Sumo (formerly SumoMe) is a marketing suite which helps website owners and managers with engaging their visitors as well as growing their incoming traffic. It was created by AppSumo, a daily deals aggregator specializing on digital-only products – in essence the company decided to make available to the public the tools they’ve created for in-house use to grow their own subscriber base to over 700,000 users.

There are two ways to add SumoMe to your website: either by using a ready-made plugin for your content management system – or manually. Official plugins exist for most existing CMS, including of course WordPress (self-hosted), Joomla, Drupal, Shopify, Squarespace, and Weebly. Unfortunately, Sumo is not compatible with websites that have been created using either Wix or WordPress.com platforms, most probably because both offer their own similar tools as apps or plugins.

Using the plugin version of Sumo is a breeze – simply install the official extension from your CMS’ plugin market, activate it, and activate using your Sumo account credentials. Manual installation requires a bit more knowledge, as you’ll need to insert a code snippet into your website’s tag; however, if you’re not using a CMS for your website, you’re most probably comfortable with code, and thus also familiar with the procedure. In any case, once you install and activate the suite, your website gets instant access to all included apps.

The Sumo toolkit consists of 10+ apps, which are not to be confused with mobile apps; in this case they can be regarded more precisely as website extensions. Each app provides a specific enhancement to your website and can be turned on or off at will. In the next section we will look at the Sumo apps one by one to consider their usefulness, in order to then understand whether the suite itself is worth using.

Sumo Apps: Useful or Not?

Welcome Mat adds a screen-sized section above your page which is shown to each visitor as they enter your website; the section contains a call to action or other value-generating elements. While it has indeed become a sort of a standard for thousands of blogs, including some pretty large ones, the fact that the visitors need to scroll down in order to get to the actual page content needs to the understood and treated with caution. Being pretty damn effective at visitor conversion, this app should be rigorously tested before full-scale roll-out, because the new leads captured by the Mat can be offset by the people leaving your website before even scrolling to the website itself because they see a screen which does not meet their expectations (i.e. when they click a link that points to your website they reasonably expect your website to appear, and might consider your Welcome Mat to be a third-party ad).

List Builder lets you create popups with subscribe forms (“Join our newsletter!”). The can be set up to appear when the user click on a specific element, spends a certain amount of time on the page, or is about to leave your website (i.e. moves the cursor out of the browser’s page area). While there’s no denying that popups are devilishly effective – both third-party research and our own experience confirm it – the same warning applies here as above: when setting up the thing, always keep in mind that many users are quite annoyed with popups, and, given the fact that they have become so ubiquitous in recent years, frequently treat them like banners, i.e. develop “popup blindness”.

Scroll Box is just a list builder popup that appears closer to the end of the page, after the visitor has already scrolled down for awhile. It’s less obtrusive since it doesn’t block the content by sliding in a corner from the bottom of the screen, and thus is less likely to annoy your users. With this comes the price: the conversion rate is typically lower than for the all-in, cover-it-all List Builder popup.

Smart Bar renders a clickable bar on top or bottom of the page which can contain a call to action or a form. The “smart” part is there because the bar is sticky, i.e. it stays fixed on top of the page even when the visitor scrolls down. Less obtrusive than the popups and mats, less effective as well – still quite a handy tool for additional conversions, especially if you style it to contrast the background of the page.

Share does exactly what its name suggests: adds social sharing buttons on your pages. The buttons are optimized for both desktop and mobile screens, and are especially effective on the latter. Getting your content shared more often is a simple way of receiving more exposure and website visits, basically for free. Still any doubts that you should use this app?

Highlighter is a handy tool which does not manifest itself as obviously on the front end of your website: it allows visitors to highlight any text passage on your page and easily tweet it or share it on Facebook. The Highlighter also makes frequently shared bits of text more prominent, raising their share-appeal even further.

Image Sharer adds social sharing overlays to images on your pages. When used together with the Share and Highlighter apps, lets you max out on your content’s social sharing potential.

Heat Maps is the first of subgroup of analytical apps inside the Sumo toolkit. This one is pretty straightforward, too: it collects data on your visitor activity and shows you where exactly your users click inside each of your website’s pages. Heat Maps can be used to optimize the on-page conversion tools we’ve discussed above.

Content Analytics is Sumo’s fancy (and slightly misleading) name for a scroll map – this app generates a coloured analytical overlay on any of your pages to show you how far the visitors scroll down before leaving the page. Useful for determining the optimal placement for the Scroll Box and other calls to action, as well as your critical content.

Dashboard becomes more obvious if one calls it Google Analytics: essentially what it does is embed your GA snippet and display the most important site stats right inside the Sumo admin panel. Handy, but hardly innovative or irreplaceable.

Contact Form is the final app in the Sumo suite, and what it does is quite obvious: by adding a contact form on your page(s) it allows the visitors to get it touch with you. Adding auto-replies that notify the users that their emails have been received and will be processed in due course helps reduce the friction of the contact process. This app is another potentially redundant one, as there is a great variety of contact form plugins in virtually any website engine, from WordPress to Shopify, most of which offer more features and more flexibility than the current app. The only case where we see it being genuinely useful is a self-coded website where adding a contact form manually would be a nuisance – but really, how often does that happen nowadays?

Free or Pro Version?

There are two versions of the Sumo app suite – the free and the paid; the latter is further divided into 4 plans, aptly named Small, Medium, Big, and Sumo. The most important differences between the free version and any of the premium plans are:

  • “Sumo” branding on the apps
  • Website traffic limitations
  • Number of websites that can use the apps
  • Pro features in each of the apps

Choosing between the free and paid versions mostly boils down to how serious you are about your web project: in case it’s a personal blog which will only be visited by you and your friends, or a test website, you will be totally fine with the free version. For all other cases, the paid version is preferable, given the traffic limitations and the not-so-professional impression conveyed by the presence of “Sumo” branding on all your front-facing marketing tools.

Among the premium plans, the choice is even simpler: apart from high-level pro features such as enterprise-grade integration, they all offer loosely identical feature sets, including getting rid of the “Sumo” branding – the significant distinguishing factors are the number of websites you can use the apps on as well as the visitor traffic caps. For a single-site project, the most affordable Small plan would be more than enough, while multi-site webmasters will feel comfortable with the Medium plan in most cases.

Is It Worth Using?

Since SumoMe apps come as an inseparable bundle, we can only really assess their usefulness based on whether the suite contains at least a couple of handy tools. While the analytics apps (Heat Map, Content Analytics, Dashboard, and Contact Forms) can easily be replaced by other, more powerful analogs which are completely free or have much more features, the social sharing apps (Share, Highlighter, and Image Share) work well together and do not have significantly better substitutes. The conversion apps (Welcome Mat, List Builder, Scroll Box, and Smart Bar) are undeniably good at boosting your website’s conversions, but caution is advised when working with the most obtrusive of them, namely the Welcome Mat and the List Builder – test well and consider visitor attitude changes before using in full.

Removing the branding would do good for any website that wants to look serious, yet you can always start with a free plan in case you’re just testing your online idea – just keep in mind that if you decide to grow, you will most probably have to upgrade to a paid plan sooner or later. It’s worth considering that as opposed to other, more indirect expenses, in this case you are paying for tools that directly increase your traffic and conversions – the Sumo toolkit will start paying for itself (and increasing your bottom line) quite quickly.

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