How To Effectively Share PDFs On Your Website

Many of you long time blog readers you will already know that “Resources” pages are not a recommended way to share content on your site.

That said, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever share helpful content in PDF form.

Let’s discuss the how to of sharing helpful PDFs through your website that can really add helping to your site.

But First! Should You Create and Share a PDF? Or Should The Content Be a Blog Post?

First things first, let’s question everything. Does this content really need to be a PDF at all?

A good way to evaluate this question is by evaluating the Pros and Cons. When compared, blog posts have some definite benefits over offering the same content in PDF form and vice versa.

Pros and Cons of Blog Posts

Pros

  • Better for SEO. You can optimize a blog post for search better than you can optimize a pdf
  • Better for on-site conversion. The person reading a blog post is still on your site so they are in an environment that you can design to encourage conversion to your list or to reaching out to you for a consult call or any other priority call to action.
  • Available to skimmers. Website visitors who aren’t even looking for the content will be able to skim over it quicker. With time and attention on the internet being very limited, some users are averse to opening up PDF files which, in order to access them, may involve them leaving the site or opening an email to download it.
  • More generous. The content in a blog post is freely available instead of behind a optin to an email list.

Cons

  • Seen as less valuable. When compared to something like a PDF that takes some effort to get to, blog content could just be overlooked or seen as not as high value.

Pros and Cons of PDFs

Pros

  • It can feel like a digital gift. Even if the same content is on your blog, it can feel more special in PDF form
  • Can still call to action. When a PDF is well designed, it can include your voice, branding, and a clear call to action. But for it to be effective, you need to be intentional.
  • Can boost authority. For certain audiences and for the marketing of certain services, PDFs can be a good representation of your brand: for brands that have services that are educational. PDFs can be a bit of a preview” of how you are able to produce high quality content. (Like PDFs might be good as an example of someone’s ebook or book or someone’s teaching style for a course)
  • Can build your email list. Depending on how you share PDFs, you can leverage them to grow your email list. (Not sure about having a list though? I discussed that in a post on if therapists need an email list).

Cons

  • No SEO value. If you share the PDF as an emailed gift in a subscriber’s new sign up to your email list, the content of the PDF has no value at all for SEO. If you host the PDF on your site but don’t link to it, it still has less value than an optimized blog post would.
  • Could feel salesy. Depending on how you offer the PDF and what other free content you also provide, sometimes PDFs can come across as salesy or grabby: like you require someone to provide an email address before they already know, like, and trust you.

When Should You Offer PDFs?

Offering PDFs should be strategic. Meaning that it should fit into the simple marketing strategy that you’ve put together.

In order to answering the question of whether or not you should be offering PDFs is a question about what strategy you are trying to implement.

Without going into super depth about strategy here though, here are three simple signs to you are ready to start offering PDFs:

  1. You’ve already offered some high-value free content on your site that builds the know, like, and trust factor (visitors already have ample opportunity to get to know you before they hand over their email address)
  2. You already have SEO optimized your free content (so it’s fine to offer some content that isn’t for SEO)
  3. You are intending to grow and nurture an email list (if you’re not trying to grow a list, just keep blogging instead. Maybe first discover if you want to do email marketing.)

If you recognize these three in where you are, then offering PDFs could make a lot of sense. It means that you’ve reached the inflection point where there will be more value to offering content as a PDF then there is to offering free content.

Three Ideas For Sharing PDFs Through Your Website

If you determined that you do want to move towards offering a PDF, or even a collection or series of PDFs, then here are three ideas of how you may be able to effectively share PDFs through your website

1. Send a Free PDF As A Free Gift To New Email Subscribers

This works well if your PDF can be packaged as an ebook, checklist, worksheet, or another form of high-value content.

On the email list subscribe forms around your website, simply offer your free PDF gift when someone signs up for your list. That way, someone

2. Include PDFs As A Content Upgrade To Grow Your List

A content upgrade is when you write a blog post about a topic and then offer an “upgrade” to that content that is a downloadable PDF.

Example: within a blog post entitled, “Do you have an eating disorder?”, maybe you’d have a content upgrade that is a free test that someone can take to discover if they are at risk. In order to get the free test, they sign up for your email list and are automatically sent the PDF test

Important: There are some software limitations with setting these up – options like MailChimp are not a good fit whereas a premium option like ConvertKit is basically built for that. You may need to research if your email marketing software can handle content upgrades or not.

3. Create a Resource Library with Links To Your PDF Resources

Creating a resource library is easier than most people think! All you need is a basic WordPress site. (Perhaps other platforms allow this as well but WordPress has this on any website).

Create a page with links to your PDFs. Then, password protect the page to give it a bit of an exclusive feel.

You could then use the offer of access to your Resource Library as a gift for your new email list subscribers. When they subscribe, just send them the link and the password.

Adding resources on a regular basis will grow your library and when you do, you can also email your existing email list subscribers so they can access all of the awesome going on in your library.

Sharing PDFs Makes Sense At The Right Time And Place

It feels good to help people with all that you know and with resources that you have. But taking a step back to think strategically will lead to the best outcome for your marketing and for actually helping people too.

Creating a strategy that allows people to progress in getting to know you is a win-win all the way around. If you have free content to lead website visitors through towards awareness of how much you care, helping them further with high-value PDF content could be the logical next step.

What do you think? Will you be adding PDFs to your site?

About Kat Love

Hi, I'm Kat! I'm the founder and lead designer here at Empathysites. Therapists helped me heal from childhood sexual abuse so now I help therapists with creating their websites. I write on topics like website design, strategy, and turning website visitors into clients. Reach out anytime if you'd like to say hi. PS. my pronouns are they/them/their. Thanks.