While writing the 10-Step Guide to Using Free PDF Downloads To Grow Your Mailing List, I was thinking about all the different ways in which you can use downloads on your website.
There’s, of course, the free giveaway to generate more leads.
You can use downloads for the purposes of sharing content internally and privately with members or a team.
You can sell digital downloads just as you would physical products.
You can give away informational content to complement customers’ purchase of a service or product.
Whatever your reasoning is for including downloadable content on your WordPress site, you should have a download management plugin that will help you keep better tabs on it. Think about how you use Google Analytics to track what visitors do with your blogs or you use a contact form plugin and CRM to manage lead generation. You should have the same level of control and insight into what’s happening with your downloadable content as well.
In the following roundup, I’m going to discuss the 5 best download management plugins and what the best use cases for each are.
5 Best Download Management Plugins for WordPress
The process of adding a downloadable file is a simple enough one to accomplish. You create the content, upload the file to your media folder (or a third-party cloud storage location), and link it to a CTA button. But you don’t want this to be a free-for-all. If you want more control over what happens with your downloads as well as the data you collect from them, you need a download management plugin.
When deciding on which of these WordPress plugins is for you, think about which of the following features you absolutely need:
- Password-protect content so that any ol’ Joe Schmoe can’t get access.
- Track how many downloads take place as well as the users who snagged up the content.
- Track the earnings from your downloads.
- Better organize the variety of digital downloads you offer (especially important if this is your sole means of e-commerce).
- Monitor files for revisions when you use downloads/uploads in WordPress to collaborate with others.
If this sounds like something that would benefit your WordPress workflow, let’s take a look at the 5 best download management plugins that will get the job done.
Are you looking for a straightforward download management tool that makes the process of adding new downloadable content to WordPress as easy as adding other media? Then this is a good choice. Once the plugin is installed, you’ll have access to a new area of WordPress dedicated to your downloads.
The main Downloads dashboard is where you will upload new content. From there, you can see details like file size, the associated shortcode you’ll use to embed it into pages, posts, or widgets, as well as a running count of downloads.
Within each download’s settings page, you can control things like:
- How many downloads are available (if you want to set a limit)
- Access limitation rules (if you want to grant it to members only, for instance)
- The means by which the download will open (e.g. in a browser tab, download to desktop, etc.)
You’ll also have download logs that tell you about the users that downloaded your content. This is a good option if you want to add simple downloads to your blog posts or want to give them away for free in trigger-activated pop-ups.
This WordPress plugin prides itself on being an easier solution for downloads management. I partially agree with that statement, but only because this plugin does simplify things for the specific use cases you would need it for. So, if you run a website that provides users with sets of downloadable resources and technical documentation, this is a good pick.
Basically, this is how it works
You drag-and-drop content into the Downloads interface… and that’s it. Sort of. You’ll then have to determine how the downloadable links appear on the front end of your WordPress site through the plugin settings. The nice thing about that is it ensures a consistent look for each link. The maybe not-so-nice thing is that the links are highly simplistic in design (which may be disappointing if you were hoping for something else, that is).
Like I said, it’s the perfect plugin if you need to manage downloads in a rigid, consistent, and more technical manner–perhaps for customers that need to download related specifications or for internal team members that need access to company documentation. This is definitely not for those of you using downloads to generate leads and make sales.
Similar to what you’ll find with many download management plugins, this one creates a new content creation interface in WordPress. From your Downloads hub, you can create new downloadable content as easily as you can new pages or media on your website.
There are two really nice things to call out about this plugin:
For starters, you can name the versions of your downloads. This will make it easier to track how well new and improved versions of your downloadable content perform against the previous iterations.
Another cool thing about this plugin is that you don’t need to go to the Downloads tab to upload a new piece of content. Instead, you now have a “quick add” function added to your post or page editor, similar to the one we already have for Media. This will allow you to upload your Downloads directly to a page or post while you’re working within it.
If your goal is to sell digital downloadable content, then Easy Digital Downloads is a WordPress plugin you definitely need to look at. I previously named this as one of the best WooCommerce alternatives as it covers the full gamut of everything you would need to sell digital content on your website.
Now, in terms of using this plugin, it’s definitely much more robust than most of the other download management plugins on this list. That’s because it needs to account for the inventory and payment parts of your process. So, if you’re not intending to sell downloads, this plugin is not for you.
That said, for those of you that do need this functionality, this plugin is great. Here are some of the things it comes with:
- Main downloads page that includes each piece of content and its cost, number of sales, and total earnings.
- A more thorough downloads entry setup that allows you to go deeper with customization on the page.
- A Payment History dashboard where you can track sales and customers all in one location.
- You can create discount codes to advertise on the site that your customers can then find and use.
- Reports are definitely more thorough than the other plugins as well and include charts that depict your history of downloads and earnings over time.
If you’re looking to monetize products on your WordPress site and you have a mix of both digital and physical products for sale, then you should use WooCommerce. With the latest updates in WooCommerce 3.3.1 (after they worked out the kinks, of course), there are now a whole bunch of really nice features you can use to streamline management of your e-commerce website.
In particular, I think there are two features that are great for managing digital content in WordPress:
The first is the “Manage stock?” option under your digital product’s details. This is a great feature to have as you can use it to motivate visitors through a sense of urgency. If they see that only five more copies of your ebook are available for download, you may compel more people to make that purchase than would have otherwise done so.
The second feature that’s worth looking at is the new Customer Downloads report. Previously, you would just see all your orders in one place. Now, however, can filter your orders so that only digital downloads are shown.
All in all, I would say that WooCommerce is the ideal download management plugin if your store has a mix of physical and digital goods and you need greater versatility and control over your stock. It’s also a good choice too if you only sell digital content, but want to build out larger pages with more specifications, images, variations, and so on.
There are many reasons why you would offer up downloadable content on your WordPress site: to collect leads, generate revenue, provide supportive documentation, or even collaborate with others. As such, you should have a download management plugin that simplifies the process and enhances your ability to oversee what’s happening with all of it.
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- download management
- WordPress plugins