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PDF SEO - How To Rank

Christian Bullock • February 12, 2020 • 3 minutes to read

PDF Optimization

PDFs can potentially competitively rank for keyword searches. While not as effective as a web page, an optimized PDF can help expand a website’s organic search footprint. From a strictly SEO standpoint, an active page on your website is preferred over a PDF, however PDFs do offer value to the end user and can be monitored for downloads and other interactions.

Optimizing PDFs is slightly different than optimizing traditional web pages. PDFs are indexed in search engines however, which provides additional media files and receive a [PDF] tag beside the link to denote that it is a PDF.

MKG recommends the following best practices when it comes to optimizing PDFs for maximum SEO visibility:

Document properties

Make sure the following PDF properties are filled in completely when creating the document:

  • Title: Ensure the title is complete and has the keyword target in it + branding. This should be 55 characters or less, if possible.
  • Meta Description: Similar to a traditional meta description, include keywords and have a call to action.
  • Author: Ensure the company name is in here, or if the PDF is actually authored by an individual, the author’s name followed by MKG Marketing.


<a href="/about/case-studies/weaveworks-seo"
- Title Tag: Weaveworks SEO Case Study
- Meta Description: "After seeing single-digit SEO improvements for multiple quarters in a row, MKG’s Evergreen content strategy produced an explosion of SEO traffic: SEO traffic increased by 98% YoY. Read the SEO Case Study today."
- Author: Christian Bullock – MKG Marketing


This section should contain 1-4 related keywords that you would like the PDF to show up for. Example:

  • SEO case study
  • SEO content strategy
  • Results driven digital marketing

File name

The PDF file name should be descriptive and include the keyword target in all lowercase with hyphens for spaces, the shorter the better. Example:

  • PDF contents: Search engines will be able to scan your PDF and “read” text on the page, but they won’t be able to “read” images. Keep image use to a minimum or only when there are illustrative purposes. Otherwise, use text.
  • Headings: Headings should be used to structure your page content in the same way as a traditional web page. Only use one H1 tag on the page but you can use H2-H6 tags as you see fit as long as it makes sense from an article structure standpoint.
  • Links: Links should be used throughout PDF documents in the same style by linking to relevant sections of the site throughout the PDF.

Mobile optimization

A user loading your PDF on a mobile device should have a positive experience. Typically, PDFs are created for desktop users. To optimize for mobile, look to left-justify text on the document if possible and try not to use large images.

Image size

Having large image sizes (100kb or more) in a PDF slows download speeds of the file. This is especially important for mobile. Do not save PDFs as images.

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