What’s Better for SEO? HTML Pages or PDF Files?

June 30, 2011 by  Filed under: SEO 

Most search engines can index PDFs while they reside on your website server. They may show up within search engine results and sometimes will provide relevant content to what you are looking for when you type in a particular keyword. What happens when you have several PDFs with lots of content that would help your SEO efforts? Should you convert them into HTML or do you just leave them as PDF files on your website?

As we all know, the search engines love relevant content. One of the essential keys to proper SEO and website optimization is content relating to your business website and relating to the keywords for which you want your website to be found. By having the right amount of relevant content and building your pages for relevance for your users, then your website is bound to perform well in the search engine results.

The main issue arises when companies have older PDF files with lots of relevant content that would work great on their company website for SEO. Rather than converting the PDFs to HTML, they opt to have download links for each PDF. Now there is nothing wrong with this method. As this article mentions earlier, the PDF files will be indexed by the search engines. It just so happens that website users prefer to read HTML content and files as opposed to PDF files. It is much easier for a user to land on a static HTML webpage which loads quickly than have to download a PDF file which may take much longer to view.

As far as SEO is concerned, why is it better to convert all of the PDFs to HTML webpages? For one thing, a PDF contains no meta tags (title tag, description tag) so the page is already at a disadvantage for SEO purposes. The meta information is another vital piece of the webpage which helps the search engines gather information about that particular webpage. These pieces will help SEO efforts, especially the title tags. Alt tags for each image will not appear within a PDF either. An HTML page will contain the option to provide alt text for each image on the page which is another important piece for SEO. Also, in order for a page to become indexed quickly within the search engine’s database, it will need to have some incoming links. Incoming to links to PDFs will not be processed like they will be on a regular HTML page and they will not be counted as backlinks.

When PDF files are indexed, they might not always be SEO friendly as sometimes text on a PDF may not render properly. This all depends on how the PDF was originally constructed. Many times, older PDF files, which were built several years ago, probably will not be read properly by the updated algorithms of the search engines.

John Ferrughelli is a founder and president of Potenture, a professional SEO company located in Roseland, New Jersey which specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click management, search engine marketing (SEM) website design and social media.

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