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How to Optimize a PDF for SEO

Feb 25, 2008
The question some people ask is whether or not pdf documents pass page rank?

Based on my testing, the answer is decidedly yes, but there is still a question of how much weight they are given. I believe they pass at least equal weight as an html page. Nevertheless, optimizing for pdfs makes sense since you are already taking the time to create the darn things anyway.

Here are some tips that could dramatically improve your pdfs search engine friendliness:

1. After you perform keyword research, include active links with your theme keywords as text within your pdf. This works just like any other kind of anchor text linking. You are given keyword Theme Ranking and just like when you include anchor text in a web page. My theory is that you are given quite a bit more if the subject matter of the pdf is on theme and on topic. Further testing will determine exactly how much PR is passed. I believe having active links inside a pdf pointing to your website does increase your search engine ranking for terms targeted, just like having the word video in the anchor text with your targeted keyword now seems to give an inbound link more Page Rank.

2. Hopefully it is pretty obvious that you should use formatable text within your pdf because search engines do not really see text within images- or at least not proficiently. (That is another topic). Basically treat the document like it is html when deciding where to bold and italics. Make sure that you use your keywords in the title etc.

3. Make sure that you do not use only images and that you use text for direct response marketing purposes other wise your listing on the search engines results page will not be clickable.

4.In order to get your pdf indexed by the search engines, link to the pdf from a page that is already indexed. I know it does not sound like rocket science- and yet so many people forget to do this.

5. Be sure to BRAND your pdf so that when people actually click on your pdf they can at least find your website or contact you by snail mail or phone. It is probably a good idea to create a hyperlink to your website of landing page.

6. Before you publish your pdf, double check to make sure that your intended links are truly active and hyperlinked.

PDF Creation Tip:

Be advised that Acrobat Reader (Adobe) has no way to create active hyperlinks. This is one of the feature to the Acrobat Standard 7.0). There are other cheaper software packages that will create active hyperlinks, but they are not always accurate, so you will need to double check.

If you have gone from Microsoft Word and create a pdf in Acrobat Professional, the links should automatically be active in your pdf document when you render it.

Using Adobe Acrobat Meta-data Function:

This is a confusing topic. Adobe Professional does have a function tab that allegedly allows you to insert meta data into a pdf document:

Apparently this function is still an area of mass confusion. Nobody seems to agree if it is worth your extra time to fill this box out in Adobe.

This is because several expert SEOs have tried to figure out exactly what is happening when you add the meta-data to Adobe Acrobat Professional.

There is an excellent article on this here:

SEO your PDFs

I will do some more testing on this, but right now I am pretty much ignoring this function until I am certain how Adobe handles the xml, and how that works with the search engine spiders.

Analyzing the Metrics:

You can use tracking software like Click Tracks to monitor and test the keyword click thru rate on your pdf files. If you target the correct market long tail topics and keywords, you should be able to generate decent traffic to the deeper pages in your website.
About the Author
Russell (aka "the keyword guy") is a search engine optimization auditor and co-inventor of the Theme Zoom keyword research tool. Theme Zoom vision was created out of necessity. Russell has spent hundreds of hours engaging in keyword research for clients. For more info visit Theme Zoom
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