This guest post is by Sophie Lizard of Beafreelanceblogger.com.
You finally released your free download. It took a lot of work to prepare, but you believed it would all be worthwhile.
Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Give something away to get something in return, like email addresses or questionnaire responses. Or the undying love of a vast tribe of readers.
So … why isn’t it working?
Hardly anyone’s downloading it. You’re not floating high on a tide of reader engagement. If anything, it’s the opposite: you’re getting kinda depressed with the whole situation.
It’s okay. Know why? Because hardly anyone’s downloaded it. And that means the problem isn’t necessarily with your content. All those people who chose not to download it haven’t seen the content yet. They’re doing the online equivalent of reading the box and then putting it back on the shelf.
People judge your free download on expectation and reputation, before they make the decision to either download it or leave. That means you can massively increase your download numbers just by improving the audience’s perception of your freebie. Here’s how to do that in just five steps.
Step 1: Angle your topic to make people care
Even if your business is something as mundane as cleaning mattresses, your download doesn’t have to be on that exact topic. You could offer mattress buying advice, interior decoration tips, or information about dust mites.
Research your audience’s most pressing needs and concerns, then choose a topic they’ll find immediately interesting. If you’ve already chosen a topic and created your download, don’t panic! You can re-angle what you’ve got.
Your topic may be something that many people would find dull. Like dust mites, for example. But your angle gives it the all-important connection to your audience’s real life needs. Here are three example angles you could take on the dust mite topic:
- How dust mites in the home affect children’s health
- How to reduce dust mites without using harmful chemicals
- The biology of dust mites and why they live in soft furnishings.
Each of these angles appeals to a certain audience by giving them a specific expectation. Your download might cover all three of those pieces of information, plus more. But by focusing on one particular angle, you help your chosen audience understand the value of your download to them.
Step 2: Format your download to suit your audience
Has this ever happened to you? You find a free resource that sounds amazing, but it’s only available as an mp3 and you prefer to read. Or you can download it as a PDF, but then there are worksheets inside that you can’t fill in unless you print them out first.
Frustrating, isn’t it?
Your audience will be put off by a poor choice of format for your download, too. How did you decide what format to offer? If you asked your target audience what they’d prefer and then gave it to them, you officially aced this part already.
If you guessed, or gave them the format you like best, you’ve missed a trick. Let’s rethink.
Remember, some people are still bewildered by zip files. Some want to print hard copies; others work from a smartphone and don’t even own a printer anymore. You need to find out what format your target audience wants. If you don’t have an audience of your own to ask, go online and listen to what people on other sites similar to yours are saying about the free resources available.
And if they say there’s more than one popular format, consider offering more than one option. You can provide transcripts of your audio and video resources, create a slideshow presentation of your manifesto, or offer a Word copy of your PDF worksheet.
The easier you make it for people to consume your download, the more they’ll decide it’s worth downloading. If they ever notice it, that is. To make sure they do…
Step 3: Give it a name that grabs attention
The title is the only part of your download that most people read. I’m not being mean; I’m being practical.
Your download’s title can be read on your landing page, shared on social media, and displayed on search engine results pages. It’s one of the first things people will see about your download, before they make a decision about whether they want it. If the title doesn’t get more than a split-second glance, then your download sinks without a trace.
To create an attention-grabbing title for your download, check out the headlines competing for attention on magazine shelves or on Twitter, then try adapting them to your own topic.
You might see a headline like, “Warning: Single Women Think Your Man’s Available.” All you need to do is take that title and switch it to suit your download: “Warning: Dust Mites Think Your Bed is Their Playground.” For more headline templates to work with, check out Jon Morrow’s free Headline Hacks report.
Your title needs to create a hook of concern, pleasure or curiosity in your readers and keep them interested long enough to read further. You want visitors to your landing page to read beyond the title to the rest of the copy, and keep reading until they decide to download. So, on to the next step!
Step 4: Demonstrate high value with your copy
Your audience only needs to know one thing from your download’s landing page copy: how will this download make their lives better?
The features of your download—“30 pages with full-colour diagrams!”—are important, but your reader wants to know what it will do for them and how it will make them feel. So focus on the benefits of your download, like “Learn to reduce dust mites in your bedding so you can breathe easier at night.”
Once you’ve made the benefits clear, it’s time for a call to action. Keep it simple and clear, and only ask your reader for one thing: to download your free product. (We can tell them about all your other awesome stuff another time, I promise.)
After the call to action, feel free to add more information about the download format, those full-colour diagrams, and other details. Put another call to action after this extra info, so that anyone who reads this far can get your freebie without scrolling back up to find the download link.
Now, you just need to do one more thing to convince your audience:
Step 5: Prove yourself!
Everyone likes to try things risk-free. That’s part of the reason blogs and websites offer free downloadable products: sampling the free product makes your audience feel they’ve judged the quality of your products or services without the risk of losing money.
But here’s the thing: your average audience member isn’t only worried about money. They’re worried about losing time, too. You need to reassure them that your free download won’t waste their time, but will reward their investment.
One of the best ways to do this is with social proof.
Simply put, social proof is anything that suggests that other people have already tried something and liked it. That might include:
- people sharing the link to your landing page via social media
- testimonials from downloaders, customers, industry experts, or reputable celebrities
- a case study explaining exactly how your freebie has benefited a particular user.
Most of the time, you can get social proof simply by asking for it. So, ask for social shares or testimonials when you deliver your free download, and ask again at the end of the freebie when people have finished checking it out.
Get to know some influential people, and ask them to share a link or testimonial if they think their followers will appreciate your freebie. Add a few of the best testimonials to your landing page, with another call to action at the end.
Send out copies of your free download to anyone whose opinion matters to your target audience, because…
You’re not alone
You’d be surprised how many successful blogs and online businesses have created a free downloadable product only to have it left on the digital shelf, friendless and unnoticed.
Many of the people you reach out to for social proof will have been through this experience at some point in their lives, and that makes them empathise with you. If your download’s relevant to them, they’ll want to help it find its audience!
So, don’t give up and watch your free download die—run through these five steps and give it the boost it deserves. After your download numbers increase, you’ll be in a position to judge how much people like the content. After you’re getting more downloads of your freebie, you’ll find that people start to offer their opinions on it before you’ve even asked.
For now, all you need to do is put your best foot forward, one step at a time.
Sophie Lizard is a blogger on a mission to help you increase your income and authority. To give your blogging career a boost, get free access to the “How to Make A Living Blogging” expert interview sessions and download your free copy of The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs: 45 Blogs That Will Pay You $50 or More!