Pay Per Download, or the PPD model, is a form of content monetization wherein you create content – or aggregate it – and provide it through a service that monetizes the download stream. Often, this means a wait page with advertising, offers the user has to click through to get, or some other form of broad monetization. The site earns some money from the traffic you send over, and they pay you a percentage of that money as the commission for it.
How PPD Sites Monetize
There are a lot of different ways PPD content hosts monetize their content. Some of them throw up interstitial advertising before the download. Some of them put offers and surveys in front of the download, forcing the user to go through them in order to reach it, and those surveys are monetized through yet another service. Some sites throttle download speeds and delay them for free users, and charge a monthly fee for a premium download service with faster speeds, concurrent downloads, and no delay.
Interestingly, PPD as a business model does not include standard online sales, as the idea is that the download itself is free. So, selling an ebook on Amazon for $1 is not a PPD model, because the product costs money. The idea is to generate the money from downloaders without having to take money from them, at least not unless they want to pay for a premium account of some sort. In theory, it should be entirely possible to obtain the content for free.
PPD sites have a varied reputation online. Some of them are considered relatively benign, while others are thought of as much shadier. It tends to have to do with how hard they try to railroad the user into a paid or malicious situation prior to allowing the download. Some sites fill themselves with ads that look like download buttons and serve malware. Some of them viciously combat adblockers and don’t allow downloads if they can’t get their pennies.
Obviously, you should strive to use only the best PPD sites. You don’t want to associate your content with malicious links, you don’t want to infect your users with malicious software, and you don’t want to be labeled a black hat spammer in any way.
Viable PPD Sites to Test
I’ve tried to compile a list of viable PPD sites that don’t serve malware and don’t go too deep into railroading your users into offers they don’t want. However, I’m going to put up a big warning here: everything written below is subject to change. A good site can easily go bad if the owners open themselves up to different advertisers. Payouts are variable enough that I’m avoiding even listing them. In any case, I recommend you add a test file and check out the download page, possibly through a proxy, so you can see what your users will see when they go to download. If you don’t like the process, don’t use the site.
ShareCash – This site has three modes of operation. One is the traditional file locker; you upload a file and link to it, and your users have to go and perform some action to retrieve the file and download it for themselves. That action is monetized. They also have website lockers, that lock away portions of your content and require a monetized action to unlock – like social lockers – and link lockers, which prevent a user from clicking an outbound link until they have performed a specific monetized action.
CPAGrip – This one offers the same three kinds of content lockers – file, content, and URL – as ShareCash, but also includes a video locker overlay for embedded videos on your site, as well as a couple of monetization options that don’t rely on your content to make you money. It’s useful if you want to try out a hybrid system, but be careful with going overboard.
Dollar Upload – This site has file lockers, URL lockers, a content gateway that acts like a pseudo-membership portal, and a notes locker that works like a monetized Pastebin. They also have pay per install software options and offer walls, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Adscend Media – This site has file lockers, link lockers, and a widget that lets you lock just about anything on your site. On top of that, they have a whole offer wall engine that provides rewards to your users as well as to you, to turn it all into a game. This includes incentivized videos and other content.
Link Bucks Media – This site has a typical link and file locker, but their one unique offering is a special format that works specifically with web forums. If you have a web forum you would like to monetize with an offer-based locker, this is your option.
FileIce – This is one of the most persistent lockers and have specific scripts to prevent users from downloading if they have ad blockers running. They’re so tenacious, in fact, that the top Google results are actually about bypassing them rather than using them. Of course, this could also indicate that they have been removed from the index, so exercise caution.
AdFly – This one is one of the most common PPD variations, in that it’s a URL shortener that monetizes the traffic passing through it. Unlike the other options, it only redirects through ads or puts them in an iframe, it doesn’t host content. However, it’s also very low paying, and you’re looking at mere pennies per thousand views.
There are, of course, dozens of other options. I just took a sample of the sort of sites you’re looking at. I haven’t tested all of them personally, and I highly recommend you do an isolated test before you go all-in attempting to use one for monetization. Again, things can change quickly, and you never know when one of these will go down or be converted into a malicious site.
Maximizing Profits from PPD Sites
The first thing you want to do, as I mentioned above, is pick a site and test it out. My testing process looks like this:
- Create a small test file. I use an ebook in pdf format. Make sure you check the hash and file size of the file.
- Create your account and see what kind of information they need. If they ask for something you’re not willing to give, don’t give it.
- Upload your test file and check how the process works.
- Use a proxy to simulate a visit from another location and check the link in a few different browsers. I use Chrome and Safari with extensions disabled, to see it as it would look with adblock and noscript turned off.
- Try again with script and/or ad blockers turned on to see how easy it is to bypass monetization.
- Download the file and check the hash and size against the original, to make sure they haven’t wrapped it in malware or embedded a virus somehow.
If at the end of all of that you’re satisfied about the quality of the site, you should start using it on a limited basis. You don’t want to flood your site with links in case the site is labeled spam and it hurts your SEO. You certainly don’t want to use an SEO-detrimental content locker across your site.
Now, that sets you up with a PPD site you’re willing to use, but you still need to use it. Now you have to determine how to use it.
- Content lockers are very risky. They hide the content from users and from search engines, so you lose the SEO value of the content. If the content itself isn’t attractive enough to draw in users, no one will unlock it, and you won’t get anything out of it. I recommend only locking a small sub-section or bonus section of your posts, not entire posts, so they still have value on their own.
- URL lockers are also risky. Google won’t like them, for one thing, as their bot is not going to perform an offer. Also, the bot will recognize if they’re being served one thing and your users are being served another, and that can count against you even more strongly. If you want to monetize URLs, either use file lockers or a monetized shortlink like AdFly.
- File lockers are the best option. Create content worth downloading, and then provide it for “free” behind a pay-per-download wall. Users will have to perform some free action to download the file, and you earn some money when they do.
So, what do you need to be successful with a file locker? Primarily, the answer is a good, attractive file. Something your users will really want to download, and will be willing to suffer through a delay, through ads, or through surveys in order to download. There are a bunch of possible ideas.
- eBooks. Ebooks can be packed full of value, and in a world where everyone is charging an email address or a couple bucks on Amazon, it can be a relief to only have to fill out a survey to get it.
- Software. Giving away a small piece of software – even if it’s just a demo of your main offering – can earn you a few bucks here and there. Plugins are great, browser extensions work well, and small applets are ideal. Apps for smartphones don’t work as well, because file locker sites have a harder time with mobile traffic in general, though you may be able to find one that works. You just need to make sure that the site you choose is insanely trustworthy, because users are going to be inherently skeptical about downloading exe and other application files.
- Resource packs. Packages of stock photos, templates, and other resources can work very well. People will jump through a lot of hoops to procure free resources for their businesses, and if you can preview some of the value that’s in the resource pack, you’ll hook more people than you might think.
- Illegal material. I don’t condone it, but pay per download sites are often used for video game cracks, pirated software, stolen music, and movies. It’s not secure, it’s easy to track, and it’s liable to get your site, account, and payment processor shut down depending on who finds out when. I’m just mentioning it because it happens, and frequently.
Regardless of the content you provide, chances are you’re going to have to provide a lot of it. One ebook isn’t going to make you much. In fact, putting that same ebook on Amazon for 99 cents is liable to make you more money, even with Amazon’s stiff cut. You’ll pretty much need an entire library.
The fact is, PPD is generally not what you would call a lucrative business model. It’s usually a way to make a little bit of supplementary income on the side of other, more traditional monetization methods. Software is often better sold than given away behind ads. Resource packs are the only one I would venture is about on par, and that’s because there are so many of them out there that it’s difficult to make them compelling enough for the average user to want to pay for them.
However, if you’re dedicated to providing as much content as possible – and we’re talking libraries of hundreds or thousands of free products monetized behind lockers – you can make a good chunk of change. You need to be aware of what is and isn’t working, though.
In order to do that, you need analytics. You need to see how many people are clicking and processing offers, and how much money those clicks are worth. You need to see which kinds of content are getting the most traffic, and you need to go all-in on producing more of that content. The more you rack up, the more you can earn, even with pitiful rates. As always with free monetization, it’s a game of volume and numbers.