In this article, you will have the opportunity to read the most important things about PDFs, their impact on your site globally, the way Google views PDFs, and tips on how to help your PDF rank better.
Does Google like PDFs?
It would be hard to say that Google really likes PDFs. It’s true that Google doesn’t mind PDFs. So far, people from Google have claimed that Google treats PDFs like any other HTML document.
Yet, as many times before, Google tells you what you want to hear, that is, what Google wants to be true. However, some research has shown that PDFs, for example, do not transmit Page Rank, or that they do not transmit it in its entirety … Whether this is still the case is difficult to say.
So even if a PDF page does not convey “link juice”, the fact is that a PDF page has no less chance of ranking well than any other HTML page. And again, despite that fact, not enough attention is paid to optimizing PDFs. Simply put, PDFs are placed on the web in the form in which they are designed and that is all.
How to optimize a PDF file?
All on page (and off page) SEO rules that apply to HTML pages also apply to PDFs. From the elements on the page itself, the rich and optimized text, the page load speed, and so on, you need to optimize all the elements that allow optimization.
Start by optimizing your PDF file by having an SEO friendly filename. Your url will also depend on the file name, so it’s best to have a name that includes your keywords, separated by hyphens.
In the properties option, it is possible to set the “title” of your PDF document. This title is the one that Google will display in its results. The title is certainly a very important element of SEO optimization, so it would be best to contain keywords (preferably at the beginning) but also to be such as to get people to click on your result.
If you have not set the title of your PDF file, Google will use the head title (H1) you use in the content of the PDF. If that doesn’t exist (which happens), Google will most likely use your Filename.
Just like a title, a description is something you can write and enter as a meta description within your PDF file. This description does not play a significant role in your ranking, but it can affect a higher or lower CTR (percentage of clicks in he SERP) and it is important to write it in a way that leads your potential visitors to click on it.
As with any page on the web, the exact same rules apply here:
• Use one main title (H1) – It is important that you have a title that is optimized for your main keyword.
• Divide the text into paragraphs and use subheadings. Subtitles should target your long-tail phrases
• Optimize the text itself using words you would like to rank for
• Text is the most important but use images as well
• Don’t make a catastrophic mistake and place a PDF where the text is in image format. The text must be “plain text” that is readable by Google bots.
Increase the loading speed
You will increase the page load speed of the PDF page primarily by reducing the file size. You will do this by ejecting unnecessary metadata, but also by compressing the images before inserting them into the PDF.
Optimize PDF for use on mobile devices
As we said, all the rules that apply to HTML also apply to PDF versions, including UX on mobile devices. When designing PDFs, it would be best to do so with a “mobile first” aproach, that is, to design it for use on a mobile phone (think about the size and position of elements).
If you want your PDF to rank as well as possible, it is important that you link to your PDF on your site where it makes sense. Also, it would be good to have links to the rest of your pages within your PDF, in case you get some external links to your site (provided that the PDFs really transmit Page Rank).
Of course, your PDF will rank better if there are external links to it. Make sure that these are high-quality and relevant links that follow Google’s recommendations.
Take care of the conversion
A PDF page is not an ideal place to convert. Simply, the menu as well as the contact button are not available to you at all times. That is why it is very important to place Call To Action (CTA) links in the form of internal links within your content that will lead your visitors to your contact page, shop page or services page or possibly a page that describes your products or services (or perhaps a case studies page).
Dangers associated with PDFs
In addition to the already mentioned situation of (not) transferring Page Rank from PDF to other pages, there is another awkward situation related to PDFs.
The point is that Google does not want to show two of the same content in its results. Between identical content, Google will opt for the one with a higher Page Rank. A lot of experiments have been done on this topic and they have all confirmed this. The difficulty, in this case, is that the pages should look as identical as possible, so in HTML this is not convenient because someone who would trz to manipulate this probably does not want that one page to deviate from the design of the rest of the site… With PDFs, this is a lot more tricky because someone can simply download your PDF and post it on their site. If it has a stronger site than yours and directs more internal links, it could rank instead of your site.
PDF or HTML?
From all this so far it can be concluded that having PDFs on your site is not probleatic. If you have them, pay attention to them the way you pay attention to other pages and optimize them accordingly. If you have the ability to create an HTML page instead of a PDF, this is definitely a better option.