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How to Optimize PDF Documents for Search Engines

W4 | W4 / April 20, 2018

Are PDF files a ranking killer? Not at all! Just like HTML sites, they can be optimized for search engines. In today's issue, we tell you how to optimize your PDF files and secure a place in the sun. White papers, case studies, data sheets and catalogues – these are the kind of documents we usually find in the PDF format online. Often regarded as a dead end, the format does not enjoy great popularity among online marketers. Websites usually link to PDFs, but not the other way around (even though that is possible). This practice however raised concerns about what PDFs do to a search engine ranking. There is, however, little reason for concern as PDF files can be optimized for search engines much like HTML sites. Still, message and medium should fit, which is why we need to ponder a very important question before we cut to the chase:

When Should I Use the PDF Format?

There are many PDFs online, However, often it is the case that the content could have been used in a regular HTML site as well. However, in some instances the PDF is definitely the best alternative. Some examples:

  • interactive forms / dynamic PDFs
  • setting copies
  • scientific papers
  • mathematic documents
  • documents with digital rights management
  • digital content that should be available offline on many different devices

Optimizing PDF files

As a preliminary point: Google handles PDF files like 'normal' websites and indexes them. The following things should be considered when optimizing PDFs for the web:

1. Legibility

In oder to get a good ranking, Google should be able to actually read the file. This means that the PDF should not be encrypted or password-protected. Furthermore, it should be possible to copy and paste from your PDF file.

2. Title

The headline of your document and the file name should be identical. Both should not exceed 70 characters. The PDF's meta data should contain the file name as well. This ensures a corresponding display in the search results.

3. Keywords

Just like websites, your PDF should contain some important keywords. Make sure you have the most important one(s) already in your headline.

4. Links

A link to a PDF is regarded as an external link by Google. Hence it is a good idea to have various links to your PDF file. Moreover, a PDF does not have to be a dead end: like websites, they can contain links as well. If it makes sense, feel free to use links in your PDF.

5. Sense

As already mentioned, you should think about whether a PDF file is the best format for your content. Do not overdo it as mass-produced PDFs could by considered SPAM by Google.

We have created an exclusive infographic containing valuable SEO insights. Download for free here:

Download here

These are the benefits of search engine optimized PDF files:

✓ be ahead of the competition in search engine rankings
✓ improve search results for your clients
✓ reduce expenses for ads and Google Adwords
✓ increase brand awareness

Our service

As a full service agency, W4 employe certified SEO and Google Adwords experts. We will be glad to help you by optimizing your website and PDFs for search engines. We can also create dynamic PDF files for you. Get in touch!

Tags: SEO

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Sarah Wilhelm
Sarah Wilhelm
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