What’s the best way to deliver the goods after your landing page collects an email address? Here are four options with pros and cons for each, and tests you can run to see which is best for you.

If you are using lead-gen offers (PDF checklists, whitepapers, guides, ebooks, etc.) as part of your inbound marketing strategy, you’ve faced this dilemma.

Your landing page promises a solution.

Your copy, layout, and graphics are compelling enough to get the visitor to enter their email.

They hit “Send me my guide!” (or whatever button text you have decided on) and then what?

  • Do they see a link to download from the thank-you page?
  • Do you send them the email with your PDF as an attachment?
  • Do you send them an email with a link to a separate page on your website where they can click and download the PDF?
  • Do you host the file somewhere and link to it directly from the email?

These are essentially the four ways you can deliver on whatever promise you made on the landing page. But which is best? Is there a compelling reason to use one method over another, and if so, what is it?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each approach, the hope is by doing so you can decide which is best for you, or if you want to test two of them against each other.

(A) Download from the thank-you page

Pros: Instant gratification for the visitor, and as a result, you build trust. Since you’ve left out the need to check an inbox for an email with further instructions, you may also get a higher download rate for the PDF itself (which you can also track using event handlers with your Analytics tool). Lastly, adding in social sharing buttons on the thank-you page (but configured to share the landing page) can encourage your new leads, still on a high from the easy access you gave them to their download, to share this experience with their networks.

Cons: Since you don’t need to deliver the PDF via email, why bother collecting it in the first place? Would your new leads feel as if they were tricked into providing their email address if they could just download right from the page? Although I’d argue that a “backup” email should be sent, in the event the contact needed to find the link to the download again. Your landing page language (and the thank you page) will need to reflect your intentions of using the person’s email address to turn this con into a pro.

(B) Send them an attachment

Pros: Almost-instant gratification, but definitely easy access to the file. Saving an attachment requires the fewest number of steps.

Cons: Attachments from unknown sources may get flagged as spam by the recipient’s email client. Depending on the file size, they may also be too large to send (unlikely for a typical PDF, but in this age where email is increasingly mobile, a large file streaming across an iffy internet connection to a smartphone will be an unwelcome event). Also, saving the PDF attachment may not be something you can track accurately.

(C) Send them to a download page from the email

Pros: This is similar to the first option, but the delivery email is of higher importance in the experience. You’ll also be able to track who is clicking through to the download page, and establish triggers based on their activity either within the email or on the download page itself to send them more targeted emails in your dip series.

Cons: It’s an extra step for the recipient to click, and then click again to download the file.

(D) Link directly to the file from within the email

Pros: Almost-instant gratification. By hosting the file online, if you make changes to it you can just re-upload it to your web servers (or use a cloud storage service like Box.net, Dropbox, Google Drive to store it). Finally, the click can be tracked.

Cons: The file URL can be shared. Then again, so can anything else on the internet.

Recap and testing ideas

It’s obvious from the above which I prefer (option 4: link to the hosted file). That option offers the best combination of tracking and user experience, in my opinion. And it’s pretty obvious I’m not an advocate of sending the email as an attachment either. You’ll want to test which works best for you, though, so here are some ideas:

(C) Link to a download page vs. (D) link to the document

What to watch for: the expectation in the email (click here to download) is the same in both cases, but of course in (C) we have an extra step to actually download the file. So, you want to measure the absolute number (not percentage) of clicks that link to the document (D) compared to the number of clicks on the download link in (C). Make sure you have event tracking set up on the download page, ideally something that connects to your email marketing system so you can keep the click data in one place.

(A) Link on thank-you page vs. (D) link to the document

What to watch for: Are people upset about the fact you collected their email address and didn’t really need it? Like the above test, track the absolute number of clicks to download the document in both instances, your thank-you page link will probably do better. But, what’s the impact on your follow-up series? Are the people who got the instant gratification opening and interacting with your email series at the same rate as the ones who you trained to go to their inbox from the start?

(A) Link on thank-you page vs. (C) link to a download page

What to watch for: This test is trickier than the one above, simply because we’re adding in an extra step (clicking from the email to a download page then requires another click to download the document). But you’ll want to still measure the number of downloads in both cases, and the subsequent open and interaction rates of your email series. In fact, do one of the above two tests (or both) first, then refine based on what you know about the behavior of your leads and how well they’re responding to the messages & expectations you’ve set.

Do you have any other tests you’d try? Or results from your own experiments? Tell me about them in the comments, I’d love to hear about them!

Thinking about creating an offer for your own business? You’ll want to download the Complete Guide to Creating an Opt-In Guide.

Stephan Hovnanian

Stephan Hovnanian runs the show here at Shovi, bringing over 15 years of email and web marketing experience to companies that need more from their digital marketing efforts.

Connect with Stephan here, on Twitter (@stephanhov), LinkedIn, or Google+.


We are no longer taking new clients. For support, please visit this page or reach out to Stephan Hovnanian via Twitter or LinkedIn. Thank you