It’s common for brands to offer downloadable content for users on their sites, either as a supplement to their existing content, or as a special offer in exchange for personal information (or in some cases, money). In any case, if you want your downloadable assets to be easily available, well-presented, and unobtrusive, there are a handful of best practices you’ll need to follow.
Type of Files to Offer
There are many types of downloadable files that have the potential to improve your user experience and brand image simultaneously. For example, tax-related businesses like E-File offer PDFs of common IRS forms necessary to file your taxes. Content marketing agencies like Curata offer templates, such as editorial calendars that you can fill out. Even major consulting companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers offer their industry reports as downloadable PDFs.
Tricks for Better Implementation
So how can you offer these files in a way that’s more convenient for users, less prone to errors, and ultimately more beneficial for your brand?
1. Use a plugin. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. If you’re using a web builder like WordPress, consider opting the use of a pre-existing plugin like Simple File Downloader or Easy Media Download. There are many plugins available, and each of them offers a slightly different range of functionality and user interface, so try a few of them out before you settle on one for the long term. You’ll also want to read user reviews; here, you’ll be able to see how easy the plugin is to use, and how effective it is at managing files. If you’ve used a custom build for your site, you may need to leverage new functionality, or consult the development community for an ideal solution.
2. Reduce the size of your files. When you opt to upload files for customers, reduce the file size however you can, even sacrificing some degree of quality for certain files. This will have a number of benefits for your site. For starters, you’ll put less of a burden on the server, and your site will be able to load more quickly. Your customers will also be able to download their content faster, giving them a better overall experience.
3. Offer files in PDF format as designated pages. If you’re going to offer PDFs to your customers, consider making them standalone web pages, with .pdf as the extension in the URL. This makes your content an indexable page, which is valuable for optimizing for search engines. It also spares you the need of offering a download button, which users may not be able to find easily.
4. Host large files offsite. Sometimes, you won’t be able to reduce the size of the file you’re offering; it may be something like a video or audio file, or you may need to keep the resolution of your PDF as high as possible. In these cases, you’ll either need to invest in the infrastructure of your site, or host the files offsite using a cloud storage solution or something similar. In these cases, you’ll usually provide a download link to your audience, who will then be able to follow that link to the appropriate offsite location.
5. Use landing pages to attract more traffic for your content. Finally, if you’re offering something valuable to your audience, you may consider creating a landing page exclusively for it. This will help you reap additional value from your offer; for example, if you’re offering a downloadable PDF report on the state of the retail industry, you could offer it via landing page, in exchange for users’ personal information, which you can then use to build an email list for marketing purposes. It will also help you gauge and track interest in your content, so you can create better material in the future.
The downloadable files on your site should serve to make your users happier and your site more profitable, so long as you offer them properly. Make sure to track how often your users are downloading your files, and use surveys or site traffic data to proactively detect any issues your users might encounter. The more information you have, the more you can improve your strategy.