PDFs are DEAD: No More Downloads (Please!)

“Simply fill out the form to get the PDF!” 

Sound familiar? If your lead generation strategy involves gated content offers like eGuides and Whitepapers, chances are these come in the form of PDF documents. If so, chances are you’re either; 

  1. Pissing off your leads
  2. Going unread
  3. Losing conversion opportunities
  4. All of the above

The good news is, there’s a better alternative. A way to ensure your premium content offers are read, enjoyed and converted on.

What’s Wrong With PDF Downloads? 

Gated content offers remain one of the most popular ways to generate leads. Everyone from real estate agents to financial advisers are frantically directing visitors to download their 15 Tips on this, or their Roadmap to that. While the content itself may be of good quality, it’s ultimately let down by its method of delivery. 

Consider your mobile visitors, who can in fact outweigh desktop users in many industries. If you’ve ever tried to consume a PDF document on your mobile phone, you’ll know that it can be a frustrating whirlwind of sideways scrolling, pinch-to-zooming, and eventual closing and deleting.

Desktop users can encounter problems in even accessing the document, as demonstrated by the search queries above. Assuming they had no problem accessing the document, it’s often skim-read and abandoned, or saved to an optimistic “to read” folder that inevitably finds itself in the dusty recesses of the trash can. 

In short, there’s a lot wrong with PDF documents. They don’t promote a great user experience, and they don’t do justice to the time and resources that went into crafting your premium content offer.

If Not the PDF, Then What?

Word Docs? InDesign files? TextEdit documents?

Let’s backtrack - why do PDFs suck? Because they add a layer of unnecessary friction for your leads, they take people off site, and they’re diabolical on mobile (and sometimes even on desktop). What format solves all of these problems? Certainly not Word documents. 

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The answer was in front of you the entire time - the humble website page. But not any old website page; an immersive experience that is differentiated from your website-at-large by compelling design married with lip smacking copy. A microsite that throws your leads into the educational, inspiring and action-inducing realm of your content offer. 

After all, if you’re going to gate a website page, it has to kick ass. 

Using a microsite as a substitute for your downloadable PDF documents has numerous benefits:

  • It grants you more design freedom
  • It removes friction for your leads
  • It’s mobile responsive
  • It keeps your visitors on site (hello, SEO)

Furthermore, a microsite solution to your premium content offers allows you to gather valuable analytics data, provided you have HubSpot lead intelligence capabilities. On the other hand, offering your content in PDF format doesn’t do much for analytics. Once downloaded, it’s impossible to tell if the lead has in fact read the document.

All of these factors combined help your premium content offer to achieve its purpose: to move your prospects down the funnel with further calls-to-action.

Should I Even Gate My Content? 

There’s a compelling argument in marketing circles that ungated content will deliver better business results. Take Lauren Holliday for example, who writes that ungating one of her eBooks resulted in a breakthrough blog article that has earned her over 200,000 views, 3,000 social engagements, and remains a warhorse of her overall website traffic. Her argument is strengthened by the fact that the content in eBook format delivered her just two subscribers. 

Gating your content may gain you a few leads, but it can be a risky business. As Jay Acunzo of Contently says,

“If someone gets this big promise on a landing page and converts into a subscriber, but the piece they open is terrible, why would they want to hear from you again? So many marketers lose sight of treating people like people instead of leads." 

We believe that gated content remains an effective lead generation tactic, particularly for smaller businesses who are just growing their subscriber list (and for whom email newsletters may constitute a large portion of their monthly traffic). In saying that, there’s no illusions that if you’re granting access to content only after a visitor surrenders their contact information, it must be of outstanding quality. 

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This is where a customised, immersive and compelling microsite trumps a clunky, outdated and frustrating PDF experience any day of the week.

In the spirit of requesting a stranger’s email address, sign up to the Spinfluence newsletter by filling out the form below. Absolutely no PDFs involved, we promise.


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