Did you know, three simple habits will instantly boost the SEO of your white papers?
A client recently told us that her downloads increased by 1,600% after she started doing what I’m about to share with you.
So read on to learn some exciting but little-known secrets about SEO and white papers.
To start, many people don’t realize that a PDF on a website can be indexed by Google and other search engines… if you add in the proper metadata.
Don’t be put off by that word. Metadata just means “information about information.”
For example, the size or creation date or format of a file. Or the keywords that apply to that file’s contents (hint, hint). But not the actual content of the file.
By spending a couple minutes to process your white paper PDF before you publish, you can vastly increase its visibility to Google and your potential readers.
Here are those three habits that make all the difference.
Habit #1: Give your file a sensible name
Most designers and agencies use some naming system to keep track of their files. So do many content departments at corporations. That’s fine for internal purposes, but not when you finally publish a white paper on the web.
Don’t give a white paper a filename that makes no sense to man nor beast, like:
Instead, rename your PDF file to something that people and search engines can read, one that includes your keywords or even the full title of your white paper:
Habit #2: Put your SEO keywords in the PDF
As we said earlier, web spiders can index PDFs on the web so that they show up in search results. That’s why you should always include your chosen keywords in any white paper you post online.
You can enter metadata into any PDF using:
- Adobe Acrobat Pro (the paid-for, not free version)
- recent versions of Word
- a neat little Mac OS utility called CombinePDFs
How to insert metadata using Adobe Acrobat Pro
1. Open the PDF with Acrobat Pro and select File > Properties.
2. On the Description panel, in the Document Properties dialog, enter your preferred title, author, subject, and keywords (separated by commas) in the appropriate text boxes.
3. Click OK.
4. Select File > Save.
How to insert metadata using InDesign
If you have InDesign, you can insert metadata in your white paper file and then generate a fresh PDF. Every white paper designer should know how to do this!
If your designers don’t, share the following process with them:
1. Open the white paper file with InDesign and select File > File Info.
2. In the File Info dialog box, enter your preferred document title, author, description, and keywords (separated by commas) in the appropriate text boxes. Then click OK.
3. Select File > Save to save your updated file.
4. Then select File > Export.
5. In the Export dialog, select Adobe PDF with your regular PDF options. Then click OK.
How to insert metadata using Word
If you have a recent version of Word, you can insert metadata in a more roundabout way. Here’s how:
1. Open the white paper file with Word, and select File > Properties…
2. In the Properties panel, select Summary.
3. Enter your preferred title, subject, and keywords (separated by commas) in the appropriate text boxes. Then click OK.
3. Select Save As and then select PDF.
4. Navigate to the folder you want, enter a suitable file name, and click Export.
How to insert metadata using your Mac
If you have a Mac, you can use Adobe Acrobat or InDesign as described earlier.
Unfortunately, you can’t change PDF properties using Preview.
You can use a nifty piece of freeware that makes up for the limitations of Preview, called Combine PDFs. You can download it here: http://monkeybreadsoftware.de/Freeware/CombinePDFs.shtml
When you have Combine PDFs running, do this:
1. Select File > Add Files.
2. In the Open dialog, select the white paper PDF and click Open, then select Options > Add Metadata.
3. In the Add Metadata dialog, enter your preferred title, author, subject, and keywords (separated by commas). Then click OK.
4. Click Merge PDFs in the lower-right corner.
5. In the Save dialog, enter a file name and click Save.
Note that CombinePDFs is shareware, so after you process 1,000 pages with it, it asks you to pay for a license.
If you’ve used it that much, you should shell out for it.
Habit #3: Check those keywords
Whatever software you use, check your keywords after you finish to make sure everything worked.
You can see—but not change—the keywords and other metadata in any PDF. What you see depends on the software you use.
Here’s what you see with Adobe Acrobat Pro from my infographic on white papers.
Using Windows and the free Adobe Reader
Open the PDF, select File > Properties, and click the Description tab. You can see the existing title, author, subject, and keywords (if any).
Using Mac OS with Preview
Open the PDF, select Tools > Show Inspector, and click the magnifying glass button. You can see the existing keywords (if any).
It can be easy to panic about SEO, because no one really knows how search engines like Google will change their criteria from one week to the next.
Good habits, rather than magic bullets, are what you need to be sure your ideal customers find your white paper online. So make sure to follow these good habits!
Do you have any SEO habits you always use to produce a white paper? Please share them in the Comments below.