“The money is in the list — and if you haven’t started building an email list, start now!” – That’s what we’ve been told for years, right? But when it comes to building an email list, which plugin should you use? In this post, we’ll be shedding some light on the matter by putting one of the market-leading plugins, Thrive Leads, through its paces.

The world of list building doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes, tiny, seemingly insignificant changes to an optin form can go a long way to revitalizing a business. Essentially, businesses can often be made profitable once again just by optimizing a stale optin form.

As such, the potential impact on your bottom line should not be understated. Designing a top quality optin form is a serious job — and for WordPress users, that job starts with choosing an appropriate email optin plugin.

Enter Thrive Leads, part of the impressive and increasingly popular Thrive Themes family.

Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads has quickly established itself as one of the top list-building plugins, but is the hype justified?

Let’s take a look.


Let’s kick things off with the small matter of pricing.

Unlike many premium plugins, Thrive Leads unlocks all features to all customers — there are no upsells to try to extract more cash in exchange for extra functionalities. It also charges a one-off fee, rather than a yearly renewal — another unusual pricing policy, and one that many users will appreciate.

Instead, Thrive Leads charges based on the number of sites you wish to use the plugin on.

  • Single Site ($67).
  • Unlimited Sites ($99) — must be your own websites.
  • Agency License ($588 a year) — for use on client sites.

For many, price will be a major consideration, so how do Thrive’s prices compare with those of its major competitor, OptinMonster? Well, to unlock OptinMonster’s full feature set, you’re looking at $199 a year — however, this license is valid on unlimited websites.

If you’re an individual user — or, basically, not an agency — Thrive Leads is the more affordable of the two. And that’s before we factor in the annual renewal cost savings.

Plenty of Optin Form Types

Not every webmaster wants to display in-your-face popups to visitors, right? Some prefer a more subtle approach, focusing on user experience rather than jaw-dropping conversion rates.

Where you stand on this is a personal choice. However, Thrive Themes doesn’t discriminate: The plugin supports a huge variety of optin forms, which means it caters to everyone, whatever their approach.

In total, there are eight different optin types:


Your classic popup. This form overlays your content, thus commanding maximum attention.

Thrive Leads Pop-up


A Hello Bar-style optin, anchored to the top of the screen.

Thrive Leads Ribbon


A form for widget spaces — probably works best in the sidebar, though.

Thrive Leads Widget


Slides into view in the bottom corner of the screen.

Thrive Leads Slide-in

Screen Filler Overlay:

A popup on steroids! This optin covers the entire screen, meaning it’s guaranteed to get your message across. It also comes in the scroll mat variation, which gently shoves your content out of view.

Thrive Leads Screen Filler

Post Footer:

Automatically placed below a blog posts.

Thrive Leads Post Footer

In-line Forms:

Place these within your content using simple shortcodes.

Thrive Leads In Content

Creating an Optin Form

In this section, I want to walk you through the process of building an optin form from start to finish.

To create your first optin form, navigate to Thrive Dashboard > Thrive Leads. Here, you’ll see four sections: Lead Groups, Lead Shortcodes (not sure what shortcodes are?), ThriveBoxes, and Signup Segue. You need the first one, so go ahead and click the Add New button in Lead Groups.

Thrive Leads Lead Groups

What is a Lead Group? Well, it’s the first of Thrive’s (many) useful features that we’ll be discussing today. Essentially, a Lead Group is a collection of optin forms that share a set of common rules. It can be just one form or several, and you can mix and match between different types of forms.

For example, let’s say you want to display a popup and a widget optin for posts in a certain category. Well, you can create a single Lead Group to manage that. If you want a different optin form to target a different post category, you’ll need to create a different group.

Having created your Lead Group, you’ll be able to see a list of the optin types available to you. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be creating a standard popup optin, so we need the Lightbox option.

Lead Groups

Next, click Create Form and give your form a name. On the right of the screen, press the blue Edit Design icon.

Thrive Leads Drag-and-Drop Editor

This will open the form editor. Now the fun starts! Immediately after launching, the editor will present you with a variety of templates. These are split into different tabs, but the ones you’ll need at this point are either Optin Templates or Multi-step Templates, depending on your needs.

Thrive Templates

Every optin form type comes with its own set of templates, which means you always have a basic form design to work upwards from. For popups alone, there are 32 single-step templates (with additional variations for some), and 17 with multiple steps. The designs use a wide variety of styles, and the ones I tested looked awesome — at least on par with anything else you’ll find on the market.

Having chosen your template, you can instantly begin using Thrive Leads’ page builder-style drag-and-drop functionality.

Thrive Leads Editor

Every element on the form can be customized — and in any way imaginable. All you need to do is click to see your options. For example, you can edit the text, change colors, alter font size, and adjust the padding.

Thrive Leads Customization

Now, the editor’s functionality is comprehensive, so it isn’t the most beginner-friendly UI I’ve ever experienced. In fact, I’ve used Thrive’s page builder functionality in the past, and it still took me a few minutes to get my bearings.

This isn’t a criticism, though. It isn’t an issue of a poorly designed interface, but simply one of complexity. A powerful builder with a wide array of features will inevitably require some time to get to grips with.

To the right of the screen, you’ll see the elements available to you — there are 38 elements to choose from, and many of them come with numerous styling options. These elements let you add lots of cool features to your optin forms, such as credit card icons, countdown timers, and feature grids.

Thrive Leads Editor Modules

Just drag and drop them into place, play around with the settings, and, when you’re done, hit Save Changes.

Settings and Triggers

When you’re finished, close the editor and head back to the WordPress dashboard. Before we finish, there are a few more settings to tweak.

First, the popup trigger. This lets you pick when the popup appears to visitors, with seven options available:

  • Immediate.
  • Specified time delay.
  • At a specific point in the content.
  • After scrolling a fixed percentage of the page.
  • When an element is clicked.
  • At the bottom of the page.
  • When the visitor shows exit intent — this is when their mouse cursor leaves the main browser window.

Thrive Leads Triggers

To avoid overloading your visitors — remember: popups are intrusive — you can also configure how frequently the popups are displayed. You can set this anywhere between once every day and every 100 days. You can also set it to zero which will display the popup on every visit.

The final setting is for animations, with 22 to choose from.

In addition to these extra settings, this screen also functions as a brief analytics page. You can view a snapshot of each form’s performance — impressions, conversions, and conversion rate.

Targeting Optin Forms

Thrive Leads is equipped with a powerful and laser-focused targeting feature, which enables you to create forms tailored to the content on individual pages. By speaking directly to the specific audience visiting each page, you’ll generate more conversions.

To access the targeting feature, head back to the Thrive Leads overview page — Thrive Dashboard > Thrive Leads. To the right of your newly created group, you’ll see a cog icon — if you haven’t configured the targeting before, it will be bright red. Click this to open the targeting options.

Now you’ll be able to choose exactly which pages you want the optin form to appear on. There are eight tabs in total, but most configurations will be completed using six.

  • Basic Settings — top-level selections, such as the homepage, search page, 404 error page, or all posts/pages.
  • Categories — display the optin based on the category or tags.
  • Posts — select specific posts on which to display the form.
  • Pages — select specific pages on which to display the form.
  • Page templates — some themes support a selection of page templates. If your theme is one that does, you can choose to display optins based on which page template a post is using.
  • Post types — do you want your popup appearing on all posts, pages, or custom post types? For example, if you run an ecommerce store, you may want to display the popup on product pages.

Thrive Leads Targeting

If there are exceptions to the rule, you can single them out directly below. You can also choose to save your settings as a template so they can be reused with a single click in future. When you’re done, don’t forget to click Save & Close.

A/B Testing

As any optimization specialist will tell you, A/B testing is an essential part of maximizing conversions. And, like all good conversion-focused WordPress plugins, Thrive Leads ships with powerful A/B testing features.

You can run split tests on any optin form. On any form overview page, the purple icon will clone your form, and you can use the drag-and-drop editor to make cosmetic tweaks to the form.

To begin the split test, click the Start A/B Test button. Give it a name and a brief description. If you want the plugin to pick an automatic winner, click the drop-down button, then click the Enabled checkbox.

Thrive Leads Split testing

The plugin will determine the winner based on three criteria:

  • Minimum number of conversions.
  • Minimum duration.
  • Chance to beat original (CTBO) — this is easily the most important figure. CTBO tells us if there is a statistical significance to the results, and the higher this number, the better, as it reduces the impact of chance on results.

This is, of course, useful functionality for any optin plugin to possess — and all the best ones do. However, Thrive Leads stands out from the crowd with one unique A/B testing feature.

A/B Test Form Types

One of Thrive Leads’ best features is the ability to pit different types of forms against each other in split tests. For example, rather than analyzing the impact of headline tweaks, you can test whether, say, a popup form crushes the conversion rate of a slide-in.

This cool and innovative feature is accessed by navigating back to your Lead Groups, then clicking the Test Types of Forms Against Each Other button at the bottom.

Thrive Leads Split testing form types

Now you can pick which types of forms you wish to include in your split test, and you can let Thrive Leads determine the winner using the same three criteria as before.

Integrate with Any Email Marketing Service

Of course, before we can begin building an email list, we need to integrate an auto-responder service, otherwise we have nowhere to store the email addresses we collect.

Fortunately, Thrive Leads is compatible with an impressive 19 email marketing services — this figure covers all the major players, including Aweber and MailChimp. After adding your autoresponder’s API code — Thrive Dashboards > API Connections > Manage Connections > Add New Connection — you need to connect individual forms.

This isn’t the most immediately obvious process, though. It requires you to open the editor again, then click on the empty email field to bring up the list of options. Select Connect with Service, and choose from your existing connections.

Thrive Leads autoresponder

Job done.

Two-step Optin Forms

The two-step Optin Forms are one of Thrive Leads’ most innovative features — don’t confuse them with the multi-step optin templates, though.

Usually, it’s the site owner who dictates when a visitor sees the optin form, right? We use the likes of exit intent as triggers for when our popups appear on the screen.

Thrive Leads’ two-step optins flip this on its head: Instead, the visitor chooses when they see the popup. This changes the dynamic and makes them more likely to hand over their email address — or, on the flipside, if they choose not to open the popup, you haven’t intruded on their visit in the slightest.

To create a two-step optin, you need to go to the ThriveBoxes section of the Thrive Leads screen. You build the popup optin form using the same drag-and-drop editor that we used before (you’ll also get the same collection of templates to pick from).

The only difference is that this type of form doesn’t require a trigger — the button is the trigger.

Having created your form, the plugin will provide you with a shortcode to place within your content that looks something like this:

[thrive_2step id=’10’]Trigger goes here[/thrive_2step]

Simply swap the ‘Trigger goes here’ text with the text you want to appear in your button, then copy and paste it into the WordPress text editor.

Other Features

Before we finish, here’s a quick rundown of several more of Thrive Leads’ useful features:

  • SmartLinks — if you’ve already landed a conversion, what good is showing the same optin form? You can’t convert twice, after all. Thrive Leads’ SmartLinks feature addresses this problem by hiding the optin form for existing subscribers.
  • Analytics — Thrive Leads also boasts easy-to-digest conversion reports. You can track the performance of individual forms over custom timeframes.
  • Lazy Load — worried about load times? Thrive Leads’ lazy loading functionality means your optin form is only loaded as and when required — e.g. just before the visitor scrolls it into view.

The Verdict

Overall, Thrive Leads is an excellent plugin with a comprehensive and innovative feature set. Users are spoilt for choice when it comes to optin form types, plus there’s a huge collection of great-looking templates to get you up and running.

The form editing functionality is also top notch. The editor ships with an impressive number of modules, letting you add complex, eye-catching functionality to your forms.

The editor is a little daunting to use at first glance, but that’s to be expected because of the sheer quantity of options available. However, once you get to grips with the editor, you’ll realize it’s very well designed and intuitive to use, plus it gives you complete control over every part of your forms — right down to the tiniest details.

To help maximize conversions, the plugin is also equipped with powerful A/B testing and targeting functionality. This lets you narrow down who sees your forms, and helps you to continuously improve your conversion rates.

The plugin also bundles in some unique functionality for good measure — this proves that the developers have gone to great lengths to understand the needs of marketers, and are also willing to pioneer new features. Most notably, this refers to the two-step optin forms, which let you create visitor-triggered forms.

Along with the likes of Bloom (by Elegant Themes) and OptinMonster (both of which we’ve compared and contrasted in-depth in a previous article here on WinningWP), Thrive Leads is, without doubt, one of the very best plugins on the market!

Using Thrive Leads? Thoughts?


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