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An email list is one of the most valuable things you can build for your online business. To build an email list for your WordPress website, you need a powerful WordPress email opt-in plugin.
The best opt-in plugin for your WordPress site is going to make building a list and growing your website or blog a lot easier, helping you convert more of your hard-earned visitors into leads or loyal readers.
Read on for the best list building plugins for WordPress available today.
An email list is essential if you want to grow an online business. Whether your hustle is a blog, an online store, a SaaS product, or anything else, it pays to have an audience, and a way to contact them.
Once you have a list, you can nurture these people to go from readers to buyers, set up referral programs to further grow your audience, use emails to build social media audiences, ask for reviews and testimonials, and much much more.
It’s one of the reasons email marketing has an average ROI of $38 for every $1 spent.
Even if you don’t plan to do any email marketing right now, it pays to start growing your list as soon as you have people coming to your website. That way, when you want to start running email marketing campaigns, you have the list, right there ready to go.
Oh, and an email list also increases the value of your business, should you ever want to sell.
To start building your email list, you need a way for your site visitors to sign up to your list. Very few people are going to jump through hoops to find your contact details and ask “can I join your newsletter” (unless your content is really just that good).
Even a simple popup or opt-in form on your site, easily visible, saying “sign up to our newsletter” is a start.
If you want to get deeper into the game and build your list quicker, you’ll want to start using a variety of different opt-in forms, as well as providing incentives for people to subscribe and using advanced triggers to hit people with personalized opt-ins.
This is where an opt-in form plugin is essential. You need something that has the power you need to maximize the rate you grow your list, before too many viewers leave and never find your website again.
It’s a good idea to use a variety of different opt-in forms on your site, to capture the highest number of visitors to your list as possible. But be careful not to make the number of opt-ins overwhelming.
Your site should be content first – it’s a pretty poor user experience if your site is just a neverending mess of popups and forms, which will translate into fewer visitors.
Here are some different form types and when to use them:
The classic popup. Done poorly, it’s annoying and will drive people away. But done right, popups are a great way to build your list.
Popups are effective because they’re almost impossible to ignore. Combine that with a stellar reason to subscribe, and a single popup can net a huge increase to your email list.
Just make sure to take the customer experience into account when creating a popup. Use advanced triggers to show it at the right time, and don’t overdo it with popup after popup after popup.
An inline opt-in form (above, below, or in the middle of your content) is a nice low-friction way to convert site visitors into subscribers. The idea is to combine an opt-in form with great content or a killer lead magnet, to convince people they’ll get value out of signing up.
Inline opt-in forms are not as annoying as a popup or slide in, but this also means it’s not as easy to capture a reader’s attention. So you need to make sure your design stands out, as well as your messaging. A simple “sign up for our newsletter” will only work out if you have truly amazing content. A better idea is to use a lead magnet here – offer visitors additional content for free (related to the content of the page) when they sign up on the opt-in form.
Another classic opt-in form is the sidebar opt-in. Like an inline opt-in, this is an unobtrusive, low-friction opt-in form, and a must if your site has a sidebar. It’s unlikely to be super high-converting, but that’s made up for by the fact that your opt-in form is going to be seen by just about every visitor to your site.
Opt-in bars are a step up from inline forms and sidebar opt-ins in terms of catching the eye. A bar at the top of your site, on all your pages, can be a little distracting, but it also captures attention really well.
A slide-in is like a popup, but less annoying. It’s a good mix of attention-grabbing and keeping your customer experience intact. The opt-in form slides in on the left or right side of the page (usually at the bottom), often with customizable triggers such as page scroll % or time on page before it appears.
Exit intent, or exit intervention popups help you capture website viewers who otherwise would have closed your page and never returned.
These popups appear when the viewer takes their mouse cursor outside the browser window as if they are about to close the tab/window. You can use this opportunity to offer a lead magnet or a pitch for something for the viewer to read later if they enter their email.
To quickly and easily add any of these kinds of optin forms to your site, you need a powerful WordPress plugin.
Here are 7 popular WordPress list-building plugins out there to do that job for you.
Optin Cat (our product, which we’re super proud of!) is the best low-cost, lightweight plugin to use to grow your email list.
Optin Cat is made by people who make a living building WordPress websites, so we know what site builders need in an opt-in plugin. You need a plugin with maximum functionality for minimal fuss, which is what Optin Cat is.
All common opt-in form types are super simple to build with Optin Cat – from your popups, inline and sidebar forms, to highly targeted slide-ins, exit intent popups and 2-step optins. Advanced triggering options help you show your opt-in forms to the right people, at the right time.
The best thing about Optin Cat is that it’s easy to use, and lightweight. A lot of opt-in and popup tools slow your site down, and take an age to set up. Site speed and productivity are both vital for site builders, and Optin Cat doesn’t get in your way with either of these two things.
This plugin integrates with a range of popular email marketing tools too, with advanced features for segmenting your list, such as tags and merge fields.
The premium version of Optin Cat is both an affordable and powerful way to start building your email list. If you want a stripped-down version, there are free options available for MailChimp, Aweber, GetResponse, Campaign Monitor, and Mad Mimi.
Bloom, from Elegant Themes, is a powerful opt-in plugin, which lets you create great-looking popups, slide-ins, inline opt-in forms, sidebar opt-ins and more. It comes together with a subscription to Elegant Themes’ other tools, including the Divi page builder.
Bloom forms come with hundreds of design templates, as well as providing the flexibility to customize just about anything about the design yourself.
The targeting options are also top-notch. You’ve got options such as scroll %, time on page and time on site, as well as advanced triggers such as trigger after commenting, after purchasing, on a click, or after a period of inactivity.
It also gives you A/B testing between different designs from the Bloom dashboard.
Bloom does have a bit of a bigger learning curve than a few of the other plugins on this list, which goes hand in hand with a little more power and design flexibility.
Thrive Leads is another powerful WordPress opt-in tool, much like Bloom, offering a lot of functionality, with the payoff of a slightly longer learning curve.
Coming as part of the Thrive Membership, or as a standalone plugin, Thrive Leads allows you to create the following type of forms:
All their forms come with a range of design templates, as well as pretty deep design flexibility.
Thrive Leads offers the triggering options you’d expect from a premium opt-in plugin, such as scroll % and time on page, as well as showing opt-ins just on specific pages, posts and pages, specific categories, etc.
It also comes with extensive A/B testing options. Unlike Bloom, which only lets you test different designs, with Thrive Leads you can test different form types, triggers, and more. Basically, you have full control – if you’re serious about testing everything, you can do this with Thrive Leads.
If you’re specifically looking to build popups, this plugin is a great way to go. As the name suggests, it specializes in popups, rather than other types of opt-ins like inline or sidebar forms.
The form types you can build with the Popup plugin are pretty damn extensive. They range from your standard email opt-in form or contact forms, to social buttons, popups with video, PDF or iFrame embeds, slide-in lightboxes or notification bars, login screens and age verification screens.
The triggers available are very advanced, including exit intent, inactivity triggers, display after purchase, display after comment, and more. You can also lock content until the user takes an action on the popup, such as verifying their age, signing in, or opting in via email.
This plugin doesn’t have the all-round functionality of others on this list. However, it pays sometimes to specialize, so if you specifically want to build popup opt-in forms, this is one for you.
Convert Pro – from the same people that make Ultimate Add-ons for Elementor, Ultimate Add-ons for Beaver Builder, and the Astra theme, is a premium and powerful email opt-in plugin.
It gives you a lot of the power of SaaS solutions like OptinMonster and Sumo, but operates as a plugin. This allows you the convenience of being able to set everything up within the WordPress dashboard, and reduces the drain on your site speed (a common problem when using SaaS tools with WordPress).
With Convert Pro you can build popups, slide-ins, info/opt-in bars, inline/after-post opt-in forms, widget & sidebar optins, and full-screen popups. All these form types come with a range of pre-made templates, which can be further customized with a drag and drop design editor.
You’ve also got a range of advanced triggering options such as:
It also comes with the ability to A/B test different designs against one another.
If you need a premium opt-in plugin, without the code bloat of SaaS products, Convert Pro is a great choice.
Icegram is a multi-purpose tool that offers all common opt-in form types, plus additional functionality beyond just optins.
As well as building opt-in forms like popups, header/footer bars, inline forms and sidebar optins, you can use Icegram to create call-to-action sections, which drive customers to a page or action of your choice.
For example, instead of a popup that just asks people to opt in to your list, you can create a popup (or sidebar widget, notification bar, etc) that directs people to your shop, or to your latest post.
It’s a great use for online stores, to help promote when you’re running a sale, or to capitalize on abandoned carts.
Icegram of course has all the functionality you want as an email plugin for WordPress, which is why it’s on this list. Its range of design templates and triggering options make it a great plugin to use to build your email list.
Hustle, by WPMU Dev, is a powerful email opt-in plugin for WordPress. With Hustle you can build high-converting opt-in forms with flexible targeting options – from exit intent, to returning/new visitors, to visitors from specific countries or referrers. You can customize this to the extent necessary to capture visitors at the right place and time.
Hustle also lets you add social icons and share bars to your site, helping you grow a following beyond just email.
The plugin makes it easy to add inline forms to WordPress posts, using either the classic editor or Gutenberg blocks. It also offers ReCAPTCHA spam protection, adblock detection, analytics, and a wide range of email provider integrations.
Hustle has a free version available, offering a limited number of opt-ins, while to get everything Hustle Pro has to offer, you’ll need to sign up for a WPMU Dev membership at $49/month.
As an alternative to a basic WordPress plugin, you can also use SaaS (software as a service) tools to create optin forms and build your list.
The difference between a SaaS tool and a WordPress plugin is, instead of setting everything up within WordPress, you log in to a separate app to create and manage your optin forms. You’ll add forms to your website either by adding code or using another plugin to integrate with the tool.
SaaS apps usually offer a lot of powerful features, since they aren’t restricted by what you can do within WordPress. However, it’s also more common for these tools to slow your site down, because of how they need to communicate between your website and their own servers.
They can also be expensive – often charging a monthly fee, as opposed to many WordPress plugins which just have one yearly license payment.
Two of the most popular SaaS tools for lead generation and list building are OptinMonster and Sumo. Both tools have an extensive feature list, such as high-level targeting options, great-looking templates and customizable design. These tools can be a great way to build your list, but some will prefer the convenience of tools made specifically for WordPress.
We’ve given you some recommendations above based on experience, but what’s best for one may not be the best for another. If you want to go and shop for the best WordPress optin plugin yourself, here are some key things to look out for.
See what kind of opt-in forms the plugin supports. You likely already have an idea in mind for the type of opt-in form you want to build – an inline postbox, or a sidebar opt-in for example. Some plugins only have a few different form types, so make sure the one you want is in there.
More choices is often better – even if you only want one type of form to start with, a larger range of options will give you the flexibility to try out different forms in the future. However, if you are sure you only need one type, you may choose to go with a plugin that specializes in that type of form.
Opt-in forms can become really powerful when you have the ability to hit the right people at the right time. Highly targeted forms have a much higher conversion rate, naturally. You want to have the flexibility to target users with specific forms based on the content they’re reading, as well as powerful targeting options like exit intent.
Another plus is being able to exclude users – for example, excluding specific pages or categories from being shown your forms, only showing forms to each user once, or only on desktop, to prevent potential negative user experience.
While most opt-in plugins store your subscribers locally within WordPress, it’s a huge plus to be able to automatically sync the emails you collect with your email marketing tool. Not only does automating this save valuable time spent downloading and uploading CSVs, it also allows you to segment users as they sign up, which can prove incredibly powerful for your email marketing efforts.
For example, you can send a tag, along with name and email, when someone signs up, referring to where they signed up from (which page, category or opt-in form, for example). This lets you add them to a personalized email sequence afterwards, delivering content directly related to their interests.
When you’re shopping for WordPress opt-in plugins, look for a couple of things – first, an integration with the email marketing tool your business/blog uses. Even better if it supports many popular email marketing tools, in case you need to use it for another project, or switch email providers.
Second, look for advanced integration capabilities, such as tags or merge fields. This will make it a lot easier to start extracting value from your email list, by crafting better email marketing campaigns.
With more advanced features often comes a more extensive learning curve. This can easily be counter-intuitive, leading to you spending far too much time setting up what should be simple opt-in forms.
While there is sometimes a benefit to extensively testing and optimizing your forms, most of the time – particularly in the case of a simple sidebar opt-in or inline postbox – you’re better off building something clean and operational, quickly. That’s why your opt-in plugin should, too, be clean and easy to use. Freeing up your important time to work on tasks that have a higher ROI.
Finally, a point that is often overlooked, is speed – particularly, how your opt-in forms affect site speed. Many WordPress plugins come with a big downside. They slow your site down, which can end up doing more harm than good.
Outside of SEO, slow page speed is likely to hurt conversions and time on site from your users, as people are going to be quick to click away if pages are taking forever to load.
One of the most common causes of slow page speed is having 1000s of bloated, inefficient plugins working on your site. While the right plugins can add a lot of value, try to stay away from those that slow your site down – especially with opt-in forms that may be showing on each one of your pages. The best WordPress plugins will give you a range of functionality without draining too many resources.
Summing up, building an email list is a super important part of growing your WordPress site. And to start building your list you need to add opt-in forms in places your users are going to see them.
The list above introduces a collection of the best WordPress plugins you can use to start building your list today. My recommendation for the best opt-in plugin, with the best combination of power and simplicity, is Optin Cat. If you need to add clean, high-converting forms or pop ups to your WordPress site in minutes (without unnecessary bells, whistles or code bloat), Optin Cat is the tool for you.