PDF SEO: Best SEO Practices to optimize PDF files

When files need to be shared or printed without change, PDFs (portable document formats) come in handy. This file format is very interoperable and uniform, allowing users to read data on any device with a consistent visual appearance.


In the year 2001, Google began indexing PDF files. Documents such as studies, reports, survey results, tutorials, and instructions are frequently shared in this format. PDF links appear with a PDF tag in Google search results.

Certain optimization features that are available on normal web pages are not available in PDF files. As a result, while Google indexes PDFs, it does not favour them when analysing or ranking these pages. This is due to the fact that PDF files lack important SEO components. To do this, one must put in a lot of effort to learn how to optimise PDF documents. Although there are certain differences in optimising PDF documents, the fundamentals of SEO remain the same.

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PDF SEO Best Practices

When you share a PDF file on your website, you do so with the goal of reaching as many people as possible. You want search engines like Google to be able to find your PDF effortlessly. You’ll need to optimise PDFs for this. Here’s how to do it:

1. Create great content

content is a king
content is a king

Regardless of the page format, Google is biassed in favour of high-quality content. As a result, PDFs with exceptional content on white papers, technical documents, and other topics frequently show at the top of the search engine’s first page. In fact, PDFs are widely regarded as containing some of the most useful information.

2. Pick an SEO-friendly filename

The name of your file is just as important as the URL. As a result, it must be keyword-rich and search-engine friendly. Keep your file names between 50 and 60 characters long. The PDF title and URL should, if at all feasible, be identical. Use lower sentence cases and avoid hashtags, stop words, or punctuation marks. Use a hyphen or underscore to separate each word as well.

3. Provide an optimized title and meta description

meta description
meta description

Use a major keyword phrase in your PDF file, just like you would on a website. Put the site or brand name at the end of the title tag if you want to include it. Make sure you’re using proper language and categorising your stuff. To avoid cannibalism, make sure to use distinct title tags.

Use around 170 characters or 1-3 phrases for the meta description optimization. Use action words like discover, browse, compare, and find to start the phrase. Use primary and secondary keywords in the first sentence as much as possible.

4. Heading tags


PDFs contain a lot of information. As a result, you must divide the content into subheads. Make use of the H1 tag to create a distinctive heading. Limit the number of characters to 100. Start the heading with the primary keyword, or at the very least include one somewhere in the heading. Use H2, H3, H4, and additional tags to further categorise the body copy.

5. Optimize pdf images

Use vector-based images instead of raster-based graphics since they are smaller and of higher quality. Because of their modest size, monochrome bitmap graphics can be used instead of vector images. Make use of alt text tags to help search engines better interpret PDF pictures.

6. Internal links


To make a smooth and straightforward transition to different papers or web pages, links are essential. They assist in initiating action and ensuring that the reader has immediate access to relevant information.

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You must guarantee that your PDF has links to other resources. Use the linked URL instead of the besides link keywords if your PDF is available offline. This will make it easier for the reader to find the referred site afterwards. Internal and external links in PDFs have an impact on how well they rank in search engines. To include links in a PDF, follow these steps:

  • Click the edit PDF tab
  • Click the link drop-down
  • Click add/edit web or document link
  • Draw a rectangle around the text to be linked. 
  • Set the link type to the invisible rectangle and select link action to open the web page. 
  • Add URL.

The authority to rank is granted to PDF files. As a result, links on PDF pages behave similarly to links on online pages. It makes sense to include links to the web pages and, if necessary, external web pages for this reason.

7. Compress your PDF

Given the increased use of mobile devices, PDF files must also be compatible with this palm-sized gadget. Left-align the material for simple vertical scrolling to ensure an optimal PDF file. Compress the photographs to the point where the quality isn’t compromised.

A PDF optimizer is the greatest approach to reduce the size of a PDF. These simple tools allow you to minimise the size of a PDF file by deleting photos, objects, and other elements. Simply select the file to compress, start the compression process, and wait for the compressed version to appear.


8. Integrate PDF with your website

Making the PDF a core component of the website is another method to optimise it. Integrating PDFs entails linking to them from the website itself. These links give PDF files link authority, making them relevant for SERPs.

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9. Optimize for Mobile

Given the abundance of web content accessed via mobile phones, your PDF’s lack of mobile friendliness would be a major flaw. As a result, your SERP ranking will be negatively impacted. To make your PDF mobile-friendly, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Left align the text
  • Use bullet points and bold language to draw attention to important points.
  • Use photos that are clear but small in size.
  • Assign the material with headings and subheads.
  • Use of short, concise paragraphs

10. Canonicalize PDF

Canonicalize PDF
Canonicalize PDF

The term “canonicalize” refers to the process of preventing duplicate information in PDF files. Because PDF files are processed in the same way as other web pages, they can be accused of plagiarism if they contain material that is identical to that of other web sites. To avoid redundant mistakes, it is recommended that you utilise canonical tags.

A canonical tag is a piece of HTML code that specifies the most important version of plagiarised content. Duplicate material is disliked by Google because it makes it difficult for it to identify web pages that need to be indexed and ranked.

How Google shows PDFs in search results

When a search query is entered into Google, the results display a number of web pages, with SEO-friendly pages appearing first. Finding only PDF results from a list of thousands of pages, on the other hand, is a difficult task. As a result, it’s best to limit your Google search as much as possible to solely return PDF-based results.

It is important to note, however, that if the PDF files are password-protected, Google will not index them. The content and images in PDFs must be easily searchable for Google to crawl them.

When to use a PDF?

When you want your work to be available to the whole public with no alterations, you should use a PDF. In general, utilise PDF when your content is in the following formats:

Offline Content

You can utilise PDF format if your material is accessible and usable by those who are not connected to the internet. People can readily open such papers on any device and change them without difficulty. These documents can also be printed.



The PDF format, which was originally owned by Adobe, is currently the most used Ebook format. The text in PDF cannot be re-flowed. Because of its set layout, the PDF file Ebook does not alter regardless of the device or screen size.

White Papers

White papers are valuable tools in the world of digital marketing. Visitors to search engines are willing to trade their contact information for white paper publications. As a result, brands will find it easier to build their subscriber database.

However, while reading white papers in PDF format on small screens, such as mobile phones, there is an issue. Excessive zooming and panning around is required on mobile devices, which is not always comfortable.

With the rise of mobile as a common device for online access and the development of a slew of different mobile-friendly formats for white papers, the PDF format may soon be rendered obsolete.

Are PDFs great for SEO?

Despite the fact that Google crawls PDFs, they are not recommended for SEO for the following reasons:

  • PDFs are not compatible with mobile devices. They must be zoomed in on and panned about.
  • On PDFs, there is a dearth of navigational content.
  • They aren’t completely SEO-friendly and are missing certain key SEO aspects.


The link between PDFs and SEO has already been mentioned. Every day, Google crawls a large number of documents, including PDFs. As a result, users must optimise their PDF files in order to rank on the first page of a search engine and earn a significant amount of traffic.

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