PDFs are a widely used file format both online and offline. They are a convenient and multi-purposed file format that allows for restricted editing, compression when images are present and most importantly, PDFs preserve the look and feel of the source document. From the earliest days of the internet, PDFs have been applied to websites for many of those same reasons. However, in the early days of SEO, it was widely considered that PDF files could not be properly crawled by the search engines. That’s just simply not true, but there’s more to the story than just crawlability. Unleash your website’s hidden potential by optimizing your PDF files!
PDF File Creation
The first, and most important action when optimizing PDF files for your website is considering how you created the file. It is widely believed that if you create your PDF with Photoshop, it will remain an image file. To ensure that your text remains as text, create the PDF by starting with MS Word, Adobe Pagemaker, etc. The key here is maintaining text from source file to PDF file.
On Page Optimization
Optimizing for PDFs is no different than optimizing for any ole HTML page on your site! Here’s a quick checklist for what to include in your PDF:
- When creating your document in Word, utilize the H1, H2 commands to assign proper hierarchical importance to your headings.
- Insert keywords into your headlines, body content, file name, etc. (Duh!)
- Link out from your PDF to other pages on your site to pass PageRank and to improve the user experience.
Now here’s the kicker for optimizing your PDFs. Every PDF has special properties encoded into them, including Meta data! These are found in the “Document Properties” and you can edit the Title (page title), Subject (meta description), Keywords (meta keywords) and Author. The most important aspects here are the Title and Subject. If you don’t fill these out, you’ll leave yourself open to the search engines pulling text from your document to create your PDF’s search engine listing. Another “duh!” task is to ensure that the PDF is linked to from a prominent page to ensure that it is found by the search engines.
If you can complete these simple tasks, you will open up even more rankable content to the search engines. Have any of you had experience in optimizing and ranking your site’s PDFs? If so, I’d love to hear about it!