Are eBooks still the best way to convert page visitors?

Published Jul 04, 2019 | Written by Keith Errington
You could argue that the number one task for any marketer is to generate leads. You need to start with leads that you can then turn into buyers of your product or service. No leads = no sales = no business.

The problem

HubSpot defines a lead as “a person who has indicated interest in your company's product or service in some way, shape, or form.” Lead generation involves two steps, getting people to engage with you, and then capturing some information in order for you to begin a process that has the potential to convert them into a customer. Without that information, you are dead in the water.

In the early days of marketing, that information would have taken the form of a name and a physical address. Later, it became a name and a telephone number, today it is most likely to be a name and an email address.

This all sounds straightforward, but there is an underlying problem. Nobody wants to give away their details for free - especially in a B2B scenario. Too many would-be-leads have been pestered or hassled by salespeople in the past, wasting their time and interrupting their work. Now, they will not give up with their contact information easily.

In addition, legislation has been brought in to protect people’s privacy over the years, the latest being GDPR, which places restrictions on how you can collect information about people as well as what information you can record, and for how long. No longer can you research someone’s email address or buy their contact details from a third party They have to opt-in themselves to receive information from you.

We are now living in a world where you have to entice your prospect to part with their information. Prospects realise their information has value, so you have to offer something of value to them in return.

Why eBooks are a solution

For a long time, eBooks have been recognised as a great way of offering true value to prospects in return for their basic details.

In an eBook, you can offer knowledge, learning, insights, advice, data and statistics – all of which can be genuinely useful to your target audience. Anything that saves them time or money, or makes their job/life easier is going to be of value to them. If you can generate interest in your product or service, it makes it an easy decision for them to fill out a couple of lines of information in order to download your eBook.

The process is straightforward – you create an eBook as a PDF that can only be downloaded once a visitor has filled in a simple form. Although it’s not a physical book, the fact that it is a PDF makes it feel like a tangible exchange, rather than just visiting another web page of information.

The better the eBook looks, the better it is designed, the more thorough the content and the more useful it is to the visitor, the more perceived value it will have.

Types of eBook

There are many types of eBook you can create, here are a few ideas;

  • Topic eBook – based on existing posts
  • Bonus pack – additional in-depth content not included in the original post
  • A Resource guide – a rundown of tools and techniques that help people achieve results
  • Checklist – a simple downloadable list in a printable format that people can use for planning and strategy
  • Workbook or template – a way of guiding someone through applying a technique or idea to their situation
  • Case study – an in-depth study of one of your customers and how they have used your product or service to their benefit
  • Cheat sheet – a one page summary of your blog posts important points
  • Best of the year – a compilation of posts – potentially guest posts – from the past year.

And of course, you may come up with more ideas based on the needs of your particular audience or industry.

Are they the only solution?

There are other lead magnets you can offer that also result in the capturing of contact information.


Presented through a live video conferencing platform (choose one that either your audience is likely to have or requires the minimum of setup) a webinar allows you to cover a topic live and pass on your knowledge in a more engaging and interactive way than a basic blog post.

If the content is tempting enough, then your audience will submit their email addresses to sign up.


There is no doubt that creating a video can be more work than an eBook and requires the right equipment and set up, but the moving image has real impact, along with a powerful ability to attract your audience. Most videos tend to be short – if you keep them to under two minutes you will get a 70% engagement rate but longer than six minutes and you will lose half your audience.

There are a wide range of types of videos you can produce:
  • Presenting the same material as a blog post – but as a video
  • Your take on a subject or an industry issue (establishing knowledge and authority too)
  • An interview with key staff or industry influencers
  • How to, or training videos
  • Case studies
  • Overviews
  • Reviews/reports of industry events

These are just a few ideas, video has the potential to cover many different angles depending on your budget and resources.


Whilst not having the visual attraction of a moving image, audio podcasts are growing in popularity and require fewer resources than a video. They tend to be longer form than a video – 30-45 minutes for many popular podcasts.

Again, like video, the range of subjects suitable for podcasts are many and varied.

Why they might not be working

If you are not getting great responses with eBooks, don’t automatically assume it’s the format of the eBook that is at fault, there are many reasons why they might not be generating leads.

Not selling the proposition

This is by far the worst offence you can commit when offering an eBook – not selling it. You need to give people good reasons to download it. You need to describe the benefits it will bring them (and possibly the risks they run if they don’t). Make sure you describe exactly what they will be getting so they can make an informed decision. Outline the value they are getting.

On the other hand, don’t over-hype or mislead. If they download an eBook and it is not as described they will feel lied to and will not trust you. This will ruin any chance of a business relationship.

All of these points need to be encapsulated in your Calls To Action – these are absolutely key to a successful eBook campaign.


Make sure the signup form is simple and asks for the absolute minimum of information. The conundrum here is that you would like as much information as possible about your potential lead, but the more you ask for, the less likely they are you give you any information at all. Just one extra field is enough to put people off. In particular, having to provide physical addresses and phone numbers are a big turn off for many people.

Strike a balance. Don’t ask for too much information. Often, a name and email address is enough, although ticking a box to show what topics they are interested in may be useful to you to and is generally acceptable.


Once you have completed an eBook, don’t hide it on some backwater page of your web site. Make sure you promote it everywhere - especially on social media. If appropriate, then feature it in email signatures, in banners on your website and in Calls to Action on appropriate blog posts.

The Cover

Somewhere, at some point, you will need to feature the cover of the eBook so that your visitor can see what they are getting. A great, impactful cover will help sell the eBook and project the image of something valuable, worth downloading.

Mobile optimised

It really shouldn’t be necessary to mention this, but like the rest of your site, make sure the landing page, forms and everything else are mobile optimised. You will lose most of your market if you don’t do this.

The content is inappropriate

Your target audience will not submit their contact details unless they feel they are getting something of real value in exchange. So, your eBook has to be on the right topic and reach the visitor at the right time in their buyer's journey. It has to address a need that your prospects have, or help resolve an issue they are facing. Make sure you understand your audience and the topics they are interested in, as well as the issues they are concerned about.

If your eBook is on the nail content-wise, and the benefits are communicated properly, you will have a powerful lead generation tool in your marketing toolkit.

Are eBooks the best solution?

This is a hard question to answer, simply because their effectiveness will vary from market to market. Some target audiences may have seen so many eBooks on offer (by so many vendors) that they are tired of them and may ignore any eBook-based offer – marketing is certainly one sector where this is true. Other audiences may be visually oriented and prefer videos. For some topics and audiences, webinars may work better. And there is some evidence to suggest that younger people prefer podcasts that they can listen to on the move.

What we can say with certainty is that eBooks have proven to be powerful lead generation tools in the past, and it is certainly worth testing them against other lead generation methods you may be using, to see what works best for you.

In many B2B markets, eBooks are still the easiest and best way to generate leads.

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Published by Keith Errington July 4, 2019
Keith Errington