Needless to say, WordPress is no more just a blogging platform. According to datanyze.com,
“WordPress is the CMS of choice for almost 23% of eCommerce websites in the Alexa Top 1 Million sites.”
As eCommerce plugins like WooCommerce and WP Commerce gain traction amongst the Alexa Top 1M, there is a huge demand for subsidiary plugins that are related to eCommerce business like plugins that monitor downloading of files.
In this post, let’s have a look at a couple of popular plugins for tracking downloaded files. In addition, we’ll also explain how to track file downloads without using a plugin - but rather through events that will show up on Google Analytics.
If you're interested in other WordPress tips and tricks, you can check out the rest of our articles here.
Tracking Downloaded Files using plugins
1. Easy Digital Downloads
This is one of the most popular plugins which you can use to serve downloads on your website.
Created by Pippin's plugins (also the author's of Restrict Content Pro which we've reviewed here), a team that is known for high-quality, products for WP, this is a plugin that can really cater to anything you need if you plan to offer files or other media for downloading to your visitors.
The beauty of this product is that integrates very nicely with other products which can be used to create great monetization for your site such as if you want to create membership websites using your content (read more here) and even if you want sell your digital downloads.
This is a premium, subscription-based product, and starts at about $9/month for the personal plan.
2. WordPress Download Manager
This is is one of the most popular file management plugins available on the WP plugin repository. It is a perfect fit for your eCommerce store if you’re looking for a feature-rich file management plugin. Its bundled with lots of features that include
- Download speed control
- Google Drive and Dropbox support to store your files
- Password protection
You can get the plugin from here: Download manager
3. WordPress Download Monitor
This is an emerging file download monitoring plugins that has a very elegant user interface. Some of the features of this plugin include
- IP address tracking of the users who access the file
- Tracking of number of downloads of each of your file
- Tracking of visitors’ country
Get the plugin from the WordPress repository: Download monitor
Tracking WordPress downloads without a plugin
1. Google Analytics
If you are using Google Analytics on your website, you can use its event tracking functionality for tracking your downloaded files. This is a perfect choice for those who are not interested in using a fully-featured plugin for monitoring file downloads, and just want to monitor a few items. If you are also looking to set Google Analytics goals along with the download event tracking - this is a perfect solution for you. Downloading of stuff such as eBooks, whitepapers, and other similar items are very good examples for using Google Analytics event tracking to monitor downloads.
Let’s look at an example of downloaded files event tracking using Google Analytics.
Imagine that you are providing an ebook file as a lead magnet and want to track the number of downloads using event tracking functionality of Google Analytics. It can easily be done by enhancing your usual anchor text HTML tag as follows.
<a onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','Download','PDF',this.href]);" href="https://cdn.yourwebsite.com/ebook.pdf" target="_blank">Get the ebook</a>
In the above case, ‘download’ is the event category, ‘PDF’ is event action and the ‘download URL’ is the event label.
If you are using the more recent Universal Analytics, the syntax changes just slightly to:
<a onclick="ga('send','event','Download','PDF', this.href]);" href="https://cdn.yourwebsite.com/ebook.pdf" target="_blank">Get the ebook</a>
Whenever someone accesses your file, you can track it from the Behavior >> Events >> Overview tab.
2. Prevent Direct Access Plugin
Now that we've shown you how to create and monitor downloads without needing a plugin, there is something you need to keep in mind. If you are offering downloads WITHOUT a plugin, then you will run the risk of actually having those files accessed directly, either by being crawled by Google or if somebody who has downloaded them links to them directly.
Of course, if you are using these files for such stuff as lead generation, this is going to be a problem, because you are losing the "gated" nature which you'd like to create on your site.
This is where the Prevent Direct Access plugin comes into play.
It allows you to protect and restrict private WordPress files to logged-in users only. This is an excellent middle-ground, it opens access to any users who are registered (allowing you to pick up user details for lead-gen purposes) while at the same time restricting access to users who are trying to access the files directly.
Once again this is an excellent plugin for those who are offering WordPress downloads of such stuff as media files, PNG, Word, DOCX, MP3, MP4, PDF or any other files you are offering on your site.
The product also blocks Google and other crawlers from accessing the files, so you have no fear that any private files will be indexed and revealed by search engines.
Besides media files, Prevent Direct Access allows you to protect self-hosted or Amazon hosted video files and also syncing any files with Amazon S3 for safe storage. Moreover, the plugin also integrates with popular membership plugins such as Membership 2 and Paid Membership Pro. If you'd like to learn more about Paid Memberships Pro - check out our review here.
There is a free version available here.
There is also Prevent Direct Access Gold. This is a premium product and starts at about $6/month.
- Protect unlimited media files including PNG, JPEG, ZIP, PDF, MP3 and MP4
- Block Google and searching indexing of protected files
- Restrict file uploads access to logged-in users
- Set custom access permission for each and every file
- Protect self-hosted videos or sync and protect them with Amazon S3 (extension)
- Sync protected files to Amazon S3 for faster load time (extension)
- Integrate with top membership plugins (extension)
Have you ever used a plugin or Google Analytics for tracking your files that have been downloaded? Share your experience with us in the comments section!
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