Thrive Leads Review: The Smart Way To Grow Your List

Have you been building your email list and wondering why it’s been growing so slowly?

There are countless optin form building products out there which you may or may not be using.

Or maybe you are using the email form builder that comes with your current email service provider.

Thrive Leads Review

Last updated: May 20, 2017
First Published on: Feb 18, 2016

tl;dr Summary
Thrive Leads allows you grow your list faster than ever by providing a highly flexible optin form creation tool and excellent split testing features.

Ultimately, you have found that they are lacking in some way.

Perhaps it’s their lack of good looking templates.

Or maybe their form builder restricts you from building the design you really want.

Creating beautifully designed optin forms is the first step in collecting more emails.

So it’s important that you get this right.

That is why I’ve been so impressed with Thrive Leads. It basically checks off every box of what I want in a list building plugin. And even better, it keeps improving with each and every update.

I’ve referenced Thrive Leads a lot in many of my posts, but I had not gotten around to putting together my own Thrive Leads review until now.

In this review, I’m going to show you everything that Thrive Leads has to offer and why I feel that it has cemented itself as the best list building plugin you can use.

What is Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads is one of the flagship products of the Thrive Themes membership started by Shane Melaugh and Paul McCarthy.

At its core, Thrive Leads is a Wordpress plugin that allows you to create beautiful optin forms very quickly. Yet, it’s very flexible and doesn’t limit your creativity in any way.

Thrive Leads supports all the popular optin form types that are currently in use by marketers right now. And if another type of optin form becomes popular in the future, you can be sure that Thrive Leads will incorporate it as well.

For example, content upgrades are the hot email list building technique at this moment. To meet this need, Thrive Leads added Lead Asset delivery and a bunch of new content upgrade templates to the plugin.

But there’s more to Thrive Leads than the optin form builder. It also includes the best, most robust split testing feature I’ve seen. This allows you to test your forms against each other to see which one converts the best.

By making the process simple and continually testing and improving the conversion rates of your optin forms, your number of subscribers will grow faster than ever.

With Thrive Leads, there is no reason to use your email service provider’s built-in web form builder. It completely renders them obsolete.

Thrive Leads Optin Forms

Thrive Leads allows you to create any of the most popular optin forms in use today. These include.

  • Lightbox Popup – An overlay that displays an email optin on top of your site. It’s definitely the most common type of optin form you will see these days.ThriveLeads-Lightbox
  • Slide-In popup – A poupup that slides up from the bottom of the screen. Less intrusive then your standard lightbox popup.
  • Ribbon – Resembles the popular HelloBar that overlays a horizontal optin form at the top of your site.ThriveLeads-Ribbon
  • Widget – Embed an optin-form in any widget enabled area of your site. Most commonly used for sidebar or footer optins.
  • Post Footer – An optin form that appears at the bottom of your post content. Popularized by Pat Flynn.
  • In Content Optin – Using short codes, embed a form anywhere in your content, like say your About Page.
  • Scroll Mat – A full page optin form. User can dismiss by clicking the close button or just scrolling down the page.ThriveLeads-ScrollMat
  • Multi-Step – An optin form with multiple steps. Takes the idea of micro-commitments to improve conversion rates.ThriveLeads-MultiStep

Thrive Leads introduces the concept of lead groups which are its way of organizing a group of opt-in forms. Each lead group can be targeted to a specific set of posts or pages of your choosing.

This is perfect for implementing those content upgrades, as it allows you to easily add lead magnets to multiple pages on your site.

Inside each lead group, you can edit multiple forms at once, configure which posts they show on, and setup split testing among all the forms in your group.

Thrive Leads shows you how your lead groups perform compare to other groups, plus you can drill down and see how each particular form is performing as well.


The alternative to using lead groups is to use shortcodes. This allows you to design an optin form (similar to the Post Footer optin) that you can embed inside any of your content.

The main difference between the two is how you integrate them. Shortcode forms require you to edit an individual post or page to add them.

You get a few different options to trigger your shortcode forms.

  • Show on page load
  • Display after certain period of time
  • Show when form enters viewport

So where might you use a shortcode form? A good use case is in your About page or Resource page. These are usually high traffic pages on your site, and it makes sense to add a form in the middle or end of your content.

Customizing Your Forms

Where Thrive Leads stands out is the flexibility in the designs that you can create. The editor allows you to move and delete any element you want. Combined with its rich library of components and you have true freedom when creating your designs.

The reason it’s so powerful, is that Thrive Leads leverages the Thrive Content Builder editor. The editor allows you to drag and drop components right onto the form preview.

Here are the elements available for you to add.


Once on your form, you can simply tweak any element by clicking on it and seeing its properties. So things like font-size, color, alignment, margins and padding can be changes with a couple of clicks. If you need a little more power, you can also add custom CSS code as well.

Optin forms don’t need to be designed from scratch, although you can if you like. Thrive Leads includes a number of templates for each form type, and more are getting added with every update.

These are all very well designed, and you could easily use them as-is if you like.


Triggers, Display Frequency, Targeting & SmartLinks

I see this fairly often. A site will have a single optin form and have it display every single time on every page of your site.

This is the lazy way of doing email marketing, and you’re not maximizing your list’s potential if you do this.

With Thrive Leads you have full control of how and when each of your optin forms will show up.

Triggers allow you to control how an optin form displays on the site. The plugin includes basic triggers like showing on page load, after a certain period of time, or when a user clicks on an element (for 2-step optins).

Then there are more advanced triggers like when your reader gets to a certain section of your content, or on exit intent, which is when the user is about to leave the page.


You never want to annoy your readers by showing your forms all the time. So using the frequency slider allows you to control how often any particular form gets displayed. This is something I recommend you split test, to find the optimal setting for your site.


Thrive Leads also gives you full control of what pages and posts your optins can show up on. You can be as general (all posts/pages) or as specific as you want. You can even configure forms to show up for just desktop users, just mobile users or both.

This is especially useful for content upgrades where you typically only want an optin form to show on a specific set of pages.

Thrive Smart Links

Thrive SmartLinks is one of the newer features added to Thrive Leads and it addresses a problem that is common to any site using these types of optin forms.

See, the people who subscribe to your email list are more often than not, your most loyal fans. They are the ones most likely to buy your products and services and they will often be repeat visitors to your site to consume your new content.

But what typically happens when your subscribers come back to your site? They’ll see the same optin forms, popups and scroll mats that everyone else is seeing.

This is a bad user experience!

There is no need to show an optin form to someone who has already subscribed.

This is where Thrive SmartLinks comes in. It lets you show your optin forms to new visitors, but show something completely different to your subscribers.

How it works is that Thrive Leads will generate a special link for you that you can send out in your email broadcasts. When your subscribers click through this link in their emails, they will see a different version of your site without the optins.

SmartLinks are flexible as well. You could replace your optins with nothing at all to create a completely clean experience for your subscribers. Or you could swap out your optin forms with a more targeted upsell offer like a special subscriber discount.


This is a great feature, and there’s a lot that you can do with it.

Multi-Step Forms

Multi-Step optin forms are starting to gain more popularity. Making your visitor interact with your popup is a little psychological prompt that can help bump up your conversions. You may have visited sites like QuickSprout and wondered how they created this type of popup.


With Thrive Leads, you now have this capability as well.

Not only can you use it to collect more emails, but you can have the 2nd step show a call-to-action button instead. You might use this to promote some other content on your site or even an affiliate offer.

Split Testing

Where Thrive Leads really stands out is its A/B split testing features. By split testing every optin form you build, you will rapidly see an improvement in your conversion rates, which means a bigger email list for you.

Thrive Leads does a nice job of making split testing easy.

Next to each of your forms, there is a clone button that will make a copy of that form. You can then edit the form as normal to create a new variation to split test against.

Then press the Start A/B test button which will launch a dialog like this.


Here you can specify your split test name and enable whether you want an Automatic Winner chosen.

What this means, is that once your split test meets your specified criteria, one of the forms will be declared the winner. All the other forms in your split test will be paused, and only the winner will remain to show.

This lets you always show your highest converting form, without having to continually check your stats in the future and manually set this.

The whole split testing system is very flexible. You can test both forms of the same type (Lightbox vs Lightbox) or even different types (Lightbox vs Slide In).


Thrive Leads reporting and analytics are excellent.

You can easily see your number of signups, your conversion rates for every form and lead group.

You also can pull up lead and conversion rate reports for a specified time period to see how things are improving over time.

My favorite though is the Content Marketing report which shows all the posts on your site and how many leads they’ve generated. It allows you to really drill down and optimize each page for maximum conversions.


Thrive Leads vs the Competition

You are probably reading this Thrive Leads review because you are trying to decide which product to use to collect emails on your site.

Two of the most popular optin products right now that you will see most often are Sumo’s List Builder plugin and LeadPages’ LeadBoxes.

Thrive Leads vs Sumo List Builder

You will see Sumo’s List Builder plugin used on many sites. Mainly because it has a free plan that allows anyone to get started really easily. This makes it a good solution if you’re just trying out this email marketing thing and you are on a budget.

The free Sumo List Builder plan has improved a ton compared with the previous version. Previously, you could only use a single optin form template. Now you have the choice of 41 different templates.

The form designer looks beautiful and is also much improved as it supports drag and drop and layers. It reminds me of the Instapage drag and drop editor which I really like.

There are a couple of cons of using the free List Builder plan. First, you can only use it on a single site, and it limits you to the number of visitors.

The other major limitation with the free plan is that you can’t directly integrate with your favorite email service provider. Instead, you have to download your leads to a csv file and import them in manually.

Thrive Leads vs LeadPages

LeadPages’ LeadBoxes are just one component of the Leadpages service that is used for collecting emails. It’s quite easy to use and is especially popular for implementing the content upgrade strategy on many sites.

The downside used to be that all LeadBoxes would look pretty much the same. And you see this today with all the LeadBoxes that are published out in the wild.

However, this will slowly start to change soon with the introduction of the drag and drop LeadBoxes which now allow for more customization.

Still, I prefer Thrive Leads’ reporting and split testing features over LeadPages. And there’s no monthly fee.

If you look feature by feature, Thrive Leads pretty much beats both Sumo and LeadPages in every way.

A Thrive Leads Case Study

You may have noticed that I am actually using Thrive Leads on this site to collect emails.

It has been quite successful so far, so let me show you what I’ve did.

The first step was to create a lead magnet.

So I decided to create a simple cheatsheet about… creating lead magnets. Yup, very meta.

I went with Piktochart to create it and I was very happy with how easy it was to design a visually appealing cheatsheet using it.

Next, I went into Thrive Leads and using one of the built-in templates, created a nice looking lightbox like this.

thriveleads-casestudy-lightboxI created 2 lead groups so I could test different targeting options with the same lightbox.

For the first, I had it display on all my product review and email marketing related posts. And the second lead group displayed the lightbox on every other post on the site.

This was an experiment to show how important relevance is in email optin conversion rates.

Here are my stats.


Overall, you can see I’ve collected 609 leads and the optin rates for my lead magnet are 8.6 times higher when displayed on relevant pages on my site.

I was also very diligent about split testing my lightbox to optimize my conversions. So I tested different aspects like headlines and images, and had Thrive Lead pick the best performing form.

I can’t stress how important this is.

For example, in my headline test I tried 2 different headlines:

“How to Create the Perfect Lead Magnet” and “Grow Your Email List Faster”.

The first headline got an optin rate of 6.64%. The second got an optin rate of 2.35%. Simple tweaks like this can make a huge difference and it’s the reason why I think Thrive Leads is so fantastic.

Final Thoughts

Thrive Leads is quite simply, the most powerful list building plugin available today.

You can use it to create any type of optin form you can think of and make them convert as well as possible using it’s awesome split testing capabilities.

It’s also super configurable. You have full control of where your forms show up, how they are triggered. It also supports all your favorite email service providers.

Compared to other similar products which charge a monthly fee, it’s also refreshing to see that Thrive Leads is just a $97 one time payment for unlimited sites.

And lastly, Thrive Leads is constantly being updated with new features. SmartLinks, Scroll Mat and MultiStep optin forms were all added after the initial release.

Shane and Paul have shown that they are dedicated to this product for the long haul, so we should see it continue to evolve in the future.

Want to grow your email list faster? Thrive Leads is the best product for doing this and I highly recommend you try it out.

Try ThriveLeads Today