Here’s something I’m asked almost every day: “How do I stop people finding my digital product’s download page and getting my products free of charge?”
Overwhelmingly, the most common problems affect PDF files and their respective download pages. That’s because, not only can search engines like Google return download pages including text that coincides with something you’ve just keyed into a search box, they can also read words INSIDE PDF files and return the URL for those files as well.
Big problem: If, like me, you have favourite phrases or you include the same copyright notice inside your products, then all people have to do is key your copyright notice or repetitive phrase into Google and your entire library of PDF files is made instantly available! And for free!
So, how do you protect your digital products’ download pages?
Well, it’s actually quite easy to stop people getting their hands on your eBooks and other downloadable products without those people coughing up money first.
#1 My personal preference is to regularly change the names of my download pages and sometimes I move my products to another domain name. The reason I do this is because, unless you’re careful, search engines will index your download pages, as well as digital products themselves. The even more alarming news is that it only takes someone searching online to predict a few words likely to exist in your eBook for the entire PDF file to show in search engine returns.
As today, for example, when I keyed a sentence into Google from deep inside one of my own eBooks and found the whole book available to download free of charge. If you think no one will guess words or phrases included in your books, think again, because all it takes is a book review giving a few quotes from the book to make it available to anyone keying those quotes into search engines.
When that happens you need to de-index your website URL and products real fast and personally I’d do one of two things for my imaginary download site with book title at www.mydownloadpages.com/mybook.PDF:
i) I might change the title of all my PDF files, in the above case “mybook.PDF” then reload them to the same site at www.mydownloadpages.com. At the same time I need to download my earlier eBook titles or replace them with empty PDF files with similar names. That way when anyone keys the title part of my URL into a search engine, that is “mybook.PDF” they’ll be met with an empty file or no file at all!
And that ensures for a short while my new titles will be missing from Google and other search engine returns, and outside the reach of non-paying buyers – except for the blank page versions which might be accessible long into the future.
This process of changing titles is quick and easy, until your eBook library becomes top heavy and you’re regularly changing names on 100 eBooks, or maybe several thousand.
When that happens method (ii) comes to the rescue:
ii) Depending on how your website hosting account works, it usually takes just a few minutes to download an entire domain name and its account from the system, in which case everything associated with that domain name, including digital products, become non-existent. Then you move your eBooks, with titles unchanged, to another account set up for a different domain name. Now when someone keys the old download page or previous PDF titles into a search box or browser they’ll be met with a dead link.
In my opinion, method (ii) is the easiest and fastest of these options, although it does require extra investment for domain names and hosting space.
#2 Instead of uploading PDF files separately for your eBooks and other downloadable products, try placing them in folders instead and zip the folder before uploading it. The reason is that Google and many other search engines can read PDF files and list them, even from inside unzipped folders, but as yet they can’t read PDF files inside zipped folders.
#3 Password protect your PDF files and that way, even if they’re easy to find and download, no one but buyers can access them. There’s another great benefit here, being that to get their passwords buyers can be asked to sign up to your mailing list. Then the first email you send reveals the passwords, while subsequent emails promote other paid-for products. Remember to change your passwords every few months to deter vindictive and jealous rivals from revealing your passwords to non-paying readers.
You can password-protect a PDF file by creating your original text in Word, then click on “Tools” top of the screen, then choose “Options”, then next page choose “Security”. Next page choose a password for other people to use to access your Word document and subsequent PDF files created from that document. Keep a physical paper note of your password or you could have trouble accessing your own files later.
#4 Try adding index.html files to your folders which I’m told “act like a curtain that keeps your files away from prying eyes.”
That represents just a few ways to safeguard your hard work and copyrights and they should be all you ever need to protect your download pages from non-paying readers. But if you want more to choose from, find them by keying something like “protect download pages” into the search box at Google.