You probably know the importance of using keywords and keyphrases on your website.

That’s how search engines – and your readers – know what your pages are about. Hopefully you, or someone in your team, also take the time to craft proper meta descriptions for each page.

What about your pdfs?

Despite problems with usability (such as large file sizes, unresponsiveness on mobile devices, not every device has a pdf reader), most websites have plenty of pdfs. But unlike web pages, pdfs are rarely optimised for the likes of Google and Bing. That means you’re missing opportunities to get your documents found by searchers.

So here’s how to get your pdfs optimised, indexed, and ranked highly. For this walkthrough, we’ll use one of the most common pdf readers: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

  1. Open your pdf in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC
  2. Select File > Propertiesempty fields for completion
  3. Title: the title of the document
  4. Author: can be the individual or company name
  5. Subject: the subject of the pdf
  6. Keywords: Add at least 5, separated by commas
  7. Sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that your pdf is now more optimised than most of your competitors’

Remember keywords

When saving your pdfs, use keywords. It makes it easier for search engines to understand what’s inside, plus it helps your readers. After all, if you’re scanning a page of search results and looking for a guide to flash storage, which of these two files are you more likely to download?


Look out for images as text

When creating pdfs, make sure your designer adds text on the page, rather than pasting the text in as a jpeg.

Here’s the thing: Search engines can crawl a pdf for text (keywords) but they can’t crawl text if it’s placed on an image. If you want to check which type you have, just open a pdf and try to select the text. If you can’t, right-click the text. If you see an option to save as image, ask the designer to recreate the pdf using text.

Compress to impress

OK, let’s imagine you’ve done all the above, and your pdf is riding high in the search results. You now need to make it easy to download. Let’s say your document includes a few images at high resolution. Maybe it’s a guide, annual report, or brochure. These sorts of digital publications tend to be large – megabytes (mb) rather than kilobytes (kb).

That means downloading takes longer. Slower machines may freeze or crash. What’s more, mobile users on data plans are less likely to download a file if it means using up a chunk of their monthly data allowance.

You can overcome these problems by compressing your pdf before uploading it. This keeps all the images and text the same size, it just reduces the size of the file. There are plenty of free and paid-for tools out there (Google ‘pdf compressor’).

Although if your pdf contains sensitive information, please read the small print before you upload anything. Particularly for the free versions, which usually send your pdf to the cloud for compressing. Once you share your data to third-party servers, you’ve no way of knowing what happens to it.

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