Adding a PDF, such as a brochure, white paper, or e-book, to a B2B Website makes sense: PDFs are relatively easy to download, they keep highly graphical information intact, and instead of coding a new page of content, you simply link to the file.
However, PDFs do have a few disadvantages. They’re harder to optimize than straight HTML files. And, companies often post links to PDFs without supporting text. This means that PDFs often appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages) lacking proper a Title tag and a nice description that compels people to click the listing.
And, too, people hesitate to click a PDF link within the SERP, says Google’s SEO master Matt Cutts in a March 14, 2010 interview with Eric Enge of StoneTemple.
A few things to note from the Cutts interview with regard to PDFs (and I note these because I often get these questions):
1. Yes, Google does index PDF files.
2. Cutts doesn’t address whether PDFs pass PageRank.
3. PDFs are not treated the same as HTML files. Cutts states that PDFs “are kind of like Flash in that they aren’t a file format that’s inherent and native to the web, but they can be very useful. In the same way that we [Google] try to find useful content within a Flash file, we try to find the useful content within a PDF file.”
He goes on to add that “users don’t always like being sent to a PDF. If you can make your content in a Web-Native format, such as pure HTML, that’s often a little more useful to users than just a pure PDF file” (emphasis mine).
But it makes sense in certain cases to format information as a PDF — especially something like an e-book, replied Enge.
Cutts’ response? “I think of PDF files as the last thing people encounter, and users find it to be a little more work to open them. People need to be mindful of how that can affect the user experience.”
So how can you improve users’ experience when they encounter PDFs on your B2B Website? Three very simple steps include:
1. Develop a landing page for each high-value PDF. Whether you’re offering an e-book, white paper or report, develop a page for the content that includes a summary of the information people will find — and include a link to this page on your home page, “Resources” page, press releases and blog posts. This will help increase downloads as the summary adds credibility and improves trust in your content.
2. Optimize the landing page. Be sure to include keyword-rich Title and meta tag information, a headline for the page, and your keywords in the summary. (And, don’t forget the call-to-action!)
3. Use the same report name across all platforms. I read a fair number of reports, white papers and e-books and one problem I often run into is that when I search for a piece of content by name, I can’t find it.
When I hear of an interesting piece of content, for example, and a link isn’t included to it, I will cut and paste the title directly into Google — and am always surprised when I can’t find the content. That’s because the company calls the piece of content by one name within a social media context or a print ad and by another name on its Website.
When promoting your content, use the exact title of the piece when posting to social media, during interviews, on press releases, and within your Website. This makes it easy for people to find who search for it.