How to SEO a PDF document – 5 simple tips

Something which you may or may not have seen is PDFs ranking within Google results.

Try doing a simple Google search for ‘SEO Guide’. The first result is a PDF document.

Now, some of you may be thinking why aren’t there more PDF documents within results? I’d simply suggest PDFs are typically recognised as downloadable documents, so why would you link to it? You’re more than likely to link to the page where the PDF can be found for future reference.

So should I avoid using PDFs? Simple answer is ‘no’, utilise these as another method for rankings and below are 5 simple tips you should follow:

1. Filename

Much like a webpage, a good PDF document name is essential – over the Xmas period I noticed many pubs and hotels with PDF menu downloads and some of the names were shocking – I think the best was a long string of number!

Simply writing the hotel name and occasion would be far better, example: theredlionpub-xmas2011.pdf.

2. Content & text based PDF

Content, content, content – it’s still the king and PDFs can be the queen to webpages. Again like a website, for PDFs to be effective the content has to be unique, well written and user focused. Simply copying content from a webpage will not work and will be classed as duplicate copy.

Also, some PDF converters will flatten the document so the content can’t be read – from a search / webpage point-of-view, this would be the equivalent to a blank web page – pointless! Make sure the PDF is text based.

3. Filesize

Filesizes will play apart in two forms:

  • Google considers the speed of a document, i.e. webpage, PDF
  • Users won’t wait around for a document to load

If you have a PDF that’s 10MB in size with different elements and images, a user isn’t going to wait around and wait for the PDF to load – you’ve 8 seconds to sell!

Also, why would Google want to rank a webpage / documents that’s slow loading, remember this was a factor with the Google Caffeine update.

4. Document properties

Once the PDF document has been created, right click and select properties. You’ll then be taken to the following window where you can fill out further details.

Treat this like you META data – we know how powerful that can be! Give descriptive details but don’t keyword stuff.

5. Backlinks

I mentioned earlier that users probably wouldn’t naturally link to PDFs but it doesn’t stop you using these as a page to link build against – PDFs can rank really well and can give you another link building option, especially when targeting longer tail keywords.

Do you have any PDF SEO tips? Leave your comments below.

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