Everyone wants to start a blog. In fact, when someone wants to do something on their own, whether it’s a business, positioning themselves as a freelancer, or even just having an avenue for self-expression, the first question is always, without fail, “how do I start a blog?”
Here’s the thing about having a successful blog: It’s not something very many people can do. And a big reason why is because they think a successful blog is about posting a lot of content—and yes, that’s definitely a foundational pillar. But if you look at the great blogs, the really informative, truly valuable blogs out there, they all share one thing in common.
They have high-quality downloadable content.
Free downloads are one of the easiest and yet most meaningful things you could possibly give your audience. Here are a few benefits of having free downloads on your website or blog:
- It builds credibility: Having an information packed free download is a subtle cue to your audience that you take things seriously and are out to provide value.
- It allows you to collect email addresses: Most blogs request that you put in your email in exchange for a free download. You get something of value for free, and the owner of the blog now has a direct line of contact to you for future offers.
- It can be used as an entry level sales tool: Someone downloads a free PDF, and on the last page is an offer to an upsell with a link embedded inside. Perfect for any sales funnel.
- It can rank for SEO: Yup, free PDF downloads can be picked up by Google and can drive people searching relevant keywords back to your site.
But here’s the thing: Having a free download on your site is only half the battle. The other half is making sure that the design and over aesthetic of whatever it is you are offering for free download is up to par.
Now, what kind of brand you have greatly affects your chosen aesthetic, but regardless, the design should always stay true to your overall messaging. A free PDF is still a representation of who you are and what you do. Just because it’s “free” doesn’t mean it should be lacking in quality. In fact, the fact that it’s free should do the opposite—it should blow your audience away so much that they come crawling back to your site looking for more amazing stuff to download!
Free downloads can come in a variety of different forms:
- One-pager: A simple one page document explaining something specific in more detail than one might find in say a blog post.
- Infographic: Infographics are great offers for free download since they are usually clean, simple, and informative.
- Extended blog post: If you have something really amazing to say, or even a list of valuable information more worthwhile than just posting on your blog, make it a free download.
- eBook: This could be a guide, tutorial, anything that is packed with helpful info but technically longer than a “one-pager” or an extended blog post.
- Starter Kit: Especially in the worlds of digital marketing, design, web development, etc., many successful websites offer Starter Kits for download. These kids usually come with an assortment of worksheets, templates, walkthrough guides, and more. Everything you need to get started.
The thing about eBooks is that most people shy away from them as an offer because they immediately think they have to go “write a book.” In reality, an eBook is not an “electronic novel,” although it certainly could be (if that’s what you want). Really, an eBook could be a 10 page document where you teach your audience how to do something—maybe show them how to start their own blog, for example.
How do you execute these free downloads?
Here’s a prime example of a successful one-pager being used to generate a big e-mail list. Michael “Cartoonz” Hogman is one of the leading entrepreneurs in the gaming space, and the first thing you see on his site is a free download pertaining to the new World of Warcraft expansion. Well, as a fellow gamer (and gaming author myself), I reached out to Michael to see how well that one-pager was working. In the past 4 months he’s generated over 10,000 e-mails. How’s that for ROI?
The popular design company Behance does a fantastic job providing free content that lead to higher quality downloadable content. Here’s an example of one freebie they offer: 10 Free Vector Infographic Templates, available for free download.
Extended Blog Posts:
One of the better Extended Blog Posts I’ve seen is from Matt Kohn at Different Hunger. Matt went around and asked 75+ millionaires, Olympians, CEOs, bestselling authors, pro athletes & others one question: “What is the ONE thing you wish you could tell your twenty something self?” Let’s just say he’s built a killer e-mail list off this free download. Why? Because it’s jam-packed with value for readers.
In 2015, I amassed close to 8,000,000 views on Quora from people who had read my answers. At the end of the year, as a way to start generating e-mails on my own site, I pulled together 20 of my favorite answers that I’d written and put them into an eBook. Then, I wrote a blog and offered the eBook for free download on my site.
Hubspot, the CRM that has quickly become a beloved resource for digital marketers, does a fantastic job providing free content that lead to higher quality downloadable content. For example: In this particular Starter Kit, users receive detailed information on:
- How To Attract Customers with Facebook
- How To Use Twitter for Business
- Creating the Perfect LinkedIn Company Page
Having downloadable eBooks on your site as added value offerings is so undervalued—and yet can really set you apart from your competition. Imagine if someone went to your site and clicked on “Resources” and discovered an entire library of free downloadable eBooks on your niche. How psyched would they be? And how many people do you think they would tell?
Having a successful blog is all about positioning yourself as the thought leader in your industry. And in order to do that effectively, you need to have quality, well-designed, informative free downloads.
Featured photo: Ylivdesign