PDF Positioning And How To Optimize Files For SEO - Semalt Tips

Once upon a time, there was a myth in the SEO world that PDF files were impenetrable to Google. A lot of sand has been sunk into the hourglass, and today we all know that PDFs can be a valuable resource that indexes well in the SERPs and generates a lot of traffic - not to mention the other benefits described below. So, how do you not just lose money and instead gain traffic from PDFs?

Follow this guide to do just that!

1. Choose the PDF file name carefully

This is usually the first step in converting a text document to PDF. Therefore, it's easy to save the file under the name automatically suggested by the converter, regardless of the impact it will have on, for example, the website URL and other SEO key factors.

If the document is already coming to you in PDF format, perform a keyword and competitor analysis before renaming the file, then select the phrase based on user needs. Use it to name your document and make sure that each word in the file name starts with an uppercase letter and that the words are separated by dashes.

2. Put your PDF in the internal link structure

There are times when you have to be okay with this before you can include PDFs in the internal link structure of a page but do your best. Since these are usually documents with specific properties and specific use, they won't be called out as often as, let's say, product pages. After all, linking the "price list" or other "flyer" in PDF should somehow succeed ;)

Keep in mind that, unfortunately, it is the PDFs that often end up as orphan pages in the website hierarchy.

This has a direct impact on their SEO potential. In one of his interviews in 2016, John Mueller stressed the importance of linking to PDFs.

Sending contextual internal links to PDF files will tell Google that they contain the content you want the search engine to index and rank.

While reducing the value of your link anchor as a ranking factor, optimizing your anchor that leads to a PDF should also help.

3. Link to relevant rather than accidental content

This applies primarily to content on your website (although it's also a good idea to link to valuable external sites whenever it's in the user's best interest and leads to a domain with better metrics).

You can increase the likelihood that a search engine will consider your website content valuable by linking to it from the PDF file.

Another advantage of using PDF documents is that external pages are more likely to link to them, as they see them as a valuable and permanent resource. If you include links in a PDF that lead to important pages on your website, you can also increase their ranking value, not just that of the PDF file.

4. Add a unique and optimized title with keywords

How to Craft the Perfect SEO Page Title | Elegant Themes Blog

This is one of the SEO basics that is often overlooked in the context of PDF documents. You can define the title of the PDF in the "Document Properties" section. The search engine will use it in the same way as it uses the HTML title. This way you will mark the clickable text that the user will see in the search results.

But HERE, THINK CAREFULLY about the keywords you want to appear in the results related to your PDF!

The reality is that PDFs are usually positionable for specific long-tail queries (e.g., "a tam-tam price list" <3). So be sure to use an SEO tool like the Dedicated SEO Dashboard to find the highly traffic-generating long-tail keywords.

Indeed, the Dedicated SEO Dashboard is one of the largest and most popular platforms of several SEO tools and is endorsed by experts from all over the world. The range of data offered is so vast that in many cases other tools are no longer necessary. It is important to note that not all products are paid for - we have full or partial access to some.

In addition to being a keyword generator tool, the DSD has several other very powerful features that I invite you to learn about at demo.semalt.com.

5. Adapt PDF content to mobile devices

This tip applies to almost every digital marketing activity these days, as well as to PDF SEO.

The bulky nature of PDFs does not help them to automatically adapt to the smaller sizes prevalent in the mobile content world. However, there are a few simple and customizable changes that will help you make PDFs RWD-friendly. By aligning the content to the left, you will make it easier to scroll through the page content on a mobile device without having to scroll horizontally first.

Responsive PDF? Here´s how to! - PDFix.net | Making the PDF World  Responsive & Accessible

You can also use bullets and bold text, which will certainly make it easier for users to manage their valuable time. Images in your document can also be attractive, but be careful about their size.

6. If you can, apply image compression

Website loading speed is a very important ranking factor for any page - this can become a challenge for larger PDFs. But you no longer have to worry about deleting graphics just to compress the PDF document.

Enable text compression | GTmetrix
There are tools (such as JPEGmini, Optimizilla, TinyPNG, or Soda PDF) available to help you compress more time-consuming elements, such as photos, without losing their aesthetic quality.

7. Separate content with subheadings

PDFs can contain a lot of detailed information. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly difficult to draw users' attention to your content. With subheadings, you'll make your content more readable for people browsing your document. This is a handy tip that applies to all devices, especially mobile.

Try not to put more than 3-4 sentences in a paragraph.

Between blocks of text, insert a subheading that announces the section that follows. You can base your search on any of the search terms you are interested in. 

8. Use plain text

One of the reasons why the myth about Google and PDF files mentioned at the beginning has lasted so long is that many PDF files were built primarily from images.

To humans, they contained text, but to the search engine, they were just images filled with words. It's still not enough to say that Google wasn't indexing PDFs, but it helps a little.

Search engines are better and better at reading image content but still prefer text.

Many popular tools, such as Adobe's Creative Cloud, can help you convert an image to text.

There is an easy way to check the form of the PDF content: if you can copy and paste the PDF content, it means it is text and not an image ;).

9. Use alternative descriptions, i.e. fill in the ALTs

How to write good alternative descriptions for your data visualization -  Datawrapper Academy

This is another SEO staple. However, not everyone knows that alternative texts can also be defined for images inside a PDF document.

Exactly how you describe these elements varies depending on the software you use to create and manage PDF files.

Think of ALTs as another opportunity to signal to Google the essence of your document. It's also a good way for image search engine positioning.

PDFs won't always be the right query result for users, but graphics, in turn, can more often meet their tastes and requirements.

10. Track performance, analyze

From an SEO perspective, the goals of adding a PDF to a page will be different from the goals of adding a product page, for example. This means that measuring the effects of such an action will also require a different approach.

You can consider a simple user download of the PDF file that appears in the organic results as a micro-conversion. You can add such action to your analytics package as an objective and observe how many people came to your site from organic results to download the document.

With this, you can get more detailed information to be able to evaluate the path the user took within your website to land on the PDF address, or to check what other marketing channels they were dealing with before making this micro-conversion.


To sum up, if you aim for perfection and wish to dress up your website with every possible gadget like a Christmas tree, the PDF can't be missed. It's worth having at least one PDF document in its structure: elegantly optimized, named, annotated, with photos and internal links. PDFs index very well and can attract traffic, so take a moment, create something and be happy when the user clicks on it!

Do you want to know more about SEO backends? See our Blog.

send email