Thrive SmartLinks: Meet the Next Game-Changer for List Building & Email Marketing

Shane Melaugh   224

Today, we are introducing the most important new feature addition to Thrive Leads since we first launched the plugin. In fact, the feature we're presenting today will change the way you approach list-building and open up new ways for you to interact with your audience and monetize your website.

Watch the video to see this new SmartLinks feature in action.​


How You Can Profit from Building a "Smarter" Website

The SmartLinks feature is simple to use, but it opens up more possibilities than we can cover in a short video. We want to show you how you can get the most out of this feature, whether you're a blogger, and affiliate marketer, a vendor or running any other kind of online business.

Because of that, held a live training webinar where we uncovered everything about SmartLinks, including step-by-step examples you can apply to your own site. You can access the recording of this training webinar below:

Get Access to the SmartLinks Training:

Get More Leads, Make More Sales & Treat Your Loyal Fans Like Royalty!

Click the button below to see the training, including 5 copy-ready examples for your online business:

Is your head spinning with ideas for how you can use this amazing feature? Do you have any questions about it? Let us know by leaving a comment!​


by Shane Melaugh  September 17, 2015


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  • This is great. It would be great if you can make it not only based on email clicks but also cookie users, just like retargeting does and be able to show content based on previous actions.

  • It looks stunning! A question that comes to mind though is: will Google pick up such ‘subscribers-links’? So, when people stumble on my site through Google, could that accidentally be a ‘subscribers-link’?

  • Interesting concept but I don’t know how well it works in practice without clearly identifying the visitor – if I visit your website the next time maybe from a different device I don’t have access to the special link you’re sending out I will still see the default opt-in stuff

    • Your website will remember which visitors have been marked as subscribers. If you send emails regularly and always use SmartLinks, over time, your subscribers will be recognized as subscribers on all the browsers and devices they use.

      Also, keep in mind that the worst-case-scenario of using SmartLinks is the default scenario on pretty much every website, at the moment. 😉

      • Denis P
        “You can simple use the smartlink to go to your thank you page for the double optin procedure. Then they are taged and profit from this feature :)”

        I would like to confirm this from Shane. Can I do like Denis P and place the smartlink in the douple opt in button and then all new subscribers would be identified as subscrubers no matter where they entered my website from in the future?

      • Technically that is possible, yes. You have to check with your autoresponder, if it lets you add a custom link in the opt-in confirmation message and if it lets you add personalization tags. You need to be able to insert the subscriber’s email address in the link.

  • This feature shows lots of promise…very exciting! One thing I’m curious about, though– what happens when a subscriber shares the SmartLink on social media? Will the new visitors simply not see the alternate content because they’ll be uncookied?

    • Yes, that could happen. It would require that the subscriber copies the link from the URL bar and shares it manually, though. If they use social sharing buttons on your site, this won’t be an issue.

  • Also…what happens when someone unsubscribes and they’re still cookied to receive alternate optin forms? They’ll presumably be able to take advantage of any subscriber bonuses/discounts, which isn’t such a great thing. But then again, I suppose a discounted sale is better than no sale, right? 🙂

    • An unsubscribed visitor will not be recognized as such if they are still cookied from a previous click on an email link.

      This is a case where you have to ask yourself what your business goals are: is it more important for you to provide your active and engaged subscribers with more relevant offers and a better experience on your website or is it more important to ensure that people who subscribed and later unsubscribed DON’T see the offers you want to present to your subscribers.

      You also have to keep in mind that not using SmartLinks isn’t a solution to this problem either. If you create an offer for your subscribers and put it on a landing page, it’s also possible for someone to unsubscribe and then go to the page and get the offer…

  • This has great possibilities, Shane! I’ve always been aggravated at website that continue to throw optin forms in my face, long after I’ve already signed up. What happens, though, if a subscriber forwards an email to a non-subscriber friend, who then clicks on the link? (admittedly, not a huge issue)
    P.S. I don’t get anywhere when I try clicking on the link for the webinar.

    • Hello Debra,

      The SmartLinks can be shared such as through forwarded emails, yes. There’s no way of recognizing that the wrong person clicked on the link, but it’s a rare case for that to happen.

      • Hi Shane,

        You could create two conditional rules:

        #1 – STRAYS: If an IP is only logged once in X days, remove it.
        #2 – BLITZ: If Y IPs access a link within a Z time period, remove any that are new.

        Love this update BTW. Freakin’ fantastic as always!

      • I believe we’re overthinking it at this stage. If you set up rules like that, how often would they apply? And how often would it not be a false positive?

        We’re talking about an extreme edge case, here. From my perspective, pouring development time into this is not nearly as useful as investing that same time into the other products we have on our roadmap.

  • I love it. Please keep it up. I doubt there is a better product anywhere on the internet in pure ROI value than thrivethemes.
    Jesse Gilbert

  • Quite impressive Shane (as always!) I’m curious as to why you’re not using two-step opt ins for your example. Your training, features and generosity rock! Blessings. MamaRed

    • Thank you!

      I’m not using 2-step opt-ins in the examples because it’s a myth that they always work better and by using 1-step forms in some videos, maybe I can at least get some people to question the myth. 😉

  • As always a great new addition to the Thrive arsenal… 🙂 This has so many uses it has my head spinning. No wonder Thrive Themes is my weapon of choice for site cretion thes days. Thanks Shane. – BTW, the webinar register button is not working (maybe it’s a Firefox error) but It won’t let me sign up…

  • Great new feature! Would love to register for the training, but the button doesn’t appear to go anywhere but back to this page… 😉

  • Addendum to first post: If people have subscribed from/to different offers (whether a sidebar one or a content upgrade), what about this who didn’t “see” a specific offer before. Make sense?

    • You can use SmartLinks to apply to all your forms or only forms of a specific lead group, so you can tailor it very precisely.

  • Shane,

    You guys rock. It is a treat to see you unfold more features and benefits to your products on a weekly basis. Gives me the impression you are interested in helping us succeed.


  • I was hoping you would do something along these lines but I didn’t think it would be this good. An exciting new addition.

    By the way, I tried to sign up for the webinar but when I clicked the button, nothing happened.



    • Thanks for your comment! We aim to over-deliver. 🙂

      Sorry about the webinar issue. We’re working on fixing that.

  • I saw this earlier today when looking for a welcome mat option…. which Thrive Leads does…. then your email arrived highlighting the video! Awesome and soooo powerful. No blog should be without it!

    I am letting everyone know….

  • I am so grateful I became a member recently. The value you provide is so rich… Not to mention, the level of “out of the box” thinking that is purpose-driven just can’t be beat!

    Great feature. Looking forward to learning more and tearing it up. Looks so simple to utilize . Thanks team!

    Tera Greene

  • Hi Shane,

    Brilliant new feature we have here, as Master Yoda would say :). Thank you for not stopping offering us more and more value, day after day.
    I tried to sign up for the webinar, but it didn’t work for me in Firefox. It worked in Chrome, though.

    • Hello Alasdair,

      Well, this is exactly the thing: you don’t need multiple copies of the same piece of content. In other words, when you use this there is no duplicate content to deal with. You have people all looking at the same page, same URL, but depending on whether they are a subscriber or not, certain elements on the page will be different.

  • Wow, Guys, this really is brilliant! Not only is it ultra smart it is so easy to implement. Every time you add a new feature I’m amazed at the real world value it adds to an already outstanding product range. Thank you.

  • I love how you guys think and this is a brilliant innovation. Now we can separate the two functions of list building and content delivery, and the special subscriber content is brilliant for building community and stepping people through a sequence. Unfortunately right now the orange button seems to go to this same page, not a webinar sign-up page.

  • Absolutely marvellous Shane ! Please could you send me a link to register for the webinar because the link does not seem to be working. Thank you.

  • Awesome feature Shane. I’d love to see some live examples though hopefully in the webinar. Is it me or the register button doesn’t work? 🙂

  • Awesome idea. I can see how this could turn a subscriber into a customer pretty quickly. But will this require the creation of a new (duplicate) web page, stripped of the old opt-in elements?

    • Hello Moe,

      That’s the thing: you don’t have to create anything duplicate. All you do is create a new “already subscribed” state for your opt-in forms and send the SmartLink to your list. It’s all on the same post or page, just that different visitors will see different things.

  • Love it! Another slice of Thrive awesome-ness…
    One question – can you stick it in the UTM builder and it still works..?
    And if that smart-UTM link then goes into InfusionSoft… adding more tracking… will that have a significant ‘time-lag’…? OK, that’s 2 questions… :/

    • Hi Joel,

      Yes, you can use this with UTM tracking links (that’s how I use it) and no, it doesn’t add any delay to the loading time.

  • In one word: “Brilliant”
    This really opens possibilities to optimise the “real-estate” and value on the pages. Happy to be a member Shane.

  • This is an awesome feature and I’m so happy you’ve integrated it into Thrive Leads. 🙂

    Is it possible that the “already subscribed” state could be used to ask a subscriber to provide further information about themselves? (ie. Enter your mailing address for an additional free gift)?

    • Hello Paul,

      Yes, this is possible, but it depends on your autoresponder or CRM setup. And you’d have to ask for the email address again to identify the new information with the existing subscriber. With SmartLinks, your website can recognize that a visitor is a subscriber, but not which specific subscriber it is.

  • This is indeed a game changer. Just in time too – I am building a Udemy type website and this will come in very handy. Awesome work!

  • Hi Shane,

    Great new addition. I do have a couple of questions I’ve been meaning to ask you about your business.

    1. What shopping cart/payment solutions do you use.

    2. What email sending/managing solution(s) do you use. I noticed you were using infusion soft, but have made a change recently. I have just set up Sendy along with Amazon Web Services SES on my hosted account to send and manage supposedly unlimited “brands” from the same server installation. Any experience with that?

    3. What screencasting software do you use; also a brief outline of your video and editing setup.

    I know it’s a lot of information to ask about, but I’m hoping you’ll indulge me. I do like and admire your presentations. We are a lot alike in our approaches to building quality products. I’m in the dreaming/researching/planning/setting up stages of a new product for which I believe there is a large pent-up need, notwithstanding all of your (and others’) fine work already in that nearly infinite space.

    Thanks in advance. I look forward to all of your ideas. I might not purchase all of them, but I am always appreciative.


  • Shane – You guys are awesome – always innovating! Having your website (and your business) behave differently, conditional on the state of a visitor (brand new visit, already subscribed, already purchased, etc) is SO smart and SO obvious to do. Kudos to you guys for leading the way to help us do that. I do have a similar question – can you clarify: Can my subscribers see the offers tailored for them WITHOUT going there via an email link? Can a page on my website simply recognize from their cookie info what their state is and show the corresponding offers? If not possible now, THAT would be next big game-changer if you could make it happen. Thanks for all the improvements you guys keep making.

    • Hello Kevin,

      Not only do SmartLinks already do what you ask for, but you have full control over this aspect as well. You can determine whether you want visitors to be cookied from using a SmartLink or not. You can even determine the cookie duration yourself, if you want.

  • Hi Shane, congratulations for the innovation. I wanna try ton give you a suggestion for an “amazing” product. As an inbound marketer it would be amazing if you could track subscribers visits to the website in real time, sending a popup alert to customer service or sales representative who could in real time see who is on the website and what he is doing right now. Do you know any product doing that or have you never thought on realizing something similar?

    • Hello Luca,

      What you’re suggesting is outside the scope of a WordPress addon, in my opinion. There are several services that allow you to do this type of thing though. Off the top of my head, I can think of Intercom and Mixpanel.

  • Shane, I started to build a website the other day – and while I have a choice of a range of themes, the Thrive themes, content builder and Thrive leads package integrating with Active Campaign is just too compelling to go past – and this just makes it better.

    • Thank you very much, Hendrick. It’s good to know that our plan of creating an irresistible suite of tools is working out. 🙂

  • Seem like a good strategy here is to get your visitors to your site using a smartlink as soon as possible. I think I’ll add a smartlink to my optin confirmation email and send people to their thank you download with it.

    Any notion on how I could further segment visitors? People who are subscribers and already purchased product #1, for example. I’d like to offer them product #2. Do cookies “stack”? Can I use a SmartLink to direct people to their product #1 download, and then if they’re previously clicked on a “subscriber” SmartLink I can start showing them product #2 forms?

    Does that make sense or did I explain it poorly?

    • Hi Johnn,

      We’ll go into more detail on this during the webinar. You can target different lead groups and the cookies do stack like you describe. You can think of it as being able to work with 3 states in each lead group: 1) default 2) alternate and 3) hidden.

    • Thank you, Graeme! The team is doing a great job on these new features and I’m excited about the next bits I’ll be able to announce soon.

  • Another great upgrade guys. Thrive themes is turning out to be one of the best purchases I’ve made. I wish I’d found it sooner. Will there be a replay of the webinar? It’s on at 3am my time. I will do my best to attend but I likely won’t absorb much at that hour.

  • Shane, again you are killing it with add-ons and new bring me more goodies for the tools already purchased. Will any of the plugins or stand-alone tool work with Shopify. Any plans to integrate? If not, how much would it essentially be to make it work? I can’t be the only one asking for this. In my experience, if it works with Magento, BigCommerce, it will work with Shopify and WooCommerce as well as some of the off-the-shelf stuff.

    Thanks again.

    Great content.

  • Sorry, since I have you here. Any timeframe to fix this commenting issue with the themes or the plugins? Every time you comment, it will reset the video. And for auto-play and no control option videos, ahhh, man it’s a headache. I’ve gotten so much spam because of this. People pissed spam me. My audience is half crazies and half crazies with money.

    • To solve this problem, you have to use something other than WordPress comments. With WordPress comments, the page will reload on submission. But you can use Facebook Comments or Disqus to avoid that.

  • Shane, this feature is exactly what I was missing at Thrive Themes. I love your products and this one I will use with so great pleasure. It solved my 1 big problem. I’m not technical, but I can tell you, you guys are the rock stars of creating websites. Thanks.

    • Thank you very much, Irena! I’m very happy to hear that our products are solving the issues you were experiencing before.

  • It is amazing how you always find new intelligent ways of optimizing… great! but I have to update the pages every week and it’s quite a lot of work to implement all the new features you provide 😀

    • Hello Keith,

      Whenever you link to your website in an email that you send to your subscribers, you use a SmartLink instead of a regular link. It’s as simple as that.

  • Special offers for webinar attendees, facebook group members, Shane! My imagination is going crazy with this feature. Thanks (again)!

    • Yeah, there are so many possibilities with this. I’m sure many that I haven’t thought of myself yet, either. 🙂

  • Absolutely brilliant Idea. As I’ve recently done the upgrade, It took me all of ten seconds grab a new link to my confirmation page and to update my Sendy config to handle this.

    • Hi Spencer,

      That’s a great point: by using a SmartLink as your confirmation URL, you’re tagging your visitors as subscribers right from the start. 🙂

  • Nice work Shane. I actually paid a programmer to create a plugin that did something similar for me so I could have shortcodes that showed/hid content depending on whether someone was a subscriber or not (or other variables).

    One thought for you: It looks like when a visitor visits a smartlink from a link in an email you send, you cookie them so you know in future they’re a subscriber so you won’t show the forms again. Good stuff.

    It would be even better if you could do this via url variables. That way it could automatically happen for any page or post on the site we anted to send people to rather than having to create a new smartlink for each one.

    For example we could send people to and it would register that visitor as already being a subscriber and show the relevant content.

    Optiminmonster does something similar in its plugin version. If you send visitors to any page on a site where the plugin is installed with the url parameters ?omhide=true then it won’t show its popups and it will cookie the visitor to not show them in future either (with the lengh of time this applies for being controlled in the settings).

    Would be great if you could do this in Thrive. That way we wouldn’t have to create new smartlinks for every single page or post we wanted this to happen on, we could just add a simple url variable to any link we wanted.


      • Ah – so it sounds like you’re saying that the Smart Link button that generates smartlinks doesn’t really do anything clever other than construct a url and url parameter string to do the work. And that if we “know the code” of the variables like tl_inbound and tl_period_type we can just make the links ourselves – they don’t need to be set up in the system.


  • Hi Shane,
    This is a phenomenal addition to Thrive Leads, which I was in the process of setting up today for my new project. Thank you and really looking forward to the webinar!!
    The webinar button worked and registered me to this email and not to the one I previously used with purchases from you… I checked in case… Totally impressed!

  • I’m just new to this online world, & when I was setting up my original website, I had this exact question – how do I stop people seeing the same offers over & over???. Wow… I’m so impressed with Thrive Themes – this is a TOTAL GAME-CHANGER!!! Love your work 😉

  • You guys are completely amazing. How do you keep coming up with the features I need just when I need them??! Totally amazing customer service to just keep adding all these features for free too. Really great stuff – keep it coming.

    • Thank you very much, Tim! We aim to be the undisputed champions at what we do and this is how we’re going after it. 🙂

  • I am so impressed with which tenacity you guys keep rolling out enhancements and new features. See, thats why I intend to stay on as a paying member, cause I know youve got my back. Many thanks Shane.

    • Hello William,

      A replay will be made available, yes. But probably not on the YT channel. You have to be a subscriber to our newsletter to get access to the replay.

  • Hey Shane, this is a great looking Plugin and your reasoning and idea is pure genius. One quick Q for you – does the Smartlinks component of this plugin work with Themes other than Thrive (I use OptimizePress 2.0) – I know the ThriveLeads Plugin does. Thanks Elly

  • Could you also add the option to cookie the visitor based on page visit as an alternative to the email link?

    This way after an action is taken and the user visits the next step (i.e. thank you page) they would automatically be cookied as completing that step of the process.

    This would avoid link share issues and make it even more seamless I believe.

      • What if they don’t opt-in through a form but they make a purchase and you want to show a different form?

        I was also under the assumption that the prospect had to click the Smartlink in order to view the next form state.

      • Visitors can be identified as existing subscribers when they opt in through a form AND when they click on a SmartLink that you send in an email. If they make a purchase and you want to change the form state because of that, the fact that they made a purchase needs to be identifiable in your email marketing system so that you can send a SmartLink to the segment of your contacts who made that purchase.

      • I am building a membership website for an organization using ThriveThemes package, with data behind a paywall.

        There will be different groups of people.

        1 – non mailing list viewers
        2 – mailing list subscribers
        3 – dues paying members
        4 – individual product buyers who may or may not be subscribers or members

        I’m hoping that it will be ‘easy’ to use SmartLinks with these groups of people and migrate people between the different lists.

      • Hi Doug,

        There’s a certain level of complexity involved in targeting that many different user groups, but it can be done.

  • That is fantastic. It will be fantastic when you can ensure it is not merely according to e mail keys to press but in addition cookie people, exactly like retargeting can and also present articles according to earlier activities.

  • Awesome! One of the things I imagined would be cool if… 🙂 I feel like I have the best software out there. You guys seriously rock. I’m constantly impressed with your updates and upgrades. Fabulous!

    • Thank you for your comment, Kristen! This was definitely an “I wish I could” type of feature for me for a long time as well. 🙂

  • Total genius! Providing specialised promotional ads in your sidebar and below posts for existing subscribers could make a complete difference to customer services. Absolutely brilliant!

  • Shane, I’m a big fan mate, Your genuine, informative, real and after checking out your product I have decided to become a member of Thrive themes, can I get some advice on what thrive theme would work best with my 2 sites, is that something you do? Keen to get in touch with your team, your other products really excite me, at this stage I don’t use pop ups or anything…..

    • Hello Steve,

      Thank you very much for your comment! I’m thrilled to have you on board as a member. As you can see from how long it took me to reply to this comment, contacting me directly about stuff is usually not a fast way to get an answer. I recommend that you post any questions you have in our support forum. Our support team is super helpful and you’ll get answers quickly.

  • Hi Shane – a great product and I am sure the training is excellent too!
    The thing is, I picked up this e-mail on Friday 25th September – the day after the training was on live. Can I get to see this again or was it a one-time showing?

    By the way, the website I have indicated is still being built – ready in 7-10 days.



  • Many thanks for the SmartLinks. Just saw the webinar. Not sure what else to say, time to just go work on it. So glad I got the unlimited version of Thrive Leads, your tutorials have been helpful for a long time, bot wow you’re really doing great things.

    • Possibly, yes. Something like a “SmartContent” feature is in the early planning stages. Don’t hold your breath for this one, though. If it does happen, it will not be in the near future.

  • Just an amazing feature again. I’ve also watched the webminar and I have a question/suggestion.
    You said the “alternate state” view would be for people who have subscribed but not yet buy anything, whereas the “display nothing” option is for people who bought.
    I wanted to put smartlink on my download page to be sure people who bought something get the “display nothing” cookie. But then I’ve found that if he clicks on another smartlink with “alternate state”, eg: newsletter, the cookie is replaced. Would it make any sense to make the “display nothing” cookie not replaceable by the “alternate state” cookie ?? Not sure if possible but it would make the segmentation between buyers and simple subscriber a breathe.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Guillaume.

      The reason the cookies overwrite each other is because otherwise, it would be too easy to make an “unfixable” mistake and you couldn’t undo it if a segment of your visitors was cookied incorrectly.

  • Amazing Feature! Did you have plan to launch a cookie based evergreen product launch feature, for each individual visitor gets access to each consecutive piece of content counting from the moment he/she click on a Smartlink? 🙂

    • We’re going to release a product related to evergreen launches, but it will be completely separate from the SmartLinks feature.

  • Just great, knocked it out of the park!

    Can’t honestly figure out where to put the smart link? Got me thinking -when they subscribe it could set the cookie then… otherwise I’ve tried putting the link in the confirmation email but then they have to click 2 links.

    • When they subscribe through a Thrive Leads form, they are automatically cookied as a subscriber and no SmartLink is needed.

      The use of the SmartLinks is specifically made for emails that you send to your subscribers and that link to content on your site.

      • Hi Shane, I’m late getting to this feature and want to make sure I understand this correctly…

        If a reader subscribes from any Thrive Leads form (right now I’m using a ThriveBox), whenever they return to my website and want a different free “product” they are automatically NOT required to “opt-in again??? If this is correct, is this “forever” behavior (I guess unless their cookie source “changes” — I don’t really understand how cookies are assigned/managed, so this may be a dumb question or irrelevant! 😉 LoL!)

      • This is correct, but it won’t be forever. We try to remember an existing subscriber for as long as possible, but changing devices, browsers, clearing cookies etc. means that sooner or later, they’ll be shown the opt-in form again.

        If you consistently send out SmartLinks in your emails, that ensures that your subscribers don’t see your opt-in forms anymore.

  • I think it would be more intuitive if you guys added smartlinks to the thank you page option. Currently you have the option when connecting services to your op-tin to select current page or custom url (where you could include the smartlink) for the thank you page. But it would be more intuitive if you could include current page + smartlink.

    That way when people subscribe through a thrive leads opt-in, such as scroll mat, they won’t see your other opt-ins once they continue through the page. And the user experience would be better, because they won’t be navigated away from content that they may specifically have searched for.

    It’s not a huge deal, since currently I have my confirm subscription redirect to the smartlink, but it could potentially increase conversions on people who don’t immediately confirm subscriptions by creating a better user experience during their first (and potentially last) session. It also creates a possibility for people who use newsletter options with limited control (such as jetpack and other RSS-Feed to email plugins) who otherwise wouldn’t be able to use this feature at all.

    • Hello Steven,

      Keep in mind that for all overlay type opt-in forms that you create in Thrive Leads, the default behavior is for them to be hidden once someone opts in. There are no SmartLinks or further settings needed, it just happens by default. 🙂

  • I’m new to Thrive Themes, signed up as an early Christmas present for myself…I don’t know how anyone could do without any of the features provided by Thrive, definitely excited to try out smart links!

  • Is it possible to append the RSS Feed URL with ?tl_inbound=1&tl_target_all=1 (or whatever gets generated) so that all the links in an RSS campaign from your Autoresponder have SmartLinks? eg.

    • Hello David,

      I’ll have to answer with… maybe? That definitely goes beyond my level of technical expertise. If you ask in the support forum, someone smarter will be able to answer, though. 🙂