SEO for PDFs: Optimizing Your PDF Files for Search

27 Jul 2016 Photo Credit: Adobe

If you have great content on your website in the form of PDF files, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure your PDFs are more visible to online searches.

Search engines like Google can easily locate and read PDF files on your website. But these documents often lack basic information that help search engines know what the content is about—which ultimately affects your position in search results.

If you are using popular programs like Word, Acrobat, or InDesign to create PDF files, this article will help you understand how to optimize your documents for search.

Before you put a bunch of content into PDFs...

Certain types of content work well in PDF format, but your most important content should still remain on normal HTML webpages.

This is because visitors can more easily engage and interact with your website on regular webpages than with PDF documents. It’s also much easier to include a call to action (CTA) on an HTML webpage—e.g., filling out a form.

The Importance of Title and Subject

The title of the PDF file is one of the most important factors in Google’s algorithm affecting search results. Google has thousands—and sometimes millions—of pages to choose from when matching a search to a website page, and it is unlikely that a PDF will appear in Google’s top five results if the PDF isn’t about what people are searching for.

Make sure to update the file properties in the document before saving it as a PDF:

  • Word for PC: File > Info
  • Word for Mac: File > Properties, Summary tab

The document's title is the most significant factor in search results, but the subject text will often appear in Google’s search results—and can influence the searcher to click.

Google search results can include content from anywhere in the document, but notice that text from the PDF Title, URL, and Subject are all included in the search results below.

Consider reaching out to TradeMark Media to determine which targeted keywords should be used for search optimization.

Optimize your PDF for only one keyword (which should be included in the Title, URL, and filename). And make sure to include the keyword closer to the beginning of the text.

How to Promote PDF Content

Consider creating search-optimized landing pages to promote PDF documents. Your landing page content should be different from the content in the PDF and should briefly introduce (i.e., tease) the document’s purpose.

Landing pages are especially important if you want to promote this content through search advertising campaigns like Google AdWords.

If you “gate” your PDFs—i.e., make them accessible only to users who fill out an online form—there is no need to optimize them for search. If your PDFs are being hidden from people who visit your website, they will be hidden from Google as well!

More PDF Optimization Tips

  • Make sure the text in the document is readable by a search engine and not in an image format.
  • Don’t simply make your title and headers bold. Instead, use styling such as Title, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc., to show search engines how the document is structured.
  • PDFs that include a string of random characters in the URL are bad for users and bad for search engines. Be sure to include text from the title in the page URL, separated by dashes. (Example: “how-to-optimize-your-website-for-search-engines.PDF”)
  • Include text from the title in the filename, separated by dashes or underscore. (Example: “SEO_For_PDF_Files.pdf”)
  • Use keyword-based links in your website to link directly to the PDF.
  • Use keyword-based links in your PDF to link to pages on your website.
  • Let TradeMark Media handle your SEO!

Patrick Wicker

Online Marketing Manager

As a digital market expert and Google Analytics-certified pro, Patrick helps our clients get found online.

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