Fundamentals Of PDF Optimisation For Search

PDF files are often neglected when it comes to search engine optimization. Just a few webmasters know that this unique file format should be given a proper SEO treatment. There’s actually a large potential in optimizing PDFs for search. Currently, search engines are able to crawl and index the Portable Document Format similarly to regular HTML-based web pages, and I personally see them in search results pretty often.

So, if you have a large collection of useful PDF files on your website, make sure that you do what you can to improve their visibility in search. In a nutshell: approach your PDFs as you would approach any web page on your site.

Checklist for PDF optimization:


In the full version of Acrobat, open the File tab, go to ‘Document properties’ and fill out all empty fields. While some document properties presently appear to have little search-related effect (Author and Keywords for example), others are extremely important. The Title property for instance almost invariably represents what will be shown as the heading of the search result. For now, however, I’d complete all the properties. Perhaps, in the future, they’ll be treated by the engines as valuable pieces of information.


Make sure all your PDF files contain a link back to your website. If your file contains useful information, other bloggers may want to host it on their websites, too.

Fast web view

In order to provide your site visitors with a better viewing experience, enable the ‘Fast Web View’ option. It restructures a PDF for page-at-a-time downloading.


SEO experts recommend to place links to PDFs on web pages that are located closer to the root level of your site’s file structure.

Add Tags

Use alternate text for images and tag headings. Format your PDF as if it is a regular blog post.

Software version

Though search engines do ‘read’ PDFs, they may have difficulties analyzing files created using new versions of Acrobat. Therefore, it makes sense to save your PDFs at a lower version. This will be beneficial for your readers, too, since not everyone has the latest version of Acrobat Reader.


Avoid uploading huge files. As a rule, these are not only unnecessary, but also very burdensome for the search engines and people.

Make sure your PDFs were created using a text-based program. Though this tip may sound obvious, there are still companies producing image-based PDF files. Such files contain no text for the search engine to read.

Fundamentals Of PDF Optimisation For Search

But why not convert PDFs to Word or HTML, when there are so many easy-to-use free (PDF Burger) and paid (Adobe ExportPDF) programs making converting a breeze? The reality is that PDFs have many benefits and many website owners are not willing to sacrifice those. In particular, this file format is portable, easy to download and distribute, supports high levels of data encryption and security.

When doing SEO, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll come across PDFs at some point. Don’t overlook them. You’ll be surprised at the results you can get simply by following some of the aforementioned tips. Don’t hesitate to add your own!

Robert Simons  loves technology in all its shapes and forms. He mostly spends his time testing various office productivity programs and mobile applications. Robert is the owner of