What I’m explaining here are two ways to require email before the user downloads a PDF (or other asset). A while back, I began sharing the presentation decks from my digital marketing and Google Analytics classes at General Assembly via this website. In each case, I used a different method of “hiding” a PDF file behind the requirement to provide an email address.

No Developer Required to Require Email

I’m sure there are dozens of ways to do this, but many of those methods may require a developer. I wanted to share these two ways anyone can require email from users in exchange for a download.


The first is a simple WordPress plugin called – wait for it – “Email before Download.” Yes, they get very creative in their naming. Using this plugin, you host the file (PDF, PPT, or whatever) on your own server. You require users to enter their name and email address prior to seeing the link to download the file. I use this method for distributing the PDF version of my presentation decks when I taught a class. It works flawlessly, and I can update the PDFs whenever I make changes to the content.

Updated Jan 22, 2018 – I have been informed via a comment to this post that the “Email before Download” plugin for WordPress is no longer available. Sadly, it’s true. However, one of the reasons we love WordPress is that there is never only one solution to any issue. A simple Google search for “wordpress plugin to require email for a download” reveals several other plugins to accomplish the same task. Here are two:

Updated Jan 30, 2018: Life comes at you fast! Just a week after I updated this post with the above ‘bad news’ update I have learned via a comment to this post that the Email before Download plugin for WordPress has just been updated to version 5.0. Check it out.


The second method is from Mailchimp, and is really, really easy. I used Mailchimp to distribute two eBooks on atlantatechblogs.com. Mailchimp’s documentation is perfect. I completed the entire setup in less than 10 minutes. Using this method, you host the file on Mailchimp’s servers. The file can be delivered via a confirmation email or confirmation page on your website. You do all the configuration within your Mailchimp account.

Update January 22, 2017 – Mailchimp now offers free basic Landing Pages, making this process of gating content and requiring an email address even that much simpler.

Now It’s Easy For Anyone to Require Email

I remember how much fun it used to be to host and distribute a PDF way back when at CWNP. Back then, we employed a FT developer maintaining our website. We later moved completely to WordPress so that we would not require a developer. If you want to distribute your content and require an email address in exchange, these two ways are simple and work really well, even for non-developers.

19 thoughts on “Two ways to require email before a download

  1. angandrieux – Chesapeake, VA – Angela Andrieux is a photographer, blogger, and photography coach living in Chesapeake, VA with her US Navy husband, and their cat, Pumpkin. She will photograph just about anything but her love of travel tops it all. Angela also enjoys helping other photographic artists find their creative voice. Whether through her blog, group workshops, or one-on-one coaching, her students’ excitement to learn keeps her inspired.

    Thanks for the helpful article!

    I currently use Email Before Download, which requires/integrates with Download Monitor. I also have Sitelock (a malware scanner) on my website which recently identified vulnerabilities in the Download Monitor plugin.

    As such I’m considering switching to the Mailchimp method you mentioned above as I already use Mailchimp to manage my list.

    Do you know if there is a way to have a different welcome message/download link go out for different pages? I have a couple of pages where I give away photography presets but don’t necessarily want to give those links to each person who joins my list – I’d rather tailor it to where they entered their email on my site.

    Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Kevin Sandlin – Believer, Husband, Dad; Content Marketer, Advisor @atltechvillage; Founder @ATLTechBlogs & @Pitch_Practice; Volunteer Soldier in the GA State Defense Force

      My understanding is that you can, but not from a Forever Free account. That, like letting subscribers choose what list or segment they want to subscribe to, is a paid feature.

  2. jameseparnell

    Hi Kevin, thanks. I read Email before Download is no longer available. Regardless (assuming a similar plugin is), do you prefer Option A or Option B mail chimp above. Why did you choose option B over option A (WP plugins) for your books?

    • Kevin Sandlin – Believer, Husband, Dad; Content Marketer, Advisor @atltechvillage; Founder @ATLTechBlogs & @Pitch_Practice; Volunteer Soldier in the GA State Defense Force

      Hi James – I chose Mailchimp because Mailchimp then hosts your PDF (or other download), removing that ‘moving part’ from your blog or website, and enabling Mailchimp’s to deliver the PDF and all the emails around it.

  3. Hi, I am using Download Monitor and Mailchimp for WP and Mailchimp Lock. It all seems to work well but I have a similar problem as above and have yet to find a solution.

    In Mailchimp you provide the subscriber with a link to the download in the Welcome Email sent out by Mailchimp. I have set this up for my Book Sampler but now want to offer more handouts (PDF) in exchange for the user subscribing. I cannot see how I do this without multiple Mailchimp Lists.

    Any suggestions on best way to do this.

    • Kevin Sandlin – Believer, Husband, Dad; Content Marketer, Advisor @atltechvillage; Founder @ATLTechBlogs & @Pitch_Practice; Volunteer Soldier in the GA State Defense Force

      Thanks for the heads up! It has been 2 years ;-p

  4. natabry – We are a Canadian Australian couple with a love for the alpine lifestyle and a commitment to adventuring together. We want life to be fun and we don't take ourselves too seriously. We started this blog to share our zest for life with others and give you guys advice on adventure lifestyle topics, but we also care about leaving our natural environment the same as how we found it when we arrived; we love to work with others whose mission aligns with our own core values - that there's more to life than paying bills and dying, that it is our responsibility to look after our environment and wildlife if we are going to utilise their habitats and to promote and strive for continuous growth in sustainability. Come with us on our adventures!

    Can I do this with a free WordPress.com site? I’m not ready to start providing freebies to people quite yet however it’ll he good to know if I can or if I have to upgrade to a paid WordPress before I can add a plugin like mail chimp

    • Kevin Sandlin – Believer, Husband, Dad; Content Marketer, Advisor @atltechvillage; Founder @ATLTechBlogs & @Pitch_Practice; Volunteer Soldier in the GA State Defense Force

      By “free” do you mean http://sitename.wordpress.com? If so, I’m honestly not sure about that. Everything I do is on a hosted wordpress site, so you can certainly do it that way.

  5. Have you ever had an issue with email before download where it sends 3 emails to the admin and 3 confirmation emails to the person who wants the link?

    • Kevin Sandlin – Believer, Husband, Dad; Content Marketer, Advisor @atltechvillage; Founder @ATLTechBlogs & @Pitch_Practice; Volunteer Soldier in the GA State Defense Force

      No, haven’t seen that one before. Did you report the bug?

  6. Great topic, I’m surprised how little information there is on this subject since most software products I download require email only. I need the experience integrated into my WordPress site. After trying Email Before Download and Download Monitor, I wound up going with Download Manager, using their Email Lock feature. It’s not perfect, but is much more robust.

  7. theeverydayexperts

    I’m a bit confused though. If the user receives one of the ebooks via email, how do they receive the second one? Mailchimp won’t let the user sign up again, right? Wouldn’t they just get an error?

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