Should You Use PDFs in Place of a Web Page?
The purpose of a PDF is written in its name—it stands for Portable Document Format. Adobe Acrobat designed PDFs to open with the same formatting and content across all operating systems. This makes PDFs ideal for content that requires graphics and text to remain in the same position, usually meant to be viewed as a hard-copy. Although Adobe has since developed features that support PDF editing (form-fills, e-signing, etc.), the PDF was originally praised for its consistency—especially in printing. Keeping this in mind, these are the pros and cons of PDFs:
- Formatting consistency (on-screen and printed)
- Inexpensive to create
- Accessible without internet
- Font, images, and other elements are embedded (independent of browser)
- Fewer, more costly interactive features
- Requires a PDF reader to open
- Files can become excessively large
- Less opportunity for SEO and data analytics
What is HTML to SEO?
HTML is a web language. Websites are interactive, so web developers use HTML to make interactive elements—buttons, moving graphics, videos, and the like. One major difference between HTML and PDFs is file structure. While all elements are embedded in a PDF (this is necessary for its primary purpose of consistency), HTML stitches together a collection of files from an external source(s). From an SEO standpoint, this is often a positive—each individual piece can be easily tracked and crawled by search engines. It is also positive from a user experience perspective, which values the viewer’s ability to adjust her own on-screen experience by, for example, changing the browser size. In turn, she can read content with shorter or longer line lengths as she pleases. The biggest downfall of the HTML file structure is its dependence on browser and operating system compatibility for, say, fonts. However, assuming the HTML is properly developed and is compatible, the format is highly adaptable and adjusts to almost any platform.
- Highly interactive
- Adaptable to most browsers/operating systems
- More opportunity for SEO
- Can include rich media (videos, audio, etc.)
- Adjustable on-screen appearance
- Dependent on browser/operating system compatibility
- Not designed for consistency when printing/saving to local drive
- Difficult to access without internet
When to use PDFs instead of HTML
As a rule of thumb, HTML is a better option than PDFs when it comes to search engine optimization. However, there are a few instances where PDFs can be beneficial:
- Content meant to be printed (or viewed as printed on-screen)
- Content containing special symbols, especially for math
These instances assume you’re starting from scratch; you haven’t made HTML or PDFs for your content yet. Of course, every situation is unique. If you already have a few well-designed PDFs on your site that are getting traction, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t create HTML for them instead—just make sure they’re as SEO-friendly as they can be.
Checklist for Optimizing PDFs for SEO
- Create a relevant title tag
- Use text-based PDFs
- Include alt tags for images
- Add internal links and backlinks
- Select relevant keywords
- Reduce file size
Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized the way we experience online content. Website design has become simpler, and content has been rearranged to display the most meaningful information first. With mini computers floating in pockets everywhere, search engine optimization (SEO) for mobile sites is crucial to harnessing the potential of any business.
What to consider when optimizing for mobile
Some elements of mobile-friendly sites are more important than others. However, the most successful websites incorporate all of them. A customer’s online experience with a company is often the first one, so website optimization is no less important than more tangible investments. Below are some basic tips to get you started.
For mobile devices, less is more. It’s frustrating to navigate a confusing website on a desktop, but it’s not even tolerable on a 5-inch screen using only your fingers. Be clear about what you want your visitors to know about your business—don’t crowd the message with unnecessary information or too many buttons.
Effective design layouts incorporate optimized images, text and column formatting, and content prioritization. Exploring the site should feel intuitive—after all, it is literally hands on.
Mobile users are on-the-go. They won’t wait for more than a few seconds to swipe back to the search engine results page (SERP) and try a different site. Since smartphones and tablets have less room for processing hardware and are more prone to connectivity issues, website structure holds a much heavier weight in terms of loading speed.
Optimizing images for size is one of the first and easiest ways to increase page speed and improve your mobile SEO. You can also reduce or optimize special effects, but don’t use Adobe Flash as it isn’t universally supported on mobile. Take advantage of the browser cache. Remember that easy access to relevant information is more important than neat tricks—everyone is trying to accomplish something.
Meta descriptions and headings
This comes back to content prioritization. Mobile screens can’t display as much information at a time as desktop computers, so revising titles and descriptions to fit on smaller devices is key in driving mobile traffic from SERPs. When users enter your site, they should experience the same prioritization. Don’t make your visitors guess where they should click next. Trial and error is too tedious for the mobile environment, and consistency is key in SEO.
Research continues to support heavy local traffic in mobile searches and sites. Be sure your company is registered with Google My Business and place your contact information somewhere obvious on your site. This includes address, phone number, and whatever else is relevant to your visitors. How can users benefit from your business right now?
Include a link to the full desktop site
While the ultimate goal is to create an adequate mobile site for users, providing a link to the full desktop version ensures that viewers can access what they’re looking for, even if they have to take the long way. The link should be easy to find but not distracting. The bottom of the home page is a good place to start.
Finally, be sure to test your mobile site for optimization regularly. This tool by Think with Google can tell you how well your site is performing.
Want to learn more about SEO? Check out our other posts:
Maintaining Local SEO with Multiple Locations
Maintaining local SEO may be difficult for multi-location businesses. Small inconsistencies, website bugs, or lack of a location page can diminish your local SEO score. That being said, there are some tips while setting up a website with multiple locations that will prevent companies from taking a big hit in local SEO.
The first major key to maintaining local SEO with multiple businesses is properly setting up a Google My Business (GMB) page. Google My Business is a program run by Google that links other programs such as Google Search and Google Maps. GMB is essential to building local SEO for all businesses. When working with multiple business locations, multiple GMB profiles are necessary. And the key element (and where some businesses overlook) is consistency. Making sure that each profile is consistent with information on each GMB page is essential to building and maintaining local SEO. When setting up separate profiles, double check to make sure that every element that each location shares, is the same throughout. 
There are a couple of options when setting up websites for local SEO. The first option is to set up separate URLs within the main website for each individual location. According to Google’s head of web spam Matt Cutts, each location should get its own unique URL and each page and their respective URL should be included in your sitemap to help Google and other search engines index the content. The second option is creating separate websites for each location. Managing multiple websites may be costly and a pain, but it could make a big difference in the user experience (being local) and also bring in relevant traffic. By having multiple websites, you can tailor information and keywords to each certain location. Keep in mind that many Google searches include a city followed by a service, so having specific pages set up to locations may generate more hits. One thing to be cautious about while setting up multiple websites is carrying over too much information between sites. It’s alright to carry basic information over, but the point of having multiple websites is to be able to tailor the information to each location. Each website should be unique to its location for a more personable user experience.
Think of ways to share your involvement with your community.
Local SEO is a very important aspect of online marketing. Maintaining local SEO quickly becomes tricky while dealing with multiple locations. While trying to optimize local SEO, remember to take great caution while setting up Google My Business profiles. Make sure every similarity between locations is consistent. Setting up URLs or unique websites for each location is also very important. Keeping these tips in mind while working with multiple locations will assist in better local SEO.
Written by: Kody Gerard