How to Optimize PDFs for Higher Search Engine (SEO) Ranking

There’s a common thread of thought that most businesses and website owners believe – that PDF documents online cannot be read by search engines such as Bing, Yahoo! and Google.

Dog Using Computer to Search

This, in fact, is a myth.

Indeed, documents save as a portable document format (PDF) can be read by the search engines and can help increase SEO – only if they are created correctly. Here are 5 tips on making sure your PDF documents are formatted correctly for the search engines.

5 Tips to Create SEO Friendly PDFs

  1. Use a text-based word processing program to create your content. This ensures that there is no erroneous code that may prevent the search engine spiders from properly indexing your content.
  2. Always follow SEO best practices when creating your content. This is where your targeted keywords will come into play. You want to make sure to use all relevant tags that you would normally use when creating a new blog or website page. Two examples are alternative text (alt tag) for images and H1 – H3 (headline and sub-headline tags).
  3. Don’t be afraid to use links. The search engines can read links within a PDF document. You won’t want to overload the document with hyperlinks but place a few strategic links to other content you own or supporting content on external websites.
  4. Save your document as a PDF. It may sound foolish to remind you but there are many people that save their documents in the wrong format. Also, remember to add keywords to your document name. “BestDogToys.pdf” is a better name than “Doc5356.pdf”. The keywords in the document name will help further convey the subject matter to the search engines. (This is not case-sensitive.)
  5. Fill out the Document Properties area before saving. Every document has a properties area that can be accessed by going to File > Properties. In this area, be sure to fill out the description, title, author, keywords and subject fields. These are fields that web pages normally have but, when you upload a PDF, you do not have an option to set it on the website for this page. Fill in these settings with keywords and descriptors before saving.

Creating and saving PDFs are quick and easy. If you or your company already have access to offline paper documents or PDF documents and feel that your target market can benefit from placing these online, be sure to optimize it first and then post. Not only will your audience thank you but the search engines will thank you with an increased possibly higher search engine ranking.

Do you have PDFs online and find them as a source of traffic? What other recommendations would you add to help others starting out?

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