I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Rochester New York Chapter of the American Marketing Association (RAMA) today! It’s a great organization for marketing education, programming and networking among marketing professionals in Rochester. Actually, we represent the voice of the marketing profession in just about all of Upstate NY. I am really thrilled to be a part of a great board this year..we’re already developing some great programs. Check out the blog at: http://www.ama-rochester.org/
The contents of a well-structured PDF document can get indexed and ranked by search engines just like regular Web pages can. And it’s simple to do!
One of my clients is a distributor of high-end test and measurement equipment and they have thousands of manufacturer-supplied PDF assets linked from their product detail pages. With just a little bit of optimization, I was able to get these PDF documents ranked right up there with the regular HTML pages in the search engine results pages (SERPS).
There are several advantages to optimizing your PDFs. First, if you can get BOTH your main page and the accompanying PDF ranked on the search engine results page (not hard to do), you will own 2 positions out of the possible 10 that are available. This means that one of your competitors has just been bumped to the next page. Second, if your PDF is focused on a particular item or product, you can put a hyperlink in the PDF that takes the user directly to the relevant HTML page on your Web site. You can even put a “Buy Now” or “Add To Cart” button graphic in the PDF that points the user directly to your shopping cart for immediate checkout. Thirdly, by optimizing the document properties, you
can control what the title and description looks like on the SERP. Without META data, the search engine will take a best guess approach and decide on its own what the description snippet will look like (and
they usually look terrible). If you are able to control your own marketing messages, your link will more likely to be clicked!
PDF Optimization tips:
- Spend the money and purchase Adobe’s Professional version of Acrobat (you will easily recover the cost with increased revenue). The professional version allows users to add ‘metadata’ that includes the
title, the description and the keywords that will describe the PDF document to the search engines. But more importantly, it will allow you to place graphics (‘buy now’ buttons) and to create hyperlinks that
will redirect users to the appropriate locations on your Web site (e.g. your checkout page or lead generation contact page.).
- First, the PDF needs to be saved in such a way that the text is readable. If you simply scan your document with a flatbed scanner, no indexable content is saved; it becomes merely an image of text and not real search engine readable text. Even though you can still optimize the META data for a PDF that contains a scanned image, it is better if you use Adobe’s distiller from the native application that the PDF was created in. This way all of the keywords contained in the document become accessible to the engines.
- If the original document was created in Microsoft Word (or similar word processing program), use proper styles from the application’s “Styles Palette” rather than decorating your copy with the “Formatting Palette”. This “semantic” formatting will tell search engines which keywords are more important and allow them to learn more about your document. For example, make the headlines in your PDFs Headline 1, Headline 2, etc. and control the font size and colors (the decoration)
by modifying the style itself.
- Break up large ‘catalog’ type PDFs into smaller individual, tightly themed PDFs. Not only will this decrease the download time for the end user, but it will give you the opportunity to rank each document on it’s own for a particular set of keywords.
- Optimize the copy just like you would optimize a regular web page, placing your coveted keyword in all the right places. (Headlines, Subheads, paragraph copy, bulleted lists, etc.)
- Be careful of duplicate content issues. If your PDF contains exactly the same content as your HTML page, you are better off just using the HTML version and creating a printer-friendly CSS file for
printing hard copies. If there is a business reason for having both versions available (e.g. a product page with an accompanying manufacturer-supplied PDF), then use your robots.txt file to keep the
PDF out of the search engine’s index. Alternatively, you can make the content in both versions different enough as to not be flagged as duplicate content or worse, spam.
- Add a footer to the PDF document that contains your company name and address. Many people use search queries that contain city names or state names if they are looking for local goods or services. Adding a footer to your PDF document is an easy way to ensure that these keywords are indexed.
- Save it down a version. The latest greatest version of Acrobat Professional may ship with tons of new bells and whistles, but maybe the search engines haven’t caught up to that version yet, or maybe
users don’t have the latest plugin or latest version of Acrobat Reader. This probably isn’t too much of an issue, but I like to save my PDFs so they can be opened in Adobe Reader 5.0 and later just to be on the safe side.
- Make sure that the anchor text on your HTML page that points to the PDF contains relevant keywords so the search engine knows what the PDF is about. For example, don’t link to the PDF with anchor text that says, “Click here” or “Download the PDF”.
One of the problems with Web designers is that they often design to satisfy their own creative egos rather than the needs of their end-users. They forget that real people will be using their sites. Today’s designers need to worry less about winning awards and more about creating Web sites that actually deliver the information that people are looking for …quickly and easily.
My name is Michael. I am a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, & Social Media Content Producer in Washington D.C.
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