Apr 24, 2013

PDF Optimization - Why It Matters for Search

by: in SEO

Current hot topics in search marketing include content marketing, social search optimization and Google’s Penguin effects on your link building strategy. And while those are critical search items for businesses to keep in mind as they continue to build SEO programs, sometimes it is good to remember the basics. In this case, optimizing the PDFs on your site.

Google can, and does, index PDFs as you may notice when you conduct searches and PDF documents appear as related to your search. While PDFs are not as prevalent on sites as they once were and may appear only in search on occasion, that is no reason to ignore the ones that you have, especially if they can provide critical information about a topic a search is requesting. So, I present to you my top 5 tips for increasing the searchability of your PDF documents.

  1. Create a text based PDF document. Because Google, and other search engines, can crawl text-based documents creating your PDF in Word or Adobe Acrobat, you are increasing the likelihood of it being indexed by search engines.
  2. Give your document an optimized file name that tells searchers what the document contains. For example, if your document were about Search Marketing for Mobile Websites, the file name would then be Search-Marketing-Mobile-Websites.pdf. This provides clear guidance to search engines as to what information your document contains.
  3. Complete all of the document properties including the Title, Author, Subject and Keywords. The Title field works much like the title tag or meta title field for a webpage and is shown in search results. The author field should most likely be the brand name, as brand names are more relevant to searchers than individual authors. The Subject field should be treated the same way you would treat a meta description field for a webpage. Keywords should include the top 3-5 key terms or phrases you are targeting with your PDF.
  4. Use SEO best practices for copy optimization. This means including optimized H1 and H2 tags, optimized copy with keywords and links with anchor text. Yes, that’s right, Google and other search bots can crawl those links.
  5. On Site Placement. Think about popular pages on your site where your PDFs content would be relevant. Additionally, those frequently visited pages are crawled more often, making PDFs located on those pages more likely to be found and indexed by search engines.

And as with all your digital content, share it and integrate your PDFs into other digital marketing mediums as appropriate. PDFs offer a great call to action for within a PPC ad, as well as an additional resource to accompany a blog post or a digital response to an RFP. Links to PDFs can also be shared via social media to improve social search optimization (SSO) and provide additional insights for your fans and followers.

Don’t clog your site with PDFs, as search engines and searchers prefer HTML webpages. But for those occasions when a PDF article or other resource is appropriate, optimize it for maximum searchability and usability.