When I started writing this guide, I wanted to show four ways you could deliver a free digital download using your own hosting and third party platforms.

The more I wrote about delivering a digital download, I kept asking myself all the other steps in the process and what questions you might be asking after you’ve finished.

Questions like:
How do customers download the file?
How do I link the files to my download buttons?
How do I link my opt-in form to my confirmation page?
What emails should I send out?

With those questions in my head, I couldn’t leave you hanging…

So, in this guide you’ll find over 2,000 words and seven how-to videos, and by the end, you’ll know how to create, store and deliver a digital download using OptimizePress.

One Of Our Top Features

Delivering digital downloads is a top feature for OptimizePress customers and it can have an enormous effect on how successful you are at growing your email list.

Your digital download could be:

  • video files
  • ebooks
  • .xls
  • .pdf
  • keynote presentations
  • kindle files
  • and many other different types.

The majority of downloads fall under the ebook/PDF category. Any type of report, blueprint, white paper, checklist or guide that has been converted to PDF format.

There are two types of digital downloads:

Free – Free digital downloads are mostly used for list building or company resources that can easily be accessed and delivered quickly to the customer. These file types would mostly be PDF or video.

Paid – Paid digital downloads are files people have purchased. They could be PDF files, video files, Word files, Excel files, Apple Books files, Kindle files and in most cases, these files are usually protected via third party services or by using plugins like OptimizeMember.

Whether you’re technical or not, we’re about to show you four ways you can store and deliver a free digital download using your own hosting or third party application.

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In this guide you will learn:

  • The quickest way to create a basic PDF
  • What Landing page and Thank You page we use
  • 4 Ways to store your digital file online for download
  • How to link your digital file to your Download page
  • The opt-in and download process


Time to roll up your sleeves, shut down social media and get cracking.

The Quickest Way To Create A Basic PDF

Here’s one of the easiest ways you can create a basic PDF file using free software. If you’re stuck at this point in your marketing journey, stop everything, follow the next few steps and watch the video below:

1. Create a Google Account if you don’t already have one: (https://accounts.google.com)

2. Login to Google Drive: (https://drive.google.com)

3. Create new Google Docs document:

4. Write out your ebook, report, checklist, blueprint, white paper or whatever your lead magnet is.

5. Once complete select File > Download As > choose PDF Document (.pdf)


You now have a PDF. Easy…right?

Here’s a little video showing the steps above in more detail.

[Video] How To Create A PDF

Now to go one step further than everyone else, jump over to Fiverr and have someone turn your text document into a better looking and more professional report.

A bit of colour, some icons, page numbers, header and footer can add some value to your report. It will stand out among the other plain boring text reports and your users won’t feel embarrassed to share it with their friends.

Here’s my 5 minute attempt at making a cover. The internal pages would use a similar coloured border and nice fonts:

Icon credit to Freepik.

Build Your Landing Page & Thank You Page

The WordPress landing page is very basic for this tutorial, nothing fancy. We used the following Sales Page template for both the landing page and thank you page. You could use any template from our MarketPlace.

The template is included with OptimizePress and can be found under the Sale Page section in Create New Page.

The video below walks you through connecting the landing page to ActiveCampaign, choosing the email list in the opt-in form and showing you the thank you page with social sharing icons.

Be sure to watch how we use the social sharing icons to drive traffic back to our landing page.

[Video] Landing Page & Thank You Page

Make Your Thank You Page Engaging

Many people make the mistake of NOT using their Thank You page to engage with a new potential customer. People need instructions and also like confirmation. We want to know our email has been accepted, what happens next, and how long do we wait?

Use the Thank You page as the starter point in your customers journey. Give confirmation to the subscriber and some instructions to encourage users to share their free gift on social media.

Remember how we use social sharing to drive more traffic back to your landing page? If you missed that then go back and watch the video above.

Try to include these elements on your Thank You page:

  1. Confirmation the user has successfully opted in (Thank You! / Congratulations)
  2. Steps on what will happen next (Check your inbox)
  3. Download your gift here (Download link / button)
  4. Optional – Tell the user what to do (Share with friends)
  5. Social sharing icons (Linking to landing page!)

Now we move on to storing the PDF file online.

4 Ways To Store Your Digital File Online For Download

You have created your PDF and now you’re ready to start growing your email list. It’s time to get the PDF uploaded and stored online so your customers can easily download it without any technical issues.

We’re going to use any of the options below to store the file online. I use the term ‘storing’ as the place where the file sits on the web.

We can use any one of these services because they all provide a direct link to the file, meaning when the customer clicks your download link/button and they’re taken directly to the file or to a page that clearly shows the download option.

There are lots of different names used for the location of where a file is stored. It could be; file path, file URL, download link, download URL or even “the place where you uploaded the file to”.

For the sake of this guide, I’ll refer to it as the download link.

When I use that term, I mean the file path in the browser address as show here:

Choose one method below for storing your file and save the download link for later.

1 – WordPress Media Library

This is probably the easiest and quickest way to take your PDF and make it available for download. It requires no technical skill. If you built your own landing page, you’ll find this step very easy.

All you have to do is go to your Media Library click Add New and drag the file over, or click the Select File button to upload your new file.

Watch this video to learn exactly how to upload the file and where to get the download link you need for later.

[Video] Using WordPress Media Library

2 – Google Drive

Google Drive

Another way to store your file online is using Google Drive, one of the tools we use everyday. If you created the PDF using the steps above you’ll already have a Google Account. Next jump back into Google Drive and follow the video to see how we upload the file and get the download link from Google Drive.

[Video] Using Google Drive

3 – Dropbox


As we used Google Drive, I had to include Dropbox in the list and I know many people will use their service. It’s very much the same process as Google Drive so watch the video below if you’re a Dropbox user.

Again, it shows how to upload the file and get the download link that we use later.

[Video] Using Dropbox

4 – Amazon S3

Amazon S3

Now, slightly more technical than the other services, but we couldn’t make this tutorial too easy!

Amazon S3 does cost a very small amount to deliver your files (about 30c for every GB transmitted upto a 1 TB) but it’s a great solution and many services integrate with Amazon.

If later you want to protect downloadable files, it also works with OptimizeMember allowing you to control who can download what files.

[Video] Using Amazon S3

So, after using all the services I ended up with 4 different file links to choose from.

The Download Links

You only need to have 1! Save the link somewhere and have it ready to use next.

Let’s move on!

How To Link Your Digital File To Your Download Page

The actual step of linking your file to your page can be very confusing.

This question comes up quite often and may seem very obvious to some experienced marketers, but confusing when someone says

just link to your download file” or “get the link where the file is stored” or “It’s the URL where the file is online

I know, because I’ve been there and I’m guilty of telling people the same. If you’re reading this post and I ever used those phrases above, then I’m sorry. This article is for you… kind of!

The first thing we need is the download link to the file that you saved from the steps above. So get your notepad, Evernote, notes app open, wherever you stored that link and have it ready to use in a moment.

What we’re about to do is link our Landing Page opt-in form to the Thank You page and then link the Download button on our Thank You page to the download file using the download link.

Hope that makes sense!

Watch this video and how to link everything up:

[Video] Linking Pages To Download Files

The Opt-in and Download Process

If you got this far you have created your PDF, Landing and Thank You page, stored your download file online, save the download link, linked your Landing Page opt-in form to the download page and linked the download button on your (Thank You page) to the download file!!!

Phew! Give yourself a cheer!

Now you have your files stored online and linked up you may be wondering how does my customer access the file. This is where you have some choices to make.

You can either do one of the following. Neither is the correct way, some people will tell you different or a “better way”, so just pick one!

Don’t spend too much time thinking about this part. Just get it done so you can focus on growing your email list.

Method 1 – Send the customer directly to the download file after opt-in and send a follow-up email.

For this step, you would copy your download link and paste that into the Thank You Page URL inside your OptimizePress opt-in form.

After opt-in, the customer is taken directly to the PDF. They will not see another page before.

Here’s where you paste the download link inside the opt-in form

Method 2 – Send the customer to a Thank You Page and follow up with an email that includes a link directly to the download file.

This method is perfect if you are forcing double opt-in. You could have two Thank You style pages with the first telling the customer to confirm their email.

You may be wondering why you don’t have a button on this page. The reason being this, if the page gets shared there’s no way people can download the file and you don’t miss any opt-ins. Not a biggie, I know, because the file is free anyway but some people like this way.

Method 3 – Send the customer to a Thank You page with a link/button to download the PDF and follow up email.

Follow Up With An Email

Whichever method you choose above, you will still want to follow up immediately with an email containing a link to the download file or a link back to your Thank You page.

It’s good practice to follow-up immediately…it’s polite. The customer may never make it to your download pages, don’t just assume everything worked -see below. It’s a good way to track if they’ve opened the email, track if they’ve clicked the link and it would be stupid not to follow up.

You want to get to know your new subscribe don’t you?? …So follow up!

Did They Get Your Download?

Remember, you have no idea what the user is doing at the time they opt-in.

This may not have crossed your mind, but here’s some examples of what could happen at the point someone decides to opt-in to your free offer:

  • They could be on a train or bus about to get off and put their phone to sleep so they don’t miss the stop
  • Their 4G connection might drop when the page is loading
  • Your web hosting is slow and the page hangs – Solution speeds up your site
  • The internet at home might go offline causing the page to show a 404
  • A family member/colleague might come into the room and distract them
  • They might spill tea over their Mac (like our CEO did) at the point of opt-in
  • and heaven forbid… they may have an Instagram or Snapchat update that can’t wait 40 seconds!!

You get the idea right?

Point is, always follow up with an email, never assume everything worked and the user has downloaded the file.

Planning the process before you link everything up will help you understand what’s happening technically.

Deliver Digital Downloads Process Map

We would go with Method 3 above for delivery of our file – take the user to a Thank You page with clear confirmation and follow up by email linking back to the Thank You page and encourage then to share on social media.

You could also link directly to the download file in the email if you wanted.

Here’s a look at our process:


After reading this post, you should be ready to start collecting emails and delivering your new free lead magnet.

Here are some points to note:

File size – Keep your files small. If you’re offering downloads of video files, it may be better to put those inside a members area

Internet speeds – While your own internet might be quick, you don’t know what speed the user is connected on, so take that into consideration when creating your files. Larger files will take longer to download. You want to deliver free files in a flash to keep your subscribers happy!

Social sharing – Provide share links on the download page that link back to the landing page.

Hot link your PDF – When writing your PDF always include links to your landing pages in the bio and throughout the PDF. If people do share your PDF with their friends, chances are, they’ll click those links to check you out.

Never assume – You never know what the user is doing at the time they opt-in. Always follow up with an email.

Right that’s it! What have I missed….?

Tell Us What You Think – Please Comment Below!

It’s now or never. Go and create your PDF and start growing your email list! Please post any questions below or tell us your thoughts about this article.

    47 replies to "[Updated] How To Create & Deliver Free Digital Downloads"

    • Peter

      Thanks for this great TUT.

    • Cynthia

      How do you setup downloading an .mp3 (example music or free meditation)?

    • Luis Lorenzo Rivera Sevilla

      Great tutorial, thank you!

      How can I put this to work if I were to charge for the digital asset´s download?

      Thank you.

    • Kristi

      Best article ever! I am not tech savvy and this is exactly what has had me stumped. Thank you.

    • dailyprofit

      Hi David, I dont want my thank you page link to appear on the menu. How do I go about it?

      • If it’s showing up without you manually placing it there, checkbyour menu settings in WordPress… there is a box to uncheck if you don’t want “all top level pages in main menu.” If you need more help, pm me.

        • dailyprofit

          Please I need you on Skype to ease the explanation. My Skype I’d is techclus…I need solve my thank you complication issue urgently

          • I don’t use Skype… I can probably help you if you PM or email me…

            • dailyprofit

              Can i have your pm contact and email address? Am new with OP and finding difficult to hide my thank you page from menu for my free download

            • Unfortunately Disqus has no PM feature…🙄much to my surprise… I hesitate to list my email here in these public comments, but if you don’t mind giving me your email here, I’m happy to email you back… I can include screenshots of how to solve your current problem…

            • dailyprofit

              My email is : [email protected]

            • Thanks… I’ve just emailed you with instructions and a screenshot

    • Pamela McMaster

      Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!! I have been searching for this exact tutorial for months. This is detailed, simplified and easy to follow for the likes of us that are fumbling about trying to figure out ‘how to’. So very grateful. Brilliant post

    • Bob Stelder Stelder

      Thank you very much for making this, it is exactly what I needed. You should get a raise very soon. Question: What would be your #1 brilliant & favorite book/ video/source for content marketing strategy?

    • Jakub Pavlovsky

      Hello, do you already know the date of the next bigger release? You mentioned it here several times but i did not get any info about that. Thank you

      • David Frosdick

        We have beta testers trying out some new features in our PlusPack. We will be emailing Pro and Publishers customers very soon before releasing it to everyone.

    • Pauline Kehm

      Thanks for this content. I was looking for an easy way to store and distribute MP3s, and this is just what I needed.

      • David Frosdick

        That’s great Pauline! The next article on this topic will be about selling and protecting downloads.

    • Salete Klaus

      Great post

    • Workout Anywhere

      When’s the next major update (with new features)?

      • David Frosdick

        We have a bunch a new stuff coming out. We’ve built templates, elements and big new tool you’ll love.

        It’s not goon to be OptimizePress 3, it’ll just be OptimizePress but you will love what we’ve been working on. We know everyone has waited a long time but seriously it’s worth the wait.

        • Workout Anywhere

          Cool. Any rough ETA on this?

          • David Frosdick

            Very, very soon. The team our Beta testing lots of stuff.

    • Claudia

      Are you planning to offer a feature where we can use multiple downloads/lead magnets for the same list, using aweber and forcing double optin ?

      The difficulty I have with your process above is that I would have to set up multiple lists for each lead magnet and it starts to get impractical over at aweber.

      It would be good to know if delivering lead magnets/content upgrades similar to the way offered by Lead Pages is something you are planning to provide as part of optimize press (I seem to remember you hinting that you might last year).

      I appreciate you providing information on your plans because it helps me make decisions for my business.

    • Pritam Baruah

      This is very informative! Thank you for this great content.

    • Ronan McDonnell

      Amazing post, I’ve utilized it straight away! One question David – I love that you can change the “URL to like” to the optin page so that it forces an e-mail optin before getting the download, but am I correct in saying there is nothing we can do to stop the downloader grabbing the URL of the thank you page at the top of the beowser and sharing that? That allows downloads without opt-ins. Which would happen rarely but would be good to know…….

    • Jeff smith

      We sell a variety of digital products online, have OP2 as front-end and download page, but the actual downloads are shared in two other places…
      1. Our digital files are stored in a separate directory with our webhost and we protect that directory with a login/pswd…this is easy to do through any webhost Control Panel or with an htaccess file. When someone orders an ebook or product from us, we send them to a Thank You Page that tells them they will get an email with download details in the next 5-minutes. At the same time, the order automatically kicks off an email (we use Aweber for our autoresponder, but other service providers work the same) that gives them the link and the login/pswd. We change that about once each month – this has worked for years of selling 10’s of thousands of digital products
      2. For some other products we use Ejunkie as a shopping cart front end (also manages affiliate program for us) and they allow unique secure links to be generated as part of the shoppingcart order system
      3. Video courses we deal with in two ways – one we host some on Udemy where all delivery is handled by them and for self-hosted video courses we use another membership management system that was in place before we started using OP2 – but OP2 membership approach would be fine too.

    • Art et Tuto

      Thank you so much for this great video!

    • Taillard Silvana


    • This is a very good tutorial for beginners! I’m going to be forwarding it to a beginner client of mine! 🙂

      However, I *cringed* when I read your recommendation to use Fiverr! :-O **Especially for beginners!** I’m sure there are some legit designers on there, but I’ve also heard stories where they just re-used some previous work!

      I agree that designing a cover is crucial in order to stand out from those who don’t do it, but with Pablo (by Buffer) and Canva, pretty much anyone can create a beautiful, eye-catching cover!

      Pablo is still completely free (at my last use), but not as versatile as Canva. Canva *can* be completely free, if you’re careful to use only the (plentiful) free images; and they have all sorts of design templates, so you can make your design a custom size to actually fit on your PDF… It just takes some time, but I’d rather trade my time than possibly get some un-original or sub-standard design work for my cover design…

      BTW, I especially liked your reminder to “follow up” to make sure the reader has actually received the download… Beginners especially just assume “Everything works” online, when in fact the reader might not have seen the email, or it ended up in spam, or whatever! It also provides yet another legit reason to contact the subscriber/reader! 🙂

      Thanks for this detailed guide! 🙂

      • David Frosdick

        Thank for your comments Karen, Great points about Fiverr. There’s a lot of rubbish to wade through there but there are still good designer once you find them. I’ll add some other sites.

        Pablo is great, too basic cover but Canva, Beacon and other would do the job.

    • Heavy357

      This was a pretty basic tutorial. I really did not find it useful. If I were a newbie it would be a great item. I have been using Optimize Press for (5) years and I want to take this to the next level.

      My problem is finding a designer who actually knows the functions of Optimize Press 2 who also provides paid design services. I am looking for someone to link up the Membership Plugin with my content pages for Paid Delivery of products and Training Programs. I want to take advantage of the Auto Drip features. If anyone knows of a designer who has this expertise please have them email me at [email protected]

      • David Frosdick

        Thanks for commenting! Yes, this is basic to you and I but advanced/technical for some. We get asked many times a week about how to deliver a free download. I wanted to start basic guide first and then show the advanced paid deliver next.

    • Tim Schmidbauer

      Awesome content!
      Your post’s are one of the few i read every time, because they always add great value.
      Great work!
      Greetings Tim

    • GovJobHQ

      Great information and very timely for me standing up a new site using OptimizePress. I’ve used Thesis in the past but I may be a convert because this is easier to use, better looking design and your community seems much more developed. Thanks for the download tips. I will be employing these techniques this week for the first email list magnet on my new site.

      • David Frosdick

        Hi there! Great to have your here! Thesis is an awesome theme, very powerful. I couldn’t get used to the new editor a few years back and haven’t played with it much recently. Good luck with your new site!

    • Bakari Chavanu

      Great to see I was doing this correctly by inserting the link to my freebie in the OP thank you field. If I don’t want to give subscribers immediate access to the download, I put the link to my download in my thank you letter, and the subscriber them becomes a part of my autoresponder process.

      Question: is there a way to add an image to an OP opt-in form?

      • David Frosdick

        That’s fine to do it that way. Some people want double opt-in and would force a step between.

        If you look at some of the opt-in form there’s an option to add content with the WP WYIWYG editor. You can add images that way for now.

        • Bakari Chavanu

          Okay, yeah, I was referring to when you add an opt-in form in an article, using the OP Add Element feature. The options for those forms don’t include image. Is there a way for one to be added to those forms? Thanks for replying back.

    • Isabella

      Great post!
      Could you please create a similar one for simple paid products (like how to sell and deliver a paid ebook)? I find the process in the OP2 tutorials quite cumbersome as it keeps on referring to other videos and I have to go all over the places to put it together. Thanks

      • David Frosdick

        Thanks Isabella. That’s next 😉 Thought we’d should the free download post before the paid one.

        • Isabella

          That’s great. I am looking forward to reading the next post!

        • Kat Crimson

          I’m very much looking forward to that one as well!
          My process for handing out mobi and epub files through google drive keeps breaking down, or my links won’t work reliably across a variety of devices and it’s leading to a lot of frustration for my readers and potential customers. Everything seems geared towards PDFs, but that just won’t cut it for many of us.
          There’s also a lot of irrelevant information and/or misinformation out there for us self publishers. I know a great number of people who would kill to have this mystery cleared up in a decisive and effective way. I hunted around the web for many, many hours and still feel like I’ve gotten nowhere nearer to a viable solution. It can’t come to soon!

          • David Frosdick

            Yeah good points. I’ll move it up the list. Once you create a secure download area with OP your site can become a online course, membership site, protected download area etc

        • Radu Nahaba

          so where is the similar article with paid products? 🙂

Comments are closed.