look different.
Thrive has done this right – they design most of their templates in sets so they fit together and make sense for people going through your funnel. And they’re themed, so there are a few specific sets that are designed for podcasters, course creators, webinar hosts and more.
And while there will be a learning curve as you get used to the editor, its lightweight and doesn’t feel clunky.
Finally, you should know that Thrive Landing Pages is developed by the same team behind Thrive Leads – this means both plugins are designed to integrate well together. For example, inside your landing pages, you can add Thrive Leads opt-in forms to take advantage of its reporting/testing features.
Thrive Template Cloud:
The plugin comes pre-loaded with a large selection of templates, but now you also get the option to download extra ones free of charge.
Aside from a new template set, they’ve included templates designed specifically for local businesses operating in sectors such as; beauty, automotive, construction, finance, real estate, food and medical.
- 150+ templates, most of which are designed in sets for consistent branding.
- Plenty of conversion focused elements – buttons, forms etc.
- Integrations for all popular email providers & custom HTML for any that aren’t supported.
- Create custom page layouts inside your theme.
- Undo and redo functionality.
- 2 step opt-in forms.
- Drag & drop page builder.
- Mobile responsive templates.
- Import/export functionality.
Let me start off by saying that while Leadpages comes with a WordPress plugin, you are getting an entire platform from which to build your list.
The plugin is just part of it.
Leadpages will help you grow your list by doing the following:
- Allowing you to create high converting landing pages within minutes.
- Create your own 2-step opt-ins with LeadBoxes. These allow you to turn any link on any website into a link that displays a popover when clicked (can increase conversion rates by 30%).
- Generate a ‘LeadLink’ which allows subscribers to join your list, sub-list or subscribe to a webinar with a single click.
Due to Leadpages being a platform, you can create landing pages to build your list, without them being hosted on your blog at all. So, if you need a temporary landing page for an event that doesn’t need to be on your blog – it doesn’t have to be.
And you can manage landing pages across multiple domains from a single dashboard.
Latest features and updates:
By far, the most significant update to Leadpages has been their drag & drop builder.
Their standard page builder was fairly limited – if the template had one box for a video, you couldn’t turn it into a text box, or add a button below it.
But now, you can customize your landing pages to get the exact layout you want.
- 70+ Landing page templates (sortable by conversion rate).
- Unlimited landing pages.
- Unlimited domains.
- Unlimited traffic.
- Mobile responsive templates.
- Built-in split testing.
- Built-in analytics.
- WordPress plugin.
- Complete hosting of your landing pages.
- Digital asset delivery.
- Supports all major mailing list providers.
- Incredible support.
We previously talked a bit about how Leadpages can help you create high converting landing pages.
OptimizePress is a solid alternative – it’s a plugin rather than a platform so everything is controlled from your site.
This plugin has a drag and drop page editor that allows you to customize your landing pages and make them look exactly how you want them to.
With Optimize Press you have full control over your content and an impressive array of features.
I love how the editor works in terms of functionality and the number of elements you can add to pages, but despite the plugin making a lot of improvements – the editor still feels a little clunky.
- Over 30 themes to choose from.
- Over 40 page elements to utilize.
- Comes with theme and plugin versions.
- Comes with a membership plugin (could save you $100-$300).
- Create sales pages.
- Create landing pages.
- Create launch funnels.
- Create membership portals.
- Mobile optimized.
- Overlay optimizer (2 step opt-in).
- Works with all email marketing platforms.
- Works with major membership systems like Wishlist, DAP, MemberMouse etc.
Plugmatter – Feature Box
Feature Boxes are an incredible way to build your list.
Plenty of list building experts all over the web have cited that they get incredible conversions when using these.
The problem has always been that there was never a decent plugin for adding them.
Then along came the Feature Box plugin from Plugmatter.
This plugin provides a straight forward way to add feature boxes, and comes loaded with other features such as split testing.
You will need to change some coding on your website, as certain theme frameworks handle headers a little differently. But, you get step-by-step documentation to help you along the way.
- A/B split testing.
- Page level targeting.
- Target returning users.
- 6+ premium templates.
- Support for multiple email providers.
- Ability to turn off for existing subscribers.
Optin Panda is designed specifically as a content locking plugin.
This means you can add an opt-in form to your content, and when someone subscribes, they’ll be able to view the content that’s hidden behind it.
You have the option to allow your readers to access the premium content by signing into a social network instead of entering their email list.
You can integrate with a variety of email providers, but leads are saved directly to WordPress for you to export.
Optin Panda also gives you the option to cut the locked content from a pages source code – this means that the locker can’t be bypassed if someone views the source code.
- 3 different design styles for content lockers.
- Supports most popular email providers.
- Saves leads in WordPress so you can export and import into another email provider at any time.
- Subscribe via social networks option.
- Content inside the locker can be hidden entirely or blurred out.
- Customize how the locker behaves – add a close icon, timer interval, cut locked content from source code etc.
- Unlimited custom fields.
- Built-in reporting.
WP Subscribe is a lightweight opt-in form plugin for WordPress.
It’s free, and designed to be as simple as possible.
Just install & activate, then head to your widgets page and add the widget to whichever widget area you like.
Then enter your details for one of the email providers – currently MailChimp, AWeber and Feedburner are supported.
You can then customize the text used in the opt-in form by clicking the “Labels” option.
On the downside, you don’t get the option to customize color, so you’d have to dig into CSS for that. But, it provides an easy (and free) way to get a basic opt-in form loaded on your site.
Alternatively, you can upgrade to the pro version for $27. This will give you the ability to change colors, add exit intent popovers and more.
- Customizable text.
- Can be added to multiple widget areas.
- Supports MailChimp, AWeber and Feedburner.
- Mobile responsive.
- Color customization (Pro only).
- Support for GetResponse (Pro only).
- Shortcode placement (Pro only).
- Display popovers using triggers such as exit intent (Pro only).
- Page level targeting (Pro only).
Price: Free (unlock more features with pro version for $27)
The reality about email marketing plugins
I’ve tested countless mailing list plugins.
And that includes the free ones.
There are some lessons that I have learned the hard way.
- Most free list building plugins cost more in the long run – some require you to purchase add-ons that push the cost above a premium plugin, they lack important features or provide little to no support. All meaning that you end up wasting time and money when you didn’t have to.
- Customization options are important – this is more of a personal preference.
- Using a different plugin for each type of opt-in form you want to add (e.g. popovers, sidebar widgets etc) limits the amount of data you have available to make decisions. And it can over complicate an otherwise straight forward setup.
How to pick the perfect list building plugin for you
Depending on your specific needs, certain mailing list plugins may be more suitable than others.
It’s important to understand exactly what you want to accomplish.
Not only that, but it’s worth considering what you might need in the future – it’s easy to just throw any email plugin on your site when you first get started, but chances are you’ll need something more heavy duty in the near future.
… And switching over means you’ll lose historical data, as well as cost you more time in the long run.
Below I’ve put together a series of scenarios where certain plugins will be more favorable than others.
My aim is to provide a comparison based around what your objectives may be.
Let’s take a look:
The complete list building combo
We need to be able to add opt-in forms to a variety of locations on our websites, and we need to be able to deploy landing pages.
Thrive Leads is my go-to list building plugin for WordPress right now. And there are a few reasons why; best feature set, value for money and regular updates. It has everything we need.
Thrive Landing Pages allows me to create all sorts of landing pages and customize them how I want. The templates are designed in sets so they match from a design stand point, so that you can create sales funnels that don’t feel disjointed.
Since this plugin comes with Thrive’s Content Builder – I can create custom page layouts within the confines of my theme.
The best part is that these two plugins are designed to work together without conflicting, and doing so opens up additional features (such as using Thrive Leads forms inside landing pages).
It’s true, I also use Leadpages when I need to roll out landing pages quickly (and I’m not too worried about design consistency), but it’s expensive, so you have to be able to justify the cost.
Want the most value for money? Try one of these:
Considering the impressive amount of features, you get with Thrive Leads – you definitely get value for money.
But, the best value comes from their membership plan. You get access to Thrive Leads, Thrive Landing Pages, a few other plugins and all of their themes. Membership pricing starts from $19/month (paid annually) – click here to learn more.
Another great option to give you plenty of bang for your buck is Bloom.
It’s $89/year (or $249 one-time fee) but you don’t just get that one plugin.
You also get access to a page builder plugin, social sharing plugin and a boat load of themes including Divi, Elegant Theme’s flagship theme. Learn more.
Want to use the content upgrade strategy? Use one of these:
The idea is that you add a call to action within your content – when a link is clicked, a popover appears so readers can sign up to receive a post-specific bonus such as a free guide. They don’t have to be unique for each post you publish, you can create several guides, then add content upgrades to relevant posts (I break mine into categories).
OptinMonster and Leadpages have this capability, but I particularly like how easy it is to do with Thrive Leads. They have content upgrade style templates, so you just create a two-step form and add the shortcode to your post. No messing around.
What about creating landing pages such as squeeze pages, webinar pages etc.?
Leadpages is great if you’re running campaigns across multiple domains – you can upload pages to any of your sites or use a Leadpages URL if you prefer. Their page builder (and their new drag & drop builder) are both straight forward to use.
Leadpages is a SaaS app so comes in at a higher price point, although you can definitely justify its cost if you have a good sales funnel.
Another great feature of Leadpages is split testing which is critical if you want to improve conversions.
Then there’s OptimizePress – it’s a landing page creation power house that comes with a basic membership plugin. But, the editor, while feature packed, feels clunky and on the slow side.
Thrive Landing Pages is my favorite here as it comes with templates designed in sets. The editor is fast, and high levels of customization are possible.
What about cutting edge features?
Bloom has a few triggers that are particularly unique – for example, you can trigger popovers to appear after someone has been inactive for a while, after a comment or after a purchase.
Thrive Leads has some seriously stand-out features. You get digital asset delivery and content upgrade templates. But the most ground-breaking feature has got to be “smart links” – this allows you to display different offers to your existing subscribers.
Now, what if you’re looking for extremely advanced automation capabilities? OptinMonster is a good contender here because of it’s display rules. You can display a popover based on how someone interacted with a particular campaign.
These features go so deep that you can also decide which forms appear when a visitor has a specific cookie stored in their browser.
Will you need to manage opt-in forms across multiple sites?
If you manage a lot of different websites, it can help to have a central platform to manage, deploy, test and monitor your opt-in forms from.
Leadpages is a solid option here. You get the landing page functionality, split testing and a few other features. One of them is called “LeadBoxes” – you can use these to deploy exit intent (or timed) popovers. If you require sidebar opt-in forms you could use images that trigger a LeadBox to open when clicked.
OptinMonster is the other option here, it doesn’t have the landing page functionality but it covers a wide selection of opt-in form types and has an impressive set of display rules.
Want a quick (and free) plugin for adding an opt-in form to your sidebar?
WP Subscribe is a great option but only supports AWeber, MailChimp and Feedburner.
There’s a pro version of the plugin that adds GetResponse integration, color customization, popovers and a few other features.
Your chance to get more email subscribers starts here
With the mailing list plugins listed above, you will be able to make it incredibly easy for your readers to subscribe to your list.
Not only that, but you’ll be able to take advantage of cutting-edge features and strategies that will massively increase your email sign up conversions.
So now, it’s time to get started – pick out a plugin and start building your email list like wildfire
You will be glad you did.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might receive a commission if you make a purchase. My opinions are my own and I only recommend plugins that I believe will genuinely help you.