We all know the potential benefits of offering a free ebook or the classic “7 Part Email Course” to try and encourage our website visitors to complete an action such as subscribing to our RSS feed, signing up for our mailing list or liking us on Facebook. The reason this method of “ethical bribery” is so popular is quite simply because it works. But for everyone who reads about your free report and signs up, just as many people decide *not* to take the plunge and leave your site empty handed.

Assuming your free ebook really *does* offer your visitors significant value then you *both* just lost. Your reader missed out on some high-quality information that isn’t available anywhere else and you just lost a potential new subscriber.

Not good.

What’s even worse is that the hardest part of this whole equation is getting those visitors to see the message about your free ebook in the first place. So once they’re on your site we need to do everything possible to encourage your readers to take that desired action in exchange for your free ebook.

Fortunately there are a whole raft of ways we can do this and they’re all focused around one main concept – increasing the perceived value of your ebook. In other words we want your visitors to feel like they’re getting something of real value. We want them almost feel guilty about what a great deal they’re getting from you. Like they’re getting something worth paying for – but for free. That’s the key to maximizing downloads of your free report.

So how do we go about accomplishing that task?

1. Design An Ebook Image

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and when it comes to free ebooks this may not be far off the mark. Over the years dozens of marketers have tested their signup rates for free ebooks both with and without an image. Almost without exception more people sign up when an ebook image is present.

Getting an ebook cover – a graphical representation of your ebook – is easier and cheaper than ever before so there really is no excuse whatsoever. I’ve recently been experimenting with Fiverr and have had a number of high quality ebook images for just $5 each. If that increases my signup rate by just a few percent I think that’s the bargain of the century.

2. Use Different Media

So many people offer a free ebook or free report that there is a risk that this method is starting to lose it’s effectiveness. Like banner advert blindness the more there is of something around the less attention we pay to it.

So another technique worth considering is offering the same information as your free ebook but in another format. The best examples are either audio formats (“download our free podcast”) or in video format.

Sure, it’ll take you a day or two to change your current ebook into a new format but if that boosts your results it may be a worthy investment – particularly when you can make video or audio for free these days and easily upload it to your website.

3. Use Social Proof

By nature humans are social creatures and we listen to and trust the opinions of others. Most of us want to be part of the gang rather than lonely outsiders. That’s why peer pressure works so well.

Social proof takes this concept into the 21st century and onto the internet. If you can enlist the help of other people in your niche to spread the word then this will often increase interest in your free ebook and also increase it’s perceived value.

A few ways to use social proof to boost your signups are to show testimonials on your website from people who have already read your ebook. Send copies to prominent bloggers and Twitterers in your niche, asking them to mention it to their tribe if they like it. And make it easy to “Like” your signup page on Facebook.

4. “Sell” Your Ebook

You need to help your readers to understand *why* your free ebook is valuable and what benefits they will receive from downloading it and this is where a degree of ethical salesmanship comes in.

Don’t just tell your visitors they *can* download your free report but explain why they *should* in exciting, attention-grabbing language.

5. Really Sell Your Ebook

Have you ever considered actually trying to sell your free ebook as a paid ebook? Assuming your free ebook really *does* offer significant value to readers then there’s no reason why someone shouldn’t be willing to pay to gain access to it.

Not only can this become an additional revenue stream for you but how much more valuable will your offer be on your website when you can explain to your readers that you’re currently selling copies of your ebook for x amount of dollars but if they subscribe to your RSS feed they can get it for free and save their money?

6. Publish It As A Hard-Copy Book

This is the idea I am personally most excited about at present and that I am putting into practice on a number of my sites. Image the power of actually having your ebook published as a paid-for print book. You know; the kind you’d buy off the shelf from Barnes And Noble.

Just imagine how much it could increase the perceived value of your free ebook if the paper version was actually for sale on Amazon and other people were actually payng money for it and leaving positive reviews.

I visited a website the other day that was doing just this. The owner of the website wrote a book on property investment which has sold incredibly well on Amazon and has numerous glowing reviews and five-star ratings. As soon as you see the book on Amazon it makes you want to buy a copy.

And yet there on the authors site he’ll give you a free PDF version of the book just for joining his mailing list. Did I sign up? You betcha – in an instant.

So how do you publish your free ebook as a proper paper book with as little expense and hassle as possible? Simple. Just sign up for a free account at CreateSpace.com and follow their simple instructions.

Now it’s your turn. What helps to increase the perceived value of a free ebook for you and what would increase the chances of you taking an action in order to receive an ebook as thanks? Please leave us a comment below with your thoughts…

This is a guest post by Richard Adams of Lifestyle Design Unleashed where he writes about building online businesses, quitting your job and living the internet lifestyle. Visit Richard today to download your free copy of his highly regarded traffic-generation ebook “WordPress Traffic Explosion”.