While search engines have become much better at reading PDFs than they used to be, there are still a few things to keep in mind when using them on your website. Following these few simple steps will ensure your PDF documents will be crawled by search engines.
- The first and most obvious tip is to optimize all copy in PDFs just as you would the rest of the copy on your website. Keyword rich copy will be ranked higher in search results and generate more traffic back to your website.
- Don’t use the newest version of Adobe Acrobat to save your PDFs. Most search engines don’t have the capabilities to read the latest version, so always try to use an older version of the program.
- Make sure you complete all the document properties. The most important property is the title. The title is equivalent to an html title tag and is most likely what will be displayed as the heading in the search result, so be sure to include your most important keywords. It’s also preferable if your title is the same as your file name. The description is another field that is worth your time to fill out. The description will display below your title in the search results, so treat it the same as you would a meta description tag, including keywords and a good summary of your document. The additional property fields don’t hold much importance to search engines, but filling them out as well makes your document appear more professional and complete.
- Always include links back to your website. If someone gets your document through email or is reading it on another website, these links will allow them to get to your website easily and will help generate more traffic to your site.
- Don’t make your PDF document too large. Huge PDFs are as annoying for search engines as they are for visitors to your website. If your PDF is too big, search engines may stop scanning your document before they are done.
- Pay attention when you make any changes to your document. Saving changes to a PDF may change others things, like the version or the size of the document. Always make sure to check these things before reposting the document with your changes.
Completing these items will help you to optimize your PDFs and increase visibility for these documents. Even if you are following all these optimization tips, it is usually still helpful to have a HTML version of the file on your website as well. While your PDF will be much more easily crawled now than in the past, HTML is still preferred by search engines.