PDF documents are often a neglected form of content based on the misconception that they’re not SEO friendly. Luckily, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Over the years, search engines have come a long way and actually do pretty well when it comes to crawling and indexing PDFs. If you’re wondering how you can optimize your PDFs for online search or you’re wondering why your existing PDFs aren’t gaining your website any traffic, stick around and keep reading!
When to Use PDF Documents on Your Website
PDFs are a great choice to make your content easily shareable, downloadable, and readable for a wider audience. PDFs allow your content to be opened easily online and mobile, and are viewed in a separate screen to help keep your readers’ attention. Most small business use PDFs to promote special offers and unique content because they’re easy to create and easy to access at the same time.
Some of the best and most common uses on PDFs for small businesses are:
- Technical Papers
- Spec Sheets
- Client Case Studies
All these forms of content can be extremely useful to your target audience. However, many small businesses make the same, simple mistakes when saving and publishing a PDF on their website that makes it difficult for search engines to read and index it’s content for search. If your target audience is going to find, read, and maybe even download your PDF, it needs to be optimized for online search and SEO.
Optimizing PDF Documents for SEO and Online Search
Alright, here’s where we get to the good stuff, learning how to optimize a PDF for search engine optimization!
The content you create and save into a PDF is valuable and could end up driving a lot of traffic to your website, but only if it’s properly optimized so it can be found in an online search. Don’t brush off this task, this is important!
Here’s a brief list of how to best optimize a PDF for SEO on your small business website:
– Use text-based PDFs
– Include a descriptive file name
– Follow basic SEO rules
– Reduce the file size
– Optimize for mobile search
Text Based PDFs
One of the most common mistakes small businesses make when creating a PDF is the format they choose to save it as. Many programs will automatically suggest saving a PDF as a JPEG and many small business don’t notice. However, a search engine is limited in how they can scroll and index an image, so the majority of content in that PDF can’t be read.
Instead of saving your PDF as a JPEG, save it as a text based media format. That way, search engines can crawl all the content and images on the PDF like a regular web page and rank it the SERP as a typical result.
Descriptive File Names
All content associated with your PDF is important and can be better optimized, even the file name of your PDF. Don’t forget that search engines and searchers can still see the PDF’s name when they open the file. Search engines also crawl that portion of the PDF as well when they’re determining rank.
A user friendly, and easy to read file name will also encourage searchers to click and open your PDF, since they’ll be able to see if the file name is related to what they’re searching for. Try to include your target keyword in your PDF file name! By SEO optimizing your file name, search engines will have a better idea of what your content is about and how best to rank it.
Basic SEO Rules
This is a bit of a broad section. SEO (search engine optimization) involves a lot more than just including a specific keyword in your page content. Backlinks and internal links, LSI keywords, ALT image tags, well-developed content, and clear <h1> and successive <h2> paragraph headers should all be part of your comprehensive SEO plan for your PDF.
Because search engines can read and rank a PDF like a typical web page, all the same SEO rules and best practices are at play. Optimize your PDF using the same SEO best practices and rules you would as a standard web page!
Reduced File Size
File size impacts how quickly a web page or file format loads, and if it takes too long, your web visitor will probably leave. If your PDF does include any sort of image files, make sure they are JPEGs and are well sized so they don’t slow down load either.
Your PDF file size and load time will also be an important factor to consider for mobile optimization and SEO ranking algorithms. More and more online searchers are using their smart phones, and large file formats will either take too long or won’t load at all.
Optimize for Mobile
We’ve talked a little about the importance of mobile optimization above, but let’s dig a little deeper.
When you’re optimizing and designing your PDF, make sure to test out how it looks on different sized screens. Someone loading your PDF on a desktop, a tablet, and a smart phone will all have different experiences. You want to make your information as easily accessible as possible and that means designing it for desktop and mobile search.
Google provides a Mobile Friendly Test tool you can use to check if a specific URL is in fact mobile friendly. Make sure to check that out so you know how search engines and searchers are judging your PDF.
PDFs are a great way to distribute your content online, but you need to make sure both your target audience and search engines can see and understand them. Take a few minutes to review the optimization and SEO tips above to create the best PDFs possible. You have great content, now make sure everyone can see it!