How to Optimize PDF Files for Search Engines

Bridget M Burns / June 10, 2019

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You can — and sometimes need to — add downloadable PDF files to your business website. When you do, search engines like Google crawl and index the files, affecting your website’s search rankings. Even if you’re building your first website, you can master how to optimize PDF files for search engines. Here are four tips.

1. Use PDFs only when you have to

Build as much of your website’s content on regular web pages. HTML pages are dynamic, whereas PDFs are static. As TheSEMPost explains, PDFs are hard to open and read on some mobile devices. They may also take too long to load on slower connections. Overlooking mobile browsing is a common website mistake that can hinder your success. Reserve PDF formats for longer content, such as an inventory catalog or food menu.

2. Include headings

When creating a PDF, use text formats such as title, Heading 1, and Heading 2 to help search engines know how your content is structured. According to Google, the best practice for using heading tags is to imagine you are writing the outline for a paper. Each heading should represent a main point of your content. Remember, there are additional ways to emphasize text when needed, such as making it bold. Use headings sparingly and with purpose.

3. Use a search-friendly file name

Using a search-friendly file name will help search bots understand your PDF’s content and rank it accordingly. PDF file names are also often included in search results, so you want it to make sense to potential website visitors. Keep it short and include a relevant keyword. Use dashes in place of spaces, and eliminate any extraneous characters. You can learn how to upload a finished PDF file to your website here.

4. Include links

Using links to drive readers back to the HTML pages of your website will help provide additional context for the information in the PDF. It also helps to make PDFs more engaging for website visitors and may increase site visit time. Just remember to make your links keyword-based for proper optimization. Need help adding or formatting links? Visit’s Support site.

If you choose to include PDFs on your website, it’s likely because the information is valuable to your visitors. Learning how to optimize PDF files for search engines will help customers find this useful content.

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