If you already have a great PDF giveaway for your subscribers, you've probably set up your autoresponder to fire off a link to the free resource upon subscription. It's easy peasy, and everyone is happy.
But hang on, is the link you sent them an open link to an item in your Media Library?
Does it look something like this?
If you're nodding, keep reading.
What you're doing is fine, normal even. Everyone does it.
But besides not wanting to be just like everyone else, you want to consider what you're doing with your not-so-free content and how you're sharing it with folks.
If you're sharing PDF URLs openly, the whole world can get access to them indiscriminately…
This is basically fine for the freebies, but, and this is a big but:
Your paid material deserves a different solution.
What do other people do?
Some people host their files on Amazon's servers for this reason (you'll see the
aws.some-long-url-after-that on some files you access inside courses).
Amazon set up their AWS service to help folks host and share their content in a protected way; you can select who can see what and how. It's a good system, and they are a good choice when you're running a course and have lots of embedded media you want to protect.
For many, however, this isn't something they even think about yet. Setting up something like AWS can seem complicated and daunting.
So what ends up happening when people first start out and don't have a web person they work with or just don't want to think about the “techie stuff” is that they just plop their course PDFs in that same Media Library they drop their blog photos into and walk away.
It's an easy solution, for sure. The logic usually goes: “It's not easy to dig up a file URL to something you don't know exists, especially if the filename is something random.” etc.
Not so much though…
Just in the last few months I went looking for something online and stumbled upon a paid eBook someone was selling. And no, not the ad for it in Barnes & Noble. The whole file. On their site.
When I clicked on it, I was taken to the book; it was coming from the famous URL:
Now the rub is that I wasn't searching for this eBook. I didn't even know it existed. I was simply cruising a topic online, doing some research.
So what should you do about the files you want to make private and only accessible to those you want to have it?
There are various services out there now, some taking a cut of your sales for hosting your file and encrypting it (and providing funky, temporary links), and I've used a few in the past. They're fine, but they can be annoying to set up and manage.
My secret weapon
What I've been doing for about 5 years now is using a little-known plugin called WP eStore.
Wait, a shopping cart to protect files??
WP eStore is a full store plugin, with which you can run your whole store. Much like woo commerce. It's not as user friendly as woo. (PRO TIP: We do use Woo here, for the product shop.)
But it has a fantastic feature of masking links and making them only available for download.
So instead of opening up a URL when you click on a link, you get a download box that forces the user to save the file to their computer.
This means that your material doesn't have an open URL floating around.
How to use WP eStore to protect your files
The system can be as complex or as simple as you want. The most basic way to use it is to create a digital product, to add your unmasked link (see our famous URL in the link location) and set some limit parameters on downloads (if you want.)
What happens then, is the system auto generates a new download link for every purchase. It emails your folks this link.
But what to do if you want to include those links in a password protected page on your site?
What if it's part of a course?
All you have to do is go to the Admin Functions and generate a URL manually.
It's super easy. Just pop the product ID into the field (once you hit save in the above step, your store will clearly tell you what the ID is.) And then hit Generate Link.
You'll then see the Download Link appear just below, where you see the link. You can take that link and pop it into any portion of your site.
I swear it's that easy.
There are tons of things you can do with this plugin, and you'll want to make sure you adjust the Global settings for Download links in the Admin panel (so they don't time out or lock users out after a set time / number of downlaods, because yes, you can set global settings, and this is good.)
Other than that, I haven't seen an issue with this plugin, and this is a great, affordable and simple way to protect your paid material.
If you have questions or experiences with this plugin you'd like to share, comment below!