If you sell digital products or provide anything downloadable on your WordPress site, you will need to figure out a way to protect the download links from the public. At least, you have to restrict the ordinary visitors’ access to the links.
Protecting your download links benefits a lot. With proper protection, your download links are available on your website only so that they are not leeched on other sites. This not only protects your valuable files and sales, but also saves the bandwidth. Besides, in the case that you offer free downloads, you can make the links available to a certain group of people only.
There are several ways to protect download links in WordPress, while the most popular ways are to mask the actual location of the download file, password protect the download link, and grant access based on user roles. Fortunately, some well-coded WordPress plugins come with one or more of these features.
For this tutorial, we’d like to introduce two plugins named Easy Digital Downloads and Simple Download Monitor both of which are suitable choices no matter you sell multiple digital downloads on your site or just want to add eBooks occasionally to reward your visitors.
Protect Download Links with Easy Digital Downloads
Easy Digital Downloads is a complete solution for selling digital products. It does not offer an endless feature list, and instead, it only includes the features you will need most. The best part of this plugin is that it has built-in download protection, so you don’t have to deal with any extra step to hide the real paths to your files.
By default, the links on the download confirmation page and the email receipt are masked, so they cannot be copied somewhere else for a new download. Besides, the download links are available for one download per user only, which protects you from the leaking of valuable files.
To protect a download link with Easy Digital Downloads, you need to install the plugin on your WordPress site first. When you see a menu item named “Downloads” in the dashboard, expand it and click on “Add New”.
On the download creation page, add the title, description, price, payments, featured image and any other information you need, and then insert a download file by uploading the file and entering the file name. The uploading is processed by WordPress file uploader, so it is easy to handle.
When all options are configured as you like, click on “Publish” to make the new download live. Now you can get a unique shortcode for this download in the “Download Settings” meta box. To use the download on your WordPress site, you can edit a page or post and insert the shortcode anywhere you like.
Another option for adding the download in a post is to use the “Insert download” button added by the plugin which is placed above the post editor. In the popup, you can select a product, choose a style between button and text, select the button color, and write your own link text.
Once the post is published, you can see a well-protected download link on your site.
Protect Download Links with Simple Download Monitor
Simple Download Monitor is a rich-featured plugin that can be used to add, edit, monitor and remove downloads. Besides these features, the plugin is also designed with some download protection methods like passwords and download number control.
To make use of the plugin, you need to install it first and then click on the “Add New” button under the new “Downloads” menu item. Now you get to the download creation page. The options on this page are less than those of Easy Digital Downloads, but you still have to enter the title, description, thumbnail, and upload the file that you want to make downloadable.
To password protect the download, find the “Publish” meta box on the right column of the creation page, edit the Visibility which is set as “Public” by default, select “Password protected”, and then enter a password. At last, publish the download.
Now, copy the shortcode generated by the plugin which can be used to embed a download button to posts and pages. Depending on your needs, you can also copy the shortcode for download counter.
Then, create or edit a post/page as usual, and paste the shortcode for the download anywhere you like the download button to display. Since the download link is password protected, you will see a screen like below when previewing the post/page. In such a case, your visitors can only access the download link when they enter the right password.
The password protection method is good for promotion and customer rewarding. You can offer a downloadable file as a freebie, and then provide a certain group of customers with the password, which will bring your important customers a feeling of being valued.
The two plugins above are among the most easy-to-use ones for protecting download links. However, you can also try some other plugins which come with different protection methods, such as limiting the access to download links based on user roles, and requiring visitors to log in before being able to download a file. Which to use all depends on your needs.