Create PDF Files That Work

Using big margins, print fonts and optimizing for search

If you want your users to be able to find, print, and read your PDFs, you need to optimize them for your users. This means big margins, print fonts and optimizing your PDFs for search and online distribution.

Here are some PDF design best practices that will ensure your users are happy and your PDFs get read:

Save in the last Adobe available version – Let’s face it, not everyone reading your PDFs is hip to the “latest version” of everything we use on a daily basis. So even though new features are neat, always save your PDFs to be compatible with the last available version.

Optimize images for print – Just because your users are downloading PDFs on the web, doesn’t mean they’re not printing them. Images (even screenshots) should be at least 250dpi so that they don’t print out blurry. Also, any vector (non-photographic) images with thin lines will show up distorted when viewed online so keep this in mind when you’re getting fancy with your design. Read the article PDF Graphic Best Practices for more tips on this.

Stick to your margins: You don’t know which printers are being used to print your PDFs. In order to avoid getting cut off, give your PDF a 1 inch margin on all sides.

No solid strips of color: Just because a solid bar of color down the side of each page looks neat and professional, doesn’t mean people want to drain their ink cartridges trying to print your PDF.

Optimize your PDFs for search: Spending a little extra time optimizing your 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. Make sure the name of your report is keyword optimized and the first paragraph in the report (likely your subhead) is also optimized.

Drive traffic back to your site: It’s optimistic to think people won’t share your PDFs if they paid for them, but just in case, make sure that every page has a footer that links back to your website so that even the people who pilfer your content might at least become an email subscriber.

Make it quick to load: Optimize your PDF for “Fast Web View” in Adobe Acrobat so that the browser doesn’t abandon hope on large files and so that your user doesn’t start doing something else while waiting for your PDF to load and forget all about it.

Print fonts work best: Even though Sans Serif fonts work best on the web, remember that PDFs really become a print medium for most users, so stick with an easily readable Serif font.

Friday we’re going to tell you how to search engine optimize your PDFs. Stay tuned.

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    Amanda M.

    Hi Rick,

    Log in with your Mequoda account and you’ll be taken directly to the download pages for our free reports, rather than needing to fill out the email form 🙂

    – Amanda



    I have requested the white papers (via the sign up page) but have not yet received any email or download instructions?

    I’m really looking forward to reading the info!



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