Thrive Leads Review & Advanced Tutorial – How To Capture More Emails With Your Blog
Review of: Thrive Leads
Use: Email list building tool
You will grow your list VERY quickly
Extremely low one off price
Ease of use
The core works great but reporting has issues
Fast response, but no phone support
- The drag and drop editor
- Easy to use A/B testing functionality
- The extra features built for marketers - signup segue, asset delivery & smart links
- The price
We Don't Like
- The reporting is very slow and buggy
- Some of the templates aren't very well designed
- The UI is quite clunky in certain areas
Summary: Thrive Leads is THE tool we use across all our sites for collecting emails. It's extensive and ever expanding feature set stand it in a class of its own when it comes to flexibility and performance. Though to be fair though, it's not without it faults.
In this deep dive review, I'll be showing you all of the features that Thrive Leads currently offers. I'll also show you exactly how we use them to grow our email lists.
$67 one-off for one site / $97 for unlimited sites
You hear it all the time: “The money is in your email list.” But until relatively recently, I didn’t get just how important that really was.
For quite a while on our site HealthAmbition we were using OptinMonster to collect around 30-40 emails per day. However, it got really buggy when they released version 3.0. So much so, that it even brought down our entire site on a few occasions.
Plus, the A/B testing didn’t work with caching and there were only 3 templates that looked half decent. They massively dropped the ball and so we starting looking for a better alternative.
We recognized that there was a huge opportunity to make email work on our site, but up until this point we struggled to make it work.
Then, Thrive Leads arrived.
You can see that immediately after switching to Thrive Leads, the number of emails we collected skyrocketed. To be fair, we should have been collecting more from Optinmonster but since the A/B testing didn’t work, that held us back.
But still, Thrive leads tripled our optin rate in just a few months. In case you are thinking maybe traffic had something to do with it, it didn’t. As a health site, January is always our most popular month for traffic. Yet, we collected the second lowest amount of emails in Jan 2014.
Since then, whenever we have spent time optimizing and testing our optins, we’ve seen very steady growth. While there were several periods when we neglected optimizing it, in the last couple of months we’ve really worked a lot on it and the results speak for themselves.
Thrive Leads is by no means
In fact, as I was gathering the data for these graphs, I went and emptied the dishwasher. The reports take ages to generate, and we’re on a quad core dedicated server! However, I can forgive this since they do seem to be pretty good at adding new features.
Last year they added more types of optin forms, including the ScreenFiller Lightbox type. I like the fact they are keeping pace with new ideas and these new templates helped us boost our conversion rate quite significantly when they were released.
More recently, Thrive Leads added a feature called Asset Delivery. I talk a lot more about this later in this review, but it allowed us to get rid of LeadPages completely, saving $588 per year in the process.
What is Thrive Leads?
In this video, I’ll take you on a walkthrough of Thrive Leads and cover the main features.
Next, lets take a look at some of the features in a little more detail
Design High Converting Optins with ZERO Design Skills
I really suck as design!
It’s not that I can’t use photoshop, it’s that my brain seems incapable of distinguishing a good design from a bad design (it has to be really terrible before I’ll know). Thrive Leads has the same drag and drop editor that was featured in Thrive Content Builder.
It’s not going to magically make you into a design whizz. But, combined with their templates, it will allow you to quickly and easily make high converting optin forms. And so even with no design skills, or with my terrible sense of design, you can still build optins that look pretty good.
The key difference with Thrive Leads compared to competitors here is that it gives you much more control and flexibility over the design. SumoMe only allows you to edit a few text fields, so your optins end up looking the same as many other sites.
There are quite a few different types of optin forms that you can create and there are templates for all of them:
As I said, they are quite good at adding new form types and keeping things up to date. Although the range of template designs could definitely be more extensive. And I wouldn’t exactly describe the base templates as ‘beautiful’.
We tend to find that the Screen Filler Lightbox type works on our site so it’s a good place to start before you do your own testing.
A/B Test Different Forms And Different Types of Forms Against Each Other
While Thrive Leads isn’t perfect, one of the areas it does very well in is A/B testing. Considering the cheap one-off price point of Thrive Leads, it’s really quite a nice feature. Even the free plugin SumoMe only allows you to do A/B testing once you spend $40/month.
Because Thrive Leads uses its own drag and drop content editor, it’s quite easy to visually design new versions quickly. This means you can always be testing several different versions against each other.
This test with 4 new versions took just a few minutes to design and launch:
While A/B testing different form designs against each other isn’t revolutionary, it is awesome to be able to do it at such a low price point (and without recurring fees). But Thrive Leads takes A/B testing one step further than it’s competitors.
It allows you to test different types of forms against each other. So you could test whether a Screen Filler Lightbox or Scroll Mat works best.
To date, nobody else does this and we’ve found it to be quite a handy feature.
Taking Things Further With Advanced Features
There are quite a few features in Thrive Leads that I didn’t even know existed until a few months ago. I don’t imagine most people are using all of the functionality, but it's worth exploring because there are some game changing features hidden in there.
One example of this is the Signup Segue feature which allows you to create
Another cool feature is the asset delivery which allows us to have multiple
While being aggressive with your opt-in forms is a good idea, those become annoying for your existing subscribers who still get bombarded with pop ups and opt-in forms. Smart links allow you to remove those for them and also to show them alternative offers such as product call to action. It's awesome.
Content Marketing Report
And then there is the content marketing report. It allows us to see which specific posts are getting low opt-in rates. We use this information to then build a more customized opt-in for that post. Just one word of warning, this report takes a very long time to load so be prepared to wait for it!
Alternatives to Thrive Leads
Now before we jump on, let's look at the alternatives to Thrive Leads in the same price range for the average site owner.
SumoMe a great place to start if you are just getting started since the basic version is completely free. Though it does have some watermarks/branding that you have to pay to get rid of. And the A/B testing is only available when you spend $40 per month. Considering Thrive Leads is a $67 one off payment, SumoMe starts to become more expensive quite quickly.
(From Free to $100/month)
Optin Monster starts at $9 per month. It lacks a drag and drop builder and we found that their A/B testing was very buggy. It even brought down our site a few times.
Honestly, in our experience, they have been one of the worst lead gen plugins (back when we used them in 2014, at least) and there isn’t a single thing that they do at the moment better than Thrive Leads.
(From $9/month to $29/month)
LeadPages is much more focused on landing pages, as opposed to optin forms. They are very good and their landing page templates are awesome. However, their optin form templates are a bit lacking and they don’t really do anything that Thrive Leads doesn’t do.
Despite this, their pricing starts at $25 per month. And even that it with an annual commitment and with no A/B testing.
(From $25/month to $199/month)
Thrive leads is far cheaper than its competitors at $67 one-off for a single site license. It has flexible design, more advanced A/B testing, Lead Magnet Delivery, Existing subscriber display logic and One Click Signup features.
(From $67 to $97 one off price)
How To Get Results From Thrive Leads
It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: You need a website (duh!). Thrive Leads is a WordPress plugin, so you’ll need a self hosted WordPress install. I’m not going to explain what that is or how to do it since if you don’t know, then you shouldn’t be reading this review.
You’ll also need to have some traffic to your site to take advantage of it. Essentially you are aiming to convert a percentage of your traffic into email signups. It really depends on your market but most niches can expect somewhere between 1-10% of your traffic signing up. Online marketing tends to be a bit higher and some other b2b niches are even above 50%.
If you are selling private jets, one customer is worth a lot to you, so it’s going to be worth it to collect emails sooner rather than later. As a general rule of thumb, you probably don’t want to invest in Thrive Leads until you reach around 200 visitors per day.
Remember, SumoMe is free and should cover you up until this point. You won’t need to advanced features of Thrive Leads until you have a decent amount of traffic anyway.
Lastly, you need some kind of way to monetize via email. Sounds obvious, right? Well, not every business has this. Imagine if you are a plumber. It can be difficult to monetize via email since customers typically are looking for an immediate solution. It’s still possible, just a lot less important than for say health blog.
Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a
If You Haven’t Been Collecting Emails
If you haven’t been collecting emails yet and are just getting started with Thrive Leads, I recommend a simple approach. Start with a site-wide Screen Filler Lightbox opt-in. Choose one of the template designs and modify it with your logo/colors.
Then set up an A/B test with several versions of the same
Say you have a blog about DJing. You could start by testing these 4 concepts or angles:
- The Ultimate Guide to Buying a DJ Controller in 2016
- Free Music Cheat sheet: Secret places to get free legal music to DJ with
- The 5 mistakes all beginner DJs make & how to avoid them
- How to start DJing in 20 minutes: The Step By Step Guide
You don’t actually have to make any of these reports yet. You can just put a thank you page which says something like “We’re putting the finishing touches on this report. We’ll email you as soon as its ready”.
Don’t worry nobody is going to lose any sleep over not getting their report.
What you then do is use this initial test to determine what the most popular angle is. From there, you can build the report and then optimize it further in future by testing different headline or other elements.
Testing concepts will get you higher optins rates faster than any other kind of testing. It’s the most important thing to test first.
If You Are Already Collect Emails & Doing Ok at Monetizing
Start by setting up lead groups. Lead Groups are a simple way to control which optins are displayed across specific posts, pages, categories, tags etc.
Start by setting up Lead Groups to target sub-sections or categories of your site with different
Break it down into 3-6 sections and start working on each individual section (this assumes you have reasonable traffic). When we introduced a juicing specific lead magnet, we increased conversions 400% on that section.
One lead group should always be the “everything else” section. This would go at the bottom of the list and target all posts. This means that anything not covered by another specific lead group, would see this optin.
Start testing different concepts within each section. For example, you could offer juicing recipes or give away a juicer buying guide. Use A/B testing to determine
Then start testing different popup types against each other. Start with Screen Filler Lightbox vs Slide In vs Scroll Mat vs Lightbox. Enable the automatic winner settings, in so that you don’t accidentally leave any tests running too long.
Use the content marketing report to identify poor converting blog posts and create new opt-in forms for those posts.
Who Shouldn’t Use Thrive Leads?
If you don’t have much traffic, you can easily use the free version of SumoMe to capture leads. Don’t waste your time with complicated segmentation and testing until you have 200+ visits per day.
Sites where customers require immediate solutions tend not to need such advanced optins either (think: emergency plumbers). Those kinds of sites can use simple contact forms instead.
Some affiliate sites, particularly “thin” affiliate sites (where there are just a ton of keyword focused reviews and not much else) don’t really need it either.
I’ve seen some of these sites use Thrive Leads to deliver clever exit-intent popups with affiliate links, so that could be an option if your site is large enough in that case but then again, Thrive Content Builder can do that and you don't really need leads.
I’m going to go through the steps to create your first optin form so that you can get a feel for how it works. After that, I’ll cover the advanced targeting and testing options. And then, I’ll show you how we use some of the more advanced features (that unfortunately aren’t so intuitive to use without some kind of explanation).
How to Create Your First Optin Form
It takes a total of 15 clicks and 2 minutes to set up your first
First, you will need to create a simple
Next, you need to decide which type of creative you'd like to use.
PRO TIP: It is usually best to start with a screen filler lightbox. These have usually converted the best on all our sites. They aren’t quite as nice for the user experience, but they consistently convert better. To grow, you’ll often need to sacrifice a bit of UX in order to capture more emails.
Before you choose the design, you can control options related to the display triggers, display frequency and animation. You can, of course, leave these at the defaults settings and edit them later if you wish.
The trigger is the event which triggers the optin form to be displayed. You can choose from:
- Show On Page Load - Displays Immediately
- Show after a certain period of time - Shows after a certain number of seconds (0 - 100seconds)
- Show when the user scrolls to a specific part of the content - Displays when the user reaches a defined Class or ID within the content
- Show when the user scrolls to a percentage of the way down the content - Displays when the user gets a certain way through the post (0% - 100%)
- Show when the user is about to exit the page (exit intent) - Displays when the mouse cursor moves towards the X button to close the tab (desktop only)
Thrive Leads has two really cool features which make this targeting even more powerful: SmartExit and SmartExit+.
On HealthAmbition, over 60% of our traffic is mobile. And the thing with mobile users is that exit intent doesn’t work for them since there is no cursor on touch screens. SmartExit allows you to use exit intent for desktop users and timed display for mobile users.
SmartExit+ works on any of the 3 timed triggers (time, percentage or specific part). If a desktop user tries to exit before this trigger is reached, the optin will display as if exit intent was enabled.
Although we don’t use these features so often since we find that displaying optins on page load works best, I really like that these two features are included. It shows you that Thrive Leads is a very well thought out product.
Now you are ready to design your first optin. Thrive comes with a reasonable amount of templates which have been tested to convert well across many sites. They are a somewhat uninspiring at the start, so you’ll definitely want to customize them using the built in editor.
This is the selection of single step screen filler templates. It’s not too difficult to make them look quite nice, even for something with design skills as bad as mine.
I also want to point out too that it’s not what looks good, it’s what converts that counts with optin forms. There are two types of each optin category to choose from. Single step and multi step.
A Single step optin is where a user is presented with an optin form and just has to enter their information on that very same form. After a single click the user will now be on your email list.
Multi Step optins are quite cool because they also allow you to ask leading questions. For example, you could ask "Do you want to lose weight?" And present two options:
- A nice green button that says “yes”
- A red button that says "no, I'm ok with being overweight".
Nobody wants to click that no button so you can really boost conversions with this. Try to reverse engineer your competitors if they using multi step opt-ins.
It also uses positive reinforcement. When people have said yes once to you, they are likely to say yes again, this is why these types of optins are so powerful and usually get greater results.
PRO TIP : While we recommend you keep it simple at first and complicate later, Thrive Leads
Editing Your Template
Thrive Leads uses the exact same Thrive Content Builder visual editor to allow you to edit the opt-in forms without and kind of coding or
This type of drag and drop visual editor is known as a what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editor. While I've always been able to do whatever I wanted, it can sometimes be a bit clunky. For example, when you have multiple objects close to each other, it can sometimes be a pain to select the right object to edit.
For most ideas, it's relatively quick and easy to make any design changes that you'd like to make.
All of the obvious elements and options are available. This would include things like text, images, margins and spacing and buttons. You can see many of these in the above video demo.
But you also have access to the full range of Thrive Content Builder options.
One of my favorite options is the Evergreen Countdown Timer. This allows you to display a time which counts down from the time you set until 0.
It's a great way to add a bit of scarcity to your
Tech savvy users will also be pleased to learn that they can add custom HTML and CSS to templates for extended control over layouts. But honestly, this isn't usually necessary as the WYWIWYG editor is powerful enough on its own for most people.
Connecting to your email provider
Thrive Leads will automatically send information to your email/autoresponder provider. The easiest way is to use an API connection, though it does support HTML forms too.
How to enable API connections in 60 seconds
API integrations are available with all major email providers. For most of our sites we use Active Campaign, but Getresponse is good too if you are just starting out.
Again don't worry if you have no technical skills. Anyone can set up an API connection in just a few seconds.
Click on the API Connections button in the Thrive Dashboard
Select your email provider from the list. Thrive Leads works with all the major email and autoresponder providers which support API connections.
Copy and paste your API key from your email / autoresponder settings page. It is basically just a long password that is generated automatically. Never give this out to anyone you don't trust!
And that's it, you can now use the API connection.
Warning for Advanced Users: If you are using Active Campaign with an API connection AND using the Asset Delivery feature within Thrive Leads, you won’t be able to cookie your users and collect tracking data within Active Campaign immediately. This means you might not have all the data you want with regards to what a user did after opting in, for example. You can use the HTTP forms to overcome this if
How to connect your optin form to your email list
Connecting your optin form to your autoresponder/email software is super easy too. Click on the form and find the "Connect with Service" button.
Make a new connection and choose the API option. If you have set up your API connection using the steps in the last section, everything should be populated automatically.
Make sure your email service is selected in the first drop down. Then choose your mailing list. In our case, we are using a list called "Weight Loss" and you can have as many mailing lists as you want.
You can even tag signups from each form differently. This opens up some advanced targeting options (if you can remember what they all mean in 6 months time).
PRO TIP: Don't be too liberal with tags. If you clutter up your list with so many tags, you'll find it difficult to use them or remember what they all mean.
Passing Information & Redirecting
The last step allows you to choose which fields are transmitted to your email provider. You can make as many as you'd like but we strongly recommend keeping it to just the one if you just want to build a bit list of prospects: Email Address
The more fields you add (such as Name, Phone Number) means the lower your optin rate will be. This happens in almost every single test we've ever ran with multiple fields.
However, you can imagine that longer forms could be useful for things like quote requests or live demo requests if you have a consultancy or high end SAAS for example.
Thrive Leads also has a really cool feature where you can enable Asset Delivery. This is when you use Thrive Leads to deliver some kind of file to new people who sign up through your form. This is really handy when you are offering content upgrades in exchange for people opting in.
Usually you’d have to make a separate list in your email service for every different optin bribe or report. Or you’d have to use some fancy automations to control everything. The Asset delivery feature here allows you to push everyone to a certain list while offering different segments of people, different files (depending on their targeting).
The one downside of this is that you can lose a small amount of early event tracking in your email provider if you are using the API connection. Honestly though, it’s totally worth it for the ease of being able to offer so many different lead magnets.
Finally, there is the Thank You Page URL. This is an option I use just about every time on Thrive Leads.
Use this to redirect visitors who have signed up towards a specially designed thank you page, your sales page or even an affiliate offer.
This is one feature that absolutely everyone should be taking advantage of. I see far too many sites that have a default thank you page with no call to action. Again, they are leaving money on the table by not trying to pitch an offer or build more engagement at this stage.
On HealthAmbition, for example, when someone signs up to receive our ‘Juicing Recipes for Weight Loss’ report, we redirect them to this thank you page which tells them that they will get their report in a few minutes and then suggests that they visit another Juicing page (which is really our sales page).
Using Lead Groups to Laser Target your Optin Forms
Thrive Leads lets you target optins to specific segments of your site. While many people might be content with a 1-2% optin rate across their whole site, those who are getting higher optin rates tend to have more sophisticated targeting.
Take HealthAmbition for example. It is quite a broad health site and visitors are interested in many different sub topics. Anything from juicing to home remedies. When we tried having one optin form across the whole site, we got a low conversion rate.
Why? Because different visitors had different interests.
To fix this, we used the targeting options in Thrive leads and started building different optins (together with different leadmagnets) for each category. So there is a juicing lead magnet, an apple cider vinegar lead magnet etc.
On Authority Hacker, we take it even further and many of our blog posts have specific optin forms which are only used on a single blog post. This allows us to have laser like targeting and really improves conversions.
The targeting options are very robust too. You can target based on category, tags, specific posts, pages and much more. You can also set exclusion rules which allow you to, say, target a category but exclude posts within that category which have a specific WordPress tag.
And you can also save the targeting options as a template so if you are building complex rules, you can easily re-use these later. It’s a nice feature in theory, but I can’t say that I’ve ever used it.
If you start having too many lead groups, it can get a bit confusing as to which one is serving a specific page. There is no reverse lookup feature to identify this. It’s not a big deal, but bear it in mind especially when naming your lead groups.
Ordering / Priority
When things do start to overlap and get a bit cluttered, you’ll want to make sure that you are ordering lead groups correctly. It's very possible to get to a point where several Lead Groups are going to be targeting the same post, especially if your blog posts can be in more than one category.
Thrive Leads solves this by making an ordering system. Although, I have to say, it's not very well explained. I had no idea it was even there at first. It’s quite simple though and works from the top to the bottom.
So, it takes the numerical order of Lead Groups and serves optins in this order.
In the above example, we have a lead group called "Main". This is set to target all posts. Since it is at the bottom, it will only serve a post if none of the other rules above it apply.
The lead group at the top applies to any post in the category "Juicing". So even though both "Main" and "Juicing" lead groups would theoretically target a blog post about juicing recipes, the Juicing Lead Group would win since it is higher up in the order.
PRO TIP: Click and drag the small X to re-order your lead groups.
Mobile Vs Desktop
One huge consideration to make is around mobile vs desktop targeting. These two groups of users will behave very differently and it’s worth testing out how they each respond (more on testing later in this review).
Thrive does allow you to control which forms will display on mobile. But unfortunately, it doesn’t allow you to display on mobile only.
You can control the whether a certain type of optin will be displayed. And, you can control whether it will appear on mobile or not. But this means you can’t have mobile only optins.
I’m not sure the reason for this but it would definitely be nice to be able to have this functionality, as the two types of traffic really do behave very differently.
Make sure to test your optin forms and see how they look on mobile since longer forms can look a bit strange and result in reduced conversion. We've also found pretty consistently that in-content optins do pretty poorly on mobile, so consider restricting these to desktop.
Also, remember that if you are using exit intent triggers, to turn on SmartExit in order to get these working on mobile too.
Statistics and what they DON'T tell you
One of my pet peeves with Thrive Leads is how they display conversions rates.
Take a look at this screenshot. It says we have a 1.66% conversion rate in Juicing. But this is far less than what it really is. The reason is that we quite often display multiple optins at the same time.
For example, we show a screen filler lightbox, in content form and post footer form. Our posts tend to be quite long so this isn't at all unreasonable.
However, this means that every visit will count 3 impressions. And since a user can only really convert 1 time, that starts to skew our figures.
You can see that the post footer has a 0.3% conversion rate. But we get more total conversions having this, than not having it. So when looking at conversion rates, just bear this in mind and don't worry so much if some of the numbers look a little low because of this.
It’s not totally unreasonable to have things displayed like this, since technically it is accurate. But just be careful with how you are interpreting your own stats to really understand what they mean.
How We Laser Target visitors and convert them like crazy
One of the things with Thrive Leads is that there are some amazing features that are a bit buried away. This one in particular is something we use to improve conversions.
The Content Marketing Report displays your conversion rate per post.
What this allows you to do, is to identify low converting posts, and either move them to another leadgroup. Or, create a new lead group with an optin specifically for that post.
PRO TIP: Use this only on posts which get a decent amount of traffic. If a post is getting 50 views per month, improving conversion from 1% to 3% is not going to be worth your time.
Doing this periodically allows us to really understand where the opportunities are and target those posts effectively.
One thing I will
I've sometimes had problems loading it on Health Ambition, which is quite a big site. However, it works fine on Authority Hacker, though it can take up to 2 minutes to load sometimes especially if you have a slow hosting.
A/B Testing in Thrive Leads
Thrive Leads was built with testing in mind. By using the WYSIWYG content builder editor, Thrive Leads allows very easy A/B testing of all types of optin forms. It’s one of the stand out features of the tool and they really are ahead of the competition in this regard.
As a rule, you should always be running tests on your forms. If you are just starting out, you can easily expect to double or triple your optin rates. Even on Health Ambition, which admittedly we haven't tested as much as we should, we still run tests that dramatically improve our optin rates.This week we've been able to increase it over 50%
How NOT to A/B test (And what we do instead)
Before I show you the A/B testing functionality, I wanted to first explain HOW to A/B test.
One of the most common mistakes I see people make is they are constantly A/B testing the wrong thing. Changing your button color from green to orange is not going to move the needle much.
It might make a small difference, but you should only be testing small things like this after you’ve done a lot of testing on broader concepts and copy.
We've found consistently that the main thing you want to be testing is your offer or value proposition. If you have a blog post about juicing, and you are currently offering some free recipes as a leadmagnet, start by testing a different leadmagnet. In this case, trying a 'Juicing for Weight Loss mini course', or a 'Ultimate Guide to Buying a Juicer in 2016' would be the most effective test to start running.
Then, after you have started to identify the underlying want of your audience, start testing different types of optin forms against each other. For example, a screen filler lightbox vs a slide in.
Next, test headline variations against each other. At this point you can also test triggers such as on page load, delayed, exit intent etc. Then you can start to focus on the smaller things that you want to test such as design elements. Thrive Leads has a cool feature to pick an automatic winner after certain parameters are met.
Make sure to run your tests for a full week at least since you often find that traffic can behave different on weekends as opposed to weekdays. Health sites are a good example here, where everyone wants to start a diet on a Monday after a rough weekend!
We recommend running your tests for 14 days (this also helps to overcome variances for holidays in different countries) and to at least 100 conversions. Any less and small discrepancies can distort the results massively.
Once again, you need to have a statistically significant in your testing. This means having a certain level of traffic. If you don’t have the traffic you need, focus on improving traffic before spending any time running tests.
One other point is that tests can change over time. If you run the same test 18 months later, you’ll get different results as your traffic will be different. It’s ok to go back and run high level tests again in future.
Form version vs form version
Testing different versions of a form is super easy, thanks to Thrive Leads' powerful WYSIWYG content editor. To start, go to the edit form screen and duplicate your editing form.
PRO TIP: It's good practice to rename your forms. When you start running multiple tests it can be easy to forget which is which. This saves you from having to go in and edit it again to find out.
I’ll be honest here, we’re pretty bad at doing this and we name our tests “1” or “a” most of the time. There have been a few times where Gael and I have ran similar tests twice because of this. Don’t make the same mistake. Spend 5 seconds naming your tests.
In this example, we're going to change the headline and the copy. We'll keep the same leadmagnet report but target it different.
Here I simply changed the text. Remember, in Thrive Leads you can just click on the text and start typing to make changes. It's really quick to set up tests when you do this.
After making the the changes to your new version, remember to save them and you are ready to launch the test. Click the big green 'Start A/B Test' button to start the test.
As I mentioned in the previous section, it's good practice to name your test so you can refer back to it later. It's also good to enable automatic winner settings. The default options are fine to use here.
PRO TIP: You can save a lot of time by using competitors' optin form targeting as a base to start with. Most (but not all) larger sites will have run some kind of tests before you, so if you start with what they have, you can usually start off well.
From Type vs Form Type
A great additional testing feature in Thrive Leads is the ability to test types of forms against each other. For example, you could test whether a Lightbox or a Slide In works better.
None of the competitors offer this option and it’s a really great way to improve optin rates.
Within a leadgroup, simple click the green test button as shown here:
You can then choose which types of forms to test against each other.
Be aware that it's often ok to have multiple forms at the same time. A ribbon and a screen filler Lightbox work quite well together so would not make for a good test.
Also note that you need to actually create and design a version of each type of optin form which you want to test, before you set up the test. It won't automatically convert one from type to another.
PRO TIP: Popup based forms convert MUCH better than the other types of forms. The popup based forms are:
- Screen Filler Lightbox
- Slide In
- Scroll Mat
Lead shortcodes are what you use to create content upgrades. The main advantage of using content upgrades is that you get be super specific with the way you pitch the upgrade. It’s worth pointing out that content upgrades work in addition to your regular optin forms.
The main difference between using Lead Shortcodes and Lead Groups, is that Lead Shortcodes allow you to add your optin form anywhere in any piece of content you choose. But, you have to add it manually yourself each time.
This is perfect for content upgrades where you want to target a specific optin to a specific part of a specific post. Here is an example of a content upgrade we have on Authority Hacker towards the end of our blog post on Onpage SEO:
The actual content upgrade was just a PDF checklist of all the main points which we talked about in the full blog post. It’s valuable to users, yet took just 10 minutes or so to create.
Creating a Content Upgrade
To create a continent upgrade, you first add a new Lead Shortcode. Then, go in and edit it. Remember, a Lead Shortcode is the targeting mechanism. Within this Lead Shortcode, you’ll be able to build forms or choose from templates.
Now that you are inside a Lead Shortcode, you have to create a new form. This is similar to how inside a Lead Group, you would create an optin form. Click Edit and you’ll be able to choose from a whole host of template.
The best approach to content upgrades is to build a form template that you will use every time. If you have hundreds of blog posts, it will start to take a lot of your time if you are creating these from scratch each time.
Pick one of the Thrive optin templates, modify it to your brand and save it as a template. Then, reuse this template every time you create a new content upgrade, and just change the text. If you want to keep it simple, start with one of these multi-step templates:
They are simple and work quite well on most of our sites.
Now that you are in the form editor, you can first edit the ‘default state’. This is how the form will look when a user sees it inside one of your blog posts. Make sure to then edit ‘Lightbox 1’:
This is what the user sees after they click for the first time:
From here, connect with a service such as Active Campaign. I highly recommend using Asset Delivery to deliver the leadmagnet as this will allow you to deliver a unique file, while still signing the user up to your main autoresponder sequence.
To insert your content upgrade form, copy the lead shortcode and paste it into your content
Testing Content Upgrades
Even though Thrive Leads has A/B testing, it’s usually not worth testing your content upgrades as it really only becomes statistically significant on large posts. On Authority Hacker, we tend to run a new AB test on a content upgrade every time we have a new well performing piece of content. The winner of this test becomes our new content upgrade template.
Lead Shortcodes also allow you to use content locking. This is where some of the text/content of a blog post or page is hidden or blurred. And the only way to unlock it is to enter your email and sign up to the list.
Essentially, it’s just a different kind of content upgrade since it tends to be used for giving away extra content at the end of a post. A good example would be a related case study. I find it really annoying when sites block a core part of a post using this technique though.
In our experience, content locking gives a ridiculously high number of fake emails. Since the content is unlocked as soon as the email address is entered, users will just enter fake emails to unlock it, even if you have two step authentication.
This can clog up your mailing list and is generally not very productive. It’s much better to offer a separate, downloadable piece of content as a content upgrade. Though obviously, you should test this on your own audience as every site is different.
Thrive Boxes are another way of triggering pop up based optin forms. This time, they are essentially links. When a user clicks on one of these links, the popup will appear.
You have to manually insert the short code for the link every time you want it to appear. This makes it good for adding into blog posts about a different topic but which reference the subject which your optin form is about.
You can also use Thrive Boxes in any WordPress menu so that a popup will appear when the menu item is clicked. If you have some kind of newbie leadmagnet, you could put a ‘Start Here’ link in your blog’s menu. When a user clicks on that link, Thrive boxes would enable you to serve them with a popup which asks for their email in order to download the newbie leadmagnet.
This is done through the standard wordpress menu. Of course, you have to create the Thrive Box and design the optin form before you will see it:
It’s a cool feature that, honestly, we haven’t used enough. Our Start Here page gets thousands of visits per month, from the menu. I think we could get a lot of emails by using a Thrive Box instead and then redirecting to the current start here page.
Ordinarily, when you run a webinar, you’ll email your list with a link to the webinar signup form. A huge chunk of people often visit the webinar sign up form but can’t actually be bothered to fill in the form.
The process is something like this:
This is an unnecessary step, since you already know their email address (because you just emailed them).
Signup Segue is a way to sign up users to a webinar or similar service, without them having to enter their email on the webinar signup form. It pulls the email address from your email software using merge fields and, using an API connection, bypasses the webinar signup form completely.
That’s great and certainly very useful. To be fair, there are other ways of doing this already, albeit they are a little more complex.
Where this feature really stands out is in your ability to make one click sign ups for your affiliates!
You can give your affiliates a single link and that will
This feature alone has been worth the entire cost of Thrive Leads for us, probably 100 times over so far.
I really can’t stress enough how great this is and much it has helped us to sell our premium membership course AH Pro, as well as grow our list massively.
PRO TIP: Make sure to create individual links for each affiliate and customize the merge field names based on their autoresponder software. On Authority Hacker, we add a tag to each lead in Active Campaign with the affiliate’s name. This allows us to have double tracking, in case there is a problem with our affiliate software (which incidentally happened to us a month ago and this totally saved us)
In the above example, the middle two figures were two affiliate who promoted our Pro Webinar. That's a total of 777 sign ups. Historically, webinar sign up pages convert at around 50-60%. So, even conservatively, let's say that 40% of these signups were thanks to thrive leads.
That’s 310 extra sign ups. On this occasion, our webinar made around $7 per sign up. So that's $2,170 in extra sales thanks to Signup Segue. And this does even count the extra 310 people who were automatically signed up to our list. That’s a pretty good ROI on a $67 (one off) tool.
Not only that, but you can also set a custom thank you page. This is a great place to put some teaser content and warm your prospects up before the webinar. It’s especially important to do this if an affiliate has referred the proposed and you don’t have any kind of relationship with them yet.
Thrive Leads goes one step further here too and allows you to set conditional redirects based on the time and date that the webinar occurs. Meaning that you can set different thank you pages for before, during and after the event. Great if you are running a replay or doing a product launch after the webinar.
I always try to give a balanced view and point out the negative qualities too. But for Signup Segue, there really aren’t any. It’s pretty epic!
Asset Delivery is a built in way for Thrive Leads to deliver a unique welcome email and leadmagnet. You might be wondering what the point of this is, when your autoresponder software can do this?
Well, when you start to offer several lead magnets or content upgrades, then things can suddenly get quite complicated in your autoresponder software. With Asset Delivery you don’t have to add a new funnel, automation, sequence or thank you page in order to add a new content upgrade.
You can have Thrive Leads deliver the leadmagnet. This also avoids the problem if you are using a list based autoresponder like GetResponse where you end up having one subscriber in multiple lists at the same time.
To set up Asset Delivery, you first need to create a new Asset Group. This is basically just setting up the email and files which will be delivered. Go to the Advanced Features menu at the top right of Thrive Leads to find Asset Delivery.
Create a new Asset Group (this part is pretty self explanatory) and upload your leadmagnet or choose it from your existing WordPress media files. You can then customize the email that will be sent with this leadmagnet.
One downside is that you cannot create fancy graphic templates for these emails so they won’t necessarily match your autoresponder. In my opinion it’s worth the sacrifice for the massively increased flexibility.
PRO TIP: Click on the small document icon at the top right of the Asset Groups screen to edit the text on the default template. This will make it faster for you to add content upgrades in future.
Best of all, Thrive Leads has asset delivery options in every section of the plugin. For example, in any Lead Group, you can set up Asset Delivery by going in and editing one of your optin forms. Click on the submit button and select the Connect with Service option:
If you haven’t already connected this optin to your mailing list, do so per the instructions earlier. Check the ‘Enable Asset Delivery’ option and choose an asset group to deliver.
It’s worth pointing out here that you really need to be using an email delivery service such as Postmark, Mandril or Mailgun. Otherwise, you’ll end it will terrible delivery rates. I’d recommend using Mailgun as the first 10,000 emails per month are free.
One downside of this which was pointed out to me in the Authority Hacker Pro Facebook group is that your autoresponder software won’t be able to cookie people until it sends it’s first email. Depending on how you setup your email funnels, this might result in you having less data on what your subscribers are doing after the sign up. This hasn’t been an inconvenience for us on our sites so far, but beat in in mind when using this feature.
One of the biggest inefficiencies with optin forms is that subscribers will still see them. Not only is this annoying to them, but it’s a missed opportunity to promote products or offers to subscribers.
Smart Links allows you to create a unique link which makes the user see a different set of optin forms on the page than a typical user would.
There are two main ways in which we use these. The first is to hide optins from subscribers so that the site looks better. The second is to show existing subscribers some kind of offer - either our
All optin forms in Thrive Leads can be set to have an Already Subscribed state.
Basically, you just create a new version in the editor (it can be totally different if you want). You’d probably want to remove the sign up fields and just promote an offer with a button that links to a sales page or affiliate page.
On Health Ambition, we often use this to display affiliate offers on blog posts. By emailing out the Smart Link, we can set it to display the already subscribed state only to people clicking this link. The forms they see aren’t asking for their email since we already have it. Instead, they are affiliate offers.
Creating a smart link is quite quick. However, you must first design a new form for the Already Subscribed state. It’s just like creating any other form within Thrive Leads so I’m not going to show you how to do that again. Just remember to build it within an existing form by adding a new state and selecting ‘Already Subscribed’ (see the previous image for details).
To create a smart link, go to ‘Advanced Features’ and select ‘Smart Links’
Start by deciding where you’d like to send your visitors. Usually this will be a blog post, so select the ‘Post’ type and then just start typing the title of the post. It takes a few seconds to come up but it’s pretty good at finding it on the first attempt.
For Steps 2 & 3, you have to think about which lead groups are going to affect your post. I’ve experimented with created post specific lead groups on Health Ambition. The danger here is that you can quickly create way too many Lead Groups to remember what is going on. So it’s important that you don’t let things get too cluttered up.
Generally, you’ll want to keep the default options and target all forms on your site.
For step 4, make sure that you select the second option to display the ‘Already Subscribed’ state of the form. The other option is to hide all forms. Sometimes we’ll use that if we have a high value post that we haven’t monetized and are just looking to deliver value to our subscribers.
The final step is to choose how long you want this who thing to last. Usually you’ll want to choose either ‘Only Once’ or ‘For as long as possible’. Bear in mind that it's cookie dependant so if the user uses a different device later, and doesn’t follow the Smart Link, they won’t be affected by it.
Then, you are given your Smart Link to use.
It’s not a big deal, but it’s a bit frustrating that they don’t ever save and you have to manually recreate them every time. Maybe they thought people would create too many Smart Links and get cluttered. But to be honest, the same problem exists with all the other Thrive Leads targeting options. There isn’t really a good way to organize them.
Hopefully this is something that will be improved upon in future versions. I’d definitely rather have these features available, even if the UX is a little rough around the edges.
If you’ve read this far then congrats, I’m sure that you’ve learned a lot about what Thrive Leads can do. Keep paying attention to this part though. The Reporting section isn’t just a way to display conversion rates. The reports in Thrive Leads can give you some really useful information.
For example, you can figure out which blog posts within a lead group are getting poor optin rates, and make a new lead group with a different offer or focus, just for those. We use this a lot on our sites and it’s how we know which area to work on next.
As good as this is, the reporting also is one of the worst parts of Thrive Leads. Not because of what is in the reports. But because of the colossal loading times. I’ve just moved apartment and my new place has very slow internet (13 Mbit).
It takes me 47 seconds to pull the Content Marketing Report for the last 7 days for Authority Hacker. And there is only 68 records in it. I tried to pull it for the year but I gave up after 20 minutes of it not loading.
For Health Ambition (a much much bigger site in terms of traffic), I’ve yet to be able to load it at all! Additionally, it’s not possible to export the data as a CSV so it can sometimes be impossible to tell what's going on when you have a lot of data on screen at once and it’s all overlapping.
With that being said, most of the other reports load in a somewhat reasonable amount of time. To access the reporting area, click on the ‘Lead Reports’ button at the top right of Thrive Leads. Let's take a look at what you can do with them:
This shows you the number of leads generated per source, over a period of time. A source is either a Lead Group, Short Code or Thrive Box.
How We Use It: This is a the default report that appears when you load the Reports. I find it is very good to get a feel for how each optin is doing. Usually I take a quick look here before our weekly performance meeting to get a feel for how things are going.
You can choose to view one specific source or all of them at the same time. There is quite a lot of room for improvement here in selection here as it’s just too crowded.
I find it very difficult to see all the information at the bottom as its counting every optin that has been displayed during this time. You can see things are already quite cluttered and it’s hard to tell what is going on down there.
Remember that numbers will vary wildly day by day so try looking at weekly intervals to get a more rounded feel for what is going on over a longer period of time.
Conversion Rate Report
This shows the daily (or whatever interval you set) conversion rate across your whole site.
How We Use It: We don’t. It’s not going to tell you anything useful due to the nature of how conversion rates are calculate across Thrive Leads. Many pages can have multiple optin forms and count multiple impressions, but on only one conversion. This skews the conversion rate downwards unless you only have one for per page (which is a bad idea and will result in less conversions.
Cumulative Conversions Report
This shows the same data as the Conversion Report, except that it counts it cumulatively over the date interval you’ve chosen.
How we use it: I find that it’s more useful for doing analysis of a specific date range than the Conversion Report. By looking at the end interval, I can clearly see how many actual leads each of the sources has generated. Very useful for looking at things at the end of each calendar month to track monthly performance.
This is a simple piece charge showing the percentage of leads generated by each Lead Group or individual form
How we use it: This report isn’t as useful as it seems and I rarely look at it. While it is nice to compare the Lead Groups and Forms against each other, you can only do this by way of percentage. It would have been nice to be able to display both percentages and total number of leads generated. By using the Cumulative Conversions Report and the Comparison Report together, you can kind of get this information though.
This report shows the total number of opt-ins on a daily (or other interval) basis across all opt-ins. It also shows how many were new leads and how many were conversion. There are always more conversions than leads, since some leads optin to multiple forms.
How we use it: I don’t use this that often. I find the Conversion Report to be more insightful since it breaks it down per source. There isn’t much action I can take if I look at the List Growth report and see a decline in conversions or leads. I’ll need to dig deeper into it to figure out what’s going on. So why bother? I just start with a Conversion Report
Cumulative List Growth
This is similar to the List Growth report, except the numbers are cumulative.
How we use it: I look at this once a month to look at calendar month performance. I don’t think there are too many insights to be had from it, other than overall list growth for the month.
Lead Referral Report
This shows you which how many leads were generated from each referring URL outside your own domain.
How we use it: Honestly, I’ve never used this. Since Health Ambition focuses heavily on SEO, all the search referring URLs are quite scattered. You have one for each country's Google, then another for android etc. It really doesn’t tell me much.
Where this would be useful is if you were working with a lot of guest posting. You could identify the sites where are actually generate leads and go back and do follow up guest posts with them.
Lead Tracking Report
This report uses tracking links (like those you’ll set up for Google Analytics) to define specific traffic sources and show you how they translate into leads.
How we use it: Again, being honest here, I don’t really use this. Active Campaign will input the tracking code when you email your list, so I usually use that. But it only tells you conversions, not new leads (despite the name). So in my case it isn’t so useful, though it's nice to have the flexibility if I ever need more robust tracking on certain links.
Content Marketing Report (NOW you can pay attention!)
Ok so up until now, the reports have been somewhat useful but not exactly a stand out feature of the tool. The Content Marketing Report is different!
It shows you the leads generated per post (or page) over a specific timeframe. This is hugely valuable to understand. Why? Because it helps to understand where you need to take action to optimize lead gen.
How we use it: We use this to help segment our Lead Groups and find new potential ideas for Lead Groups. At one point we had a Juicing and Main Lead Group on HealthAmbition. The Main was basically a generic health optin. It was originally converting at just under 1% (bear in mind this is b2c and non targeted).
We used the content marketing report to identify poor performing posts within the ‘Main’ Lead Group. Several of the worst performing posts, which still had decent traffic/impressions, were to do with Apple Cider Vinegar (a potent health drink). So we made a new Lead Group just with all the Apple Cider Vinegar posts, created a quick Lead Magnet PDF and designed a simple optin form.
Now, the ‘ACV’ Lead Group gets around 2.5% conversation rate. That’s a 300% improvement, over leaving it in the ‘Main’ Lead Group. And this is entirely due to the information we got from the Content Marketing Report.
Every site should have at least one general (or ‘Main’ as we called it) Lead Group that covers everything not covered by a more specific Lead Group. Use the Content Marketing Report to identify poor performing posts and make specific Lead Groups toward them.
While this is super valuable, I have to again mention that while Gael has been able to pull the Content Marketing Reports for HealthAmbition, I’ve yet to be able to do it. We have a dedicated server and everything for the site, it’s just really slow and something that Thrive really need to improve upon.
Conclusion - Should You Buy Thrive Leads?
Phew that took quite a while to put together. So the bottom line is, should you buy Thrive Leads?
If you get more than 200 daily visitors to your site, then yes you absolutely should. It's by far the cheapest premium lead gen plugin and in most cases outclasses its rivals in terms of features.
To recap, with Thrive Leads, you get:
- A premium lead gen WordPress plugin to collect emails
- Hundreds of pre-made optin form templates
- A drag and drop template editor
- Class leading A/B testing functionality
- Sophisticated optin targeting options
- Leadmagnet delivery via Asset Delivery
- Signup Segue for one click signups
- Smart form display customization
I hate to sound all salesy in my review, but you get all of this for a $69 one off fee. Nothing else even comes close in terms of value. It's hard NOT to make an ROI with such a small investment.
If you want to see it in action, just click here to go to their site. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments below.
Summary: Thrive leads is BY FAR the best lead generation plugin for WordPress under $100 (and the best Thrive Themes product).
If email marketing is remotely important to you, getting it is a no brainer, just make sure you refer to the guide above to learn how to use all of its advanced and complex functions.