Downloadable PDFs have been a staple of inbound marketing strategies for years. Are they still popular?
The Download button continues to be one of the most common CTAs we see on the Internet. It’s used for infographics, worksheets, catalogs, and buyer’s guides. It’s also one of the key pieces of gated content used to collect email addresses as part of an Ann Arbor inbound marketing strategy.
However, some people have begun to question whether downloadable content is still relevant. The thinking seems to be this: Back in the day, when websites were simpler, PDFs allowed for more designed content. But now that websites can support more design, including interactive content and video, PDFs aren’t the valuable resource they once were.
It’s in interesting point. But does it have any merit?
Let’s be clear from the start: Our answer to this question is an unequivocal “no.” Downloadable content pieces (also known as DLCs) remain one of the most effective marketing resources on the Internet. We use them as part of our own content strategy, and we frequently recommend them to clients. But that doesn’t mean we don’t hear the question a lot, which is why we believe it deserves a fuller answer. So, if you’re on the fence, here are five reasons you should still be using DLCs in your content strategy.
1. Websites change. Users want stable resources.
Most of us have had the experience by now of revisiting a website page only to find that the information we were looking for isn’t there anymore. Websites aren’t static. While some update more frequently than others, they are always being edited, added to, or removed.
PDFs, on the other hand, are unchanging. Users can download a PDF and rest assured that the information they want will remain in reach years after the fact. Of course, over time that information may grow old, which is why business should be sure all the resources they offer on their website stay up to date. But this doesn’t change the fact that users want to be able to open the document they saw a week, or a month, or a year ago, and have it be the same as when they last accessed it.
2. Printable resources have a lot of value for many users.
Downloadable content can be used in any number of ways. It can be a sell sheet that businesses leave behind after sales meetings. It can be a marketing brochure that businesses pass out during networking events. It can even be a worksheet that users are meant to print and write on.
We’ve talked to clients who have printed out our DLCs for meetings with their upper management, when trying to get approval for moving forward on a project with us. We’ve had clients ask for PDFs of their entire website, so they could bring it with them when they went on sales meetings to places with poor internet connection. We even had a client bring our marketing resources into a sales meeting with one of our competitors so that they could compare what we do against what our competitor was offering. Giving your sales leads a resource they can take away with them lets you stay top-of-mind as an authority and leader in your field. They’re going to remember you later.
3. Users want to save resources for their own records.
For many users, a good PDF is something they plan to return to again and again. They may be conducting research, and your document is an important reference. They may be comparing quotes, and your pricing guide is their new baseline. Or they may be trying to achieve a goal, and your worksheet is a way for them to track progress.
Whatever the reason, DLCs are something they can store safely in their records without having to worry that the resource will be unavailable later. In some industries, where a paper trail is necessary for compliance, this may even be a necessity.
4. PDFs have advantages over links for sharing with others.
Consider this scenario. You want to share an article with your peers. You send them an email with a link, and then your colleagues start writing back, confused. Maybe the section you were referring to has been edited since you last spoke with them. Maybe the page has been taken down and the link is broken. Maybe the page has a number of other articles and calls-to-action on it, and they don’t know what they’re meant to be looking at. Or maybe you sent them the link a year ago, and now they want to know where it is again, and you’re now searching through your old emails trying to find the right one.
Now contrast it with this scenario: You send them a PDF. You can reference the exact page and paragraph, and know that your peers are looking at the exact same thing. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s not changing. And if your peers lose the email and want the resource a year later, it’s still in the same place on your hard drive, and you can just send it a second time.
5. Downloadables still generate leads.
Finally, if there are any doubts left in your mind, DLCs are still important because users still download them. PDFs may not incorporate video, or gifs, or hover text, but they nevertheless provide users with valuable take-home pieces that are popular despite the advancements of web design over the past several years. If anything, most businesses aren’t using downloadables enough.
If you aren’t using downloadable content on your site, you’re missing a prime piece of marketing strategy.
As we said before, we use DLCs in our own marketing strategy, to great effect. If you would like to incorporate them in yours, contact us. We can create beautiful downloadable resources that will bolster your marketing efforts for years to come.