Sumo List Builder Review: Is It Worth Using To Build Your List?

Everyone wants a bigger list, right?

Putting a well-designed, well-placed opt-in offer in front of your visitors is the way to do it, but that’s often easier said than done.

Here’s the good news:

Plenty of list building tools exist to remove those technical barriers and eliminate guesswork from the equation.

Sumo List Builder Review

Last updated: June 11, 2018
First Published on: June 11, 2018

tl;dr Summary
The freemium Sumo List Builder plugin has some nice features for beginning marketers. But the paid version doesn’t provide as much value as its competitors.
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The question is, which one makes sense for your business?

Whether you’re just starting out, or you already have some subscribers under your belt, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of list building solutions.

In today’s review, we’ll be taking a look at Sumo List Builder — one of the most popular freemium WordPress plugins in this category.

Sumo List Builder Home

The Sumo List Builder Interface

Unlike most WordPress plugins, Sumo List Builder has a unique interface that sits on top of your dashboard.

To access it, you need to click the Sumo badge:

Sumo Badge

You’ll then be transported into Sumo-land, where you can configure each of the Sumo tools to your heart’s desire.

On the left, you can navigate between the different tools:

Sumo Tools

Honestly, it’s a little jarring at first.

You don’t quite know if you’ve been redirected away from your WordPress dashboard, or if it is indeed a full-screen overlay.

You get used to it, but not before accidentally hitting your browser’s back button a few times.

The top bar offers a few other options, such as notifications and account settings.

Sumo Notifications

Nothing earth-shattering, but it’s nice to know.

Overall, I like what they’ve done here and I think the dedicated Sumo interface makes sense when you factor in the suite of tools available.

Since this is a review for Sumo List Builder, however, that’s the tool we’re going to focus on for the rest of this article.

Sumo List Builder Goals & Form Types

Before you get to form types, Sumo does something a little different to most other list building tools.

It asks about your campaign goal, or what exactly you’re trying to achieve.

Sumo List Builder - Campaign Goals

Depending on which of these goals you select, the rest of the steps will change accordingly.

For example, if you choose to collect Push Notifications, the form types and designs will change to match.

The goals available are:

  • Collect emails
  • Collect push notification subscribers
  • Add a call to action
  • Get social shares
  • Collect info with custom code

In reality, this could easily be part of the left navigation, but it feels more guided because it’s presented in a step-by-step, wizard-like fashion.


Continuing with the most obvious goal for List Builder users, collecting emails, you’ll then be asked to select your form type.

Sumo List Builder - Form Type

Sumo offers all the usual form types, including:

  • Popup: your standard popup form
  • Scroll box: an opt-in box that sticks to the corner of the screen as you scroll
  • Inline form: an opt-in form that displays inside your content
  • Click trigger popup: like a standard popup, but with a click trigger.
  • Welcome mat: essentially a full-screen overlay
  • Smart bar: A sticky ribbon that sits at the top or bottom of your site

There’s also a ‘Cart Casino’ form type which is only available on the (very expensive) E-commerce plan, but more on that later.

Moving on…

Sumo List Builder Templates & Designs

Once you’ve selected your form type, it’s time to design the form.

Sumo gives you a default design to work with, and this is what you’ll see on choosing a form type, but it can be changed in this step.

You’ll see the library of templates in the wizard, and clicking on any of these will change the preview to the right.

Sumo List Builder - Template Library

It works, but I wasn’t impressed by the amount of scrolling I had to do, and thumbnails aren’t easy to work with either.

Perhaps the template library should open into (yet another) overlay? I don’t know, but something feels off here.

That aside, there are over 50+ templates to choose from with plenty of variations. The quality was also pretty high across the board.

Once you’ve selected a template, you can begin customizing it.

Sumo List Builder - Editor

In the screenshot above, clicking the green strip layer turned the form template area into a customizer.

You’ll also notice a change to the bars appearing at the top and bottom of the form, leaving me confused as to what to focus on.

This is where I felt the user experience took a turn, and I was forced to spend some time getting to grips with Sumo’s form editor.

As it goes, the customizer (left side) is where most of the magic happens:

Sumo List Builder - Customizer Options

Again, these settings are constrained in an uncomfortably small scroll area, but there’s a LOT you can do here in terms of customization.

This is also where you edit text on your form.

Unlike modern page builders (Elementor, Thrive Architect, etc.), there’s no inline editing here.

Sumo List Builder - Edit Text

Styling and text editing is one thing, but what about moving the layers?

You’ll be pleased to know this is a drag and drop editor, and unlike most visual editors on the market, it isn’t section based.

Yep, you can literally move layers and drop them anywhere on the form.

Sumo List Builder - Drag and Drop Editor

My biggest worry with this system was not being able to place elements correctly, causing misalignment. Fortunately, they do snap in place.

Going back to that top bar, you can reorder, duplicate and delete layers, as well as add new layer elements.

Sumo List Builder - New Layer Elements

Sumo has a strong selection of different elements to choose from, including things like countdown timers and a GDPR-approved checkbox.

Finally, the bottom bar allows you to view and select from a list of layers, undo or redo changes, preview your form, and enter full-screen mode.

Full-screen mode was only slightly bigger than the default view…

Sumo List Builder - Full Screen Mode

I know, hardly any different. #disappointing

The preview works as expected, however, giving you a (real) full-screen view of your form in action.

Sumo List Builder - Preview

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the design experience.

While Sumo loses marks on the editing interface, it manages to gain a few back on design variation and flexibility.

Placement & Visibility

You have your form.

You’ve settled on the design.

Now it’s time to figure out where and when that form should display.

As you transition to this step, Sumo will offer you a choice between ‘Smart Mode’ and ‘Manual Mode’.

Sumo List Builder - Visibility Modes

The default ‘Smart Mode’ sounded awesome, but not something I’ve seen in any other list building tool so I wasn’t exactly sure how it worked.

Unfortunately, the interface did little to help my confusion, so I was forced to seek more information from the Sumo website.

Here’s what they said:

“Smart Mode takes into consideration your users behavior and will appear if they are attempting to leave your site. If a user lands on a page but clicks on a link and traverses within your site, Smart Mode will not be triggered.”

In other words, it’s an exit-intent.

The mystery here is why they couldn’t just call it that, and perhaps more importantly, why they couldn’t include more information within the interface itself?

Anywho, let’s explore the more practical ‘Manual Mode’…

Sumo List Builder - Manual Mode

One thing I should point out is that these options will change depending on your form type.

For example, an inline form doesn’t “pop up”, so Sumo removes those settings since they’re redundant.

And a scroll box form requires a different configuration, so Sumo adds new settings to the visibility section.

Sumo List Builder - Scrollbar Settings

For the sake of consistency, I’ll stick to the popup form type for the rest of the review.

The first manual option for this form type is essentially a timer:

Sumo List Builder - Timer Options

Here you can set a custom timed delay of seconds or minutes after which point the popup will trigger regardless.

The tab beside it, however, is your exit-intent.

Sumo List Builder - Exit Intent

Again, you can set a custom display frequency for when a when a visitor tries to leave your site, but there’s strangely no way to disable it entirely.

(Well, at least none that I could see.)

Moving on, we have display rules. These rules allow you to dictate exactly what pages your popup is shown on.

Clicking the green ‘Add New Rule’ button opens a new overlay:

Sumo List Builder - Add New Rule

This “rule builder” allows you to include/exclude display rules based on a number of factors.

To name them:

  • URL’s: paths, query parameter, hash.
  • Pages: homepage, article page.
  • Devices: desktop, mobile, sizes, OS, browser, IP address.
  • Referrer: referrer domain, referrer URL’s
  • Visitors: first page view, total page views, location, date.
  • Other: user agents, meta tag, cookie, JavaScript

So yeah, a lot of control here which means you can effectively show unique, targeted opt-in forms to your visitors.

You can stack as many of these rules as you want, leaving you with thousands of potential combinations.

Sumo List Builder - Display Rules

While these kinds of display rules aren’t unique to Sumo List Builder, I particularly like the way the interface is set up.

Finally, let’s talk about the ‘Advanced Settings’ button.

Clicking this will reveal some additional settings better suited for, well… advanced users.

Sumo List Builder - Advanced Settings

Personally, I don’t feel these are very “advanced” but maybe that’s just me.

In any case, the option to hide forms based on opt-in status is awesome, and something that should probably be a default setting for ANY list building tool.

Overall, while I did find the Smart Mode a little vague and underwhelming, Manual Mode more than made up for it.

A/B Split Testing

What good is a list builder tool in 2018 without A/B testing to boot?

Sumo knows the answer, which is why this thing ships with an in-built split testing feature to be used with any form type.

To set up a test, you’ll first need to go to your forms, then select ‘Test’ from the top navigation bar.

From there, you can create a new test:

Sumo List Builder - Split Testing

You’ll need to have at least one existing form before you can set up a test.

That way, Sumo List Builder can duplicate that form in order for you to create a variant of it.

Once you’ve selected your form, you can click the green ‘Start Test’ button to proceed.

Sumo List Builder - Start A/B Test

From here, you’ll be thrown into the same form creation process I outlined earlier, where you can configure everything from your goal, form type, visibility, design and more.

(That’s right, you can A/B test different form types.)

Of course, you can stick to the same settings as your original form, and Sumo will create a copy of that form by default… so you can build up or down from that.

The difference here, however, is that Sumo will pitch these forms against each other to see which converts best.

Sumo List Builder - Test Stats

The sliders let you choose how often each form should display relative to the other, though 50% is recommended for the fastest, most accurate results.

You can run a test for as long as needed, and the test results will continue to update during that time.

Once you’re happy with the numbers, you can click the ‘Use This’ button next to the winning design to apply that for all visitors.

What’s nice here is you can also add additional variations at any time:

Sumo List Builder - Test Variations

Overall, while some A/B testing platforms feel like an afterthought, Sumo List Builder clearly had some thought put into it.

Big thumbs up from me.


Unlike other list building tools, Sumo allows you to manage subscribers and build campaigns without any additional integrations.

Here’s how it looks:

Sumo List Builder - New Campaign

Pretty basic, but it’s perfect for those who want an easy, all-in-one solution.

Of course, not everyone wants to just up and leave their email marketing service, and fortunately, Sumo offers a long list of integrations for paid users.

(I had to zoom about a lot to get this screenshot. Lol.)

Sumo List Builder - Integrations

All the big guys are there, including Aweber, MailChimp, ConvertKit, and ActiveCampaign.

More of these integrations become available on the higher tier paid plans — such as Klaviyo on the E-commerce plan.

Once your integration is set up, Sumo will sync all subscribers to your chosen provider. Easy peasy.

Missing a crucial integration?

You’ll be pleased to know Zapier is supported, allowing Sumo to talk to any software found in Zapier’s library. (Hint: that’s a lot!)

Sumo List Builder - Zapier Integration

Overall, free users will struggle with the lack of integrations available, but becoming a paid subscriber will unlock what is otherwise a super comprehensive list.

Sumo List Builder Pricing

In 2018 there has never been a better selection of free tools available to online business owners.

Sumo is one of those tools, and while it does operate on a freemium model, you get a pretty decent feature set for your $0.

Let’s take a look a look at the pricing:

Sumo List Builder - Pricing

(FYI: You can get a 20% discount on annual plans.)

Of course, the free version has limitations such as a limited subscriber count, fewer form templates, and Sumo branding.

For this review, I tested both a free and paid plan to see how the experience differed from one to the next.

The biggest flaw?

A constant push from Sumo to pony up some money. It’s not the most aggressive freemium tool I’ve ever seen, but it bugged me no less.

Sumo List Builder - Freemium Reminders

For example, during the ‘Design’ step, clicking any of the templates above will take you to the pricing screen without warning.

Like I said, it’s still a very usable tool, and a great option if you’re starting out, but I feel it could benefit from a little toning down in some areas.

As for becoming a premium member, honestly, I found this tool a little overpriced for what it is — a list building plugin.

If you consider that something like MailerLite has email capture built in, along with a free plan of up to 1,000 subscribers….

…or the arguably better Thrive Leads is $67 one-time, and Convert Pro is $99 per year…

Well, it’s hard to make a case for choosing Sumo over competitors, especially on the lower end where the e-commerce features aren’t included.

Final Thoughts

Having known about Sumo List Builder for many years now, this was a plugin I’d developed high expectations for.

For the most part, it met those expectations.

It has a dedicated interface, various form types, great templates, strong customization, advanced display preferences, and virtually everything you need to create high-converting opt-in forms.

The problem, however, is that while features are available in the free version, the tight restrictions means you’ll quickly outgrow the free tier and be required to pay anyway.

Given that there are other, equally impressive list builders at a much lower price point, this may be one for those with a healthier budget and an unwavering loyalty for Sumo products.

Thinking of giving it a spin? Click here try Sumo List Builder for free, or become a paid subscriber and unlock all the benefits.

Build your list with Sumo List Builder today

Sumo List Builder Pros

  • Overlay interface that acts as a setup wizard
  • Goal types to help you better decide on a form type
  • Offers the usual form types you’d expect to see
  • A strong selection of templates for each form type
  • Great design flexibility with the drag and drop editor
  • Manual mode offers granular control over form visibility
  • Awesome display rules that are also stackable
  • Very thorough and easy to use A/B testing feature
  • Comprehensive list of integrations

Sumo List Builder Cons

  • Some areas are too confined in the editing interface
  • The design editor took a while to fully grasp
  • Smart Mode’ is really just an exit-intent (lame)
  • Few integrations available until you upgrade
  • Quick to outgrow free plan (only 200 subs)
  • Paid plans are expensive compared to the competition
Affiliate Disclaimer: I hope you enjoyed our Sumo List Builder review. Please note that some of the links inside this article may be affiliate links for Sumo tools. That means that if you click on one of the links and sign up, we may get an affiliate commission for it. If you do happen to click, we really appreciate it! Any money we make keeps this site running smoothly and allows us to keep producing these high-quality reviews.
About Lewis Parrott

Lewis is a writer and SEO nerd based out of Southeast Asia. He spends most of his day churning out internet marketing related content from his laptop. Believe it or not, he also has a girlfriend.