I never thought it would happen, but I recently had my hard work copied without my permission, all because I forgot to check a simple box! If you have a download page, you can protect your download pages with free plugins (and a paid one).
[This post was last updated: 09 February 2017 – the saga continued, they took it a step further – updates are marked in the text below]
When I wrote this post, I was confident that my download pages would be safe. I was wrong it would appear.
I believe, had I not made the original mistake of not hiding my pages, it would have been ok.
But since my site had been shared on the file sharing forum, it got the attention of the more savvy visitor, and they did even more damage.
Read on to see how my adventure unfolds
First you’re going to need Yoast SEO. I’m pretty sure everyone that runs a WordPress website has this installed.
If you don’t, go ahead and download it. It’s going to help you with your SEO too. Simply search for Yoast SEO WordPress and you’ll find it.
I added the link above should not want to bother searching for it.
Second, you’re going to need ‘Search Exclude’. It’s another free plugin, which is awesome, you’ll see why shortly.
Once you’ve installed and activated the plugins, head on over to your Download page.
We’ll first sort out the Yoast Settings, then the Search Exclude setting (it’s only a checkbox, but an important one at that).
On the ‘Edit Page’ screen, scroll down to the Yoast Settings and click on the gear icon.
Select ‘noindex’ on the dropbown list of ‘Meta robots index’.
Also ensure ‘nofollow’ is checked under ‘Meta robots follow’.
Ok, we’re done with the Yoast part, now to exclude this page from the search function in WordPress.
You may need to scroll up a bit, but still on the edit page screen, on the right where you usually publish your page or post, you’ll notice a new box for ‘Search Exclude’.
All you need to do here is to check the box.
This disables the page from showing up when visitors search for something like ‘download’.
With these two methods you’ve pretty much covered everything to protect your download pages, other than more complex methods like a membership site with logins and passwords.
You may be wondering why I’ve written this article.
If you’re here, you probably have been subject to the same as I was, and that is to have your hard work copied or downloaded without your consent, simply because of a search function built into WordPress.
For me it was even worse.
I was preparing for a product launch, got my sales page and download pages ready, but I forgot to check the box of the search exclude plugin.
And guess what happened?
Yes, you guessed it, a half savvy or technically skilled visitor searched my site for the dreaded (d) word, and my recently created pages came up, presenting themselves for them to download.
Now I’m in no way saying this is the worst part, sure your things may get shared, and that’s to be expected.
I like to think of it that I’m making progress, I think it shows I’m making my mark on the internet, but it’s when your content gets shared on sites where others can easily get hold of it, that’s where the real damage happens.
Now you have a larger problem, because if the site gets a ton of traffic, you’re going to get a ton of traffic but not to your sales page, to your download page!
On the other hand, your content may be bundled up and shared on a free file sharing site (like zippyshare or megaupload – bad sites in my opinion), and the damage gets even larger.
And here’s the absolute painful part for me: All this happened even before I launched my product!
The pain let me tell you, was almost unbearable!
GaryVee has a great post on Instagram today that helped me. He says:
“You have two choices, one, move on, two, dwell and cry…” he chooses choice one, and so do I.
You live and learn I suppose, but I think the lesson for me was to ensure I check the box.
Check the box…
Remember to check the box…
Or suffer the consequences.
As I mentioned above, if I had not made the mistake of not hiding my pages, I would have had a better chance of escaping their attention.
I had their attention, and they wanted more.
Within a day, my dropbox account (a free account) had shut down my links due to too much traffic. Below is the message from Dropbox.
“Error (429) This account’s links are generating too much traffic and have been temporarily disabled!”
This was a blessing to a degree because it stopped all the downloads, on the other hand, I now didn’t have any way to provide the files to real customers that purchased my products!
What’s worse, my latest product was due to be launched in a day!
Here’s the situation:
Each of my previous products and their download pages had been found and posted on the sharing forum.
My latest product which was due to be launched, had now been downloaded even before the launch.
More and more traffic was sent to my download pages from the site, but dropbox had shut down the links, so thankfully they couldn’t do further damage to my site.
They already had the downloads and typically shared it via another file sharing site.
You may be thinking that all is lost, believe me, I did too…
Until I recalled a plugin from Mark Hess that added an element of protection for JVZoo or WarriorPlus products.
And the hunt started. As soon as I found WP Download Express, I knew I had the solution to my problem.
Time for a Paid Plugin to Protect my Download Pages…
It wasn’t a free plugin, but at this point, I was desperate to protect my pages.
Within minutes, I purchased the product, installed it and protected my download pages.
I also realised that I can block specific websites via the Wordfence plugin. I did just that.
Within minutes, Wordfence had blocked 35 hits, and on the forums, the comments started rolling in.
I also added a snippet of code to my functions.php file. Below is the code I included.
This stops the WordPress Search function from autopopulating a page to avoid a 404 error.
While this is a good thing, it can also be used to find pages without knowing the entire url.
With all the steps taken to secure my site and my pages, I really enjoyed the events that followed.
In fact, there was an element of enjoyment by thwarting these freebie seekers.
I clicked on the referring pages and noted the comments.
The comments started as follows:
Thanks for the share! max reps added … Thank you! Max rep given…
You get the idea. Shortly after my Dropbox shut down the links we got this:
Anyone can share this on another file share site? DropBox has blocked their account.
Then after the steps I put in place to block them,
need email id to unlock this content 🙁
… And the battle was won. Woohoo!!! 🙂
My products aren’t even priced very high, in fact they’re priced super low, so I can’t begin to think why folks wouldn’t want to support me and the cost of creating such high quality products, by getting a copy for themselves via the correct channels.
I hope this has helped you protect your download pages using free plugins. If you have any other thoughts I’d love to hear how you protect your download pages. Do you use membership software or any specific code to protect your pages?
I’d also like to add here, that I’m not particularly upset that my hard work was copied.
I wasn’t happy about them downloading the product that hadn’t even been launched yet, but the way I see it, folks that are looking for a freebie don’t or won’t assign any value to the product, and hence, I believe it will sit on their hard drive gathering dust.
This is ok, because the products I create are aimed to help online entrepreneurs better their lives.
My aim is to create products that help and provide value, and that’s where the difference comes in.
If you assign value to something it will have just that.
A product that you’ve assigned value to will give you the drive and motivation to work through the guide, learn and take action.
Nothing will happen to something you download for free, that’s a fact.
I’m sure this could have gone much worse if I upset the guys on the sharing forum, nothing is 100% impervious to attack.
But, I’ve learned, and I’ve secured my work and download pages as much as possible, and now I can continue to build my business without worrying about my work being downloaded even before my launch!