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February 15, 2010

How to Optimize PDF Documents for SEO

On page optimization and link building are the most basic techniques of optimizing a website. Apart from web pages, many sites contain assets in the form of documents (.doc, .pdf), spreadsheets (.xls), presentations and videos (.avi etc). Optimizing these assets is beneficial as they get indexed faster and rank well in the top search engine result pages.

  1. Use a Text Based PDF Creator: There are a lot free tools available online with Adobe Acrobat being the best text based PDF creator. If a PDF document is created in an image based program, the search engines will completely ignore it. If the PDF is created using a text based creator like Adobe acrobat, the search engine robots will read and index the text like any other web page.
  2. Update the Document Title: The title of the PDF file is as important as the title tag of a web page. The PDF title property tells the search engine robots about the type of content. The most important aspect of the title is that Google uses the text in the title field as the link in the search engine result pages. Thus, the title field should be keyword rich and should not contain random text.
  3. Complete the document properties: A PDF file contains many document properties apart from the title field. These are keywords, description, author info, copyright info etc. All the fields must be completed with relevant information. The keyword field should not be stuffed with keywords or remain empty. It has not been proven that the search engines give importance to the keyword field in the document properties. If in future they do, your PDF file will have an advantage over other web pages.
  4. Link to the PDF File from the Homepage: The Searchbots will not discover and index the PDF file if it is placed too deep within the website. To ensure that the PDF file gets crawled by the search engines, it should be visibly linked from the home page or any other page which gets crawled regularly. If your aim is to get the PDF in top search engine result pages, then you have to lead the searchbots to it.
  5. Optimize the content in the PDF File: The content in the text based PDF files is similar to the content in a website. This makes content optimization an important aspect in optimization of PDF files. The content should be relevant to the subject matter. Important text should be highlighted by increasing their font size and utilizing the bold and italics features of the PDF files. Keywords should be placed in the first few lines of the content.
  6. Place Links in the PDF File: When a visitor opens a PDF file ranking in the top search engine results page, there should be a provision in the file to link back to its original website. This action reduces the efforts of the visitor to hunt for the main website. Also, a link from the PDF file can be considered as a backlink by the search engine.

A PDF file is similar to a web page in an assortment of aspects. It should be optimized with as much care as a web page to achieve high rankings.


Debbie A. Everson is the CEO of SearchMar.com, experienced SEO Consultants and Search Engine Optimization Agency to over 2,000 small businesses. Learn about search engine optimization, paid search advertising, social media, and email marketing. Read my SEO Blog for hints and tips. Follow @Searchmar on Twitter.

3 Responses to “How to Optimize PDF Documents for SEO

    avatar Terry Fitzgerald says:

    The first bulleted paragraph gives the unfortunate impression that Acrobat is free.

    This faux pas is a little troubling about credibility of the rest of the article.

    avatar cna training says:

    Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

    avatar Bonus Blog says:

    Wow, I never knew that PDFs could be optimized! Completing the document properties and linking back from the PDF file are definitely good tips. Thanks!

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