Need Help? Talk to Our Experts
TL;DR: The most common SEO answer, it depends!
PDFs have widely been debated in the SEO Community as to whether or not they are “bad for SEO”. It’s largely dependent on a few different items which we will cover:
Here are some common reasons why PDFs may be bad for SEO:
If your PDFs have large amounts of backlinks they may be contributing to the overall success of your site. If not, consider making your PDFs more SEO friendly (instructions below).
Are your PDFs performing? Do they have quality traffic and backlinks? Are they ranking for featured snippets? If not consider making your PDFs more SEO Friendly.
Are pdf bringing in traffic? Do they convert? If not, consider some of the tips below for making your page SEO Friendly.
Note you will need to enable specific tracking in Google Analytics to view conversion on PDFs.
Performing a log file analysis on your pdf can help to determine how much of your crawl budget is being used to crawl and render your pdf. In the past, Seer has found that a large percentage of overall crawl budget is wasted on underperforming PDFs. If a large amount of crawl budget is being used on PDFs that do not perform well consider converting the pdf to HTML or blocking them within the robots.txt file.
To improve the performance of your PDFs landing pages, consider converting your high performing pdf or underperforming pdf into HTML since HTML pages tend to outperform pdf.
Ensure that either a canonical HTTP header or 301 redirect is placed on the PDF page pointing to the HTML page to consolidate signals to search engines and to prevent duplicate content.
Follow these steps:
Make sure that with the canonical tag you use absolute versus relative paths.
More information on this from Google here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en#rel-canonical-header-method
Example 301 Redirect:
If it is not possible to entirely convert all of your pdf to an HTML page because of time or resource constraints, consider creating a “teaser” HTML landing page that is more search engine friendly and links to your PDF page. Include relevant and unique content from the PDF on the landing page almost like “teaser” type content.
Ensure that a canonical tag is placed on the PDF page pointing to the teaser page to consolidate ranking signals and to prevent duplicate content.
If converting all of your PDFs is too big of a job or creating a teaser landing page is not feasible, consider these strategies for improving PDF page performance:
For example in Adobe Acrobat you can go to file > properties and add a Title Tag, Author, Subject and Keywords:
For example, in Adobe Acrobat you have the option to compress files easily by going to File > Compress Files > Compress Now.
You can also use free tools on the web like https://smallpdf.com/!
For example in Adobe Acrobat go to File > Save As and type in a readable file format.
Downloadable files like PDFs need to be set up in Google Analytics separately as Events or Virtual Pageviews. Depending on your Google Analytics this setup may look a bit different.
If you are looking to view clicks on a PDF, set up an event to capture clicks on a link that allows Google Analytics to count the clicks as event hits.
Refund Policy|Terms & Condition|Blog|Sitemap