It is really easy to go nuts trying to figure out how to include nice looking opt-in forms into your blog. And, shopping for plug-ins is frustrating because it is hard to tell the difference between some of the available options.
In this installment, we cover the top tools for creating opt-in forms for your blog. Discussed in this episode is:
- Thrive Leads
- Opt-in Monster
- Opt-in Skin
For each, I give my review of the plug-in… and then share which I would go with today if I were starting over.
So with that being said, I welcome you to another episode of Coffee Break Blogging! Let’s get going!
Today we are going to talk about creating blog opt-in forms and how to actually get the job done; one of those things that can drive a lot of non-techy people right up the wall in the crazy town because it can be a bit of a difficult thing. And the thing is; and that is what we are going to talk about in this episode, there are a lot of plug-ins that will aid you to do it… But the thing too is, there are a lot of feature overlap between them. So in this episode, I am just going to mention just a few plug-ins; I’m not going to go out of my way to mention every possible option because quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of feature overlaps so the big thing is to get the one that is going to do the best job given the money that you spend on it and go from there. 😉
So that is the thing… There is a lot of plug-ins out there and I highly recommend that you do not go on to a tool collection spree. Do not go out there and just blow money because their marketing is really good. I mean, all these tools are put forth to seem like the best thing ever and you know; in their own right, they are good most of the time but the marketing is designed to make you want it. And it doesn’t mean that just because you do not know any better or what have you, that the marketing is telling and you are like, “Oh, okay” and then you buy and before you know it you have like 3 or 4 plug-ins that all essentially do the same thing and that is just a big waste of money. So we do not want to do that.
Creating The Blog Opt-in Form
So let us talk about how to create this blog opt-in form…
The first one; and I got to mention that just to get it out of the way, this is more for the geeky types and that is, yes… hand code your own opt-in forms. Yes. You can do it. And in fact, this guy right here (and I’m pointing on myself) has done that on more than one occasion. 🙂 You know, I come from a very geeky background and I know how to do things like that.
Now, even if you do not know how to manually code your own opt-in forms you can design an opt-in form in your email list host provider and it will give you the html. So if you go on to Aweber and you design an opt-in form that you think looks okay, it will give you the html and you throw that on your blog and then what you can do is go over into WordPress and use the text or html widget, drag that on to your sidebar and then you just paste that code that you get from Aweber right into that thing and it is going to show on your sidebar or wherever you drop that widget.
Now this is the long way to go. It is kind of geeky. You probably are not going to be nearly as happy as what it looks like. But if you got skills, if you know how to do html and CSS and all that good stuff you can get really ninja with how your opt-in forms looks and feels on your site. So it always remains an option. But I am going to imagine that most of you listening right now are not going to want to hand code your own opt-in forms.
Basic Features You Have To Look For
Before going through some plug-ins, let us look at some of the basic features that you want to look for here:
The first thing that you want to look for with an opt-in plug-in is you want to have some starter templates to get you started because designers are good with what they do and most of us are not designers. So the thing is, if they have some nice looking opt-in form templates built in to the plug-in that give you a humongous head start. Now the important thing here is that you also want to have a lot of flexibility to turn those pre-designed templates into whatever it is that you want them to look like. There are options like… I’m just going to throw out Lead Pages here.
Now Lead Pages is not for doing blog based opt-in forms. They got Lead Boxes. But even that is a good example. You are pretty much stuck with the template they give you and all you can do is change the words and change the image but that is essentially it so it is not that flexible. I use Lead Boxes in some places but I am not a big fan of Lead Pages as a platform because it is so un-flexible.
Now I realize that is probably a selling point for them because the flip-side of it is that it is very easy to use. But at the same time, I do not want to be put into a box. So any plug-in that you are looking for to do opt-in forms you should be able to modify to your heart’s content.
The second thing that you want to look for is targeting options. You want to be able to put different opt-in forms on different pages. This is pretty important. Because if you go back to Episodes 70 and 71 where we talked about the lead magnets and there we talked about you want to have more than one lead magnet and each one designed to attract a certain type of person. We have also, at the Coffee Break Blogging show we talked about the idea of content upgrades and how we can use them to get extremely high opt-in rates on your site. Now the thing is in order to execute something like that you need to be able to drop opt-in forms in the particular pages on your site and get really focused on where you put them. So for that reason you need to have good targeting options built-in to the plug-in. You need to be able to say “I want this opt-in form to go on this selection of pages and no others” you got to have that ability.
The third that you want is Analytics. You want to make sure that you have got a way to display some conversion rates as far as how many people see the opt-in versus how many people actually opted-in. You got the get that information.
Fourthly; and this is sort of important but not something you need to worry about right off the gate; and that is split-testing. You want to be able to split-test your opt-in forms so that you can improve your conversion rates over time. Okay?
So let’s jump right in to just a few plug-ins that I have looked into and looked really solid…
The first one, and this happens to be my favorite so far is called “Thrive Leads.” Now it used to be called Hybrid Connect and that is a plug-in I have recommended to people on the past and then they actually cancelled it and replaced it with Thrive Leads. Actually, Thrive Leads is a big improvement. It is a total rewrite, much easier to use; I have checked the sales page, it looks really, really solid. Thrive Leads allow you to do things like the pop-up light box so it pops-up when you get there or you can do the exit intent. It has the sticky ribbon which is that opt-in form that will stay up at the header of your site and it is just kind of stick there so even as you scroll down your own blog, the opt-in form stays there. So it is very similar to “Hello bar” or something like that if you have seen the hello bar.
Thrive Leads will obviously do in-line forms so if you would like to put an opt-in form at the bottom of your blog post or even in the middle of a blog post you can do that with Thrive Leads. You can do two-step opt-ins so what you would see as the Lead Boxes functionality you can do that with Thrive Leads. You do not even have to pay the recurring fee of Lead Pages. You can actually do this with Thrive Leads and it is a one-time buy. You could do “slide-ins” so you get these things that will pop-up from the footer or from the side; generally it is down at the lower right side of your blog you will see that little pop-up thing but it will slide in there. And then just generally less intrusive, it doesn’t get in the way of somebody when they are trying to read and therefore I tend to like them a little bit better.
And then you could also do the standard sidebar widget with Thrive Leads. They all pretty much do that. You can drag the widget in there and then whatever form that you have designed with Thrive Leads will show up right at the sidebar of your blog or in your footer or essentially any area of your site that can accommodate widgets. One thing I’ll mention there is that many good themes have a widgetized homepage which is great because… we talked about it before about how the homepage is a great opt-in offer opportunity; to treat that homepage like a landing page like it is almost like a squeeze page. And you can do that by using a widgetized homepage that is built right in to your theme, if it is a good theme and you can pop a Thrive Leads form right on to the homepage that way. So that is Thrive Leads… really solid plug-in, it has a nice visual editor for creating these forms so I think that you will not go wrong with the Thrive Leads Plug-in.
The second one I want to mention is Opt-in Monster. Now Opt-in Monster is put out by the same guys that do wpbeginner.com and I know Zayed over there; really great guy, really great team they definitely know what they are doing. And Opt-in Monster is a good plug-in. I have used it before, I am not actively using it right now. It does most of the same stuff that Thrive Leads does. There are some things that Thrive Leads will do that Opt-in Monster does not but it generally does the same thing. It has got Analytics, it does split-testing, it gives you targeting option and you have got a lot of templates in there that will help you get started. It is not quite as flexible in terms of the types of forms that you can do. So for example with Thrive Leads you could even have like a little mini-quiz inside the form. And then they will submit the answers and they will give a 2nd thing right inside the form for them to fill out the email address. So some really cool functionality with Thrive Leads that last time I looked, Opt-in Monster does not have. But it is still a really solid plug-in, you cannot go wrong with it.
The third I want to mention here is called “Opt-in Skin.” Now, opt-in skin, I personally think it is falling behind the times. I do not really know if they are maintaining it anymore, I haven’t really kept-up on it. But I went and look at the landing page and it does not look like it changed very much recently but when I did try it, it was a solid plug-in. It is just that I think Opt-in Monster and Thrive Leads have really outdone Opt-in Skin and I am not really sure that they are really keeping up. But at least the last time I looked, I know Pat Flynn over smartpassiveincome.com was still using Opt-in Skin in some locations and so there are people who will look in at Opt-in Skin and consider it. And it is not a bad option but I think you will all do a better job going with either Thrive Leads or Opt-in Monster.
And then lastly, another one that is popular because… well, it is just popular, but the other thing is that you get some functionality for free, and that is SumoMe.com. Now the thing about SumoMe is it is kind of like a little app store for your blog. So it has got a lot of other things in there besides email opt-ins. For example, I am using SumoMe for their share buttons because I like the way their Social Media Share buttons work. But one of the things that you can get with SumoMe is an opt-in system. You can have it pop-up, you can have it do the slide-in type of thing and you can do those things with SumoMe. It is not as flexible because it is not a dedicated opt-in form so you are going to do a lot better with Thrive Leads in terms of email marketing capability than you will with SumoMe but it is an option and you can definitely check it out. And even if you are not particularly interested in the email opt-in capability of SumoMe, I recommend you check it out because there are a lot of cool things that you can add to your blog by using SumoMe. It is more of a platform to add different things to your blog than it is just an opt-in thing. It is a lot more than that.
So I want to end off this episode by saying that between the ones that I have mentioned here and yes, there are a lot of other ones out there; like I said, there is so much feature overlap between them but it is a waste of time to talk about them… My personal favorite looks like it will be Thrive Leads. Now, I am not using Thrive Leads personally so I want to be upfront about that. I am not recommending it to you because I personally used it. I did use the earlier version Hybrid Connect and I have looked at Thrive Leads and it looks like a superior product to Hybrid Connect in all possible ways. What I am using right now is still the Lead Boxes functionality and then I manually code it to my sidebar. But like I said, I am kind of a geek that way. And a lot of my listeners are not the geeky type so I would say check out Thrive Leads; it is probably going to be your best bet in terms of a lot of flexibility with where you place your lead magnets on your blog and many different forms. You can even split test different form types with Thrive Leads. It is a really, really powerful plug-in. Okay?
So pick something and let’s move on. Do not buy more than one of these things because that would be a waste of your time. Okay?
So we have been talking about the top tools for creating blog opt-in forms and in the next one we will go in to some more tools on how to create squeeze pages. So that will be Episode 76 of Coffee Break Blogging coming right up and I will see you then!