Optimize Your PDFs for SEO

Many people believe Google’s algorithms can only index traditional HTML web pages. They think the search engine giant doesn’t have the ability to crawl and rank PDF files.

In reality, Google has been indexing PDFs since 2001 and currently has a library of over 500 million files.

How can you get your PDF to the top of Google’s search results? The FZA Digital team recommends following these four tips:

Compress the PDF

Loading speed is one of the main factors Google uses to rank web pages. The same is true of PDF files.

Compressing your PDF is one of the best ways to be sure it loads quickly and shoots to the top of the Google rankings.

You can reduce the size of your file by following these tips:

  • Use Standard Fonts: Fonts like Courier and Helvetic tend to load much more quickly than less commonly used alternatives.
  • Use Vector-Based Images: Bitmap images use a lot more space than their vector-based counterparts.
  • Avoid Excessive Color: Vibrant colors can make your PDFs look beautiful. However, they might also increase file sizes. Stick to a monochrome scheme to keep the file small.

You can further compress your file in Adobe Acrobat. Simply follow these five steps:

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Click “File”
  3. Select “Compress File”
  4. Choose your compression options
  5. Hit “Save”

Following these steps can often reduce the size of your PDF by more than 50 percent, an improvement that is sure to impress the Google algorithm.

Use a Keyword-Rich File Name

When creating PDFs, it can be tempting to use generic names like “PDF_1” or “Doc123.” However, doing so may harm your search engine rankings.

Google’s algorithms pay close attention to file names when ranking PDFs. When the bots see a PDF with a name like “Doc123,” they may struggle to understand its content. As a result, they will not show the file to users.

To help Google’s bots understand the content of your PDFs, it is generally wise to give them descriptive, keyword-rich names, such as:

  • Report_On_2020_Used_Car_Prices
  • IRS_Tax_Rules_2017
  • Roofing_Materials_List

These names take just a few seconds to create. However, they can have a massive impact on your search rankings.

Use Alt Text for Images

Is your PDF filled with pictures, charts, or infographics? If so, you should try to ensure you use alt text for each image.

Alt text is a short written description that will appear if the picture cannot load. It helps Google’s algorithms understand images and rank PDFs.

To add alt text to the images in your PDF, follow these steps:

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Click on the “Tools” menu
  3. Select “Action Wizard”
  4. Hit “Make Accessible”
  5. Click “Set Alternative Text”

It is usually wise to use alt text that is descriptive, succinct, and keyword-rich, like:

  • Red boat crossing Hudson River in New York City
  • Technicians changing the oil of a 2017 Toyota Corolla
  • Five tourists stand next to Rocky Statue in Philadelphia, PA
  • Large stack of chocolate chip pancakes on a white plate

In most instances, alt text should be less than 125 characters long.

Add an SEO-Friendly Meta Description 

A meta description is an element that describes the content of a PDF for the benefit of users and Google’s algorithms. Adding one to your file can help to significantly improve its ranking.

Creating a meta description for a PDF is not difficult. All you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Click “File”
  3. Select “Properties”
  4. Go to the “Description” tab
  5. Add your meta description
  6. Hit “Save” 

Here are some guidelines for writing an effective meta description:

  • Keep It Short: SEO-friendly meta descriptions are generally less than 175 characters in length.
  • Use Your Focus Keyword: By including your main keyword in your meta description, you can boost the odds of Google showing your PDF to its users.
  • Make It Unique: Avoid using the same meta descriptions for all of your PDF files. This practice may harm your rankings.

Here are a few examples of well-written meta descriptions:

  • Are you searching for a new vehicle? Compare the prices on the most popular models with ABC Motors!
  • IRS tax rules are constantly changing. Find out more about this year’s regulations with the Smith Accounting team!
  • Considering moving to New York City? Our crime report will help you find the safest neighborhood for your family!

Your description will be visible to the public, so triple-check your spelling and grammar before hitting the “save” button.

Need SEO Help? Contact the Experts at FZA Digital! 

Do you need help optimizing a PDF for SEO? If so, please don’t hesitate to reach out to FZA Digital. Our team of experienced marketers will be happy to provide you with the assistance you require.

To talk to one of our friendly representatives, all you need to do is call our office at (424) 232-0810 or send us a message online. We look forward to working with you!