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September 18, 2009

SEO for PDF Documents

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PDF files are being used more and more by both individuals and corporations. As a result of this they are finding their way onto the internet more often. So here are some cool PDF SEO tips and tricks. If implemented correctly these tips and techniques will get your PDF more exposure on the search engines and also use the PDF’s to pass link juice to important pages on your sites.


SEO for PDF

Photo by rillian via Creative Commons

Formatable Text

  • Whenever possible make sure your PDF is created using a method that keeps most of the text as regular formatable text so that the search engines can read and index it.
  • You should be able to tell what text is formatable or not in your PDF by selecting some text. If you can select sections of text, such as words or phrases, and copy and paste this text into another program, then it is formatable text, if not you should think about recreating the PDF so that it includes formatable text.
  • You can use programs like MS Word or Adobe Pagemaker, so that the final product is text-based and can be crawled.

Optimise the text in the PDF document

  • If you are writing or editing the document that will become an online PDF you should optimise it just as you would a regular HTML web page and include important keyword phrases in the body and headings.
  • Regular occurrences of the chosen keywords and keyword phrases throughout your PDF document can help the PDF listing reach a higher position in the search results for the particular keywords and keyword phrases used in the PDF.
  • A description that includes call-to-action phrases with the keywords being searched on highlighted should encourage more people to click through to the PDF.

Update the Document title

  • If possible include an effective call-to-action (that includes your relevant keywords) as the document title, as most search engines will attempt to include the PDF’s document title as the title for the search listing.
  • In Acrobat (the development tool. Not the free reader) you can usually access the document title as follows:

o File > Document Info > General, or
o File > Document Properties > Summary

  • The combination of a well written document title with the words and phrases being searched for highlighted should help entice people to click-through and look at the PDF document.

Link to the PDF

  • To get the PDF indexed in search engines, add one or more links to it from pages on your web site, preferably on pages that are already indexed themselves and that are not too deep within your site.
  • The same link authority analysis appears to apply to PDF’s as it applies to regular HTML pages. For targeted keyword phrases you’ll want to apply the same methodologies as you would for a regular web page such as including links to the PDF from other pages.
  • Links to the PDF should be created from pages with a high authority ( or PageRank) and that contains related content relative to what information is in the PDF.

Other PDF optimisation Guidelines

  • Place a link(s) to your web site and email links within the PDF so that people may contact you or click through to your site while online (link to important pages in your site from your PDF as these links pass some link juice).
  • Your PDF can reside anywhere on your site, but the same rule about spiders not being likely to crawl content that’s too deep applies. The safest thing to do is to put it as close to the root directory as possible.
  • Define the document’s and metadata’s properties within the PDF file; this is done in Adobe Acrobat. Details: File -> Document Properties Advanced – > Document Meta-data (use the description menu to define — this will give you the opportunity to fill in the Title/Author, Subject, and Keywords. Use commas to separate the keywords and keyword phrases).
  • Include text captions under any photographs or images that are incorporated into the PDF file. The search engines will index the image captions just as they would the “alt attributes” on an image within a website.
  • Use related keywords in the actual file name for the PDF file. If you are using a keyword phrase to name the PDF file, use hyphens to make it easy to distinguish all the words used. For example: filename-keyword-phrase.PDF. PDF files often rank very well in search engines.
  • If you have a very large PDF, consider breaking it up into several documents. This will ensure that the maximum amount of content gets included in the search engine’s index. Try limit your PDF to a maximum of 100k.

This is a pretty new and untested element of search engine optimisation so I would love your feedback on how some of these tips helped or didn’t help your PDF or Site.
Have a Good Weekend All.

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No responses to “SEO for PDF Documents”

  1. Richard writes:

    If you like you can update the meta data in PDF files free using our online service, PDF Hammer. http://www.pdfhammer.com

  2. Web Designer writes:

    If you have created PDF ebook or something you want to distribute for free, you can do so by placing it on sites like wisdomebooks.com and on sites thatyou get by searching for ‘ebook distribution sites’, like docstoc and scribd.

  3. Jon writes:

    Great idea! I get so hung up on optimizing my website, I never really gave a second thought to my pdf’s. Thanks for the idea.

  4. Marc Elison writes:

    yea, it is definitely an interesting concept, let me know how it goes

  5. 30 Content SEO, Marketing, Creation, Strategy & Promotion Insights + Resources | SEOptimise writes:

    […] checklists and cheat sheets are the evergreens of successful content. The PDF format has been indexed well by Google even before the dawn of Universal Search and you can find them in regular organic search […]



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