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- Develop Content
Your first step to indexing a PDF File with search engines is to make the content! When making a PDF, use all of the same guidelines that you would when making a web page. PDF Files are typically downloaded and stored by Users, so they can review and share them at a later date, offline. Guides, lists, case studies and other types of one-shot content are ideal for PDF Files (otherwise you’re most likely better off putting the content into a web page and indexing that file, instead of a PDF File).
- Format Content as a PDF FileYour second step to index a PDF File with search engines is to take your content and save it as a PDF File. At this point, most word processing programs can save word documents as PDF Files.Your second step to index a PDF File with search engines is to take your content and save it as a PDF File. At this point, most word processing programs can save word documents as PDF Files.That’s it.
- Optimize PDF File for Google Search
Your third step to index a PDF File with search engines is to optimize it in the same ways that you would optimize a standard web page file:
- Create and set unique meta data – a Title less than 55 characters in length and a Description between 130 and 150 characters in length.
- Ensure that there is a higher ratio of text to image content in the PDF File – I recommend one image to every 400-500 words of text, just for a healthy balance. Like web page files, search engines can index and rank you based on text content, but not on the image content.
- Upload PDF File to Web Site
Your fourth step to indexing your PDF File with search engines is to publish it live to the world wide web – this will typically include uploading the file to your pesonal blog or website, but really you can host it anywhere on the web that is open and available to the public.
Once you’ve published the PDF file to the web, be sure to copy the address to the file and try to load it in your browser – if you can’t view the PDF file directly in your browser, troubleshoot it and figure out why! Search engines will try and load/render the PDF File the same way that a browser does, so this is a good way to confirm that search engines can read your PDF File.
- Ensure PDF File is Visible to Google Search Bots
Log in to Google Search Console using your Google Account (you do have an official Google Account for your business/organization, right?). You must have your web site verified with Google to proceed (I will publish an article on how easy it is to get free performance data for your web site from Google Search Console, but for now you can visit their official site to see how to do this).
- Submit PDF File to Google Search IndexIn the Google Search Console account for your website, navigate to the “Crawl >> Fetch as Google” tool on the left hand sidebar. Use this tool to force Google’s bots to “fetch and render” the PDF File immediately (this saves you the headache of waiting around for them to “naturally” crawl and index the PDF File). Once they’ve scanned the file (assuming you do not have any errors), hit the resulting “Submit to Index” button.That’s it! You now know how to submit PDF Files to Google’s Index and have them show up (somewhere) in Google’s Search Results Pages.
For more information on PDFs and SEO, read some of these great articles from around the web: