14 Sensible Tips for Making PDFs SEO-friendly (via Michael Grover)

Ever wonder how PDF files get into search results?  An aged but still relevant article from the folks at Proteus Marketing provides tips for making your PDF files more SEO friendly. Overall, the article makes a really good point: that people will often spend a lot of time and money creating the content and then will spend all of two minutes creating the PDF.  Here are 15 tips for improving the chances your PDF will get indexed and indexed the way you want it to.

  1. Make sure you create text-based PDFs: PDFs can be either text-based or image based. If they are image-based, go straight to jail and do not pass go 
  2. Specify document properties: This is sound advice for any non-html doc being posted online.  Go into the Properties dialog and fill out all possible fields. These fields are generally there to help you categorize and find your own docs. It makes sense that theis data would leak out of a PDF and help it get indexed.
  3. Optimize PDF copy: Since you've got a text-based PDF, you might as well write copy that follows your own optimization rules.
  4. Keep the content of the PDF focused: Just like html and also a best practice for anything, maintain focus. The PDF is just a container and keeping the subject focused will help Google figure out what it's about.
  5. Specify the reading order: Buried amongst the myriad menus (ok, it's Advanced>Accessibility>Add Tags to Document in Acrobat then select Advanced>Accessibility>Touch Up Reading Order) is an item which lets you send specific "aboutness" content up front. Also follow that menu path to Tag your PDFs
  6. Influence meta descriptions: More html-inspired advice, be about the content and put what your content is about right up front.
  7. Build links into PDFs: Hey, just as high-quality outbound links improve the indexability, same holds true for PDF (as long as they are text-based.)
  8. Save the PDF as an accessible version: It's probable that Adobe's latest and greatest has features which haven't been figured our by Googlebot. Hey, it's equally probably that your users don't have that latest version, either. Do us all a favor and lag the cutting edge.
  9. Optimize the file size for search: eep it as small as possible.
  10. Enable your PDFs for fast web view: Remember that long menu path above? Well, it also leads to a setting to enable "Fast View" which is kind of like streaming video.  It makes it so the PDF starts to display before the whole thing has been downloaded.  Smart.
  11. Watch where you place PDFs on your site: Did I tell you the one about the old lady who buried her husband in the flower bed in front of her house? Yeah, they found the body.  Link to your PDF from where the traffic is.
  12. Use keyword-rich anchor text to link to PDFs: Speaking of links, don't use "this pdf" as the link text. Make the link text part of the party and have it say what's being linked to.
  13. Don’t do anything in a PDF that you wouldn’t do in a web page: You know, that stupid bad stuff that feels like trickery because it is.
  14. Recheck things before you post the PDF: Lastly, check your PDF, specifically the links it contains, before linking to it on your site.


You should read the whole excellent article about Making PDF's SEO-friendly.  It has pictures!