10 Tips to Optimize Your PDFs for Search Traffic

Written by: Jason Bayless | January 12, 2018

“When using PDFs on your site, you should optimize them for search engine traffic. All major search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo, index PDFs just like regular web pages. If your files are optimized, they’ll rank high for relevant keyword searches. So, how do you optimize PDFs for search traffic?

#1) Use Text PDFs, Not Images

PDFs containing images of text, such as scans, typically don’t rank high in the search results. Therefore, you should convert them to text prior to uploading them to your site. Search engines are adapt at reading text, so using it in your PDFs will help you achieve higher rankings.

#2) Create Relative Titles

One of the most important SEO elements of a PDF file is the title tag. Search engines use PDF titles as the headings for their search listings. To encourage a high search ranking, give your PDFs a relevant title under the “”Document Properties”” menu.

#3) Keep Titles Under 60 Characters

When creating titles for your PDFs, don’t use more than 60 characters. According to Moz, Google displays a maximum of 60 characters in its search listings. Longer titles are often cut off, resulting in truncated search listings for your PDFs.

#4) Use Relevant File Names

In addition to titles, you should also use relevant file names for your site’s PDFs. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to include spaces in your PDF file names, but you can separate words with hyphens. If your PDF is a guide on how to change your car’s oil, consider using a file name like “”How-to-Change-Your-Cars-Oil.””

#5) Add Alt Text to Embedded Images

Add the alt text attribute to images included in your PDFs. This attribute serves several purposes. First, it’s used as a placeholder if the image fails to load. Secondly, it’s used in text-to-speech software for the visually impaired. Furthermore, search engines use the alt text attribute to determine what the image is about.

#6) Disable Editing

It’s recommended that you write-protect your PDFs so other users can’t edit it. Without this feature enabled, someone may copy your PDF, edit out your business’s information and publish it on their website.

#7) Create Links

You can’t expect Google to rank your PDF high in the search results unless you have links pointing to it. So, create both internal links and external links for your PDFs. Internal links are created on the same site as the PDF while external links are created on a different site.

#8) Add Metadata

A lesser-known optimization strategy for PDFs involves adding metadata. With your document open, choose File > Properties > Description > Additional Metadata. Here, you can include additional information about your PDF, including author name, description, keywords, copyright notice and more.

#9) Make it Mobile Friendly

With more than half of all internet traffic coming from online devices, you should design your PDFs so they are mobile friendly. This means reducing the file size, aligning text to the left and using a mobile-friendly design for your website.

#10) Avoid Duplicate Content

Finally, avoid publishing the same content in your PDF on another web page. Some webmasters publish a PDF and HTML version of the same content, for instance. While this may seem harmless enough, search engines treat this as duplicate content, which can hurt your search rankings.

Optimizing PDFs for search traffic requires a different approach than traditional web page optimization. Following the 10 tips listed here, however, will help you achieve a top search ranking for your PDFs.”