9 Plugins for Growing Your Email List That Work So Well It Feels Like Cheating

9 Plugins for Growing Your Email List That Work So Well It Feels Like Cheating

As a blogger, you’ll have heard the advice a hundred times before.

Build your email list.

But you haven’t done it – yet.

Of course, you understand why it’s good advice.

When you have a growing list of subscribers who already know, like and trust you, it’s easier to do the following:

  • Drive traffic to your latest blog posts.
  • Deepen relationships via subscriber-only content and surveys.
  • Send targeted offers that help you earn a little money from your blog.

But the practical side of things has you stumped.

Sure, signing up to an email provider like AWeber, MailChimp or Mad Mimi is easy enough, but what happens next?

How do you go from proud owner of a shiny (but empty) new email list, to happy blogger with an active and growing subscriber base?

In other words, how do you actually get people to sign up to your list?

The Stupidly Simple Secret to Building Your Email List

Do you want to know the secret to turning a casual reader into a blog subscriber?

Show them an opt-in form and get them to complete it.

I told you it was stupidly simple!

Of course, in practice this raises a bunch of questions:

  • How can I create a professional-looking opt-in form?
  • Where should my opt-in form appear on my blog?
  • What are the different types of forms and do I need more than one?

And even when you have a beautiful form to show your visitors, you still need a juicy incentive to tempt them to sign up.

But most people don’t get that far because they remain stuck on the first part – creating an effective form.

The good news – as long as you’re running a self-hosted WordPress blog, dozens of plugins are available for creating high-quality opt-in forms (in fact the Boost Blog Traffic team have developed their own – Unpop).

The bad news – dozens of plugins are available! So how do you choose the right one?

Before we navigate all these options, let’s look at some of the different types of opt-in forms available.

The 7 Basic Types of Opt-In Forms (and What You Need to Know About Each)

If you browse popular blogs, you’ll likely see many different types of opt-in forms with different designs in different combinations.

But when you boil it down, there are just 7 different types of forms.

1) Sidebar

The blog sidebar is historically the most common place to add an opt-in form, so it’s the place where most people would expect to sign up to your list.

Example

The following is an example sidebar opt-in form from QuickSprout.com:

sidebar-quicksprout
Advantages
  • Prominent position that readers shouldn’t miss
  • Supported by most list-building plugins
  • Some plugins allow you to display different opt-in forms depending on the page content
Disadvantages
  • Visitors can become “blind” to this type of opt-in form, which can reduce conversion rates
Recommended usage

Always use this type of opt-in form unless the space could be better occupied by an ad. To counteract the blindness issue, a sidebar form is best combined with another type.

2) Popover

A popover opt-in form literally pops over the blog, obscuring the content and demanding attention.

Example

The following is an example from SocialTriggers.com:

popover-socialtriggers
Advantages
  • Highly prominent position
  • Focus is 100% on capturing the reader’s email address, so it converts quite well
  • Supported by numerous plugins
Disadvantages
  • Intrusive and can annoy readers if over-used (although a clever feature called exit intent can reduce the impact of this – more later)
  • Not effective in all niches (e.g., some technical niches can be averse to this style of opt-in), so some testing is necessary
Recommended usage

Use popovers when sign-ups are the number-one priority, even if it’s at the expense of user experience.

3) Feature box

Feature boxes typically sit just below your blog’s header and navigation area. Some bloggers just use them on their homepage alone, whereas others use them on a select number of posts or pages or even across the whole blog.

Example

The following is an example from Razorsocial.com:

feature-box-razor-social
Advantages
  • Prominent position but doesn’t obscure content
  • Converts well
  • Supported by numerous plugins
Disadvantages
  • Pushes latest blog content further down the page
  • Few plugins support this type of opt-in form
Recommended usage

Use a feature box when sign-ups are a priority but you don’t want to seriously affect user experience.

4) After post

An after post opt-in form is self-explanatory – it appears immediately after a blog post.

Example

The following is an example from Content Marketing Institute:

after-post-cmi
Advantages
  • Relatively unobtrusive
  • Converts well because if a visitor has just finished reading a valuable piece of your content, they are likely to be “warm” to the idea of signing up
  • Some plugins can display targeted after post forms that are tailored to your content
Disadvantages
  • Harder to find for a visitor who already knows they want to sign up
  • Limited number of plugins support this type of opt-in
Recommended usage

Always use an after post form unless you have another important call to action to display below your posts instead (e.g., to promote a product).

5) Slide-in

A slide-in is an opt-in form that is initially hidden (or at least minimized) then slides onto the page — after a certain delay or triggered by some other event. It usually appears in the bottom right or bottom left corner of your blog.

Example

The following is an example from iThemes.com:

slide-in-ithemes
Advantages
  • Demands attention without being as obstructive as a popover
  • Converts well
  • Usually configurable to appear after a certain delay or at a certain scroll percentage (e.g., when a reader is half way though a blog post)
Disadvantages
  • Can be a little annoying for some readers
  • Limited number of plugins support this type of opt-in
Recommended usage

Use a slide-in when sign-ups are a priority and you don’t mind drawing reader attention away from your content.

6) Notification bar

A notification bar appears in the header or footer of your blog and typically remains fixed and visible as a user scrolls down the page.

Example

The following is an example from Problogger.net:

notificationbar-problogger
Advantages
  • Quick and easy to set up
  • Initial conversions usually quite high
  • Can be used to drive traffic to a highly-optimized landing page, instead of trying to capture an email within the bar itself
Disadvantages
  • Conversions can drop once blindness sets in
Recommended usage

Use a notification bar when you want your opt-in form to be visible all the time without being too obtrusive. Also use it if you wish to drive traffic to a separate landing page.

7) Landing page

A landing page is an entire page dedicated to your opt-in form. Landing pages offer 100% focus on your offer, but unlike a popover, the reader has usually chosen to visit the page.

Landing pages are actually a separate class of opt-in form with plugins dedicated exclusively to creating them.

Example

The following is an example from BloggingWizard.com:

landing-page-example-bloggingwizard
Advantages
  • Convert well if you send “warm” traffic — i.e., the reader has reached the page by following a call to action elsewhere
  • Ample space to give the reader reasons to sign up
Disadvantages
  • More complex and time consuming to set up
  • High bounce rate because a landing page is effectively a dead end (although this can be eased with a ‘return to the blog’ link)
  • Plugins to create high-quality landing pages usually more expensive
Recommended usage

Use a landing page when you have an external source of traffic (i.e., a guest post) or need more room to describe your sign-up incentive or explain the benefits of subscribing.

6 Killer Plugins for Creating Gorgeous Opt-In Forms That Convert Like Crazy

You won’t find a shortage of list-building plugins on the market.

I’ve tested a significant number on real blogs and experienced varying levels of success.

What follows isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list of all the available options, but a curated set of WordPress plugins I believe represent the cream of the crop.

Some of these are paid products, but I’ve included some free plugins too – or plugins that have a free version.

On a personal note, while free is everyone’s favorite price, I value the additional support and functionality offered by the premium plugins.

1) Hybrid Connect – A Feature-Packed Plugin with Easy Customization

hybrid-connect-logo
The first few list-building plugins I ever tested on my blogs were extremely limiting, particularly regarding customization.

Sure, they allowed me to change a few basic elements, but anything more than that required an in-depth knowledge of CSS.

That’s why I was delighted to find Hybrid Connect, which comes with a range of pre-designed templates and a live editor that allows you to customize almost everything.

Features
  • Supports mobile responsive forms
  • Simplifies placement of opt-in forms anywhere in your blog using shortcodes
  • Supports almost every mailing list provider
  • Adds a simple checkbox to allow readers to automatically sign up when leaving a comment on your blog
  • Supports sign-ups through Facebook (Facebook Connect)
  • Can easily add video to your opt-in forms
  • Includes easy-to-use split testing functionality
  • Allows you to add an opt-in form tab to your Facebook page
Opt-in Forms Supported

Sidebar, popover, slide-in, after post and squeeze page.

Price: $49+

2) OptinMonster – A Lightweight Plugin with Powerful Exit Intent Feature

optinmonster-logo
One of the most interesting things about the OptinMonster plugin is a feature called exit intent.

The basic idea is to display an opt-in form at the moment just before someone leaves your blog.

It does this by tracking mouse movements and displaying a popover when it thinks the reader is about to click away from the page.

This plugin also has a modular design, which means you only need to install the features you plan to use. This keeps the impact of the plugin on your server to a minimum.

Key Features
  • Exit intent technology
  • Built-in split testing functionality to help improve conversions
  • Page level targeting to tailor opt-in forms to page content
  • Straightforward customization options
  • Helpful analytics to monitor performance
  • Supports most mailing list providers
Opt-in Forms Supported

Sidebar (certain plans only), popover, notification bar (footer) and slide-in.

Price: $49+

3) Plugmatter’s Feature Box – Easily Create High Impact and Customizable Feature Boxes

plugmatter-logo
Plugmatter’s Feature Box plugin only supports one type of opt-in form – feature boxes – but in practice that’s actually a good thing because few plugins support feature boxes. So you can use this one in conjunction with others without introducing overlapping functionality.

One particularly useful feature is the ability to show existing subscribers a different offer – or nothing at all. This is valuable because displaying an opt-in form to someone who’s already on your list is a waste of time and blog real estate.

Key Features
  • Numerous templates included, all of which are easily customized
  • Deeper customization possible (though coding experience required)
  • Ability to target returning visitors with different content
  • Page-level targeting to tailor opt-in form to page content
  • Easy-to-use split testing functionality
Opt-in Forms Supported

Feature boxes only.

Price: $37+

4) Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box – High Impact Slide-Ins with Advanced Customization

dreamgrow-logo
The Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box is a handy plugin for creating slide-ins.

It also has the advantage of being free!

It allows you to target readers who are actively reading your content by displaying a slide-in box once the reader has reached a certain scroll percentage.

The only real limitation is it requires you to know CSS to get the box looking exactly the way you want.

The default design is acceptable, but just be aware that using the same style as everyone else can lower conversions.

Key Features
  • Control the position of the box (e.g., left or right side)
  • Select when you want the box to appear (e.g., % scroll)
  • Allows advanced users to select a CSS class for the box for cleaner styling
Opt-in Forms Supported

Slide-in only.

Price: Free

5) Magic Action Boxes – Get Your Visitors To Take Action

magic-action-box-logo
Magic Action Boxes is a powerful plugin that focuses on after post opt-in forms, but it also supports a few other types.

The big difference with this plugin is it allows you to select your opt-in form directly from the Edit Post screen within WordPress.

So you can easily choose to show an opt-in form tailored to the current content, for example, featuring highly relevant sign-up incentives. However, you can also specify a default form for other posts.

A limited functionality version of this plugin is available for free and this is a great way to test-drive the plugin before purchasing.

Key Features
  • Easily add opt-in forms using shortcodes
  • Assign different action boxes for different categories
  • Various integrations with other plugins including Gravity Forms
  • Supports most mailing list providers
  • Includes A/B split testing and analytics
Opt-in Forms Supported

Sidebar, after post, popover (paid version only).

Price: $47+, free version available with limited features

6) Hello Bar – Get More Subscribers And Display High Converting Calls To Action

hello-bar-logo
Hello Bar allows you to create highly-visible notification bars that are anchored to the top of the screen.

You can use these to display a simple opt-in form or a call to action to funnel traffic to a landing page.

Hello Bar is more than just a WordPress plugin because it gives you the option to generate the code to create the notification bar without actually needing a plugin at all.

The setup process asks whether you want to display a call to action or form then allows you to customize the bar’s look and feel. Then it generates the HTML code or a customized WordPress plugin based on your settings — something I’ve never seen before.

One drawback — it’s limited to Aweber, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact and MailChimp without the option to add other providers via custom HTML forms.

Key Features
  • List building via simple, prominent opt-in forms
  • Creating calls to action (CTAs) to drive traffic to landing pages
  • Self-generating WordPress plugin with configuration “baked in”
  • Split testing and analytics to optimize and track goal conversions
Opt-in Forms Supported

Notification bar.

Price: $4.95+ per month (a free version is available with limited functionality)

Plugin Comparison Matrix – Supported Opt-in Form Types

Hybrid Connect OptinMonster Feature Box Dreamgrow Magic Action Boxes Hello Bar
Sidebar Yes Yes No No Yes No
Popover Yes Yes No No Yes (3) No
Feature box Yes (1) No Yes No Yes (4) No
After post Yes Yes No No Yes No
Slide-in Yes Yes No Yes No No
Notification bar No Yes (2) No No No Yes
Landing page Yes (1) No No No No No
Notes
  1. Limited functionality
  2. Footer only
  3. Ultimate version only
  4. Manual placement required

Plugin Comparison Matrix – Other Features

Hybrid Connect OptinMonster Feature Box Dreamgrow Magic Action Boxes Hello Bar
A/B split testing Yes Yes Yes No Yes (2) Yes
Shortcode support Yes Yes No N/A Yes No
Responsive forms Yes Yes Yes No Yes (2) Yes
Page level targeting Yes Yes (1) Yes No Yes Yes
Analytics Yes Yes Yes No Yes (3) Yes (3)
Exit intent No Yes N/A No No No
Pricing $49+ $49+ $37+ Free $47+ (4) $4.95/month (4)
Notes
  1. Certain form types only
  2. Pro version and above
  3. Limited functionality
  4. Free version available with limited functionality

3 WordPress Plugins for Creating Landing Pages that Readers Can’t Resist

If you want to get serious about list building, start using landing pages.

A landing page is a standalone page, free of other distractions, whose sole purpose is to get the reader to take a particular action — in this case to opt in to your email list.

But landing page design and layout are critical to their success, and in the past this has meant paying a designer or developer to create one for you.

It could get expensive.

These days, however, you can find some extremely powerful plugins that put control back in your hands.

1) LeadPages – It’s Not Just a Plugin; It’s a Platform!

leadpages-logo
LeadPages (aff) is an incredibly powerful platform that allows you to create many different types of conversion-focused pages.

Whether you want to create landing pages, squeeze pages, sales pages, webinar pages or something else, LeadPages has you covered.

LeadPages is a hosted solution so you don’t even need to use WordPress, although a plugin is available that integrates with it.

It also supports a unique type of 2-step opt-in called LeadBoxes. These break down the process into smaller steps to reduce the perceived effort required by the reader to sign up.

Features
  • Fully-hosted solution
  • Smooth handling of expired offers
  • Offers plenty of templates, ordered by conversion rate
  • One-click landing page duplication
  • Support for “welcome gate” style pages (pages shown to first-time visitors only)
  • Responsive templates
  • Can use an unlimited number of domains
  • Ability to create your own templates
  • 100% Facebook compatible
  • Supports all major mailing list providers

Price: Starts at $37/month but you will need to upgrade to $67/month to get access to split testing.

2) OptimizePress 2.0 – Drag and Drop Solution with Built-In Membership Features

optimizepress-logo
OptimizePress (aff) is my go-to platform for creating professional-looking landing pages.

It has a drag-and-drop editor that’s extremely easy to use, but if you want to get down to the code level, you can use shortcodes too.

In truth, OptimizePress is much more than just a plugin for creating landing pages — it’s also a fully-fledged WordPress theme with a membership plugin bundled in. So if you’re thinking of creating a members only area on your blog, you could save yourself $100 to $300.

Like LeadPages, OptimizePress also supports a wide variety of conversion-oriented pages, and a recent update called Overlay Optimizer now supports 2-step opt-ins too.

Features
  • Drag and drop editor
  • Built-in membership features
  • WordPress theme version
  • Impressive selection of landing page elements to choose from
  • Shortcodes for technically minded people who don’t want to use the drag and drop editor
  • Allows you to build your own launch funnels
  • Easy customization of opt-in forms
  • Supports almost all mailing list providers
  • Supports mobile responsive pages

Price: $197+

3) Coming Soon Pro By Seed Prod – Build a Buzz for Your Launch

coming-soon-pro-logo
Coming Soon Pro is one of the most functional coming soon and maintenance mode plugins available.

A plugin like this is handy if your blog hasn’t actually launched yet.

While it might sound crazy to build a list before you even have a blog, it’s the exact strategy Jon used to get over 13,000 subscribers for Boost Blog Traffic before he’d written a single post.

This strategy works best if you have a valuable incentive to offer visitors when they subscribe – Jon has his Headline Hacks report.

If you link to your coming soon page from a guest post on a popular blog, you’ve got yourself a great way to start building your list – even if you don’t have a blog yet.

Features
  • Make your blog-in-progress visible to others via a special URL
  • Shortcode support
  • Multisite support
  • Easily customize the look and feel
  • Advanced customization with CSS available
  • Collect email addresses in your WP database or a mailing list provider
  • Supports most popular mailing list providers
  • Adds social follow and share buttons
  • Supports maintenance mode and landing page mode

Price: Starts from $29

Plugin Comparison Matrix – Landing Page Features

LeadPages OptimizePress Coming Soon Pro
A/B split testing Yes No No
Analytics Yes No No
Responsive pages Yes Yes Yes
Drag and drop editor Yes (1) Yes No
Digital asset delivery Yes No No
2-step opt-in forms Yes Yes No
WordPress theme included No Yes No
Membership plugin included No Yes No
Hosted landing pages Yes No No
Pricing model Monthly/Yearly One-off Free/One-off
Pricing $37 per month
($67 for split testing)
$197+ $29+
Notes
  1. Limited functionality

How to Find the Perfect Combination of Opt-Ins for Your Blog

The plugins above will allow you to create opt-in forms and landing pages to your heart’s content.

But a word of warning.

The way you combine different opt-in forms is crucial.

Get it wrong and you could ruin the user experience and effectively turn away visitors, losing you readers and new subscribers.

For example, using popovers and slide-ins together could be a recipe for disaster. And if you already have a floating share bar such as Digg Digg, that could worsen the situation.

A useful rule of thumb is to only have one type of “sticky” opt-in form, i.e., one that follows the user as they scroll down the page.

The following are some combinations I’ve found that work well together (the sticky types are highlighted):

  • Notification bar + Sidebar + After post
  • Notification bar + Sidebar + After post + Popover
  • Feature box + Sidebar + After post + Slide-in
  • Feature box + Sidebar + After post + Slide-in + Popover

The only way to be certain of finding which plugins, and combinations of plugins, are best for your blog is to test them.

Some plugins provide support for split testing to help optimize lower-level features such as text and button colors, but truthfully, testing different combinations of plugins is tricky. Inevitably you’ll experience a degree of trial and error.

So I recommend starting simple and then experimenting with different forms once you’ve established a baseline.

Are You Ready to Get Serious About Building Your List?

You’ll have heard it many times before, but it’s still true.

Building an email list is one of the smartest things you can do with your blog.

However, it’s all too easy to put it off for another day.

Yet in reality, every day you delay, another group of potential subscribers slips through your fingers.

Subscribers that would take you another step closer to making your blog the success you know it deserves to be.

So what if today were different?

What if today you took the first step to getting the traffic you always dreamed about?

What if today was the day you decided to become a serious list-builder?

Because lack of technical know-how is no longer a valid excuse for not creating a killer opt-in form. Neither is a lack of money to pay someone else to create one for you.

The plugins above make it easy and cost-effective to create forms and landing pages to rival the web’s most popular bloggers.

So take another look at the list above and pick the plugin that you’ll try first — and take action.

You can do it.

And believe me, pretty soon you’ll be damn glad you did!

About the Author: Adam Connell is the Founder of Blogging Wizard and spends most of his time training people to get better results from their blog. If you want to blog smarter and not harder, download his free guide here and learn how to skyrocket your mailing list subscribers today.
9 Plugins for Growing Your Email List That Work So Well It Feels Like Cheating by