The truth is: search engines love PDF files. It may be a different file type than HTML, but crawlers are able to index and understand the information they contain with relative ease. It’s really not uncommon to see PDFs holding a 1 or 2 ranking in SERPs.
Unfortunately, they do not usually work as strong drivers for SEO campaigns. All too often, PDFs are used because they can be more convenient, faster, and easier to build than an HTML page. But in the rush for this convenience, PDFs don’t get optimized the way that they should to boost your main website and brand.
Follow these basic tips to help maximize the SEO return you get on your PDF files:
Include links: This is a very common mistake — you open a PDF and it contains only information with no links to the original source. This is bad for two reasons. Firstly, you’re not giving the people who find your PDF a way to learn more about you or visit your site. The second is that you are missing out on back links. Remember, crawlers understand the text in a PDF the same way they do for an HTML file. This means they can see and account for the links included in your PDF.
Make the most of your title: PDFs are files, but they do not deserve standard file names like “Report2627FINAL.pdf.” Both crawlers and users will not think highly of such a non-descriptive title. Give your PDF files descriptive, keyword-rich titles to increase their SEO impact.
Don’t go overboard: It can be all too easy to load a PDF with images, styled fonts, and other design elements. However, the more you add, the longer it takes to load — which is not good from a usability standpoint or an SEO standpoint. Try to use a streamlined design for your PDFs and always compress them when saving.
PDFs are convenient web elements with a wide variety of applications for your online presence. It’s worth it to take steps to optimize them, just like you would for the rest of your web pages.