Many people have websites and offer free downloadable materials to their visitors. You could be a CPA with a PDF brochure or a custom window installer with an excel file for cost estimates. You want to provide materials, but you also want to gather the visitor’s email address and contact info before letting them download the files. This tutorial will cover how to do that with some helpful free WordPress plugins.
Want to get your contact forms setup with downloads all done for you with a walk-through step-by-step? Check out our WordPress help!
What we’ll cover
- Step 1: store your downloads on your website
- Step 2: gather the visitor’s information
- Step 3: give the visitor the download
- Step 4: optionally send the visitor’s info to a mailing list
Note: If you are looking for a non-plugin option which works both with and without WordPress, scroll to the end of the article.
Store your downloads on your website
The step is storing your downloadable material (for example, a PDF) with a download plugin. This allows you to replace your downloadable file without actually having to change any of your URLs.
There are three popular download monitor plugins and they all work pretty well.
- Download Monitor – most popular option, allows for multiple files per download
- Simple Download Monitor – very easy to get started with, limit of one file per download
- WordPress Download Manager – limits you to one file per download
For this tutorial, I’m going to use Simple Download Monitor.
Add your download
Once you have Simple Download Manager installed, you will see a “Downloads” option in your admin sidebar. If you click on it, you will see your list if current downloads (blank at the moment) and some additional options. For this tutorial, we will only be using “All Downloads” and “Add New”. We will leave all of the other settings alone.
Click on “Add New” and give your Download a title. Then go down to the Downloadable Files and click on Select File.
You can either upload a new file or add a file from your existing Media Library. It’s also possible to add a file by just inputing the URL selection (this is great if your file exists somewhere besides your media library — such as if you are using another server to store your item).
Once you have uploaded your file, click on the usual Publish button.
Now go back to the All Downloads page and you will see your download.
Gather the visitor’s information
The next step is creating a form with a thank you that goes to download. This really depends on what your goal for interaction is. Here are three I recommend:
- Forminator is a fully-featured free plugin. With it you can create powerful contact forms that collect data from the website visitor. It includes integrations for Google recaptcha and has payment options for Stripe & PayPal. It also integrates with several popular mailing list providers.
- Hustle is fully-featured free plugin which allows for forms to be created and placed in a number of locations, including popups. It has integrations for a larger number of mailing list providers than Forminator does. You can pop-up, slide-in, or embed your form.
- Gravity Forms is fully-featured premium plugin (paid yearly) that allows you to create powerful contact forms with advanced logic. These forms once filled out can redirect conditionally, display different messages depending on fields selected, send multiple emails, store data to your email mailing list provider, and logs all forms to the database.
For this tutorial, I’ll be using Forminator.
Create your contact form
Now that you have your download ready, it’s time to create the contact form. Forminator has already put together a set of instructions, so rather than take my own screen shots, I’ll just use theirs!
Also, you can visit their full plugin documentation for extra help getting setup.
You’ll want to setup your form with only the fields you really need. Studies have shown that the more fields you require, the less likely people are to complete the form. Also, with the GDPR, you are not supposed to gather more data than you actually need.
Give the visitor the download
Once you have created your form with the fields you would like, you can now set up your thank you redirect. For this, we’ll adjust the submission behavior of the form.
You’ll need to set the “After submission” to “Redirect URL” and enter the URL of the landing page for your download. The download plugin automatically creates a download page for you, but you can also create your own custom one. I always recommend setting a download page to “no-index” to make sure that search engines don’t index it.
You can also send your download to visitors by using the Email notification feature. Although if you want to use this, I’d recommend sending them to no-index page where you have embedded the download shortcode.
Optionally send the visitors info to a mailing list
For a lot of website owners the goal of offering downloads is to populate your mailing list. Forminator has integrations with several mailing list providers and other locations you can data (like Zapier which connects almost anything to almost anything else). Their current list of integrations is available on their documentation.
Once you configure your integration settings you can select which form(s) send data to what location. That configure link goes to a how to section for setting up popular mailing list providers with Forminator with images included!
Alternative non-Plugin Option
There is, of course, another commonly used method. That is a mailing list signup form. With popular mailing list providers, such as MailChimp, you can choose to have new subscribers to your email list receive a welcome email which can include links to your downloads.
You can create different lists and have different sign-up forms for each list, this allows you to send different welcome emails.
MailChimp has also made automation free, so if you want to setup an entire sequence of follow-up emails to your subscribers you can do that easily.
Most mailing providers offer a “Welcome email” type of functionality, although what it is called will vary between mailing list providers. Consult your mailing list provider documentation for how to set it up.
This tutorial has explained how to let people download materials in exchange for providing an email address and contact info. Like most things in life, there is no “best” for everyone, but the option of using Simple Download Manager with Forminator is a free option that will work for a number of people.