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Is It Possible to Make Your PDFs SEO-Friendly?

PDF documents serve as valuable resources for sharing information, but their SEO optimization is often overlooked.

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Actually, the average person doesn’t seem to know that they can do some SEO magic on PDFs, along with other downloaded content like .doc files, too. Nowadays, if the visibility to set for anyone to see, even Google Doc files can be optimized for search engines too. 

But with that said, yes, it’s absolutely possible to do this, and it’s pretty beneficial, too. If you’re giving out information or dropping some freebies, then you’re especially going to want to keep all of this in mind. 

As search engines become increasingly sophisticated, optimizing PDF downloads is essential for enhancing your online visibility and providing users with a seamless experience. Whatever you’re able to optimize, it’s always beneficial just to do. While sure, there are more than enough complexities and maybe a tad bit of additional work, it’s definitely going to be best in the long run. So, here’s how to make your PDF downloadables SEO-friendly! 

Start with Strategic File Naming

When it comes to the optimization journey, it’s all really going to begin with a well-thought-out file name. This is already one of those basic SEO things that people usually know about when it comes to images, but it’s good for files, too. So, you’re going to want to think about renaming your PDF to include relevant keywords to provide search engines with valuable context. As an example, instead of "document123.pdf," opt for a name like "your-keyword-relevant-description.pdf" to increase the likelihood of search engine recognition.

Make the Content Keyword- Rich

Just like any web page, the content within your PDF should be infused with relevant keywords. For the most part, the rules are the same for PDFs and other downloadable documents, just like they are for web pages. So, you’ll want to start crafting engaging, informative content that seamlessly incorporates your target keywords. This not only aids search engines in understanding your document's purpose but also attracts users searching for related information.

Utilize Metadata 

So, one thing you need to think about is metadata; surprisingly enough, this actually plays a pretty huge role in documents that’ll be uploaded onto websites for their audience to download. This is pretty similar to how it is for webpages, so you’ll want to leverage the document properties settings in your PDF editor to include a title, author, subject, and keywords.  

If you’re using something like WordPress and have a reliable SEO plugin like Yoast SEO (the premium version allows this for downloadables), then you can easily utilize metadata. But go ahead and just take a good look at what plugins are offered for this; of course, you don’t 100% know a plugin; it just helps a lot. 

Your PDF Needs to be Readable

If you’re thinking about document generation, then one thing you absolutely need to keep in mind would be readability and the formatting within the document itself. It’s not just about PDF files either, but any document, really. While search engines have become proficient at crawling text within PDFs, they still struggle with scanned or image-based content. So, in order to really optimize for SEO, you’ll need to focus on creating text-based PDFs that allow search engines to access and index your content more effectively.

Take a Look at the Graphics

Alright, even though just above, it was mentioned that image-based content isn’t exactly the most SEO-friendly when it comes to downloadable files; if you need to have images on your documents, then there is technically a way around making it a bit more SEO-friendly. So, if your PDF contains images or graphics, you can start by incorporating descriptive filenames and alt text. You’ll want to do this because it not only enhances accessibility for users with visual impairments but also provides search engines with valuable context.

Internal Linking

That’s right! Just treat this as you would a webpage because even internal linking can help. So, if this downloaded PDF is on your website, you’ll just want to add links from your website to the PDF. It’s the best way to establish a connection between your PDF and the rest of your site's content.

Create Backlinks to Your PDF

Did you know that building backlinks to your PDF can significantly enhance its SEO performance? When you think of backlinking to a PDF or any downloadable file, for that matter, the idea just sounds way too farfetched, right? So you’ll need to share your document on relevant platforms, link to it from blog posts, and encourage others in your industry to reference or share it. As you probably already know, quality backlinks validate the credibility and relevance of your content in the eyes of search engines.

Think About the PDF Size

One thing you need to know is that when it comes to downloadable content is that size does matter. Large file sizes can impact user experience and page load times, factors that search engines consider in their rankings. So you’ll need to compress your PDF files to an optimal size without compromising quality. 

Make it Mobile-Friendly

Nowadays, being SEO-friendly means that you have to be mobile-friendly, too, since most users are researching with their phone or tablet. So, you absolutely need to ensure that your PDFs are mobile-friendly. In general, responsive design and appropriately sized text and images make your content accessible and enjoyable across various devices, contributing to better SEO performance.

Submit a Sitemap

Last but not least, this is something else that you may want to take into consideration. So, just as you would submit a sitemap for your website, consider creating a separate XML sitemap for your PDFs. This helps search engines discover and index your PDF content more efficiently, improving its chances of appearing in search results.

In general, if you’re uploading downloadable content onto your website for your audience to view and use, whether it’s PDFs or document files, these need to be SEO-friendly or else they just might not be discovered at all.