PDFs are great but not a substitute for content

I find it really annoying when companies put minimal content on their web sites but feel like they’re doing visitors a favor by providing links to PDF documents. This is lazy, pure and simple. Even worse is when they’re too lazy to optimize the PDF for online use and I have to endure downloading a 10MB 1-page brochure. Bad form. We’re in the 21st century now and this kind of stuff should be outlawed.

The real question I have is “Is all that wonderful content you have in those PDFs may getting indexed by the search engines?” After getting some conflicting answers to this question I went on my own search to find an answer. I see that some PDFs are clearly indexed. Use this Google search command on your web site to see which PDFs are indexed:

site:yourwebsite.com filetype:pdf

I stumbled on this great post about PDFs and SEO by Gary Pool (@garypool) over at the Search Engine Optimizician blog, titled SEO to the Max – Search Engine Optimization for a PDF. Read this post and end the arguments you're having about whether your PDFs are getting indexed or not. Normally we just rip a PDF from an existing document and link to it. 

Did you know there are things you should be doing to make sure PDFs are properly indexed?

PDFs are great, as long as they are an option. Because, hey, some guy might need to print something out to take to a meeting. But for goodness sake, make sure the content is available in HTML too. And if you want to make sure that Google, Bing and Yahoo will actually index it, follow Gary Pool’s advice.

David Daniels

David Daniels


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