SEO Your PDFs

Page one and page seventy-five is the difference between search engine optimizing your PDFs or not

If you had the option of only distributing your print publication to obscure shopping centers or instead having your publication on the display rack of every register at every CVS, which would you choose?

Spending a little extra time optimizing your free or open PDF content for search engines could mean the difference between a “page seventy-five” result, where no one will see it, or a “page one” result. It is worth your time and effort to do as much as you can to get found in a search engine.

Here are some best practices for PDF search engine optimization that will ensure your PDF gets found and read:

Keep it texty: This is a no-brainer, but don’t create your PDFs out of images. All of your content should be text-based so that the search engines can read it.

SEO your content: Since PDFs are readable by search engines, it’s important that you think the same way about your PDF that you do about your online copy. Choose your primary and secondary keywords, and then repeat throughout.

Recycle, don’t Reuse: It’s important that your PDF isn’t just a copy and paste. We love re-purposed content, but you need to recycle, rather than reuse. Direct duplicate content in your PDF that originates from your existing content will unfortunately make the search engines just as angry as if you did it in your blog.

Identify your PDF’s “Reading Order”: This will keep search engines reading your PDF from front to back and help it select the best copy to read when indexing. To do this (with the full version of Acrobat), select Advanced>Accessibility>Add Tags to Document. Then select Advanced>Accessibility>Touch Up Reading Order. While you’re in there, add tags.

Link up: Make sure you are hyper linking the right keywords in your PDF. Like on the web, it does matter which words are being linked. Rather than “click here”, choose “Read our Hair Styling Tips Article”.

Also, when linking to your PDF from your website, use the title of the report as your anchor text. This will tell search engines that the content is coming from you and is relevant. In addition, don’t bury links to the PDF where search engines can’t find them, place them on topic and front-running pages that are easily indexed.

Don’t forget the footer: This area will help identify you in the search engines. With your company information you are telling them who you are and when people search for your company, these PDFs will show up as well.

Metadata is key: To view or edit the metadata of a PDF document, open it with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader and select “Document Properties” in the File menu. You have the option to define the title, author, subject and keywords. If you don’t do this, the search engine will pick what it wants from your PDF content and this is not always very flattering.

For whatever reason, your “subject” does not equal your “description” on the search results page. Instead, the search engine decides for itself which bit of copy it wants to display. To have a little more control over what is displayed, try optimizing the first 2 or 3 sentences in your PDF, cross your fingers, and hope.

Think small: Search engines will abandon your PDF if it is too big, so if you can break it up then do it. If you can’t, use “PDF Optimizer” in the full version of Acrobat to reduce the file size.

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