Benefits of Optimizing Downloadable Assets

John Knox October 21, 2014

Just like webpages, your pdfs if developed and optimized properly, can rank in the search engines. Most websites have assets, such as infographics, brochures, eBooks and whitepapers, that prospects can download, print and take with them.  Not all of these assets are the same.  Image heavy infographics will have a harder time being ranked while textual whitepapers and eBooks can easily be optimized.

Optimizing your Assets

In this article, we are going to explore what you can do to get these assets crawled, indexed and ranking in the search engines.  If you don’t have the time and/or resources to turn them into webpages, there are a few basic factors to consider for encouraging maximum exposure in the search engines.

First, you need a tool that allows you to edit your assets.  We recommend using Adobe Acrobat Pro.  This will allow you to add titles, descriptions, author information, and keywords and make textual edits. Once you have your editing tool, we can start optimizing the assets.

Textual PDFs – The search engines can’t index images. The best results will come from optimizing textual assets such as eBooks, whitepapers and brochures. Be sure that the words in your PDF are basic, copy-and-paste able text and are not just pictures of words.

Keyword Research – Just like optimizing a webpage, it is important that you theme the asset around search demand.  Be sure to conduct keyword research and map the appropriate keyword to the PDF.  When optimizing for a web page, you will want to ensure the keywords are relevant to the content on the page and are included in the text.

Document properties – In Adobe Acrobat Pro, open the document properties. Be sure to include the following.

  1. Document Title – Add the keyword towards the beginning of the Title. Be sure not to exceed 65 characters with spaces.
  2. Author: This will be the company name.
  3. Description: Even though the descriptions don’t hold a ton of weight in regards to SEO, please add a detailed description not exceeding 155 characters with spaces.


URL/filename – Typically, we recommend giving your PDF a good keyword-rich, filename. For example, the PDF above should be named as follows. Here are a few examples of good and bad file names.

  • Bad: eBook6798465.pdf
  • Bad: eBook.pdf
  • Good: seo-asset-optmization-eBook.pdf
  • Excellent: 2014-smartsearch-seo-asset-optimization-eBook.pdf

Follow SEO Best Practices – In addition to optimizing title, descriptions and copy, we recommend integrating the following best practices into your PDF optimization.

  • Internal linking – link from the corporate site to the PDF page. This is a great way to obtain additional authority. Also, consider adding hyperlinks in your PDF to relevant content on the corporate site.
  • Good keyword selection – be sure to consider longer tail less competitive phrases. Predictive search is good for finding new long tail opportunities.
  • Image optimization (note: consider adding alt text)
  • Optimization of content (Ensure the page is properly themed with the appropriate keyword. Meaning, the keyword is placed throughout the page according to best practice.)

Ensure the file size is light – Be sure to use the “PDF Optimizer” to reduce the file size. The larger the file size, the longer the load time. This may affect the user experience and search engine crawlibility.

Avoid duplicate content – If you are considering both HTML and PDF versions of a particular asset, be sure to take measures that eliminate duplicate content issues. This is as easy as adding a canonical tag, disallowing in the robots or noindex meta.

Don’t let downloadable assets just sit on your site and be a wasted opportunity.  Take the time to optimize your pdfs, eBooks, whitepapers and brochures.  You will find they will attract, engage and convert new prospects.

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