How To Position PDFs On Google - Explained By Semalt

There is probably no need to convince anyone that with one click on the web we can find the necessary materials: e-books, guides, tutorials, or manuals, which are most often made available in the form of PDF files. If you are wondering how to reach users with high-quality content and useful materials, see what PDF positioning is and how to optimize files in this format!

The most important information about PDF files

Nowadays, it is probably difficult to find a person who would not meet PDF files. Files in this format accompany us every day, but not everyone is aware of the potential that lies in the possibility of their optimization. And although we encounter this type of format less often than with content available on websites, it is worth learning more about presenting content in PDF files and how to reach a large group of users.

The history of the PDF format dates back to 1991 when the co-owner of Adobe initiated the revolution related to converting paper documents to digital. Since then, PDF documents have been created based on special standards, and their use is safe and convenient. First of all, it has found its application in the presentation, transfer, and printing of content - e.g. in the form of electronic publications, manuals, contracts, or document templates.

What is PDF format?

PDF format is an abbreviation of the English term Portable Document Format, which in free translation means: portable document format. Each of the words has been assigned to the features and functionalities that characterize documents saved in this format.

What properties do PDF files have?

  • simple navigation within the document;
  • small file size;
  • the possibility of preparing a file for printing;
  • presence of audio files;
  • easy PDF upload.

Does Google index PDFs?

The PDF format will soon celebrate its 30th anniversary. And although for many years there have been theories that these types of documents are not visible to search engine robots, reports indicate that since 2001 the content in files has been read in the same way as the one contained in the website code. However, it is worth bearing in mind that indexing PDF files only applies to files that are not encrypted or password-protected and are generally available to users.

How does it work in practice? 

The Google search engine reads the content in the same way as it does with text written in HTML. For indexing PDF files to bring the expected results, it is extremely important to ensure high-quality content and its appropriate saturation with keywords. This is not the end. Check what else is worth remembering when positioning PDF files!

To get search results in PDF format only, you can use the following formula: search phrase + filetype: pdf, e.g. filetype: pdf dishwasher user manual.

How to optimize PDF files for SEO?

Now, it is time to discover how to optimize PDF files.

1. File name containing the keyword

PDF and SEO - what is worth remembering? One of the key issues is to ensure that the file title fully matches its content. For this purpose, it is worth using keywords that will not only clearly indicate what is in the file, but also increase the chances of getting a high position in the search results. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the title should be in the range from 50 to 70 words, and the link itself should be as natural as possible, without practicing the keyword stuffing method. When creating a name, it is worth to use English characters, underscores, or spaces, because otherwise, it would result in generating a URL containing characters that are not URL-friendly.

2. Optimized Meta title and description

Both the title and description of a PDF document perform the same function as the title and Meta description elements in HTML. Therefore, PDF SEO optimization should be based on both the users' intentions and search engine algorithms. The title of the PDF document itself may differ from the name we assign for the name of the documents. In this situation, it is worth using the potential of the keywords assigned to a given issue, using long-tail phrases or in a different form. In the description, it is extremely important to use CTAs, i.e. phrases like: check, find out, see which will encourage the user to click on the document.

3. Optimizing the unique text for SEO

How to optimize PDF files for SEO? It is worth taking care of the appropriate optimization of the text, which will include both the highlighting of keywords matching the subject of the document and the extraction of headings. This is a way to encourage users to browse the text and find interesting points, and in the context of robots, search engines will keep the hierarchy and indicate the most important content. It is also important to include a table of contents, which will group issues and also work well as navigation within the document.

Optimizing PDF files for SEO is based on the same principles as for standard HTML pages. It is also worth bearing in mind that text optimization alone is not enough. You should take care of unique content that will not be copied from websites or other portals. Otherwise, the search engine will treat it as duplication. You can use Semalt free tool about the uniqueness.

4. Appropriate internal linking

During PDF positioning, it is also extremely important to include links that will refer to specific subpages within the website. Thanks to this, search engine robots can recognize the content in the document and assign it to the text on the page. Moreover, it is a very effective way to increase the traffic on your website and to show the robots the important sections of the page. Remember to use the appropriate anchor that will correspond to the topic being discussed, which may turn out to be crucial for Google search robots.

5. PDF file in text format

To be sure that the search engine can cope with indexing PDF files, save the document in text format. However, it is a bad practice to put content in the form of an image. In this case, search engine robots will not be able to index the content and, as a result, will not improve the visibility of the document in the search results.

6. Friendly URL

We should keep this practice in mind when creating a filename. Therefore, it is worth giving up bad characters, capital letters, spaces, or numbers in favor of a concise address containing a keyword. A friendly URL address can be remembered by the user who quickly finds the document he or she is interested in from the search bar.

7. Light file weight

Another important ranking factor when positioning PDF files is reducing the size of the document, which in turn affects its faster loading. Why is it so important? The smaller the size of the file, the faster it indexes, and thus - it will reach a larger group of recipients. For this purpose, before creating a document, it is worth compressing images or other graphic elements that interest us.

8. Optimization of ALT attributes

When creating PDF files, it is worth remembering the proper optimization of images, and more specifically about adding ALT attributes to graphics that are in the document. PDF files are mostly: manuals, price lists, reports, or presentations that contain a large number of graphics, therefore placing the ALT attribute will help robots to read the graphics correctly and index them faster.

What are the benefits of PDF optimization?

Not everyone is aware of the potential of PDF documents and what opportunities they create for users. It is worth bearing in mind that PDF documents are of great substantive value, and this format is increasingly searched by people who want to gain knowledge in a given field. The content of PDF files is much clearer and more readable than that contained in a standard website, therefore appropriate <PDF optimization can attract users and also increase conversion.


Does your website have multiple PDF files? Or maybe you have prepared specialized documents for printing that meet all UX rules? In many cases, converting PDF files to HTML and creating separate subpages can be too expensive and unnecessary. PDF positioning and more specifically the appropriate optimization of the PDF file for SEO using the above principles can give you a high position in search results. Check it out!


Discover here some questions and their answers that can help you more about the topic.

How does Google index PDF files?

Google search engine indexes PDF files the same way it does with links in HTML. Text content in PDF files is analyzed similarly to the one included in the page code. For search engine robots, the text itself and its saturation with keywords are important. However, it is worth bearing in mind that Google indexes PDF files only if they are not encrypted or password protected. The only difference with PDF indexing is that it is not possible to set the Nofollow attribute in this format.

What is PDF optimization for SEO?

Since search engine robots can read the content of files, PDF optimization for SEO consists of preparing the document in such a way that the content is created not only for users but also for Google. For this, it is worth learning the rules and mastering an effective method of optimizing PDF files.

What is the positioning of PDF files?

When positioning PDFs, it is worth remembering a few rules that can improve your position in search results. How to prepare such files?
  • select the filename containing the keyword;
  • optimize the meta title tag;
  • take care of the headings in the text;
  • do not forget about internal linking;
  • highlight the most important keywords;
  • create a friendly URL;
  • add ALT attributes to graphics;
  • take care of unique content;
  • adapt the file to mobile devices.

Is it worth optimizing PDF files?

Absolutely! J

PDF documents are very popular, all because of their transparency, adaptation to the needs of users, as well as high substantive value. Thus, PDF optimization may turn out to help reach a larger group of recipients and appearing as high as possible in search results for specific queries.

Do you want to hand over your job to a professional agency? Order a free positioning quote and find out what effects you can expect! Semalt SEO consultation will help you to identify your site SEO issues and boost your business performance!

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