Friday, 6 January 2017

Optimise your PDFs

We all are pretty excited to know how would the search engines react to various changes that we make on our websites or how would they treat various existing factors on the site. Many of us must have experimented a lot on our websites and derived conclusions through the results achieved. And some of us have our own myths about the search engines' reactions.

One such factor that makes us think about is the use of PDFs on the websites. There are many websites that make use of PDFs. We know tons of magazines that have their online presence also and to make the user experience more eye catchy and lively, they prefer to upload their magazines on the website in the PDF version. But this results in couple of questions - how would the search engines react to these PDFs and what can we do to rank the content in search results?

While I was researching on these questions, I came across the following Google Webmasters forum link which provides a good information about what would be Google's reaction to PDF files on a particular website:-

You would like to read comments from John Mueller who is one of the Google employees. He has provided some good information that resolves our queries. We can derive from this forum post that Google can read those PDFs if the content on it is in a textual format and it is in the proper character-sets (to check this you need to simply select some of the content and copy it into a text-editor).

There is a better optimisation technique available in which we should ideally create HTML versions of the PDFs. This would provide a better user functionality as most of the users don't appreciate PDFs (because the users have to download them first to view the content).

If you are wary that this would result in duplicate content on the website, you need not worry. Just mirror the content of PDFs on HTML pages and search engines would rank one of them, preferably the HTML versions.

Tejas Thakkar


  1. Good insight Tejas. Have you ever experienced this? If we could rank better in HTML format then why should have PDF???

    1. Hi Richa. Thanks for your comment.
      Ideally yes, Google should prefer ranking your HTML versions than PDFs. But some sites like online magazines or even big brands might prefer publishing some content (such has NEWS) both in HTML and PDFs. Here the optimisation can come in handy.


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