Optimize PDFs for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Learn how to optimize a PDF for improved discoverability and search engine ranking on the web.

1. Create unique content

Create PDF content that is different from the information your web pages.

View details on how to create unique content

PDF content should be unique and structured as follows:

  • Use a single main heading/title beginning with a keyword

  • Use keyword subheadings organized in a hierarchical structure

  • Use short paragraphs containing keywords and lists

  • Add internal and external (content on your website or other websites) hyperlinks

  • Add a hyperlinked table of contents for documents longer than 25 pages

  • Run text recognition on all scanned documents

  • Build PDFs that are mobile friendly
    To check the mobile viewing experience of your PDF, open the file in the Acrobat Reader mobile app and turn on Liquid Mode. Include additional subheadings if necessary to improve navigation.

    Screenshot of Liquid Mode in the Acrobat Reader mobile app

2. Add Document Properties

PDF files have a title and meta description just like a web page.

View details on how to add Document Properties

Add key Document Properties as follows:

  1. Select File > Properties or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + D on Windows or Cmd + D on Mac and select the Description tab.

  2. Enter a keyword-optimized title in the Title: field.

  3. Make sure the Author: field doesn’t identify a specific individual within your organization.

  4. Enter a keyword-optimized summary of your document in the Subject: field.
    Try beginning the summary using an action verb like Learn, Discover, Explore, etc.

  5. Select Additional Metadata to add copyright or public domain information if applicable.

    Screenshot of Document Properties

3. Tag your PDF

Tagging content in your PDF not only makes your file Accessible to those with disabilities—it also improves SEO.

View details on how to tag a PDF

Tag a PDF as follows:

  1. Select Accessibility in the Tools center.

  2. Select Autotag Document in the right-hand pane.

  3. Follow the hints for repair in the left-hand pane Recognition Report.

  4. Run Set Alternate Text if necessary.

  5. Use keywords to describe the image in the Alternate Text.

    Screenshot of setting Alternate text in PDF

Available in Acrobat Pro only.

4. Prepare for web

Optimize the experience of interacting with your PDF by preparing it for web viewing and reducing the PDF file size.

View details on how to prepare your PDF for the web

Prepare your PDF for the web as follows:

To prepare your PDF for the web, select File > Save as Other > Reduced Size PDF.

Screenshot of Document Properties

This step reduces the file size and enables Fast Web View in the PDF. Fast Web View allows the file to be immediately opened, viewed, and searched before the entire file is streamed or downloaded—-creating an optimal end-user experience. Open Document Properties (Ctrl + D on Windows or Cmd + D on Mac) to determine if Fast Web View is enabled.

Screenshot of Document Properties

note tip
If you have Acrobat Pro, run Optimize for Web and Mobile in the Action Wizard tool. This Action converts colors to sRGB and embeds fonts for consistent display of PDFs across browsers and mobile devices.

5. Create a keyword filename

View details on how to create a keyword filename

Create a keyword filename as follows:

The filename becomes part of the URL when a PDF is posted on the web. A good practice is to match your keyword-optimized title with the filename. To be search-friendly—use lowercase, no punctuation or hashes, and avoid stop words (a, an, the, and, it, for, or, but, in, my, your, our, and their, etc.). If you use separate words, add hyphens or underscores between the words.

6. Secure your PDF

The last step is to protect your PDF to prevent unauthorized changes.

View details on how to secure your PDF

Secure a PDF as follows:

  1. Open Document Properties (Ctrl + D on Windows or Cmd + D on Mac) and select the Security tab.

  2. Check Printing editing and printing of the document. A password will be required in order to change these settings.

  3. Under Changes Allowed: select None.

  4. Check Enable text access for screen reader devices for the visually impaired.

  5. Enter and confirm a strong password.

  6. Select OK and save the file.

    Screenshot of Document Properties

Now your PDF is ready to be posted on the web—-with optimal keyword ranking potential and end-user interaction.