Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on August 7th, 2009

How to Optimize PDFs

Optimizing dynamic web content can help your site rank very well in Google, Bing and Yahoo. In fact, dynamic content, such as PDF files, can be utilized to grab the top spots for most of your important keywords and phrases. But, in order for PDFs to rank well organically, they need to be optimized for the engines.

Optimization of PDF files involves a very similar approach to the SEO of a regular web page. However, it can be a little tricky. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid the non-friendly PDFs and ensure you get the most SEO out of your PDF content.

1. Text Based

It is absolutely crucial to make sure that the PDF is crawl-able by the search spiders. The file needs to be created as a text based PDF. Some PDF programs simply convert a file into a large image. In such a case, the search engine spiders are unable to crawl the document and index it. All they can see is a giant image. It is important to create the PDF file using a text-based program like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat, so the text format is retained when the PDF is created.

2. Text Optimization

Optimizing text in a PDF file is similar to web copy. Use keywords in headings, body copy, and in the name of the file. Use H1 and H2 tags to make headings and sub-titles bold. Search engines seem to place more emphasis on bolded copy, so use keywords in these, where naturally possible. The spiders will also index any image captions there are, so be sure to treat them like they are an ‘alt text’ on a web page image.

3. Links

The PDF link in question should be placed on a web page that is frequented by the spiders to ensure that it gets indexed. Links to PDF files need to be easily found not only by the spiders, but by visitors as well. Do not bury the link deep in your site. Within the link text itself, include relevant keywords or phrases to ensure maximum optimization.

Dynamic PDF files can rank very well in the SERPs, but it is important that you optimize the files correctly in order to achieve the desired results. Non-optimized PDFs will appear as a giant, unreadable images to the algorithmic spiders and will not be indexed at all. If you follow the aforementioned tips, you can avoid any unnecessary frustration and confusion over your PDF files and land at them near the top of Google for your keywords. Make sure you gain all of the SEO benefit you naturally can from any PDF content on your site.