What do you mean your website’s PDFs are counted by Google?! We can hear you asking, and maybe groaning, that there’s another SEO or web design consideration you should make on your website.

Lots of businesses include PDFs on their websites. From business catalogs to long manuals to downloadable forms, these documents can provide much-needed content to your customers or audience. You may or may not need them, but you should know that if you have them on your site, they can and will likely impact your SEO.

But wait … why does your site need a PDF on it?

Good news! Not all sites need a PDF on them. In fact, for many purposes, the cons of a PDF outweigh the pros. PDFs don’t lend themselves to responsive web design, so they can be hard to read on a smart phone. To edit them, you have to take them off your site, edit the document offline, and them reupload it. Plus, as we’ll get into, you need to make sure your PDF is optimized for SEO otherwise Google will not be kind to your website.

There are some cases where a PDF on your site is beneficial. These reasons may already apply to you. If you have a catalog where your customers can order parts from, downloadable manuals for your products, an ebook, or a secure form that your audience can fill out and resend. The latter can be made into a form on your website. For most of these examples though, providing tons of text or ordering options as a PDF will compress all that information which could, in turn, improve your site’s loading times.

Hiding your PDF from Google?

If your search results aren’t where you need them to be, it could be your PDF. Google may have flagged it as irrelevant content due to a number of reasons. To test this, Foxit suggests adding the X-Robots tag: noindex to your PDF and then check whether it improves your place in Google’s rankings after you reindex. If your ranks improve after applying this tag to your PDF, you can do one of two things.

  1. Keep it nonindexed, especially if it’s duplicate content. This means you have the same content on your PDF as you do on another part of your site in HTML format.
  2. Troubleshoot your PDF for SEO issues. Does it have relevant keywords, or content that’s relevant to your website? A PDF, when optimized properly, can be a great booster for your SEO. Once it’s full of informative content that ties into the content on your website, with keywords relating to the PDF, reupload it, reindex it and see what happens.

How do you optimize your PDF?

Carmelon Digital Marketing Magazine highlights a few tips:

  1. File names and titles: Like a webpage’s name and title, the name should e a relevant keyword that someone who’s looking for your site will enter into Google to find it (or the PDF). A great example is your business’s name, the purpose of the form or book (even better, the book title if applicable), and PDF.
  2. Don’t neglect metadata This includes keywords, meta descriptions, and other SEO best practices that aren’t necessarily part of the layout or copy, but give more helpful information for search engines.
  3. Yes, you can include links! And you should. After all, it’s SEO 101.
  4. Optimize, optimize, optimize! Speaking of links, make sure everything about your PDF follows SEO best practices, including being relevant, readable, and easy to navigate,
  5. Remember to compress! The point of a pdf is to take a bunch of information and make it faster to look at or download.
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