Is Downloading Your Content Worth the Effort?

Think about the process that a user has to go through before they get their content. Does it involve filling out a huge form? Multiple emails? Chances are you can streamline and optimize for a better download rate and a happier audience.

The more barriers you have around your content, the less of a chance you’ll get anyone to read it. Even if you’re promoting a “FREE DOWNLOAD” and you have the most actionable, research-driven content possible, if these benefits do not immediately appear to outweigh the cost (time, energy) spent getting the content, you’re doing yourself a major disservice.

Consider the following scenario:

I’m on the train on my way to work, scrolling through Twitter on my phone, and I see a tweet about a white paper that entices me. I click through to the page and there’s a large image that doesn’t load and the only words on the page are “Subscribe to Download.” I reluctantly fill out the form, already planning to unsubscribe later, and I’m taken to a page that asks me to select preferences before I can download any free content. I temporarily lose Internet service moving through the subway and forget about the eBook – ‘there’s probably something similar written somewhere else anyway.’

Sound familiar? If your processes aren’t optimized, you’ll certainly miss out on people who would have downloaded your content otherwise.

Let’s go through the steps that surround downloading a piece of content to uncover what costs we can reduce and what benefits we can increase for our audience. Keep in mind, putting in the extra effort might cost you more time and resources up front, but the benefit of increasing downloads will ultimately offset the price.

Enlist a Designer


There may be a temptation to convert a Word document to a PDF and call it a day, but this lack of effort on your part can hurt you later. Make your download worth the cost by producing something high quality and visually appealing.

Use a program like InDesign or Quark which on top of providing a clean layout, will help you make content that’s adaptive and responsive for different devices. This way no matter where someone is when their download is complete, they are seeing the content in its best form.

Provide Options

One way to entice people to download a piece of content is to indicate that they can interact with it in more than one way. For instance, the content could contain both text and video. This makes the time spent more worthwhile because it’s like they’re getting two things for the price of one, and it puts the control in their hands in selecting what suits their needs best. They can choose to listen to the video while they’re engaging in something else at the same time, or if they are more interested in reading than watching or listening, they have that option, too.

Create a Landing Page

If you want more people to read a downloadable piece of content, start by dedicating an entire page to that content alone. Having one clear call to action eliminates the possibility that a user will take a different path that does not lead to the content they’re seeking. The cost to download decreases because it no longer involves time spent sifting through other unrelated content.

Both you and the user benefit because streamlining the focus will lead to less confusion and distraction and more downloads.

Lay Out the Benefits


Make the choice of whether or not to download your content even easier for the user by telling them exactly what they will receive. Beyond specific details and data, explain how the content you’re providing will positively impact the reader.

Use Social Proof

social proof

Demonstrating that other people have already bought into your content can help ease the cost. If you have a larger piece of content like an eBook, see if you can get a review from thought leaders who will allow you to quote them on your landing page. You can also provide a counter on your social share buttons that will show how many people have already recommended that piece of content.

If other people can testify that they have already benefited from your content, the perceived value immediately increases.

Provide an Out

As much as your goal of putting out great content may be to get subscribers to your newsletter, not everyone who wants to read your eBook will also want to regularly receive email from you. By allowing people to select the option to either provide their email address or Pay With a Tweet, you don’t force anyone to do something he or she doesn’t want to do. Plus, when people tweet a link to your landing page, you’ll get more people coming in and some of them may choose to subscribe to your list.

Don’t Ask For Too Much

People are (understandably) wary of providing contact information. Filling out forms also takes time. On the other hand, if you have quality content you are justified in asking for a small something in exchange.

Meet in the middle by asking for as little as possible. First name and email should suffice in most cases. If you want to track more specific information like company or title, you can put email addresses through a service like RapLeaf later on.

Don’t Ask For Too Little, Either

thank you

As Oli Gardner notes in Unbounce’s Landing Page Course, “Your marketing doesn’t end with a conversion. Where there is intent there is opportunity.” Oli’s advice is to utilize your “Thank you for downloading” page to ask the person to take another action, like following your brand on social media or downloading a similar piece of content.

If you’ve effectively cut down the costs to the user enough that they have completed one action, asking them to do something else will not be seen as a hassle but rather as an added benefit that you have additional value to offer. This also greatly reduces your costs because it takes virtually no extra effort to promote this second channel or piece of content.

Think Long Term

To increase downloads, you must focus on the user. Your upfront costs will increase if you’re taking sufficient time and effort to design, optimize, and test, but you will benefit in the end if what you have done has decreased the time and effort the user has to take to get the content. It’s a win-win situation when your audience gets the quality content they want without too many barriers, and you get the conversions you deserve.

What other tools or tactics do you use to increase downloads? Let us know in the comments.

responses to “Is Downloading Your Content Worth the Effort?”

  1. ronellsmith says:


    I’m so happy I found this. I’m in the process of convincing my team that, before creating an content, we must first think of the user and how he or she will find, interact with and benefit from the information we’ve provided.

    This blog makes that case perfectly.