PDF Downloads are dead

The Thing About Custom Websites...

Give us your email address, phone number, lock of hair and fingerprint. Then, send us a video of you reciting the national anthem backwards, complete with modern dance moves. In return we will give you a downloadable PDF with “10 Ways to Tie your Shoe Laces”. Wait, what?!

Sound ridiculous? Well, it kind of is…BUT this is how internet users are starting to view the PDF download. They see them as hard work for little return.

Tell me more about how PDF downloads can be annoying…

It’s an overcrowded market. There is a PDF download for just about anything and more often than not, they are of little value to the recipient. How many times have you read big claims that you can be a millionaire when you read the hidden secrets locked inside. Then open it up only to discover a one-page document written in broken English. Add to this the fact we are quickly becoming a mobile society, and mobile phones and clunky PDFs are not the best of friends. The whole process from signing up, to trying to read the file is time-consuming and there has to be a better way.

Why should I care?

Businesses and marketing go hand in hand, and if you are putting all of your promotional eggs in the PDF download basket you could be missing out on valuable leads. You could be investing time creating these resources which will either not be downloaded in the first place, or forgotten about and never read. This is generally going to be a waste of your time, and there could be a quicker way to grow your subscriber base.

Now, give me an example…

Take this real life example. Recently a popular Aussie cereal brand promoted a free digital recipe book, emailed straight to your inbox. Somewhat excitedly I signed up for said PDF, surrendered my details and then…forgot all about it. It may or may not be sitting in my junk. It certainly didn’t make me go buy more cereal. It wasn’t there in the moment I was interested and ready to add the ingredients to my shopping list, and then I was over it. I moved on to an article discussing the strange attraction people were having to Netflix’s psycho lead character on TV show “You”. This marketing opportunity from the cereal brand was lost on me.

But, my PDFs are good…

There is always an exception to any rule, and this is when your PDF content is SUPER AMAZING. It has to be better than amazing, and word of mouth will spread the word. Kayla Itsines would be an advocate for eBooks as her downloadable health and fitness guides have given her a net worth of 486 million dollars. If you are still determined to do it, make sure it is something customers will seek out.

So, what can I do instead?

We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t provide your visitors with content. We are simply saying there is a way to do this without a bulky PDF clogging up their inbox and lagging their phone. It all starts by keeping your visitors on your website. This is good for traffic AND good for tracking user behaviours. It really is a win win. There are different ways to do this depending on what you are offering.

You could consider installing a microsite with unlockable content for a set fee, or a subscription. This is essentially a site within your website which requires a password. If visitors and local sales are more your style, you may also think about giving this information out for free in the form of a blog post. Why? To give your brand credibility. Don’t be afraid that ditching the PDF download will result in fewer subscribers, because giving your customers something of high quality that is easily accessible will see them coming back.

Keeping your paid or free content on your site will be more mobile friendly, faster and most importantly – RIGHT THERE when they want it. No waiting, no downloading and no squished font because they have happened to choose the wrong device for viewing.

So, unless you are Tony Robbins (no explanation required), Kayla Itsines (health guru) or Darren Rowse (Problogger) we recommend burying the PDF download and creating a microsite instead!