#seo411 Recap: SEO for PDFs

By Kaitlyn Smeland Dhanaliwala | Jun 3, 2010
More Articles by Kaitlyn


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Our most recent #seo411 Twitter chat session covered SEO for PDFs. Here’s what we talked about in case you couldn’t make it. If you’re curious about using PDFs for SEO, see what these Marketing and SEO experts have to say. And if you would like to join any of our Twitter chats in the future, just follow the hashtag #seo411 every Tuesday at 2pm EST. We’ll see you there!

Do you optimize your PDFs for SEO? Why or why not?

Most participants noted that they optimized PDFs for SEO as they came up with new PDF assets.  However, most agreed that HTML webpages were the preferable content format type.  A few people were not sure exactly what to optimize in PDFs…more on that to come!

What program do you use to create your PDFs to make sure they’re text based – not images?

Although a few different programs like Photoshop and Illustrator were thrown around in the discussion, most people used Adobe Acrobat tools.  @rickwhittington pointed out that PDFs created by Photoshop are rasterized and therefore do not scale.  Be sure your PDF generation program allows you to retain selectable text.

What tactics work well for optimizing PDFs?

As with web page optimization, include the keyword of focus in PDF content.  Don’t forget to edit document tags (found under ‘Properties’).  Also be sure to include links within the PDF to other relevant content on your site, always using the appropriate anchor text.  Here are a few other tips from some of the session participants:

@markalves: Link the logo, name in footer, and corporate branding elements of the PDF to home page or appropriate page.

@ReneeRevetta: When appropriate, it would be a great idea [to include social media sharing tools in PDF]! Just like e-newsletters, blog posts – they should have that sharing option – always!

@Jstatad: I recommend links to Social profiles in almost all digital assets, not just PDFs.

What limitations do PDFs have over regular web pages with SEO? Do you think PDFs are better/worse than web pages to attain rankings?

Unlike webpages, PDFs do not feature navigation.  This restricts the options the user has to continue browsing the site after reading.  (This is another good reason to include links throughout the PDF).  According to @janetdmiller, since content in PDF form is frequently a brochure of some sort, it can be more difficult to get SEO edits approved for a PDF than for a webpage.

@YoYoSEO added that it is not possible to set up an RSS feed to inform about updates to the PDF.

While all generally agreed that any rankings from your site are good, HTML pages are usually preferred to PDFs in SERP listings for the reasons listed above.  There may be a few industries in which searchers look for PDFs (i.e.- academic research), but most users are probably less likely to click on PDFs for fear of longer download times.

Join us next week, Tuesday, June 8 at 2pm EST, using the Twitter hashtag #seo411 as we discuss SEO for all types of digital assets!  Or view our calendar of other upcoming chat topics!


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