Thrive Themes Review: The No-BS, Fair Analysis Of The Cost And How It Compares (2019)

After being a Thrive Themes member for multiple years, here is my no-BS review of their plugin suite, how the cost stacks up, and how it compares to the competition.

There are so many tools a blogger could buy, it just makes you wanna puke. And the last thing I ever recommend is for people to get stuck in a "shiny object syndrome".

When you're first starting out, startup capital is limited. There are so many tools you can buy, but that budget is limited. You want to make sure it is spent wisely.

My long-time readers have long known that I am a fan of Thrive Themes tools. In this review, I want to fully lay out the case for why.

I also want to take a critical look at the budget-friendliness of Thrive Themes - and compare that to some of the other tools often compared with Thrive.

I want to be clear...

Today I want to show you exactly why I now believe that Thrive Themes is absolutely the biggest no brainer out there for blog owners.

There are always startup costs associated with spinning up a new business. I want to fully explain to you why I think a Thrive Themes membership is one of the top purchases you should make. 

I use it personally here in my business. 

Quick note: I am an affiliate for Thrive Themes, so if you purchase it through one of the links on this page, I will earn a commission. You know how this works. 🙂 That said, I only recommend what I personally use and vet for myself. And, I am an avid user of Thrive products in my business.

Thrive Themes - It Isn't About Themes

When one hears about Thrive Themes, it is easy to assume it is just about themes. But, to be clear...

The reason I recommend Thrive Themes has nothing to do with their themes.

When they got started, themes were likely the full focus of their work. But, then things developed and today themes are not the focus at all. In fact, the library of themes they do have are not being actively developed any longer because they have much bigger things in play.

When it comes to just themes, there is obviously a whole library of free themes available for WordPress. There are also numerous sources for paid, premium themes. StudioPress is one of the most popular.

StudioPress, in particular, is a textbook case of why I am so keen on what Thrive Themes is doing. See, while StudioPress themes are very nice and based on the solid Genesis Framework, truth is they are difficult to modify.

Unless you have developer skills, tweaking a StudioPress theme can be quite complicated. You end up delving into the developer world of hooks, actions, custom PHP functions and the like. There's just no way the average blog owner will be able to deal with that unless they hire a third-party developer.

Most other traditional themes are the same way. If you want to modify anything beyond the basic color settings, you've either got to be a developer or you need to hire one.

Using most traditional themes, you're either severely limited by your own skills... or you're dependent on others. For me to recommend something like that to you would be doing you a disservice.

A Tour Of The Thrive Themes Suite

To be clear, Thrive Themes offers several very nice themes. They are well designed and they have great options that will fully serve your theme needs. Since I like simple themes, I prefer their FocusBlog theme, personally.

However, it is their suite of plugins that is most relevant here and the real reason I am such an advocate for their Thrive membership.

Let's go through all the tools in their suite. Since one of the goals of this is to compare costs, I will also outline the cost of each plugin if you were to buy it separately.

Let's get started...

Thrive Architect

Thrive Architect is really the foundation for their suite. It is the primary editor. You will be using Architect to build all your landing pages, optin forms, etc.

You can also take your blog posts up a notch by using Thrive Architect as your blog post editor. It provides a ton of power and flexibility over the default editor. In fact, this very blog post is being written with Architect.

I'm not going to give a full rundown of Thrive Architect here since that's not our purpose. However, the gist is this...

Thrive Architect will provide you full, visual control over the look and feel of your site without any need to learn coding.

Everything is drag-and drop. To edit any particular element, you just click on it and edit the properties. Everything is "what you see is what you get".

Like any software, there will be a little learning curve to get used to how to use it, but trust me it is infinitely easier than trying to deal with CSS and PHP code to hack a theme the traditional way.

With Architect, you can be self-sufficient with the look and feel of your site without sacrificing the quality.

Thrive Architect as a standalone purchase is $67 for a single-site. It is included with the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Optimize

Thrive Optimize is another plugin that essentially tacks right onto Thrive Architect. It enables full A/B split testing and conversion tracking right within your own site.

If you're not aware of what split testing is, it simple means that you split your traffic between 2 different versions of the page so that you can see which one converts better. You run a test, find the winner, make the winner your new default version, then repeat. This constant process of gradual improvement over time is how you put together landing pages that convert like crazy.

Traditionally, setting up a simple A/B split test could be a little daunting. Some more expensive software has it built in. Or you are left trying to figure out how to set up an experiment with Google Analytics. And the Google documentation is, shall we say, not a fun read? 🙂

Thrive Optimize allows you to set this up all in-house. It will take care of the whole enchilada and it is pretty easy to use for non-techies.

Since Thrive Optimize depends upon Architect, it isn't available by itself. The package of Architect+Optimize runs $127 for a single site. BOTH are included with the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads is the optin form manager plugin. You will use it to manage all of your optin forms across your entire blog.

It has the ability to insert optin forms anywhere you please. It will measure performance, conduct split tests all right within your WordPress site. It even makes lead magnet delivery easy.

What I personally really enjoy about Thrive Themes tools is how they all integrate with one another. So,  if you have optin forms designed in Leads, you can easily (for example) drag and drop that form into any blog post using Thrive Architect. 

Thrive Leads is available as a standalone product, but it is even better when used alongside the other tools (especially Architect).

Thrive Leads will run you $67 for a single site. It is included with the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Ovation

We all know that social proof (like testimonials) is a pretty important component of conversion. But, many of us make the mistake of not asking for testimonials. Plus, if we happen to get one, where do we store it? How do we use it?

Thrive Ovation is a testimonial manager. What it will do for you is:

  • Give you easy forms  you can have on your site to automate testimonial collection
  • Allow you to manage and organize testimonials right inside WordPress
  • Allow you to easily display testimonials anywhere on your site.

I have a number of testimonials in my system. When I am creating a landing page, I can easily drag and drop testimonials right into my page. You can customize everything with Architect. You can select testimonials to show... or even show them dynamically.

Thrive Ovation runs just $39 for a single-site. It is included with the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Ultimatum

Another important component of conversion is urgency. And one of the most classic tools for urgency is the deadline timer. Thrive Ultimatum makes urgency in your marketing easy.

With Thrive Ultimatum, you can have classic deadline countdown timers, recurring countdowns, or evergreen campaigns. For instance, let's say that you wanted every new subscriber to have their own personal deadline for an offer you were making right after they subscribe to your lead magnet. Using Ultimatum, you can set that up and it will be fully enforced for every subscriber (no fake scarcity).

Thrive Ultimatum makes real scarcity easy. It all integrates together so you can easily put it anywhere you please. And simply put, it will increase your sales and commissions.

Thrive Ultimatum is a pretty robust solution available for a one-time fee of $97 for a single site. It is included with a Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Apprentice

If you want to get into offering online courses, Thrive Apprentice is going to make you a happy business owner. It completely solves the problem of how to organize and display online courses on your site.

Create beautiful lesson pages, organize them into chapters and modules, and provide full progress tracking. It integrates with all the major membership site plugins and has a deep integration with SendOwl.

Also cool is that Apprentice will work with other themes.

If you're going to get into online courses (either as paid products or even as free ones to build your list), Thrive Apprentice is a solid solution.

Apprentice is available for just $67 for a single-site. It is included in the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Quiz Builder

Online quizzes have become popular for viral marketing on social media. They also make great list building tools. Based on their answers, you can offer them specific optins and segment your list.

The problem with quizzes has always been that it requires either custom programming or a more expensive tool. Thrive Themes has a tool for this called Quiz Builder.

Using Quiz Builder, you can create pretty awesome online quizzes to amplify your list building or just get viral traffic. You can give them different calls to action depending on their answers. You can use quizzes as surveys.

Honestly, the fact that they've built a way to do this right inside of WordPress is pretty freakin' impressive. I have personally hand-coded stuff like this in the past. Quiz Builder would have saved me literally DAYS.

Quiz Builder is available standalone for a single site for just $67. It is included in the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Headline Optimizer

Your blog post headline is the most important part of your whole blog post. And most of the really smart content marketers out there SPLIT TEST blog post headlines.

That's exactly what Headline Optimizer does. For any blog post you write, you can come up with multiple headlines for it and Optimizer will split test them to find out which one pulls in the most traffic.

Which post headline gets the most clicks? Which one results in more engagement on the post? You can find out with Headline Optimizer.

This plugin is sometimes forgotten in the Thrive suite, but it is pretty cool.

Headline Optimizer is available as a standalone option for a single site for $67. It is included with the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Comments

There is a debate out there on whether blog comments are worth having. There are cases to be made either way. That said, if you're going to have comments on our blog, shouldn't it count for your marketing?

Thrive Comments is, essentially, a replacement for the default comments system. It provides far more capability (like upvoting, etc.), but it also turns comments into part of your conversion strategy. For instance, you can give them a call to action if they post a comment such as to share the post or optin to your list.

Thrive Comments turns your blog comments into a marketing tool. If I were to run comments on my blog, it would only be with Thrive Comments.

Thrive Comments is available for a single site for just $39. It is included with the Thrive Themes membership.

Thrive Clever Widgets

This is one of their older plugins, but serves a pretty cool function if you have a blog sidebar. It allows you to put conditional logic on any sidebar widget to control exactly where it does and does not appear.

Want to have a widget only show up on certain posts, certain categories, certain tags? That's what this does. Or, you could exempt widgets from showing up in certain instances. For instance, maybe you have a login widget in your sidebar but it would make no sense to show it if they're already logged in. Using Clever Widgets, you can hide it for logged-in users.

This plugin can be handy in some instances, although some of it's functionality has been taken over by other plugins. For instance, all of this capability is built right into Thrive Leads so that you can have full control of where all your optins show up. 

Clever Widgets is available standalone for $39. It is included in the Thrive Themes membership.

An Evaluation Of The Cost Of Thrive Themes

The way Thrive Themes works is that most of their plugins are available as standalone purchases OR you can purchase a Thrive membership and you have access to everything.

My recommendation is to purchase the Thrive membership.

Now, I want to make the case as to why. Their membership is billed at $19/month, but you have to do so annually. Which means you will need to invest $228 upfront. When you're bootstrapping in the initial phases of your business, that could feel like a tough nut to crack.

I want to be as direct as I can here...

The value for the money that you will get with Thrive Themes is unlike you will find anywhere else.

The reason I so strongly recommend a Thrive membership is because for one investment, you get access to quality tools that will give you:

  • The ability to design any landing page you want (and you will need this to build your business)
  • The ability to build a real, high conversion optin strategy across your entire site.
  • The ability to do split testing to perfect your results over time.
  • The ability to build online courses
  • The ability to use quizzes for your online marketing.
  • The ability to do advanced evergreen marketing funnels, all within WordPress.

In terms of the efficient use of limited startup capital, this is the best deal you will find.

And they most definitely earn their money. Thrive Themes releases new updates to their software almost every week. Thrive Architect, in particular, is constantly getting better. And since Architect is a fundamental component of most of their suite, it affects everything.

With Thrive Themes, you can purchase their tools separately without the need for membership. Let us look at those costs (as of this writing) for a single-site license:

  • Architect - $67
  • Optimize (must be used with Architect and the package costs $127)
  • Leads - $67
  • Ovation - $39
  • Comments - $39
  • Headline Optimizer - $67
  • Quiz Builder - $67
  • Apprentice - $67
  • Ultimatum - $97
  • Clever Widgets - $39

If you were to buy single-site licenses to all of these products, that would run you $609. Keep in mind that if you want to use anything on more than one site, the cost is higher.

With the Thrive Membership, you can lock it all in for $228/year. Plus, you get access to all of their themes (not available separately any longer), and Thrive University (their training site).

Also, the membership allows you to use their tools on up to 25 different sites! All the one-time prices above were for just one site. 

You also get instant access to new plugins before they are released openly. For instance, Apprentice was available for quite some time only to members before they ever made it available otherwise. Plus, they are now working on a universal theme builder that will take over for all of their other themes (sort of like how you can build a theme with Elementor now). I can all but guarantee you that members will have access to that long before the general public.

The amount of marketing strategy that you can implement using this suite of tools makes it a better deal than anything else I have seen. That's why I believe it is a no-brainer for anybody looking to build or grow a real business on top of WordPress.

Why Thrive Versus The Other Options?

Despite my recommendation, I have had people go with other options. Some people have looked at that initial $228 purchase of their membership and they try to avoid it.

But, let us look at the comparisons here...

Let's take Thrive Leads alone. It is included in their membership, or you can buy it alone for $67 for a single site. Let's look at some of the major competition to Thrive Leads:

  • OptinMonster. To get an OptinMonster account that is equivalent to what Thrive Leads does will cost you $29/month paid annually ($348/year). While OptinMonster is nice (here's a full comparison), the pricing is more expensive than an entire Thrive membership. It is a no-brainer, really. Click here for the full comparison.
  • SumoMe. Their free option is pretty limited and if you choose to unlock it all, it costs $468/year.

There are others. Some of them even free. But, they generally don't stack up in terms of features. Plus, they don't have the suite of tools that Thrive does. That's the thing about the Thrive membership... you're not just getting optin forms, you're getting the whole SUITE.

I've seen some of the major third-party all-in-one tools. For instance, Clickfunnels has become popular and it is a nice tool, to be sure. It also costs $97/month, so do we need to get into what the better bang for the buck is here? Plus, you're totally dependent on Clickfunnels. With Thrive, you're using WordPress and you're in control of everything. You're not locked into anything.

When it comes to page builders, there are other options besides Thrive Architect. And to be clear, they're good in their own way. For instance:

Thrive Themes Versus Elementor

Elementor has a lot of similarities to Thrive Architect and, to be clear, Elementor is a great tool.

You can literally build your whole theme with it. Architect is not quite there, but it will be because Thrive is working on their own theme builder.

The PRO version will run only $49/year and that's a great deal. If we were only looking here at Elementor versus Thrive Architect, it would almost be a tossup. Both tools are great and (as of this writing), Elementor has a bit of an advantage because it already can build the theme. Elementor is also extensible to third-parties so there are add-ons for it that give additional capability.

I still recommend a Thrive membership over Elementor, though. And the reason is because of all the OTHER tools Thrive has and the tight integration between them. While Elementor does a fantastic job of site building, I think Thrive does that very well, too, while also providing a more complete suite of marketing-centric tools.

In short, Thrive Themes is better suited to the online business owner because it checks more boxes than Elementor. The integration between the various Thrive tools is hard to beat. That said, Elementor is q very good page builder.

Thrive Themes Versus Elegant Themes

One of the other main competitors to Thrive Themes is Elegant Themes. The two companies have similar roots in that they began as theme builders and later branched out into more complex custom plugins that serve far more needs.

Elegant Themes has two main options which most directly take on Thrive tools...

First, you have Divi. Divi is their page builder and you can actually design your whole site with it. It is quite a powerful tool, to be clear. I personally think it isn't quite as intuitive to use as Thrive Architect, however. Their default Divi builder is just confusing, so that leaves their newer Visual Editor to more directly act like Architect. It is powerful, but just takes more getting used to at least in my opinion.

You also have Bloom. Bloom is their optin form plugin that does mostly what Thrive Leads does. That said, Thrive Leads is more robust. The fact that Leads uses Architect as the editor means there is way more design flexibility. Bloom gives a lot of flexibility, but it is more within the confines of what Bloom provides. Also, Leads offers more options for form types as well as placement.

Like Thrive, Elegant Themes has a membership for only $89/year. Interestingly, they also offer a lifetime option for only $249. Price-wise, Elegant Themes seems like a better deal. That said, let's look at what you don't get...

You don't get the course builder, a quiz builder, the split testing tools, etc. Overall, you get way more with Thrive. Yes Thrive costs a little more, but you get more for it. Plus, Thrive tools are built with conversion in mind. They are more marketing-focused whereas Elegant is more focused on design elements.

Any Negatives?

When you consider the return on investment, no. That said, like anything, there are always little things to keep in mind.

I wish Thrive Architect had the ability to have third-party extensions. Elementor does that and, as of this writing, Architect does not. To be clear, however, I've never felt lack in any way by this because Architect does so much already. However, you never know what kind of things might come out if developers could put plugins onto Architect.

I wish they already had the universal theme ready to go. I can tell they're building up to it by the updates coming out for Architect. But, it isn't there quite yet. It will be.

Support is pretty good, for the most part. It is all done via a forum that has both public and private elements. It works nicely. That said, there have been times where I thought the person answering the ticket was a little too templated in their response and was giving me generic answers. I will say, though, that they are responsive. One time I reported a bug with Architect that was keeping me from using shortcodes from Membermouse as button links. They confirmed it... and fixed it in a later release of Architect. So, they definitely pay attention.

I have also noticed a little bit of code bloat with pages built with Architect. When you "View Source" and look at the HTML, there's some... nasty code in there sometimes. This is just me being a bit of a perfectionist, however. In the end, it doesn't slow down the site and everything works in different browsers. Since that is the goal of a page builder, it does that job well. If I were to hand-code it, however, it would be thinner code. Of course, the whole point of Architect is that I don't have to hand-code a thing. 🙂

My Final Word

When people begin with the Online Business Roadmap, in Phase 1 I recommend 3 tools. They are:

  1. Solid web hosting (and I recommend Siteground for that)
  2. A solid email list host (and I recommend Aweber for people just starting out)
  3. Thrive Themes

In this post, I wanted to make my case as to why.

It is easy in this market to assume that everything is done for affiliate commissions. I hope that experience with me has shown that I never recommend something to my readers solely for that purpose. I have certain requirements before I ever recommend something - one of them being my own personal experience. If I wouldn't buy it myself, I could never recommend it to you.

I am a Thrive member. I use their tools in my business. I would never consider cancelling because I feel I get way more value from them each year than I pay.

And in this post, I hope I've made the case for why I think this is a super smart buy for you, too. Even with limited funds to invest.

If the membership is too much, I would consider Architect and Leads to be the bare minimum. But, by then, you're not far from the cost of the membership so that's the recommended way to go.

Nothing in my training requires the use of Thrive tools. You can, of course, choose any tools you wish to do the job. 

After you buy the big 3 recommendations above, the only thing you really need is a way to collect money for orders. Either a membership plugin or something like Easy Digital Downloads. Other than that, though, you can easily just put a sock in future purchases and not spend any more money on tools for quite awhile. You will have access to everything you need.

If you have any questions about any of this, don't hesitate to get in touch. Just smack that blue button in the corner and ask away.

About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.