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Does WordPress need another premium optin form plugin? Syed from WP Beginner and Thomas Griffin, creator of the super popular Soliloquy slider plugin seem to think so and have entered the already busy marketplace with OptinMonster. We had a chance to take it for a spin, and you can see our more than comprehensive OptinMonster Review below.
The Ultimate OptinMonster Review
This lead generation plugin was released last month and is already getting reviews from a whole slew of WordPress news and review sites. But as we’ve shown with past reviews, 300 words just doesn’t cut it on the WP Site Care blog. We’re going deep with this review to see how this new venture stacks up against other offerings. Its sole purpose is to help you build that email list and build it fast. Because as we know, a strong email list can be a big driver for your future sales. And you like sales. I can tell you do.
But is it worth your money and does it bring anything new to the table?
Features and Usage
OptinMonster uses optin forms in an attempt to turn your readers and visitors into subscribers. The plugin provides out of the box integration with the most popular email marketing services which makes the setup process very simple. The sales page of the plugin boasts a 60 second setup time and I can accept that. You will want to spend more on customizing and creating the forms in order for them to fit in with your site and your content.
But Everybody Hates Popups, Right?
Many bloggers and user experience commentators throw down and discount popups in a hurry. We hate them, right? Of course we hate them, but the reality is that for casual browser of the web, they work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked over my dad’s shoulder while he’s browsing the web and seen him give his email address away. He drops that thing like it’s his special way to make new friends.
While we may hate them, they are still amazingly effective at capturing email addresses. In one case study, admittedly from the creators of OptinMonster, the plugin increased email subscribers by 600%, going from 70-80 new subscribers a day, to around 445 to 470.
This collection of popup case studies cites numbers anywhere from 200% to over 1000% increase in optin rates when a popup is used.
The plugin features are spread across three different pricing plans (more on those later). A quick overview of those features is as follows:
- Create unlimited forms for use on different parts of your site
- Built-in analytics and reporting: see which type of form is converting best
- A/B testing: test different forms against each other to see which styles work best on your site
- Page level targeting: show certain forms on specific pages
- Optin types: range of different design options available depending on price plan
Perhaps the most important feature of this plugin and what separates it from the competition is the ‘exit intent’ technology. OptinMonster claims that ‘70% of site visitors who abandon your site never return’. With the premium priced exit intent feature, the plugin will detect when a user is about to leave your site, and then launch the popup optin window.
This is a great feature to have because you can set the plugin to only show the signup form when a user is about to leave your site. People who are enjoying your content can just keep on enjoying it without disruptions, only those who are leaving will get the popup treatment. Of course you still run the risk of annoying the deserters, but they were already leaving, and with 70% never coming back again, they’re fair game, right? Listen to me talking about readers like they’re pieces of meat
The exit intent technology is billed as being able to ‘detect visitor behavior and prompt them with a targeted campaign at the precise moment they are about to leave’. The first thing I did after reading that was put on my tinfoil hat and check my office for bugs. That level of artificial intelligence seemed extremely sophisticated for a WordPress Plugin. However, upon closer inspection, instead of using some type of magical netbot to track my movements, it looks like the plugin detects when your mouse cursor leaves the page area of the browser and then fires up the popup. While this isn’t quite the same level of mind reading I envisioned, it is a pretty good indicator of when someone is about to leave your site.
If you choose not to upgrade to the premium exit intent technology, or just not use it on your site, the alternative is to display the form instantly or after a delay of an interval of your choosing, which is more or less par for the course.
Setting up the plugin is very easy. Like, crazy easy. The core features are included in one plugin file, and the optional extras, which are related to the additional optin types and the exit intent functionality, are installed with extra files. Once installed, a new menu item is added to the WordPress dashboard side menu. This contains a link to the dashboard for the plugin and a notification area for available updates. This is a good idea because it allows you to easily keep the plugin up-to-date as bugs are ironed out and new features are added. In the past month they’ve already released a few new new addons and released a number of bug fixes. They’re obviously serious about getting this plugin right.
Author note: In speaking with Thomas at Pressnomics last week, it sounds like they have plans of integrating the installation of add-ons right into the WordPress dashboard, which is a huge win over uploading a bunch of extra plugin files.
To get started with OptinMonster, the first step is to click on the ‘Create New Optin’ button. From there it’s a case of selecting the optin type from the available options.
At the time of writing there were three options to choose from. However, they are not all available at all price points, with the basic package only featuring the lightbox option. I’m told there are additional optin types in development such as sidebar widgets and in-content forms. Of the currently available types, lightbox will be the most familiar as this is the type used for creating the popup effect.
The footer bar type displays a horizontal bar across the full width of the browser window with space for a title caption and a sign up form.
The slide in type is an optin form that sits in the bottom right hand corner of your screen and can be opened by the user to display your optin form and custom message. When closed, it displays a customised message of your creation and an expand button. It’s not an auto-slide or popup as you might have seen on some other sites or plugins and is one that has to be activated and opened by the visitor. At least that’s the behavior we experienced in our testing.
For both the slide in and footer bar types, there’s just one theme to choose from although it can be fully customised in terms of:
- Form and button colours
- Text fonts, size, formatting and colours
- Button text
The ability to format individual words such as making them bold, or add your own HTML or page breaks isn’t available so you can’t get too creative with the formatting of your sales content or calls to action.
That said, as someone who works with WordPress all the time, I can say without a doubt that the use of the WordPress Theme Customizer API to design and customize forms is by far the most elaborate use I’ve ever seen. I was so refreshed to see native WordPress capabilities being used, instead of some dumb options page that was added as a secondary thought. The commitment to using existing WordPress conventions to build their plugin gets an automatic brownie point from me.
When it comes to the lightbox optin, you can see that this is the main focus of the plugin and has received the most attention by far. At least it seems that way. Before designing your optin, the next step after selecting the type is to configure the form.
The settings are well labelled with useful descriptions so there’s no need for me to go through each of the options. A recently added feature is the ability to redirect the user after they have opted in. This is a nice feature as you can display a thank you page that with a picture of cats, or your facebook fan page. Or your cat’s facebook fan page. Whatever the case, you have the flexibility to send new subscribers wherever you want after sign up.
At the configuration stage, you’re required to enter your email provider settings. The plugin seamlessly integrates with popular email marketing services such as AWeber, MailChimp, iContact and Infusionsoft. If you are using one of the supported email newsletter services, then it’s simply a case of choosing your provider from the drop down menu and authenticating your account and then selecting an appropriate list to add your subscribers to.
Of the supported providers, MailChimp is one option which is free to use until your list hits 2,000 subscribers. So if you aren’t signed up with an email newsletter service, you can start using OptinMonster without spending any extra cash. And as most things are with mailchimp, setup with OptinMonster is intuitive and only takes a few clicks.
As you can create unlimited forms for a single site, and specify which pages those forms are going to be shown on, you can easily add your readers to different email lists, depending on what page on your site they signed up. This is a great feature to have if your site covers multiple topics and you want to segment your list of subscribers for laser targeted optimization.
The next step is the design option. The lightbox optin form is the only option so far which has multiple themes and at the time of writing the plugin included four attractive themes.
The themes are pretty good and feature clean and modern designs. Each option can be customized using the design customizer. There is no option to change the dimensions of the lightbox windows so when creating one, you will need to provide some content to fill the whitespace. Unfortunately the plugin doesn’t write your copy too.
For most of the themes, the following content can be included:
- Title and Tagline
- Bullet List
- Optin Image
- Email Field Text
- Optin Submit Text
While the fonts, colors and alignment can be modified for each section, there isn’t a method for highlighting specific words using, for example, bolding or background colors. While the customizer is certainly easy to use, making use of the familiar WordPress interface, it does feel a little basic. If you subscribe to the less is more philosophy then you should be happy with this approach, otherwise you could feel you are lacking some control over the finished product.
While the whole setup process can be walked through in 60 seconds as claimed, for your campaign to be effective, it will require additional thought and in most cases, supporting graphics.
The fourth and final page of the settings is the output settings which relates to where the optin forms are displayed.
Again the options are well described so there’s no need to cover each one. However it is worth pointing out that a form can be enabled for all posts and pages on the site, only posts from a particular category or only on specific posts defined using the WordPress post ID. The options for placement are super intuitive and should be clear for WordPress users of pretty much any skill level.
And that’s it, your form is ready to run and begin turning readers into subscribers.
As mentioned, OptinMonster comes with built-in analytics for tracking the number of times you forms were shown and how many signups they’ve achieved. The dates can be filtered using popular date periods such as today, this week and this year. However there’s no way to view data for a specific date range within your dashboard. Although you can view the data for a year, export it via CSV then filter it elsewhere, such as in Excel.
The report data is refreshed every 30 minutes but the latest stats can be viewed from the overview page. This makes testing and setting up the forms much easier as you can get an instant overview of whether signups are successfully being registered.
A/B testing is covered by the ability to create another version of an existing optin. It takes just one click to create a clone and then it can be modified in any way to allow you to determine which form elements your readers respond better to.
It is true A/B testing because there’s no way to split test more than two version of a form against each other. However, you could use different types of forms on your site and specify which pages to use them on, effectively allowing multiple forms to run, before deciding which is the most effective type for your site. Want a unique form for every post on your site? OptinMonster can handle that (although it’s probably not a recommended use case).
The OptinMonster team plans to add additional optin types to the existing options before the end of the year. These include:
- Comment checkbox optin (all price plans)
- Sidebar widget (plus, pro & ultimate price plans)
- Full page takeover (pro & ultimate)
I also saw a mention on Twitter of the addition of in-content forms which would be a welcome feature.
There are four pricing options for OptinMonster as are follows:
- Basic: $49 (1 site, lightbox only, no exit intent)
- Plus: $99 (3 sites, lightbox & foot, no exit intent)
- Pro: $199 ( unlimited sites, all forms, exit intent)
- Ultimate: $349 (as pro but with lifetime support)
All pricing options, apart from ultimate, include one year of support and updates, after that you can continue using the plugin but you are on your own. For full details of the plans visit the OptinMonster website.
There’s also a 100% no-risk 30 day money back guarantee. Using this you could sign up, and then ask for a refund if you don’t see an increase in subscriber conversions, but I have a feeling that you will.
OptinMonster is very easy to use and it can be up and running on a WordPress site in next to no time. The options are all self-explanatory or clearly explained during the setup process. It’s by far the most intuitive popup plugin I’ve ever used. They’ve gone out of their way to nail down the user experience.
If you are only looking for a lightbox option for capturing email addresses then this plugin is a good choice. The exit intent functionality that detects when a user is about to leave your page is a feature that I haven’t seen with any other WordPress plugins and one that clearly makes it stand out in a crowded marketplace.
The lack of in-content forms was a bit of a disappointment because not everyone wants to use popups for their email capture, but from a development standpoint I understand why they haven’t yet, because of the huge number of variables and potential issues created by themes. It could potentially be a support nightmare. That said, I do believe people would like to see that implemented at some point.
While OptinMonster does provide A/B testing, it does lack the advanced levels of split testing available from competing WordPress optin plugins. That said, for most of the people looking to purchase OptinMonster, simple A/B testing will be enough.
OptinMonster also lacks mobile support. So much so that the popup boxes won’t even show if a mobile device is detected. Hopefully a mobile solution or feature add-on is already in the works, becuase a creative way to implement popups on mobile devices would really put this plugin leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
The exit intent functionality that comes with the $199 pro version is the key selling point of this plugin, which makes it a not in-expensive option if you want the full feature set. When you look at the competition in the optin plugin market, it’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend OptinMonster compared to something with a lower price tag like Ninja Popups if you’re looking at the plugin by itself.
However, in my mind that isn’t an apples to apples comparison. When it comes to ease of use, ongoing support, and overall quality of build, nothing else on the market compares to OptinMonster. This isn’t a plugin from a shady marketing group who outsourced a one-time build to eLance in order to make a quick buck and has no plans for ongoing development and support.
It’s quite the opposite. This plugin is in very active development and promises more features to come in the immediate future. So while the Pro version may seem steep now, it comes with assurances of the plugin getting better and better as time goes on. We’ve already seen that first hand in the first month.
If you value quality, innovative technology like exit intent, and a user experience that isn’t matched anywhere else on the market, then OptinMonster an investment worth making, especially considering building your email list is ultimately an investment in your business.
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