Thrive Leads Review: The Ultimate Email List Building Plugin?

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

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

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

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

Thrive Leads

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

Let’s take a look.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of Optin Form Types

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

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

In total, there are eight different optin types:


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

Thrive Leads Pop-up


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

Thrive Leads Ribbon


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

Thrive Leads Widget


Slides into view in the bottom corner of the screen.

Thrive Leads Slide-in

Screen Filler Overlay:

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

Thrive Leads Screen Filler

Post Footer:

Automatically placed below a blog posts.

Thrive Leads Post Footer

In-line Forms:

Place these within your content using simple shortcodes.

Thrive Leads In Content

Creating an Optin Form

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

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

Thrive Leads Lead Groups

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

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

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

Lead Groups

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

Thrive Leads Drag-and-Drop Editor

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

Thrive Templates

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

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

Thrive Leads Editor

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

Thrive Leads Customization

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

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

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

Thrive Leads Editor Modules

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

Settings and Triggers

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

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

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

Thrive Leads Triggers

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

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

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

Targeting Optin Forms

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

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

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

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

Thrive Leads Targeting

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

A/B Testing

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

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

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

Thrive Leads Split testing

The plugin will determine the winner based on three criteria:

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

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

A/B Test Form Types

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

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

Thrive Leads Split testing form types

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

Integrate with Any Email Marketing Service

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

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

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

Thrive Leads autoresponder

Job done.

Two-step Optin Forms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Features

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Thrive Leads? Thoughts?

By Shaun Quarton

Shaun Quarton is a freelance blogger from the UK, with a passion for online entrepreneurship, content marketing, and all things WordPress.
Comments (policy)
  1. Andrés Rueda says:

    Don´t waste your time with this company

    Once your support period expires, they want to charge you to answer the most elementary questions. Even pre-sales questions.

    I was interested in buying a second license, so I asked which wordpress plugin they supported besides MailPoet

    Do you know what they say?

    They refused to answer this question unless I pay them more money for their support





  2. Jim Powell says:

    I agree with Bruce – the support is mediocre, the documentation is quite poor and outdated, and their system, while it seems pretty flexible, makes very basic things far too complicated. Very simple things that you should be able to easily do like changing the color of a rollover button are painfully frustrating, and the tutorials on their site are for old versions and are useless. Also, their supposed amazing A/B Testing ability is not so amazing. You can’t even track conversions with this tool unless you are using it ONLY as an e-mail signup form. If won’t even allow you to track clicks unless you buy additional plugins.
    I haven’t tried any other alternatives, but this one definitely leaves a lot to be desired.

  3. Michael says:

    Shaun, thanks for the review. Quick question, can you create custom fields to match your custom forms? For example, I use GetResponse and have some forms that have custom fields such as “Age, Zip Code, etc.”. Can Thrive Leads mirror this by editing and creating a Thrive form to connect to GetResponse?

  4. Bruce Kowkabany says:

    Be very, very careful before signing up with Thrive Leads. Their service leaves a LOT to be desired. They have no concept of customer service. Consider OptinMonster, LeadPages or SumoMe instead. Same functionality, lower price and you don’t have to deal with broken customer service.

      • Bruce Kowkabany says:

        Sure, the following is my entire transcript with them. It should be self explanatory but if you have any questions feel free to contact me.

        Our Account

        – | Unsubscribe Favourite – Account / Presale
        Bruce K
        39 POSTS

        10 POINTS
        February 04, 2017 01:07 #455225
        I wrote last week to and
        have not received a response. Are you still in business? Our account seems to have ended (it is not clear in the dashboard) and we cannot access the Leads functionality on our WordPress site. Our original order # is 25401 and the email address is .

        Please let me know the status of our account (and your services).

        Site Details Submitted

        *You haven’t added any site details to this post yet. You can do so at any time by clicking here * Ovidiu Thrive Team Member

        15465 POSTS

        89730 POINTS
        February 04, 2017 08:06 #455321
        Hello Bruce,

        Thank you for reaching out to us.

        I can see your email that you sent us and the fact that my colleague replied and asked for further information in order to be able to investigate the issue:
        “Thank you for reaching out.
        Could you please provide us your email address and transaction ID for your PayPal payment for further investigation?”
        but you haven’t replied there.

        I could now check out your account and it seems that you purchased the membership on the 17th of July 2015 and you haven’t extended your membership the next recurring payment date, probably by canceling it in PayPal.
        In this case, you can see in the article below, what happens when you cancel a membership:
        What Happens When I Cancel My Membership?
        Best regards,
        This is useful This post solved my problem
        Bruce K
        39 POSTS

        10 POINTS
        February 04, 2017 22:15 #455734

        Thanks for the reply. I searched and found your colleagues response in SPAM. I have whitelisted that so it will not happen in the future.

        We assumed this was on an automatic recurring billing. We did not receive any notice it was unable to bill (perhaps that went to SPAM as well but those messages are long since erased).

        Are you able to reinstate us at our previously billed rate? And going forward will there be a warning if there is a problem with billing and a notice of an upcoming charge? This will help us ensure you are paid and the account remains current.

        Thanks again,
        Site Details Submitted

        *You haven’t added any site details to this post yet. You can do so at any time by clicking here * Gellie Nablo Thrive Team Member

        2323 POSTS

        5940 POINTS
        February 06, 2017 09:28 #456454
        Hello Bruce,

        Unfortunately, canceled membership can’t be reinstated as stated in the article What Happens When I Cancel My Membership? . To get access to all of our products again, kindly purchase the membership at its current rate. We are now sending notification 3 days before your membership auto-renew.

        Best regards,
        Gellie Nablo
        This is useful This post solved my problem
        Bruce K
        39 POSTS

        10 POINTS
        February 06, 2017 17:53 #456957
        As I said, we had this on a recurring payment which we did not cancel and we did not receive any notifications. Please make an exception or refer me to a supervisor or Shane.

        Site Details Submitted

        *You haven’t added any site details to this post yet. You can do so at any time by clicking here * Gellie Nablo Thrive Team Member

        2323 POSTS

        5940 POINTS
        February 07, 2017 04:56 #457407
        Hello Bruce,

        As per checking, the membership was indeed canceled (memberships are recurring payments).

        As much as we would like to give you the same rate that you have previously paid, we have no way of doing that as we have increased our prices since your purchase. We cannot make an exception to this because it would not be fair for the rest of our customers. Also, we treat all our customers equally with no intention of discriminating.

        Best regards,
        Gellie Nablo
        – This reply was modified 1 week, 3 days ago by Gellie Nablo .
        This is useful This post solved my problem
        Bruce K
        39 POSTS

        10 POINTS
        February 09, 2017 19:01 #460156
        We did not cancel our membership. What does that screenshot mean? If Paypal canceled it w/o our approval we will go to them.

        We are not asking for an exception. We are saying this happened without our consent or action. Who knows where the glitch occurred (there, paypal, here…?). So it is a customer service issue and we are wondering why this is becoming difficult. FYI, we did not know the service was off until our button disappeared off our site. This cost us lost business (it was our main demo download link) and there was absolutely no warning. We never want that to happen again and rely on your service to notify us when a payment is due or is going to auto recur (we received no notices). That is a big deal not just for us, but for any of your customers who “glitch”. Your response so far has not given us a warm fuzzy feeling and more importantly does not give us the confidence in your product we need to ensure our business runs smoothly. We talk to hundreds of customers every month (check us out at ) and have recommended ThriveLeads many times. We need to know that we can do that with confidence and our experiences are our first line of review. Secondarily we count on feedback from them.

        It’s not about the money. Your rates are fair. It’s about the responses we have received so far which are very disconcerting. Please let us know your final decision so we can decide whether to renew or find a partner we trust.

        Site Details Submitted

        *You haven’t added any site details to this post yet. You can do so at any time by clicking here * Gellie Nablo Thrive Team Member

        2323 POSTS

        5940 POINTS
        February 10, 2017 11:06 #460584
        Hello Bruce,

        We understand where you’re coming from and we appreciate that you still want to be one of our valued customers.

        However, the cancellation of the membership will only occur when you ask us to cancel your membership and canceled it by clicking the cancel button in your account or canceling it through PayPal. As we have checked there’s no glitch for the cancellation of your membership.

        Unfortunately, there isn’t anything we can do without breaking our terms and conditions and we want to be fair for all of our customers. We are hoping for your understanding.

        Best regards,
        Gellie Nablo
        This is useful This post solved my problem
        Bruce K
        39 POSTS

        10 POINTS
        February 10, 2017 16:34 #460978
        I do not understand and I have explained why. Can you please pass me on to a supervisor?
        Site Details Submitted

        *You haven’t added any site details to this post yet. You can do so at any time by clicking here * Ovidiu Thrive Team Member

        15465 POSTS

        89730 POINTS
        February 13, 2017 09:11 #462381
        Hello Bruce,

        I am the Head of the Support department and I was assisting Gellie in replying to this thread.
        We have assessed the handling of this support thread and Gellie handled it perfectly, by underlining why we cannot do this as it would be against our cancellation policy:
        What Happens When I Cancel My Membership?
        We double checked on our end and we never canceled your account, as we wouldn’t do that without clear instructions from our customers. We have more to lose because of it as we would have liked it for you to remain a member. Unfortunately, because the membership has been canceled we cannot reinstate you at the old rate.

        We have continually added value to our membership and at the price it currently is, it is extremely undervalued:
        We are happy to see that you still want to use our products but the only way to become a member again, is by purchasing another membership at the current price range:
        Best regards,
        This is useful This post solved my problem
        Bruce K
        39 POSTS

        10 POINTS
        February 16, 2017 20:08 #466169
        Thanks for the reply. I of course strongly disagree and we will not be renewing our membership or recommending your service to our customers in the future. I would also like your permission to post this entire ticket to our site and social media so other consumers can decide whether they want to sign up with your services. It is important to maintain that kind of transparency.

        To summarize my personal concern about your policy – the single, simple mistake you made was not notifying us before, during or after that the renewal was due or did not take place. We found out when your service stopped working on our site. This is a common practice for every other service on the web and it is bewildering to us why you did not give us fair warning and are now hiding behind a policy that does not address the issue.
        Very disappointed, but happy to be warned that we should not further invest in your services.

        Site Details Submitted

        *You haven’t added any site details to this post yet. You can do so at any time by clicking here * Ovidiu Thrive Team Member

        15465 POSTS

        89730 POINTS
        February 17, 2017 08:04 #466511
        Hello Bruce,

        Unfortunately, we cannot agree to make this conversation public as it is a private.

        You could however use our Terms and Conditions page to illustrate the transparency of our service:
        or this knowledge base article which states what happens when or if you cancel your membership:
        What Happens When I Cancel My Membership?
        Again, we are sorry to see that this issue made you lose faith in our products and services and underline the fact that we are the ones who have the most to lose because of this.

        I took note of your feedback and will use it to improve our services, but we must be balanced and not overwhelm our customers with emails asking them to continue their memberships once they decided to cancel them.

        Best regards,
        This is useful This post solved my problem
        Bruce K
        39 POSTS

        10 POINTS
        February 20, 2017 21:34 #469508
        Overwhelm? I am talking about 1 or 2 emails when a renewal comes up to remind your users and make sure their payment info is up to date. Your reasoning is unsound. I received over 100 emails from over
        the course of 1 year pitching features but you can’t send a couple of courtesy reminders?

        I reserve the right to publicize my opinion. My request for permission was a courtesy. I am not surprised by your response. I would not be proud of this support thread either. Your logic is unsound and your customer service is broken. I suspect you mean well and believe your own propaganda but you are flat out wrong in your explanations to me. Anyone considering your services should think twice before signing up. You have demonstrated they will not receive the service they should expect.

        In closing, I asked twice for Shane to reply to me. He has not. Whether that is your doing or he has distanced himself from his customers the end result is the same and it is sad.
        Site Details Submitted

        *You haven’t added any site details to this post yet. You can do so at any time by clicking here *


        Bruce N. Kowkabany
        1-866-624-5927 x912
        Core Technologies
        Makers of Channergy (formerly Mailware)
        Multi Channel Manager


        • Brin Wilson says:

          – well, yes, that is most definitely an explanation – in fact, that’s actually by far and away the longest comment we’ve ever had on the site (I may even have to try and shorten it somehow – will have a think). Lol. ;)

  5. PracticalTFT says:

    Maybe I missed it, but is there a way to link a download able resource to a landing page? Ex. “Sign up now and get this ebook”. Is the experience different for people already on the mailing list?

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