PDFs and SEO – some thoughts and pointers

A recent blog post by my colleague, Manoj Manghnani of Pulse Solutions on PDFs and SEO got me thinking. First of all, PDFs have come a long way. From the clunky file that used to do some funny things when distilled to what is today a sturdy and pretty much a universal format for transporting files, including use in Print Ready material.
There are some considerations on using PDFs in websites, especially with regards to optimising these for SEO.

There some considerations on using PDFs in websites, with regards to optimising these for SEO.

Also, early in the piece, I used to avoid using PDFs on clients’ websites, except for brochures, which were downloaded from there. The point was this was not indexed or read by the likes of Google.Manoj puts that thinking and corrects that earlier thinking in this way:“The biggest myth around PDFs is that the search engines do not consider them valuable and they are not well ranked within search engines. But the truth is in the eyes of search engines, a PDF is just like another web page, giving you similar opportunities.  It must be remembered that search engines do not prioritize HTML pages while ranking and also recognize links in PDF pages. As PDFs can be opened on almost all types of devices and contain detailed content in a text-rich format, search engines index PDF pages easily.“Even though most webmasters prefer HTML over PDFs, PDFs often prove to be more useful when you have content that is designed to be downloaded or printed, such as brochures, product manuals, or forms. Sometimes when the cost-benefit ratio of converting the PDFs is not positive, many users tend not to replace PDFs with HTML.”Manoj explains this further, “The prime reason that PDF pages often do not rank higher in search engines is that they are not properly optimized for search engines, like their counterparts.” And, there lies the rub.He lists several tips, which I would like to share with you:Make use of PFD text files Why? After all “search engines understand the text better than images, so having  plain text in your PDF files, where words are not in the form of pictures [for instance JPEGs or GIFs], makes search engines crawl your content in a better way. Always, include content that is relevant to increase your page ranking. Also, never fail to use text in the most critical part of your PDF, such as page headings and subheadings.”Always add file name and URL “Adding a filename to your PDF makes search engines more work easily in ranking your page. The name of your PDF file also becomes the part of the URL, so it’s always more beneficial to use proper keywords in the file name. Also, make sure that your file name do not include spaces, but make use of a dash to separate the words.”Add a great title “Adding a file name is important, but it might be a mistake to underestimate the power of adding a great title to your file. Including appropriate title for the content, makes your PDF more search-engine friendly. Also, make sure that you add other properties such as author, subject, and keywords while assigning the title, as it might help to influence the rankings of your page.”I’ll add some more points to help you with PDFs and SEO in my next post.

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