Numerous websites tend to incorporate PDFs to enrich their content but frequently overlook the optimization process for search engine rankings. In this article, we will provide you with proven tips that can help increase your PDF's visibility. By following the below-mentioned guidelines, the chances of your PDF appearing in search results and driving more traffic to your website can be augmented. So, let's dive in and learn how to optimize PDFs for SEO!
Why Should You Optimize PDF
PDFs are indexed by search engines in the same way as HTML pages. If a PDF contains relevant and high-quality content, it has the potential to rank higher than an HTML page with similar content. However, PDF files are often not optimized, which can make it difficult for search engines to index them properly.
Optimizing PDF documents for SEO is important because it ensures that your content is easily discoverable by search engines, which can lead to increased traffic to your website. It can improve the user experience by making it easier for users to find the information they need. This is especially important for businesses that rely on PDFs to provide important information.
Google has been indexing PDF files since 2001. If your PDF contains images of text, Google can use OCR technology to convert them into actual text, making the content searchable and easier to index. Additionally, any images in your PDFs can also be indexed, which can help with image search optimization.
NOTE: If you have identical content on both a webpage and a PDF document, Google generally favors the webpage as the primary version. This results in signals being consolidated to the webpage version, and it appears in the search results instead of the PDF.
The limitations of PDFs for SEO
- They are not suitable for mobile devices. PDF files are created to always display consistently on all devices. HTML pages that have text in the left column and an image in the right column on the desktop version can be adjusted to display the text first and the image below on a mobile device. PDF files cannot be adjusted separately for smaller screens and are difficult to view on mobile devices.
- Lack of navigation. PDFs rarely have navigation elements. Users cannot navigate through the content, which is bad for the user experience and for anyone who wants to provide users with other related content.
- Weak interactivity. PDF files cannot be described by HTML code and attributes to let search engines know what is what in the file. For example, if the PDF has some links, we cannot tag them with nofollow attributes.
- Analytics do not work fully. Web analytics services (such as Google Analytics) do not work on PDF files. We can only measure their opening, i.e. clicks on the file link or using the PDF within the same page as an iframe.
- Low Crawling Frequency. PDFs are not frequently crawled by search engine bots. This is because PDF files typically do not undergo frequent updates compared to web pages, which can cause them to be less frequently indexed by search engines.
When to use PDFs
While PDFs may not be ideal for SEO, there are certain situations where they may be necessary. Here are a few examples:
- Legal documents: Contracts and agreements are often required to be in a specific format, such as a PDF. In these cases, there may be no alternative to using a PDF.
- White papers and reports: Many businesses and organizations produce white papers, reports, and other documents that are intended to be printed and distributed. These types of documents often require a more structured layout and design that may be better suited to a PDF format.
- Brochures and catalogs: Companies that produce brochures and catalogs may choose to offer them in PDF format for easy printing and distribution.
- Forms: Forms that require signatures or other types of input may need to be in PDF format to ensure that they can be easily printed and filled out.
In these cases, it's important to optimize your PDFs as much as possible to improve their searchability and accessibility. Continue reading to discover how you can optimize your PDFs for better search results!
How to Optimize PDFs for SEO
Tip 1: Write Good Content
Providing useful, interesting, and unique content is one of the main factors for high ranking. Although it is not really possible to adapt the content for mobile devices, there are still some things you can pay attention to:
- Align text to the left to improve accessibility and readability.
- Use lists and bold text to make browsing the content easier.
- Keep paragraphs short (3-4 sentences).
- Consider saving all content as plain text, rather than an image. Plain text is easier to search and index.
Tip 2: Add an Optimized Title
Similar to how web pages have title tags, PDFs have titles that can impact their SEO. Search engines often use the title to describe the document in their search results. If a PDF does not have a title - the filename will appear instead. It's important to add an optimized title to your PDF that accurately describes the content and includes relevant keywords. The title should be concise, descriptive, and accurately represent the content of the PDF to maximize its visibility in search results.
Tip 3: Add an Optimized Description
Just like meta descriptions for web pages, adding an optimized description to your PDF can improve its visibility in search engine results by allowing you to control the text that appears in the SERP. While the description itself is not a ranking factor, it can entice users to click on the PDF and read more, making it an important element of PDF optimization. Ensure that the description is a brief summary of the PDF's content and includes relevant keywords.
Tip 4: Use a Relevant Filename
It is worth noting that the filename of the PDF will become part of its URL. This means that the filename will have an impact on the URL displayed in the search results. Using a descriptive and keyword-rich filename can help increase the visibility and search engine rankings of your PDF.
Let's say you have created a PDF document that provides tips for improving your website's SEO. Instead of using a generic filename like "document.pdf", you could use a more descriptive and keyword-rich filename like "10-SEO-Tips-for-Improving-Your-Website.pdf".
When the PDF is uploaded to the website, its URL will include the filename, so it would look like this "https://example.com/10-SEO-Tips-for-Improving-Your-Website.pdf". This URL is more descriptive and informative than a generic one, which can help search engines better understand the content of the PDF and potentially improve its search engine rankings.
Tip 5: Edit Image Alt Tags
Just like adding alt attributes to images on your website, adding alt attributes to images in your PDF can make it more accessible to users. Alt text is used to describe the content of the image. It can improve the SEO of the PDF by including relevant keywords. Provide a text description of each image in the PDF so that search engines can understand its content.
TIP: Prior to adding images to a PDF, resize them to the necessary dimensions and choose a suitable image format such as PNG or JPG. Compressing the images will reduce the overall size of the PDF, resulting in shorter download times. It is essential to prioritize fast page loading times as it affects the ranking. PDFs can also be compressed using available online tools.
Tip 6: Use Headings
PDFs, similar to web pages, can use headings and subheadings to structure content for better user readability and search engine optimization. By using heading tags (H1-H6) in your PDFs, you can signal to search engines what your content is about and improve its chances of ranking higher in search results.
Follow these practices:
- Use a single H1 heading in the PDF
- Divide the content into multiple sections with H2 headings
- If the sections are longer, use H3-H5 tags to further subdivide them
- Use headings in order, without skipping any (e.g., after H2, use H3)
- Provide a brief summary of each section with relevant keywords
- Avoid using style changes to emphasize headings; instead, use heading tags that affect the content structure. This makes it easier for users and search engines to navigate through the table of contents.
Tip 7: Include Links in PDF
Including links in your PDF documents can have a positive impact on your SEO. Just as with web pages, links within your PDFs can provide valuable information to search engines and users alike.
By linking to other relevant pages on your website from your PDF, you can help to improve the overall user experience and provide additional context for the content within the PDF. Additionally, by including links within your PDFs that point to other pages, you can help to boost the visibility and authority of those pages, which can have a positive impact on your search engine rankings.
Adjust the links to those key terms that are important and relevant to the link. Feel free to use external links to authoritative domains to provide users with more research opportunities.
Optimize Your PDF files for the Web with PDF2Go
The ranking position of a PDF file can be affected by its size as larger files take longer to load, especially on mobile devices. This can result in a negative impact on user experience and, subsequently, rankings.
But there's a solution to this problem: Fast Web View. By using a fast web view, the elements inside your PDF are loaded more dynamically, resulting in a faster and easier display of PDF content on the web.
One tool that can help you optimize your PDFs for fast web viewing is PDF2Go's "Optimize PDF For Web" tool. With this feature, you can quickly and easily optimize your PDF files for web sharing, streaming, and showing, making your content accessible to a wider audience without the frustration of slow loading times.
Use PDF2Go's tool to optimize your PDFs and improve your web sharing experience.
Find out more: What is PDF optimization process and how is it useful to you?
Knowing how to optimize PDFs for SEO will have a significant impact on your PDF's visibility and search engine rankings.
By following the seven simple tips outlined in this article, you can improve the accessibility, relevance, and quality of your PDFs for both search engines and users. From adding optimized titles and descriptions to including internal and external links, there are many ways to optimize your PDFs for SEO.
Optimizing your PDFs is just one aspect of a comprehensive SEO strategy, but it's an important one that should not be overlooked. By implementing these tips and continually monitoring your PDFs' performance, you can ensure they are contributing to your overall SEO success!