PDF In-Depth

SEO For PDF: Preparing PDF for Search Engines

April 05, 2013



In the world of Google everything on the internet has a (page) rank and file according to a complex algorithm of approximately 120 variables. You probably know this and have an idea of the priorities that the various aspects of a website play. It is the interaction between each website variable that determines the page rank in a particular Google search and the page results that appear in a search.

Being on a site that is specifically for the world of PDF it would be safe to bet, what you do very much want to know is how different document types stack up and more importantly how to maximize – (or as the gurus like to call it optimize) your search engine results (SEO) for PDF.

Let us get a few things out in the open from the get go, in the world of SEO, PDF are not the highest ranked in terms of indexing - (side note: they are generally improving due to content searching). HTML pages are much better. This is just a matter of fact. But there are still benefits to have relevant documents particularly in a PDF format on your site.

Nick Grinburg from Google Maps Guru suggested that PDF documents have a number of advantages when it comes to other file types.

Users perceive PDF documents as a more valuable entity, and hence are more likely to interact positively with a sites PDF documents. This can only result in a better user experience, which heavily ties back into a websites search engine rankings. If a user has a high value on the content they are also much more likely to share the content - earning backlinks for the webpage! Companies that have a lot of documents in PDF format can then upload these to increase their page count, domain authority etc.

In reference to an article that appeared on SEOMOZ in 2010 there is a handy checklist that you can go through when optimizing a PDF document. The full article can be found here.

Checklist for PDF Optimization:

  • Search-friendly filenames
  • Keyword-optimized titles
  • Informative, concise descriptions
  • Company name in "Author" field
  • Use several relevant keywords in "Keyword" field
  • Make sure to fill out all available fields - there is an option to view "Additional Metadata" (in Adobe Acrobat)
  • Add tags to and accessibility options to your document
  • Don't forget about Alt tags for images
  • Add links back to relevant pages on the main website
  • Write-protect the document
  • Offer text version of the document

This is a great start to optimize PDF documents on any site that you are a part of and in particular something to keep in mind when preparing PDF documents to send.

There is a slew of of best practice guides that can help you achieve search engine prowess with PDF documents. What is important to get out of this article is there your PDFs can be optimized and that it is important for page rankings of an entire website, Here are two more guides if you’re interested in finding out more on what can be done to optimize your PDF documents.

Make Your PDFs Work Well With Google
SEO Action for PDF Files

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