Building an email list is one of the most important things you can do for your online business. Why? Because it gives you direct access to an audience that’s genuinely interested in what you do; an audience that, by signing up for your newsletter, has already shown their willingness to continue to listen to what you have to offer.
How do you build this valuable list? Well, it all starts with collecting the email addresses of folk who visit your website (with permission!). Unfortunately, this is a tricky business, because we now live in a world where it’s harder than ever to catch someone’s attention.
As marketers (read: Business owners, entrepreneurs, leaders) we need to try to grab — and hold — as much of our visitors’ attention as we can. However (and here’s the hard bit), not only must we attract their attention, but we must also persuade them that whatever we have to say/offer is worth listening to/receiving.
Active and Passive Lead Generation
Traditionally, marketers place the subscription box in the website’s sidebar, footer or sometimes even within an article itself (usually somewhere in the middle). Such methods are mostly passive ways of collecting emails. That is to say, they don’t prevent the visitor from continuing whatever it is they’re doing on the site, such as reading an article or simply browsing.
However, when newsletter popups arrived (the kind you occasionally see ‘pop up’ in the middle of the screen) — the game changed. Popups are active ways of collecting emails, whereby people have to literally stop what they’re doing and either (a) subscribe, or (b) close the popup.
Many marketers took this newfound power for granted, and bombarded their visitors with popups as soon as they arrived on the site — often before they’d even gotten to know what the website was about!
This, naturally, created a LOT of frustration.
The first rule for a new (or any) website should be: Don’t ask for an email address upfront.
Instead, you need to first show value, i.e. give something to the user (such as great content!), and then ask for something in return — in this case, their email address.
The term ‘showing value’ depends on your website’s domain. ‘Value’ may be a great article, free reports with great visualizations, ebooks, guides, resources Photoshop files, icons, images, audio samples, video effects — the list is endless.
Once a visitor has benefited from your content — he/she will then be naturally more inclined to share his or her email address with your business.
But how do you collect these emails? Below, we’ve pulled together the top 14 WordPress plugins for doing exactly that, in our list of the best newsletter plugins for WordPress.
Listed in no particular order:
OptinMonster ($9-plus a month)
No newsletter plugin list is complete without mentioning OptinMonster. Founded in 2013, this plugin has become one of the best-selling newsletter plugins of all time, and is now used by more than 700,000 websites. Though OptinMonster has morphed into a platform-independent SaaS, it still maintains a dedicated WordPress integration plugin.
OptinMonster comes with a variety of customization features, such as Exit Intent technology, multiple form types, A/B split testing and more.
It makes designing highly converting forms a breeze — from the full-featured form designer to amazing animations from MonsterEffects. It is, in fact, a plugin we’ve already gone to some lengths to review in a previous article: OptinMonster Reviewed.
Bloom by Elegant Themes ($89-plus a year)
Elegant Themes is one of the most popular WordPress developers out there, thanks to their popular Divi theme. But, beyond Divi, Elegant Themes also offers an array of helpful plugins — notably, Bloom.
Bloom is a beautifully designed newsletter plugin with more than a hundred templates and 19 integrations with popular email marketing tools.
It supports six different popup form types: Popups, fly-ins, widget area, in-line with content, below content and content lockers. And you also get unique trigger options, such as the ability to display an opt-in form after a visitor leaves a comment.
Check out our in-depth Bloom review for more information. Plans start from $89 a year, which includes access to all of Elegant Themes’ products, including Divi.
And finally, should you find yourself struggling to decide between OptinMonster (above) and Bloom, here’s another handy article of ours you may be interested in: Bloom vs OptinMonster: Which is the Better Email Optin Form Plugin?
Newsletter (Free or $65)
Newsletter is one of the best free newsletter plugins available for WordPress — currently active on more than 300,000 WordPress sites, according to WordPress.org. This plugin lets you have unlimited subscribers and send unlimited emails.
Here are the plugin’s most exciting features:
- Feature-rich drag-and-drop responsive email composer — which you can use to craft beautiful mobile-ready newsletters.
- Double opt-in subscriptions — thereby making sure you abide by EU anti-spam laws.
- Email tracking with advanced statistics — so you know who’s opening your emails.
- Easy segmentation to target your campaigns — so you can target specific groups of people on your list.
- SMTP support — to make sure your emails make it to visitors’ inboxes.
While Newsletter can send emails right from your WordPress server, I’d recommend taking advantage of its SMTP server integration feature to ensure better deliverability (Mailgun is a good free SMTP service).
In addition to some free add-ons, there are also a number of premium add-ons that tack on support for WooCommerce, autoresponders, analytics and more.
Access to all of the premium add-ons starts at $65.
MailPoet (Free or $15-plus a month)
MailPoet is an all-in-one newsletter plugin that helps you to grow your email list and send emails to your subscribers right from your WordPress dashboard.
MailPoet has more than 300,000 active installs across its different versions, and comes with ready-to-use email templates to kickstart your email marketing campaigns. These free templates include welcome emails, newsletters and new post updates, all of which support marketing automation.
You can either have MailPoet use your WordPress site’s server to send emails (bad deliverability). Or, you can also take advantage of MailPoet’s own sending service, or use a third-party SMTP server for better deliverability. If you use MailPoet’s sending service, you can email up to a thousand subscribers a month for free (after that you’ll need to pay).
MailPoet Premium offers advanced analytics, segmentation capabilities (based on email activity such as opens, link clicks and so on) and advanced integration with WooCommerce transactional emails.
You can either get MailPoet Premium as part of the sending service (starting at $15 a month). Or, you can purchase the standalone premium plugin for $149 and connect it to your own sending service. Again, Mailgun is a good option there.
Icegram (Free or $97 a year)
The developers of Icegram describe their product with the tagline ‘grow subscribers, increase conversions and engage visitors’. After looking at the feature list, that’s a pretty good description.
Icegram has a limited free version at WordPress.org — but it’s just that, limited. It’s good in a pinch and it lets you create welcome bars, opt-ins, and lead gen forms, but it lacks a drag-and-drop builder, and there are better free options out there.
However, the premium version changes things, offering support for 12 different CTA types, tons of trigger and targeting rules, and a built-in analytics and split testing tool.
So, if you’re willing to pay, Icegram definitely deserves a spot on this list.
The paid version starts at $97 a year.
Thrive Leads ($67-plus)
Thrive Themes is one of the most highly reputed WordPress developers on the market — and it’s damn good at its job. Thrive Themes includes a number of plugins to help you to grow your email efforts, but Thrive Leads is its most focused offering.
Thrive Leads has a host of helpful features built into the plugin:
- It has ten (yes, you read that right) different types of opt-in forms, including content locker, sticky ribbon, full-screen filler, scroll mat and multiple-choice forms.
- You can build your opt-in forms with drag-and-drop in a powerful visual editor.
- Trigger options include time, exit-intent, scroll depth and click.
- You can target specific people in your website based on post, page, tag, category, URLs and even custom post types!
- You get built-in A/B testing and analytics to analyze and improve your efforts.
Starting at $67 for a single site license, Thrive Leads is an excellent plugin for those who are ready to take their email marketing to the next level. Or, you can also get it as part of the $19-a-month Thrive Themes Membership, which gets you access to all of Thrive Themes’ products. Learn more in our Thrive Themes review.
For more info on Thrive Leads, take a look at another of our one-off in-depth reviews.
MailOptin (Free or $79)
MailOptin is another plugin for creating various newsletter signup forms such as popups, slide-ins, notification bars and sidebar forms. It uses the WordPress Customizer as its form builder, with a variety of different templates that you can customize to your heart’s content.
It includes conversion-boosting features such as A/B testing, scroll trigger, exit intent and a lead bank with support for major email service providers.
MailOptin can also send automated newsletters to your list subscribers (on Mailchimp, Aweber and so on) each time you publish a new post in WordPress. It can also send published posts as a daily, weekly or monthly email digest.
Jackmail (Free or $5-plus a month)
Jackmail is a freemium WordPress newsletter plugin that helps you to build your email list and send email newsletters right from your WordPress dashboard.
One of the unique things about Jackmail is that it has a built-in SMTP server integration. Without going into the technical details, that means the newsletter emails you send from your WordPress dashboard have a much better chance of avoiding subscribers’ spam folders.
To grow your email list, you can either use Jackmail’s included opt-in forms or connect to a bunch of other popular email opt-in tools, including the Bloom plugin that we mentioned above.
Then, you get a drag-and-drop email builder to send your newsletters, along with 48-plus newsletter templates.
One really neat thing is that you can set up automatic newsletters based on triggers. For example, you can automatically send out a newsletter whenever you publish a new post or product. Or, you can send a weekly newsletter that automatically pulls in all the content you published that week.
Jackmail lets you send up to a hundred emails a day for free. After that, paid plans start at just $5 a month.
Mailchimp for WordPress (Free or $59)
As you can tell by the name, Mailchimp for WordPress is focused on one specific email service — Mailchimp. But, if you’re using Mailchimp for your email marketing efforts (which a lot of people are), it’s one of the best plugins to help you to grow your Mailchimp lists on WordPress.
With the plugin, you can connect to any of your Mailchimp lists and create your own email opt-in forms. Or, one of the really neat things is that the plugin integrates with other WordPress plugins/features to add list-building functionality to them.
For example, you can add an email subscribe checkbox to your comment or registration forms to automatically sign people up to your email list. Or, you can add a subscribe option to the WooCommerce checkout process.
You can use the free core version at WordPress.org, but there’s also a premium version with more functionality, such as detailed reports and logging, an eCommerce integration that lets you tag subscribers based on what they purchase, detailed form styling options, and more.
Ninja Popups ($26)
On the features front, the plugin has everything you’d expect, including:
- a drag-and-drop newsletter builder
- 65-plus pre-made popup themes and eight free opt-in panel designs
- 70-plus animation effects
- an opt-in locker and social locker
- built-in analytics
- A/B testing with Google Analytics Event Tracking integration
- page/post level targeting
- integration with almost every email marketing software.
I like the fact that there are so many ready-made templates available — the best part is these templates are built by competent designers, which means they’re bound to look good! Plus, this plugin is a one-time purchase, meaning all future updates are free.
You can also optionally purchase additional add-ons to get more themes or extra opt-in types, such as notification bars.
PopUp Domination ($9-plus a month)
Like OptinMonster, PopUp Domination is a standalone SaaS tool that you can integrate into your WordPress site to help you to grow your email newsletter list in a variety of ways.
PopUp Domination has a number of unique features, such as geo-targeting, countdown timers, redirect themes (which are essentially popups redirecting you to another website), and popups based on the referring/source URL. This means you can configure two different popups for people coming from Facebook and LinkedIn.
Of course, it also has all of the basic features you’d expect, such as split testing, responsive customizable designs, page-specific popups and more.
PopUp Domination uses a unique pricing structure. Rather than charging you per website, it just charges you based on how many total popup views you have across all of your sites. So, if you have a lot of low-traffic sites, this one can work out to be super affordable. On the other hand, if you have a single high-traffic site, you may be better off with something such as OptinMonster.
Plans start at $9 a month for up to 10,000 popup views.
WP Subscribe Pro ($19)
WP Subscribe Pro is a simple and affordable plugin that aims to help you to grow your email list. It lacks some of the bells and whistles of the other tools, but it’s dead simple to use and won’t bust your budget.
Like most premium newsletter plugins, WP Subscribe Pro offers all of the necessary features you’d expect, such as basic popup triggers, including specific posts/pages, time delay, exit intent and so on.
The only downside is there’s no drag-and-drop builder — you can only customize the style and text of the existing templates. This makes the setup process super simple, but it also means you don’t have much control.
Still, WP Subscribe Pro makes up for that with its price — you’ll pay just $19 for one year of support and updates.
A freemium plugin from WPMU DEV, Hustle offers plenty of features, including eight popup animations, 20-plus conditional behaviors, various popup trigger options and more. You can also design responsive popup forms using the free form builder, or use any of the prebuilt customizable templates.
It’s a really polished free product, but the only downside is that the free version limits you to just three forms per opt-in type.
To use unlimited opt-in forms, you’ll need to upgrade to Hustle Pro, which is only available as part of the $49 a month WPMU DEV membership (which also gets you access to all of WPMU DEV’s other products). You can learn more about the membership in our full WPMU DEV review.
Mailster is one of the most powerful and cost-effective newsletter plugins, and it can save you a lot of money if used properly. Like MailPoet and Jackmail, Mailster aims to be a full-service email newsletter solution, helping you to both grow your list and send emails to them.
Essentially, Mailster builds fully functional newsletter software right on top of WordPress, and uses third-party services such as Mailgun, SendGrid, Mandrill and Amazon SES to send emails to your subscribers.
You can build your emails using a drag-and-drop editor, and you can also dynamically include content from your site, such as your latest blog posts or WooCommerce products.
It has six types of autoresponders, and supports real-time tracking of mail open rate, clicks and more.
Starting off with email marketing is a good step toward your overall marketing goals. However, it’s important to have a content marketing plan (i.e. a solid strategy in place) before you take the plunge. To get started, ask yourself questions such as: How often do I send emails? What will I be promoting in my emails? Should I consider a drip-email strategy?
Investing in premium plugins can deliver good user engagement and ultimately a good return on investment for larger websites.
Consider your budget, the features you need (and the ones you really don’t), and give a few different options a try before deciding. Good luck!
Used/using any of the above? Thoughts?