Think about the PDFs you’ve added to your website. Your list likely includes documents like menus, event flyers, registration forms, press releases, case studies, white papers, etc., all of which include high-quality content or important information about your business. Now think about how many of those PDFs you’ve optimized for search… If your number is zero or close to it, you’re missing a big opportunity.

Google and other search engines love text, of which PDFs often contain a large amount, so their crawlers will index PDFs just like other web pages. PDFs even get their own markers on SERPs to set them apart from other results (as seen in the example below).

search result for SEO

Follow these tips to make your PDFs SEO-friendly and accessible to those already searching for content like yours. You’ll likely see a lift in organic traffic and you might acquire some new leads!

Filename

Save your PDF with a descriptive filename that includes a keyword or two. Arbitrary letters and numbers don’t tell search engines anything about the content. Filenames should be just as search-friendly as image filenames on your website. It’s also important to optimize filenames because of their impact on the URL. Separate words with hyphens; for example, “SEO-Tips-To-Optimize-PDFs.pdf.”

Meta Data (Document Properties)

  • Title: Use keywords in the title just as you do when writing web page titles. Similar to page titles, the PDF’s title will be the clickable text displayed on a search results page. A good character limit is the same as a page title, about 55-65 characters, but because Google truncates at its own discretion, use your most relevant keyword or phrases near the beginning. PDFs provide an excellent opportunity to rank for long tail keywords since the content is likely specific (i.e. white paper or case study), so keep that in mind when deciding on your keywords.
  • Author: Include your business name in the Author field. If the true author is prominent in the industry, consider including their name as well; for example, “Very I. Person | Business Name.”
  • Subject: Write a keyword-rich subject. I’ve read conflicting articles about whether or not this field has any weight, but I’d rather err on the side of filling it in. Character limit here is similar to a web page meta description, 150-160 characters.
  • Keywords: List out several relevant keywords. Go with long tail here, also, to capture searches with higher intent and relevancy.

Links

Link the PDF to relevant content on your site. This helps show search engine crawlers that your content is important. Don’t overdo it, but provide a few valuable links to users, perhaps to another product or service mentioned in the copy or to the About Us page to learn more about your business. At the very least, you can link your logo to the homepage. Linking to your LinkedIn page can provide value, and including an HTML mailto: email address makes it easy for leads to reach out.

Content

  • Your PDF should contain plain text, rather than images with words in them. Not sure if your PDF is plain text? If you can copy and paste the text, it is.
  • If your PDF includes images, make sure you optimize them with keyword-rich alt text. They can be indexed just like images on your web pages and help provide additional information to search engines about the document’s content. The steps to add alt text vary by type of software, so check out this helpful guide.
Melissa Slack

Author Melissa Slack

Melissa is a Digital Content Specialist at InQuest Marketing. She creates and manages social media content for a variety of clients, and she also has experience in SEO, SEM and public relations. Her favorite things about InQuest are the people. Melissa loves her rescue dog and tackling home renovation projects, and she could eat tacos everyday.

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