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A Guide on Optimising PDFs for Search Engine SEO

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When was the last time you ran a full-text search on Google? Did you notice PDF files in your search results? Have you ever wondered how the PDF files on your site could appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs)?

The good news is that Google recognises online PDF files as no different from ordinary web pages, so the search engine will readily index them, provided of course they’re worth ‘crawling’ over.

With PDF files representing a substantial share of page views on the Web, it’s understandable why there’s interest in how PDF documents rank against web pages. At Enform, we’ve received several questions on PDF optimisation for search engines, which is why we’ve compiled a set of brief tips on how to maximise your PDF documents’ effectiveness online.

Text is Best

If you want your PDF files to be indexed by Google, make sure they are mainly composed of text. Google’s spiders are programmed to crawl over text, and while image-heavy documents can still be hosted by Google for a certain period, they won’t be as effective as text.
Text, however, is only one aspect of optimisation.

Work on Good Titles

With PDF files, Google places significant importance in their titles. In the case of PDFs, that blue line of underlined text you see on a search engine result comes from the document’s “Title” information field. Oftentimes, the indexer won’t find any information here, so it proceeds to scan text on the first few pages of the document—something which generates poor results.

A common scenario with PDF files is that the indexer will use any text found on the “Title” field, even if it’s gibberish. This explains the millions of PDFs with nonsensical titles—obviously, that’s not how you’d want to optimise your documents. You want to tell Google what your PDFs are about and what information they contain without “beating- around- the- bush”.

Have Quality Content

While comparing web pages and PDFs is like to comparing apples and oranges, both add to the SEO value of your website if they feature quality content, with keywords strategically placed in headings and tags. Likewise, basic linking of your PDF to your site is one way of optimising the document.

These are just some of the most basic things you can do to optimise your website’s PDF files for search engines.