[Tutorial] How To Grow Your Email List In 30 Minutes Or Less With OptinMonster

Filed in Email Marketing, Tutorials & Reviews by on May 30, 2015

Everyone says they hate popups.

But how website visitors say they feel about popups and how they actually react to popups are two totally different stories.

I don't know anyone who actually likes the idea of something popping up in front of their face, blocking the content they're trying to read.

But I do know a lot of people who appreciate value.

So if you've got something that can help your readers accomplish their goals, why not offer it to them and grow your niche site at the same time?


dhalpern"At the end of the day, if you've got an email list, and you want to grow it, you NEED a popup."

-Derek Halpern


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Start Collecting More Emails: Put the Popup on Your Site

Realizing you need a popup is the easy part... actually putting the popup on your site, making it look good, and getting it to show up with the frequency you want it to is a different story altogether.

And unless you're an expert coder and talented graphic designer with extra time on your hands, it isn't going to happen without some help.

That's where a plugin comes in. There's loads to choose from, and I don't have enough say-so to giveadvice on which one's the best, but I can tell you that I love OptinMonster. It's the popup plugin that's used here on NicheHacks, and I use it on my own site as well.

For me, OptinMonster, was quick, easy, and I had my first popup up and running (and looking good) in less than 30 minutes. And I love that it's turning more of my hard-earned traffic into subscribers.


wp beginner"By Making one single change on the site, we were able to increase our daily email signup rate to around 445-470 new subscribers per day [up from 70-80]. That's a 600% growth with the same amount of traffic that we were getting before."

-WP Beginner

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What You'll Learn

  • A Step-by-Step Guide with screenshots to set up a site popup with OptinMonster
  • How to make your popup look good with zero design skills
  • Tips on optimizing your copy to boost more subscriptions
  • A quick go-to guide with expert advice on writing popups that convert, even if you are a total copywriting newbie
  • A reference to sites with great popups & insights into why they work so well


(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 34 ways to grow your email list click here or the image below)



1. Download & Install the Plugin

After processing your payment and receiving the confirmation email from OptinMonster, access your account dashboard and download the ‘OptinMonster Plugin’ file.


om dashboard


Save it on your desktop or in your niche site’s folder and compress it into a .zip file.


compress to zip file


From your WordPress Dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New.


plugins add new


Underneath the menu bar, you’ll see a line that says, “Plugins extend and expand the functionality of WordPress. You may automatically install plugins from the WordPress Plugin Directory or upload a plugin in .zip format via this page.”

Click on the linked text to go to that page.


upload zip via this page


Click on “Choose File” and upload the .zip file you just created.

Click on “Install Now.”


install now


After the plugin installs successfully, click on “Activate Plugin.”


activate plugin


WordPress will automatically take you to your page of activated plugins. Scroll down until you see OptinMonster and click on “Settings.”


om settings


2. Activate OptinMonster

In your payment receipt email, you'll have the license key you need to activate OptinMonster on your specific site. Copy and paste the key (a long string of numbers and letters) into the box and click on “Verify Key.”


verify key


3. Create an Email-Capturing Popup

This will take you to your main dashboard, which won’t have any data in it yet. Click on “Add New” at the top of the page to get started creating your first lightbox popup.


Add New


Enter a title for the optin campaign you’re creating a popup for. In my case, I’m creating a popup to give away my personal finance site’s most basic freebie email incentive: a basic budget sheet.


campaign title


You’ll see a whole page of template options come up for your to choose from.

For this tutorial, I chose the clean slate theme.


lightbox options


Once you select your theme, OptinMonster takes you to an editing screen that shows you what your lightbox popup will look like live on your site. It’s pretty cool.

In the left hand menu bar, there’s drop-down menus that let you change the popup’s appearance via basic design, theme, field text, configuration settings, email provider integration, and output to control where and how often the popup shows on your site.


first look live on site


We’ll walk through each of the menu items one by one, but the first thing I want to do is add an image to this theme where it says ‘click to add media’ directly on the popup.

For this theme, you’ll see that it needs to be 230 x 195 pixels. If it’s too big, it doesn’t look right, so you need to make sure it fits.

You upload and attach the image in exactly the same way you would in one of your landing pages or a blog post - via the WordPress media library.

My image is a little bit smaller in the image width, but since it has a white background, it won’t matter as much.


image into optin


Then I decided to brighten up the popup by changing the border color to match the blue that’s on my website. Since the red default color for the option arrow doesn’t match my site, I changed it to blue.

I decide to leave the footer colors and custom CSS alone for now.

Tip: to find out the hex color code I needed I entered by RGB slider values at Javascripter.net. If you don’t know any of your color codes, I’d suggest a browser extension like Eye Dropper on Chrome.




Then I wanted to change the content on the popup to get a better ‘feel’ for the final look of it while I finished out the editing process.

OptinMonster makes this super easy - all you have to do is click directly on the popup itself where you want to change the text and start typing. A text edit bar pops up that lets you adjust the font, size, text attributes, highlights, and formatting.


ADAM CONNELL"I do find the visual editor limiting because it's not drag & drop like other tools, but the fact that customization is limited somewhat makes it quicker/easier to use."

-Adam Connell, BloggingWizzard

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editing the main text


The “Theme” menu lets you change the theme if you get into the design and decide you think something else will look better. I’m happy with how things are going, so I’m going to move on to “Fields.”


Copy Tip: Benefits, Benefits, Benefits! 

Think about the ultimate reason people are coming to your site: what is it that they want, ultimately? Why do they spend time reading your advice?

It's all about the benefits.

So to increase the opt-ins from your popup, focus on the benefits they'll receive.

Outlining benefits speaks to the things your audience already knows they want, and lets them know what to expect when they download your freebie or join your email list.

Make each element of text in the popup about the benefits: the header, the bullet points, and the button.


I change all the font options to “PT Sans” to match the top of the plugin and the rest of my website, adjust the color of the submit button, and change it’s text to something that’s a little more reader-friendly (and that I hope will increase my conversion rates).




Copy Tip: Button Text

In addition to changing the color of the submit button to something brighter, it's also a good idea to change the text of it too.

There's nothing inherently wrong with "Submit," but it doesn't exactly get the reader excited.

Furthermore, it's a place to give the reader more detail on what to expect. Since I send the document by email, I say "Send," but if you offer it for download, you can say "Download."

Another tip: Make the text about them. For example, "Get the budget sheet" is less personable than "Send me the budget sheet."


The “Configuration” section is where you can really have some fun playing around with display times and popup frequencies.

I was a little shocked at first to see that the “Optin Loading Delay” was set to 5,000—until I realized it was in milliseconds, not actual seconds. (These people are specific!)

Because of my goals for the site, I don’t want it popping up immediately. It’s something I plan on experimenting with, but for the time-being I set it to 15 seconds, which I got as a suggestion from Mary Jankstch in the A-List Blogging Club.

I decide to keep the “Optin Cookie Duration” at 30 days. It’s also something I’ll experiment with, but I feel like it’s reasonable. No one will get overly annoyed at my shoving a very simple freebie in their face, but at the same time, it will show up.

I changed their default “Optin Success Message” text to match the freebie I’m giving away.




Copy tip: Optin Success Message

It's worth noting that OptinMonster doesn't really pay attention to your line breaks like the ones I inserted here, so it's best to stick with something short and sweet that's not over two lines. (You can see why in the "test it out" section below.)


Further down on the menu there’s options for only showing the popup on someone’s second page view (rather than their first), hiding it for users who are logged into your site, and getting rid of the “powered by” link.

I unchecked the box underneath “Show Powered by Link?” to get rid of unnecessary OptinMonster plug underneath my light box… I don’t think the majority of my readers will care about it.



4. Integrate Your Email List

OptinMonster comes with a whole slew of integration options so you can use to feed your popup signups to a pre-existing mailing list.




I use MailChimp, so that’s what will walk through with here. The processes for the other providers are more or less the same, except for the fact that they may require one or two more fields of data to enter for your account authentication.

If you’re at a loss for finding the specific pieces of data you need to authenticate your account within OptinMonster—they’re one step ahead of you.

On the OptinMonster website, I found a step-by-step tutorial with screenshots showing me exactly how to get the API key I needed from MailChimp. If you don’t use MailChimp, they have an entire list of integration instructions for 20 different email list options in the left-hand column of the page.

Once the account was authenticated, I selected the email list I wanted my popup signups to go to.


connect to mailchimp

selecting email list


5. Optimize Conversions: Manage the Output

The only default option selected in the “Output” section is that the option will, in fact, display on the site.

Since this is my first popup for the site, I decided to check the box below “Load optin globally?” meaning that it would display on every single page of the site, no matter which one the reader happened to go to. (But since it only displays for each person every 30 days, it won’t pop up every single time they go to a new page.)

I selected the Basic Budget Sheet landing page in the “Never load optin on” section, since that page tells far more about the budget sheet than the popup does—and if someone ends up on that page, they’ve probably got a higher intent of converting than a regular visitor anyway.


syed balkhi"It's no coincidence that Search Engine Journal has a huge number of subscribers... You can create as many different forms as you like, and place them on different posts and pages."

-Syed Balkhi, Search Engine Journal

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never load on - output


When I finished going through all the settings, I clicked on the “Save and Exit” blue button at the top of the screen.

And that was it!

I was directed back to the OptinMonster overview page in my WordPress dashboard, and I could see that the popup was live.


all done


Of course, if I didn’t want it to be live just yet, I could click on “Disable” under the “Live” status so I could come back and edit everything.


6. Test it Out

The last thing I did was go to my home page and slowly scroll down.

Like clockwork, 15 seconds later, my popup came up:


live version


I entered my email address into it just to make sure it was all working properly, and even got to see the “Thank you” message I entered earlier. (It worked perfectly.)


final success

This is why you want to keep the final success message short and sweet.


Context Tip: Specific Popups for Specific Pages

It's easy to get started with one popup for all your pages, but OptinMonster does have the capability to let you create specific popups for specific pages.

As you build out your site and your freebie offerings, you can use popups to offer your most relevant freebie depending on the page someone is on.

For example, with personal finance, I could use this freebie for budgeting-based pages, and have others for debt, investing, retirement, and side hustling for more income.


Write Conversion-Worthy Popups: A Newbie's Guide

Making a popup that looks wonderful is great, but if it's written in gibberish, it's not going to accomplish anything for you.

Fortunately, there's ways to write your popup copy so it actually excites your audience rather than pissing them off.

In this mini-guide, we've got expert advice that'll help you with everything you need: the headline, the body copy, and the button text.


Headlines that Get Attention

There's a lot of pressure to create incredible headlines. Without a good headline, people aren't going to read what's underneath it.

Fortunately, most of that pressure is unwarranted.

Creating a good headline really doesn't have to be any harder than 1+1+1=3. Headline formulas are the perfect solution, and are even used by some of the most experienced, expert copywriters out there.

  • Headline Formulas and the Science of CRO Copywriting - In this post, Copyhacker Joanna Wiebe takes all the guesswork out of what it takes to write a good, working headline that gets people excited. According to her, it's a science, not an art, and it's as easy as using basic formulas on repeat.
  • 5 Easy Tricks to Write Catchy Headlines - Jeff Goins, who's a rock star in the online writing world, put together this quick-to-read and easy-to-implement guide that's got an super simple headline formula that will work for you every time.
  • 101 Headline Formulas by Peter Sandeen - Truth be told, this is a 47-page document. BUT all you need are 4 of the pages (7-10) which lists out the headline formulas. If you don't want to read how to write a headline, just choose one of these and go with it.
  • Headline Swipe File - Similar to 101 Headline Formulas, this is another document you can refer to again and again to find formulas to write headlines that will work.


zac johnson"I've seen a 100% difference in conversions by simply playing around with different headlines and images!"

-Zac Johnson, BloggingTips

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Body Copy that Makes Your Argument

The most important thing with the body copy of your popup is to convince your visitor of why they should opt in for your offer.

Hint: "FREE!" isn't a selling point in and of itself - you need to go a little deeper.

They've got a million other niche site owners vying for their email addresses, so why should you have the honor? What's your offer going to do for them? Highlight the benefits that they'll get for the end result they want.

And be very specific.

  • Write in bullet points. AudienceBloom points out that readers have a tendency to skip over paragraph-based text in favor of reading or skimming over bullet points. They know bullet points are direct and to the point, so that's what they go for. OptinMonster's templates are pre-designed for this.
  • Highlight benefits. Each bullet point should focus on a benefit the reader will get if they sign up for your weekly mailings or download your pdf guide. Think about the core pain points they have and why they're on your specific nice site in the first place, and put those at the forefront.
  • Check out the next section to see some example popups of successful niche sites that do popup body copy really well.


Buttons that Boost Conversions

The button is where the real magic happens - it's what the headline and the body copy all build up to, and it's the make or break point for your readers converting or not.

Experimenting with colors and A/B testing wording changes are all things that can come later, but the important part you want to focus on first is getting something up there that'll work better than OptinMonster's default "Submit."

  • High-Impact Button Copy: Michael Aagaard spent four years testing the effectiveness of different button copy for conversion optimization, and boiled his knowledge down into an easy-to-digest six-minute video. He shows you the basics of how simple tweaks like changing "Order" to "Get" on a button can increase conversion by more than 30%.
  • Buttons vs Headlines: Proposing the question "Is the seemingly humble button more powerful than the headline?", Copyhackers show real-life tests they've done with tweaking both headline and button tests - one of which increased conversions by more than 120%. Along with their evidence, they also provide newbie-friendly advice for writing button copy that works.
  • Yes & No Buttons: OptiMonk suggests that simple "Yes" and "No" buttons can have a profound effect on increasing conversions, and you don't even have to spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas for 'better' button text. In fact, they claim it's an easy way to increase conversions by up to 40%.



Learn From Sites That are Doing it Right


WPBeginner added OptinMonster to their site with the pro-level plan that let them activate exit-intent technology, and doing so helped them increase their subscriber list by 600%.

When I visited their site, I didn't see a popup right before I was about to exit, but I did see this one:


wp beginner


As you can see, their headline focuses on the single reason someone would visit their site, the body text focuses on the benefits, and the button text makes it easy for a reader to opt in.


Authority Hacker

Authority Hacker has an email opt-in freebie to help their readers build their own email lists:


authority hacker


Their text (headline and body) focuses on helping their readers build their email lists with tactics that have helped them grow a lot. Getting 30,136 new emails is a clear and obvious benefit their readers want, so focusing on that detail helps them convert more than simply promising tactics that will help them "collect more emails."


(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 34 ways to grow your email list click here or the image below)


Digital Marketer

Digital Marketer uses OptiMonk instead of OptinMonster, but they're still a great example of how to create a high-converting popup.


digital marketer


When I visited their site to download the headline swipe file mentioned above, they used one of OptiMonk's functions (which OptinMonster also has) to pick and choose which popups show up on which page. Since I was on a landing page to download a swipe file for effective headlines, it's easy to assume I'd also be interested in getting more clicks on social media, so they offer me that as well.

Further, they've got two buttons - a "yes" and a "no" button - to help them increase their own conversions. After all, who really wants to say no to more traffic?



Getting Started is Easy and Cheap... So Why Not Collect More Emails?

Right now, OptinMonster only costs $49 per year for the basic version, which is really all you need to create as many popups as you want for your niche site.

They've also got a 14-day no-risk guarantee so if you don't like it, you can ask for your money back.

I swear I don't mean to sound sales-y here (and I don't get any kickback if you sign up or not), but it really is a super simple tool, and I wish I'd tried it sooner.

But I'd also like to hear about your experiences... are there any other popup plugins you're in love with?

How has using a popup influenced your opt-in rates?

Chelsea Baldwin
Chelsea has a background in journalism and IT, and besides writing for NicheHacks, she's the founder of Copy Power, a business and a website that helps business owners figure out how to get remembered online via copywriting.

She excels in the topic of SEO but can write on a wide range of topics of which you can discover by clicking on her name.

Comments (2)

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  1. Hey Chelsea, I'm just stepping by to say a big thank you on behalf of the OptiMonk team. Great and thorough article- thanks for including us in it! Have a nice day!

    • Chelsea Baldwin says:

      No problem Krisztina! You guys do offer some useful information on your site & have some cool features - from what I can see, OptiMonk is also a really cool way to build popups, but my experience is with OptinMonster.