How to Manage, Track, and Control File Downloads in WordPress

Are you looking for easy ways to manage, track, and control file downloads on your WordPress site?

A WordPress file download manager can help you easily manage downloads, track analytics, and control permissions on file downloads. With the right tools, you can even sell file downloads and make money.

In this article, we will show you how to easily manage, track, and control file downloads in WordPress.

Managing, tracking, and controlling file downloads in WordPress

Why Manage, Track, and Control File Downloads in WordPress?

There are many reasons why you would want to manage, track, and/or control your file downloads in WordPress.

For example, you may want to only certain paying customers to download files, or you may simply want to track which free downloads on your site are bringing the most engagement.

On other hands, you might simply want to restrict certain files based on user roles.

In this article, we’re going to take you through 3 different methods. Just click on the links to jump straight to the method you want to use:

  • Tracking file downloads in WordPress using MonsterInsights
  • Controlling file downloads in WordPress using MemberPress
  • Managing file downloads in WordPress using WooCommerce

Method 1. Tracking File Downloads in WordPress Using MonsterInsights

If you offer free downloads on your website, then you may not be concerned about managing or controlling downloads.

However, it is still best practice to at least track file downloads. This lets you easily discover which of your free downloads are the most popular.

This will help you know where to invest your resources when creating new content.

Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t automatically support file download tracking. The good news is that you can track downloads using MonsterInsights, the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress.

First, you need to install and activate the MonsterInsights plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

MonsterInsights makes it super easy to connect WordPress to your Google Analytics account. If you need help, then follow the instructions in our guide on installing Google Analytics in WordPress.

Note: File download tracking is available in the free version of MonsterInsights as well, so you can see the reports inside Google Analytics. However to see advanced reports inside your WordPress dashboard, you’ll need the Pro version.

Once you have set up the plugin, it will automatically start tracking file downloads as events. You don’t need to do any further configuration. To see statistics about your downloads, just go to Insights » Reports and switch to the Publishers tab:

The Publishers tab in MonsterInsights

Scroll down, and you will see your top download links. These will be listed along with their anchor text:

A list of top download links in MonsterInsights

If you have more than 1 link to a specific file, then those links will be listed separately here. This is useful if you want to find out exactly how users are downloading files.

What if you want a report of which files are the most popular, regardless of the links used? Simply click the ‘View All Download Links Report’ button.

This will take you straight into Google Analytics, where you will see a report with the URLs of your downloaded files:

The downloaded files list in Google Analytics, showing total downloads for each file

By default, MonsterInsights tracks downloads for all common file types including documents (.doc and .docx), spreadsheets (.xls and .xlsx), presentations (.ppt and .pptx), PDFs, and zip files.

If you want to track other file types, then that’s easy to do as well. Simply go to Insights » Settings page and then switch to the Engagement tab:

Go to Settings - Engagement in MonsterInsights

Now, scroll down to the File Downloads section, and you’ll see a list of file extensions currently being tracked:

Adding new file extensions to track as downloads in MonsterInsights

Simply type in any additional file extensions you want to track. Just make sure you put a comma between them.

Once you’re done, don’t forget to click the ‘Save Changes’ button at the top to save your settings.

Make sure you save your changes in MonsterInsights before moving on

MonsterInsights will now start tracking all files ending with the file extension you added in settings.

We recommend installing MonsterInsights alongside both the #2 and #3 solution for managing and control file download access because MonsterInsights will help you see the right stats that matter.

Method 2. Controlling File Downloads in WordPress Using MemberPress

If you want to sell online courses or digital downloads, then a great way to control and manage file downloads is to use MemberPress.

It is the best WordPress membership plugin that lets you lock premium content on your site, so that it’s only available to registered users or paying members.

MemberPress has an addon called MemberPress Downloads that lets you track each files that your members download. It also gives you advanced access control, letting you upload multiple files and tag, categorize, and list them easily.

Aside from files, you can also protect other content on your site as well. This is a great option if you are building courses or premium content library that you only want members to be able to access.

MemberPress Courses Preview

First, you need to install and activate the MemberPress plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, go to the MemberPress » Settings » License page in the WordPress admin area to enter your license key. You will find this information under your account on the MemberPress website.

Enter your MemberPress license key

Next, go to the MemberPress » Add-ons page. Here, you simply need to find the Downloads add-on. Go ahead and click the ‘Install Add-on’ button to add it to your site:

Installing the MemberPress downloads addon

Now, you just need to go to the MP Downloads » Files page and click the ‘Add New’ button to create a new download.

Adding a new downloadable file in MemberPress

First, you need to enter a title for your download.

Entering a title for your MemberPress download

Once you’ve done that, upload the file that you want to use. You can also choose additional options on this page, such as adding categories or tags to your download.

We’re going to give our file the tag ‘paid-members’ so that this file and others can be easily protected by a MemberPress rule.

Giving your file a tag in MemberPress

When you’re ready, click the Publish button to put your downloadable file live.

Publishing your downloadable file in MemberPress

If you don’t already have a rule to protect the file’s tag, simply create one under MemberPress » Rules. Just click the ‘Add New’ button to create a new rule:

Adding a new rule in MemberPress

You will then see the page for adding a new rule:

The page for adding a new rule in MemberPress

In the Content & Access section, click on the dropdown below Protected Content. Select ‘Files with File Tag’ and in the box next to this, type and select the tag you’re using:

Adding the file tag to your membership rule

Then, under Access Conditions, click the dropdown. Simply select ‘Membership’ then the name of the appropriate membership level:

Setting the access conditions for your new rule

Note: If you haven’t yet set up any memberships, go ahead and do so under MemberPress » Memberships.

Now, go to the MP Downloads » Files page again. You will see your file listed here. It should have the correct access type based on its tag.

Just click the ‘Copy Shortcode’ link to get the shortcode for your file.

Copying the MemberPress shortcode for your file

Next, paste this shortcode into any post or page on your WordPress site.

We’re going to create a new page for our file download. First, go to Pages » Add New in your WordPress admin. Then, go ahead and paste your shortcode into your page. WordPress will automatically create a shortcode block for you:

Creating a new page in WordPress and adding your download shortcode

Once you’ve added all the content you want on your page, simply click the Publish button to put it live on your site. Remember to protect your page using MemberPress rules if you want both the page and the file to only be accessible to members.

The download page for the MemberPress file

You can view your download stats by visiting the MP Downnloads » Stats page. From here you will see the list of users who downloaded the file with a time stamp.

File download stats

If you need further instructions, then please refer to our step by step guide on how to create a membership site in WordPress.

Method 3. Managing File Downloads in WordPress Using WooCommerce

This method is for users who want to sell file downloads along with physical goods like shirts, swags, etc.

For this method, we will be using WooCommerce, which is the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress.

It is perfect for users who want to sell file downloads or users who want to make an online store.

WooCommerce can be used to sell both digital downloads and physical goods. You can also use it as your WordPress download manager to offer free downloads. It also lets you easily track customers, manage downloads, and view stats.

Let’s get started.

The first thing you need to do is install and activate the WooCommerce plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you should see the WooCommerce setup wizard. Simply click the ‘Yes please’ button to get your store up and running quickly:

Click the button to start the setup wizard for WooCommerce

Then, WooCommerce will prompt you to enter details about your store. Just follow the on-screen instructions to finish the wizard.

At Step 3, make sure you select ‘Downloads’ for your product type:

Select 'Downloads' for your WooCommerce product type

Once you finish the setup process, you will see your WooCommerce store’s dashboard:

Viewing your WooCommerce store dashboard in WordPress

Now, go to the Products » Add New page to add your first file download as a product.

Adding a new downloadable product in WooCommerce

Go ahead and give your product a title and a description. After that, scroll down to the ‘Product data’ section.

Here, you need to check the ‘Virtual’ and ‘Downloadable’ checkboxes to indicate that the product is a digital download.

You also need to enter the price. If you’re creating a free download, you need to put 0 here.

Check the boxes to tell WooCommerce that your product is virtual and downloadable

After that, click on the Add File button to upload the file for your digital download.

If you want, you can use the other options on the page. For example, you can add product images, add a short description, select product category, and more.

Once you are satisfied, click the Publish button to make your product available.

Your users can now go to the product page and add the product to their cart. If it is a free product, then they will be able to check out without adding payment information. Otherwise, they can pay as normal.

Add to cart for file download

After the checkout, the user can download the file to their computer.

Tracking File Downloads in WooCommerce

To view how your file downloads are doing, just go to the WooCommerce » Reports page. From here you will see your sales by date, by products, and by categories:

Go to the sales report page in WooCommerce to see how your downloads (and other products) are doing

Simply click on the ‘Sales by Product’ link then click the name of your download to see how it’s doing:

Click the link to view sales by product then select your download

This shows you how many people have ordered your download. If you want to see how many have actually downloaded it, just click on the ‘Customer downloads’ link:

Viewing a list of the files that your customers have downloaded

Tracking WooCommerce Conversions Like a Pro

WooCommerce can show you the number of downloads, customers, and the files they bought. However, it will not show you what led the user to the conversion.

This is really important information that helps you make important decisions about growing your business.

This is where MonsterInsights comes in.

It is the best Google Analytics plugin for WooCommerce and helps you track WooCommerce conversions. For step by step instructions, see our guide on how to easily set up WooCommerce conversion tracking.

If you haven’t started with WooCommerce yet, then take a look at our guide on best WooCommerce hosting providers to get setup, then choose from the best WooCommerce themes, and install the best WooCommerce plugins to get started the right way.

We hope this article helped you learn how to manage, track, and control file downloads in WordPress. You may also want to see our tips on the best email marketing services to better sell your digital downloads.

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