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How to optimize PDF files for SEO?

Regulations, price lists, reports, offers, increasingly popular e-books – all these documents have one thing in common – PDF format. It allows for easy, accessible and aesthetic transfer of a large portion of information. However, it turns out that PDF files can help positioning a website. For this to happen, however, the PDF document must be optimized accordingly. It’s not hard. The myth is that PDFs are difficult for Google robots to index in SERPs. But how do you make documents saved in this format help SEO?

PDF file – the most important information

PDF, or Portable Document Format, is a document format designed by Adobe. Established in 1992. Work on the PDF was ongoing as part of the Camelot project. The PDF format was primarily to be used to convert paper documents to digital. The creators of Portable Document Format have also set themselves the goal of ensuring that electronic versions of documents can be sent to anywhere, displayed and printed on any computer. Today we know that this goal has been achieved.

PDF has gained considerable popularity over the years and is used to create various content. The widespread use is due to the many advantages of PDF files. The most important are:
– easy to open PDF files on most computers,
– simple navigation within the document, which facilitates the efficient reading of even long texts,
– the ability to prepare materials in this format for printing,
– small size of documents,
– easy transfer of PDF files.

Google indexes PDF files?

PDF files have been used for years. For a very long time one of the myths was that PDFs could not be indexed by Google search engine. However, reports indicate that search engines with this file format have been doing very well since 2001, as long as they are not password protected or encrypted. The content of PDF files is analyzed by Google robots in the same way as the content contained in the page code. The case with links that are in the PDF document looks the same. Simply put, Google search treats links from PDF files in the same way as HTML links. The only difference is that for PDFs you cannot set nofollow attributes. All this shows that for Google search engine it doesn’t matter if the content is placed in a PDF or HTML document. For SEO, the most important thing is relevant content and its keyword saturation.

When it comes to indexing PDF files, it’s worth noting that search engines really like them. They are often much higher in search results than traditional HTML files. Despite this, many companies still do not use the potential of PDFs in positioning.

How to optimize PDF for search engine?

For PDF documents to have a positive impact on SEO, they must be properly optimized. This gives them a chance to display high in search engine results. It is worth remembering that in order for PDF to affect SEO, it should be text-based, which only gives bots the option of loading content. Therefore, if you want to use PDFs for SEO, you cannot place them as an image – the search engine will not load it and will not take it into account at all. How to further prepare the PDF file?

Name it – the title of the PDF should reflect its content and contain keywords; this will allow Google robots to determine what is in the document; rules that should be followed: it is a title about 50 – 70 characters long, natural and encouraging to click on the link; the PDF title can be completed in the wizard; it allows not only to enter the title, but also the author, subject and keywords; it is best to complete all fields;

Take care of the PDF file size – the smaller the document size, the faster the page loads; this is not only positive for SEO, but also provides comfort for web users; the easiest way to reduce the PDF file size is to choose medium or optimal quality instead of the highest when saving or exporting a document; it is worth noting here that smaller files are faster indexed by search engines;

Choose a URL – the PDF should have a friendly URL; sometimes it is broadcast automatically by CMS; however, you must check whether it is too long; too long a link is not good for SEO and does not meet user-friendly rules; short addresses can not only be easier to remember by the user, but also look good in search results; the URL does not translate directly into SEO, but the keywords contained in it will be highlighted in the search engine and thus are more visible to the user;

Add ALT attributes – in PDF files, apart from text, there may be photos / pictures; if they are listed, the ALT and title attributes should be completed; this data must be completed with each graphic; this will help robots read PDF better;

Link internally – for PDF files to actually impact SEO, they must be internally linked; the content of the documents should include links to the internal subpages of the website and thus indicate relevant sections of the page to Google bots and Internet users;

Optimize content and avoid duplicate content – the text that is contained in the PDF document must be prepared in accordance with the same rules as those per page; this means that you need to optimize your document; it includes content saturation with keywords, the use of subheadings, paragraphs, bullets, graphics, tables, italics, bold; the text in the PDF should also be valuable, useful and provide the necessary information to the reader; it cannot be copied from other files or websites – search engines will treat this as duplicate content.

Adapt PDF to mobile devices – UX issues are very important for SEO; are preparing an e-book or manuals in PDF, it is worth thinking about mobile device users; In order for the document to be easily read on the phone or tablet, it is important to use the right font size, matching the file to the screen size, ensuring readability and visibility of the images.

PDF files – is it worth positioning them for SEO?

The use of PDF files for SEO has its undoubted advantages. Note, however, that in some cases you may encounter navigation problems between the PDF file and the rest of the site. You also lose full control over the length and organization of content – content placed in PDF cannot be placed via CRM. Speaking of disadvantages, you must also remember that PDF documents are not as flexible as HTML pages – they do not have code that can be modified in any way. Still, using PDFs for SEO is profitable and worthwhile. It is worth to bet above all when:

– There are many PDF documents that have already been created and they are of great substantive value to users;
– Developing a PDF document is more aesthetic and transparent in terms of UX than placing text on an HTML page;
– The content is specially prepared for printing or downloading, e.g. e-books, brochures, price lists, regulations, leaflets, etc.
– Creating separate subpages, i.e. converting PDF to HTML would be too expensive and time consuming.

The possibilities that you have in using PDF in SEO are many – we are limited only by imagination. In PDF form you can save all documents created by the company, both of practical and marketing significance. Saturating them with internal links and keywords will allow you to use PDFs as another tool to help your website rank in the search engine.

The PDF format is the universal one, easy to use and distribute. It is often used to create various documents, including those with a marketing tone. PDF files can contain substantive guides, useful ebooks, leaflets, brochures, quotes. They are also a great tool for creating user manuals or instructions, regulations, price lists, etc. From the point of view of SEO PDF is not an ideal format, but extremely useful. Its proper preparation will bring benefits in the form of an increase in the CTR index and an increase in the level of traffic to the website (including organic results), and will also translate into the website SEO results.


– PDF files can “wander like hamsters” so take care of all attributes in the file, especially the correct linking to services or products – thanks to which you will get extra traffic
– it is good to prepare a template on letterhead with an active link to the home page on the website
– file repositories are great at SEO – especially where you sell services (e.g. legal) or devices (e.g. user manuals)
– apart from PDF files, DOCs position well
– if you want to have traffic from Google Graphics save the PDF file as an image and optimize
– you can use UTMs to track traffic from PDF files
– do not duplicate content from a page in PDF
– a page with embedded PDF can be very strongly linked and popular, and then cross-canonical to another subpage simply does not work
– use PDF files as training materials – they index well and generate traffic
– if you have a lot of educational videos, prepare a transcription and upload it to a PDF file (if you do not have space on the page)
– if you use external issue service to embed directories – quit – build your own repository and keep the client at your place. Well, unless you don’t have an IT structure for it.

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