11 Tips From Semalt For Search Engine Optimization of PDFs
PDF files have revolutionized the digital world and have consistently dominated as a format for recording electronic documents since 1992. Files in PDF format can be a very efficient source of traffic to a website, but to achieve such a goal, you must adhere to the principles of SEO optimization, most of which we know from experience in positioning websites.
From this article you will learn why the PDF format is so popular, whether it is worth optimizing PDF files for search engines, and how Google deals with indexing such documents. Then I will give you 11 ideas for the effective optimization of PDF files in the context of SEO.
After reading this post, you will be able to flawlessly optimize each PDF file and increase the visibility of valuable documents by positioning them in accordance with the Google search engine.
A few words about the usefulness of PDF
PDF files are extremely popular because of their ease of use. They can be displayed on virtually any device, easily navigated in terms of content, and sent or printed. PDF documents can include:
- form fields,
- audio elements.
PDFs can also be easily signed, encrypted or protected with a password.
Why is it worth optimizing PDF files for SEO?
PDF files dominate specific inquiries related most often to scientific topics, manuals, reports, catalogues, price lists, research or legal forms. Therefore, there are industries that in particular should focus on PDF positioning through their effective optimization.
PDF optimization has many advantages, some of which are:
- a chance to increase the visibility of the website in the search engine,
- improving internal linking,
- providing valuable content in an accessible form,
- providing the user with a large amount of information, compressed in one file,
- the ability to save the document and also print it in good quality.
How does Google search index PDF files?
The Google search engine at the beginning was not very good at indexing PDF files, but since 2001, i.e. 9 years after the creation of this format, it has had no major problems with its archiving.
PDFs are converted and indexed as plain HTML.
A necessary condition for correct indexing is that the PDF file is not encrypted or protected with a password. The basic limitation that should be noted in terms of document optimization is the inability to mark links with the "nofollow" attribute.
The proof of the correct indexation of PDF files is the unique tag that each such result receives in the Google search.
To get results in PDF format only, you can use the following formula:
search phrase + filetype: pdf
How to optimize a PDF file for satisfactory visibility in the search engine?
I will be happy to provide you with 11 tips that will influence your approach to optimizing PDF files. The process looks similar to website positioning, but it has its own unique elements. By adhering to the following points, you will certainly be able to cope with any challenge. Let's start the adventure with effective optimization of PDF files!
11 factors that will help you optimize your PDF:
1. Relevant name of the PDF file
The basic optimization in the case of PDF is giving it a name adequate to its content. Be sure to include key phrases in the name! Appearance in search results (SERP) will largely depend on this issue. The URL will be created from the filename, so make sure your PDF is SEO-friendly.
- Do not use critical characters
- Use a dash instead of a space
- Avoid random combinations of letters and numbers
2. Title in line with SEO
Meta title plays one of the most important roles in website positioning and on-site optimization. In the case of PDF files, however, the title is filled differently, but the end result in the search results is the same.
Optimize the title as you would do for each of your subpages, using basic SEO principles, but also encouraging the user to click on your result (CTR!).
The limit is 600 pixels, which is about 50-60 characters. Use this space to include keywords. There is also a description to be filled in, which will be displayed in the SERP in the form of a meta description. In this aspect, you have about 150 characters to use to convince the user to click on your result. Don't forget about CTR optimization!
3. Optimizing the content and including relevant and interesting content
If you want to get satisfactory positions in the search engine, follow the basic principles of SEO. Start with keyword analysis with an SEO tool like The Dedicated SEO Dashboard and ensure that they are properly saturated in the content. Then use phrases related to the main topic and their synonyms.
To make the reader's time more pleasant, use subheadings and lists. Don't forget that the basis is also substantive content and interesting, engaging content.
4. Small size, i.e. compression of the PDF file
The less your PDF weighs, the more likely it is to be found in search results. Slimming down the document will affect its loading speed, so the server will be relieved to a lesser extent. This approach will be appreciated by both search engine robots and your readers. Compress PDF content and use free online tools before publishing, e.g.:
- I love PDF,
- PDF Compressor,
5. Efficient internal linking
Every specialist and every SEO specialist is aware of the importance of internal linking. This rule also applies to PDFs that should be referenced on your site to help index those documents and give them link juice.
So rethink your internal linking strategy and try to find a place for PDF files in it. In the case of a user manual or price list, this task seems to be much easier. Do not forget that it is also an added value for the user who has at hand a handful of useful information gathered in one document.
Taking care of SEO in the context of PDF files will therefore also be a component of the number of internal links, and optimal anchor texts, while the reward will be indexation and good positions in the Google search engine.
An additional advantage will be the external linking of the PDF!
6. Friendly URL
Creating a user-friendly URL for PDF files really comes down to naming them appropriately, as I mentioned in the first point. The address should be as short as possible, but its job is also to reveal the content of the document. Content management systems such as WordPress often automatically generate URLs for PDFs, so make sure yours is SEO-friendly.
7. PDF in text format
This point may seem obvious at first glance, but it is crucial when it comes to positioning a PDF. The contents of the file should be saved in text format, not as an image. A simple procedure that will allow you to make sure that your PDF is in a text format is to select a fragment of text. If successful, you are assured that a text format was used and not an image. For the average reader, it doesn't matter much, but for search engine robots, it does.
8. Avoiding duplicate content
If you choose to provide content in text form, do not place a copy of the content inside your website. Duplicate content is an undesirable situation, so avoid it like the plague. If you can't resist publishing e.g. an excerpt from an e-book, don't index the PDF file. Both users and search engines prefer content placed in plain HTML.
If duplicate content is detected in a PDF file with any subpage, pure HTML will always be selected.
9. Image compression and alt filling
Speed is one of the most important ranking factors according to Google search, so make sure your PDF loads quickly as well. As a rule, the "heaviest" are the pictures. Whenever possible, use lossless image compression with programs such as TinyPNG
These tools will slim down the file without affecting the visual value of the graphics.
Correct optimization of PDF files also includes filling and optimizing alt tags inside the document. By completing all the alternative descriptions in your PDF, you give the search engine a signal about their content, and you gain another place to include keywords, which is always of great importance for SEO. This operation can be done in the paid version of Adobe Acrobat.
10. Optimization for mobile devices
Just like a website, PDF files should also display flawlessly on mobile devices. Optimization may consist in adjusting the font size, and aligning the content to the left (this way you will reduce the need to scroll the PDF horizontally).
11. Traffic research and statistics analysis
Web analytics is key to drawing insights, creating strategies, and making research-based decisions. The Internet provides us with many opportunities to track user behaviour. You can monitor the effects using Google Search Console or Google Analytics. It will be a good idea to use Google Tag Manager, in which your task will be to add an event and count the downloads of the PDF file.
Also, monitoring and analysis of statistics with The Dedicated SEO Dashboard will allow you to optimize PDF files even better by placing them in the right place or encouraging the user to click by manipulating, for example, the PDF title, performing A / B tests and leading to conversion as often as possible.
Optimizing PDF files is a chance to get valuable traffic to your website. If your industry is related to e-books and has a lot of manuals, research or reports, positioning PDF documents may turn out to be a hit. By following these 11 rules, your chances of appearing in search results will be high.
In many ways, optimizing PDF files is similar to optimizing a website, but it has its flavours that are worth following to achieve satisfactory results.
Don't forget to monitor the results that will provide you with analytics tools to position PDFs even more accurately!