Content marketing involves giving away useful information. You start with your company blog, podcast, or what have you, which you share for free and disseminate as broadly as possible. The object here is to bring people to your website, increase visibility, and help people out.
Once people have found your free content and discovered its value, you offer them something even more valuable, such as an ebook or a webinar, in exchange for contact information and permission to contact them.
Finally, once they know you have useful things to offer, you can make your sales pitch.
The second stage is an exchange: you provide, for free, something worth paying for. Your visitor has to give you his or her contact info in order to get the download. We usually just build a form and set it up so that once the form is filled out, it automatically redirects to the page where the visitor can download the goodies.
Recently, we discovered that one of our ebook clients was getting far more downloads of the ebooks than contacts. People were sharing their contact info to get to the ebooks, but other people were also finding them through search, emailing each other links, and otherwise getting the ebooks without having to share their information.
We decided to search for a fancier way to share the ebooks… without sharing them quite so freely.
This plugin creates a two-line form which captures name and email, and sends an email to the visitors for confirmation. The email includes a link for your visitor to click, taking him or her to the download.
You need to make a “thank you” page of some kind (first URL in the form above — click to make it larger), which gives you the opportunity to share more useful content or to do a little lead nurturing. The second URL can be your PDF.
Note that the form above (you’ll find it under settings, as shown below) lets you fine tune the email address and name you’re sending from and also add the visitor’s name to your email. You can write anything you like in the email, so I guess we could put in the password and send people to a password-gated page. The plugin captures all the emails and lets you delete any unconfirmed emails with one click. It’s easy to download the list and upload it into your email program, but you can only capture one list at a time — and you can only offer one content offer at a time, too. The premium plugin allows unlimited lists, and it looks as though it integrates with MailChimp, too.
Once you’ve found and filled out your page, you can find the WP Email Capture in among your widgets and pull it into the sidebar. It’s not much of a form, frankly, and there are no customization options native to the plugin.
The premium version makes nicer forms. I like the email confirmation feature, and the premium version might have the functionality we were after, but it still leaves the PDFs’ URLs open, so some kind of hack would be required to keep people from finding the ebooks through search. This one is not for us.
We like Easy Digital Downloads, built by fellow Kansas City Wordcamper Pippin Williamson. We use it for ecommerce at our lab site, where we have a bunch of nice classroom ebooks. It’s a good ecommerce option for digital content, with all the features you need.
It’s possible that visitors would balk at that extra step of putting items into the basket when they’re free, but it’s a moot point — we quickly found that a simple site search lets people find the PDF and download it for free at our lab site — and share it as Pinterest, from which we see in our analytics that dozens of canny teachers download the books for free each month. We might be happy to donate our wok, but this clearly won’t solve our client’s problem.
This plugin presents downloads as a file, not as a web page, so it’s much better at preventing random downloads. On the other hand, it doesn’t capture names and emails. It lets you restrict access to downloads, but once people subscribe, they can get all the downloads. This does away with the tracking benefits of asking people to share contact info.
We could combine this with the solutions described above, using this plugin to provide that extra layer of security once we send people to a download page. On the other hand, there are more options.
Like the WP Email Capture plugin, this plugin automatically creates a form and sends a link to the visitor’s email. The link sends visitors to a landing page, where you can give them the download with a shortcode button and also do some selling if you care to. Like the Download Manager, it provides a file rather than a page, and it never shows the direct link to the download.
There’s a video walk through, which is quite helpful, and lots of settings so you can customize things easily.
This looks like the best option for our client.
Do you have a favorite plugin of this kind? Tell us about it in the comments — we’d love to know.