While you’re searching for anything online, sometimes one of the top options you’ll have will take you by surprise when it either opens a PDF document in your browser or starts the process to download it.
But how do you get your quality PDF content to rank highly in the search engines?
There are so many applications a PDF can have when it comes to content, especially long-form extensive content that provides real value to the reader which is why it’s such a great idea to add PDF documentation into your content marketing strategy.
However, once the content is made, you need it to rank, which is exactly what we’re going to talk about today!
Start with the File Name
The first step you want to take is considering the name of the PDF document. It’s easy to call it a name, so you know what the document is or just a random autogenerated file name, but this isn’t going to rank for the search terms you’re trying to achieve hits for.
Some easy file name ideas would include things like the title of the document or the type of content you’re trying to share or even including factors like the URL you’re hosting the document on.
Then, just like all other SEO practices, you’ll need to go through the content to make sure it’s full of keywords that can help you rank, as well as including your top keywords in your file name. It’s an important tip to remember that you should capitalise every word and separate all words with hyphens instead of spaces to get the best results.
Link to Your Document on Your Website
Search engines partly rank your website by going through the content and seeing where all your website links point to.
Most of the time, this is, of course, other pages to your website, and then the search engine will take all the data and comprise a linking structure to your website and will then index the pages.
If you want your PDF documents to rank alongside your website pages, you need to make sure you’re linking to it on your website, but this could be easier said than done.
These are typical product pages, nor are you going to have a link in the menu for it. Most of the time, this will just feel a little out of place.
Instead, you should aim to link your PDF documents as an internal link using contextual anchor points within your website content.
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Since you’re linking it, the search engines will automatically understand it’s a page you want to be indexed, but it’s not sticking out of your website in an abnormal fashion.
Link In, Link Out
Just link you’re adding links on your website to your PDF document, it’s important to make sure you’re adding links in your PDF document to other pages of your website, or other external websites entirely.
In true ranking fashion, this is another way for Google or other search engines to detect that this is a piece of content you want to be indexed and that it’s so important for you to use.
This works really well because it works both ways.
Since a PDF document is usually going to contain high-quality, valuable, and permanent content, the chances are that other external websites are going to link out to it, meaning you’ll have a ton of links surrounding your content which is only going to boost its rank over time.
Break Down Your Content
Ben Taylor, a web designer at Draftbeyond and LastMinuteWriting, explains; “When it comes to ranking content, Google and the other top search engines are all about giving the readers the most positive, easiest, and most valuable experience possible and then boosting this content and raising it to the top.
Just like you would a blog post or article, it’s important to make sure you break up your content, so it’s easy to share the information you have.”
The easiest way to do this is to use subheadings in your content and headers that highlight certain paragraphs and helps readers to quickly scroll through your content to find what they’re looking for.
You may even want to include a contents page if you have a lot of information to sift through.
This is also a great idea to remember when it comes to ensuring you’re creating mobile-friendly content.
Create Mobile-Friendly Content
With over half of all internet traffic coming from tablet and mobile devices, this means there over a 50% chance that your PDF documentation is going to be viewed on a mobile device.
With this in mind, you need to make sure your content is mobile friendly and can be easily viewed on mobile devices.
The best way to do this is to make little changes, such as aligning all your content to the left of the page and breaking down the paragraphs into bite-sized chunks that won’t appear too overwhelming on a mobile screen.
You can also use a ton of mobile-friendly approaches to content, such as adding easily consumable bullet-point lists, highlighting important information in bold, and adding nice images, but let’s jump into that point a little further.
Use Vibrant Images, Carefully
“While all PDF documentation should use images to help convey the message you’re trying to send and helps to keep your content interesting, it’s important to remember that most people will be viewing your documentation on a mobile device, and you need to ensure the content loads quickly and doesn’t keep the reader waiting” shares Nikki Harrison, a SEO blogger.
If people are bouncing on your links, or clicking, waiting for a few seconds, and then going elsewhere, this is going to seriously harm the ranking of your content.
One of the best ways to counter this is to compress your image sizes down, so they load super-fast, even on low-speed internet connections.
Just Use Simple Text
It was a huge problem in the past for Google to rank PDF documents because many computer systems would register PDF documents as image files, not text documents or website pages. However, in reality, of course, these documents contain text.
With this in mind, while this is still the case, Google is getting much better at recognising images with text content rather than just seeing the image files.
To make the job easier and more impactful for Google when indexing and ranking your content, make sure you’re using plain simple text, so it increases the chances of it being picked up.
Track Performance and Improve
Finally, the last point you’ll want to remember when it comes to optimising your PDF documents for the search engine results page is track everything you’re doing to the document and then analysing how well it’s performing so you can do better now and in the future.
Check your document analytics and see where your PDF is performing well and how it can be improved.
Are you using the right keywords and are you reaching the right people?
You can A/B test different file names with different file formats to see which performs best and then implement those changes into future content, all with the aim of creating the most valuable and best-performing content possible.