Metadata: the best-kept secret in white paper SEO
Did you know: Three simple habits can instantly boost the SEO of your white papers?
A client from a huge firm confided that their white paper downloads increased 16X after she started doing what I’m about to share with you.
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.
Well, it can be—if you add in the proper metadata.
And if you don’t use any registration gate.
Don’t be put off by that word. Metadata just means “information about information.”
For example, the size, 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 just a couple of minutes to process your white paper PDF before you publish, you can vastly increase its visibility to Google and potential readers.
Here are those three habits that make all the difference.
Habit #1: Give your white paper a sensible filename
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 it’s no good 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 something that people and search engines can read, one that includes your keywords.Or why not the full title of your white paper?
Habit #2: Put your SEO keywords in the PDF
As we said earlier, 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
And here are the details on each type of software.
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 designer doesn’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 your original white paper was formatted with Word only, you can insert metadata into its PDF. Here’s how:
1. Open the Word 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. Enter a suitable file name, and click Export.
If you are handing your Word file to a designer using InDesign, you can follow steps 1 and 2 and then Save it as a regular Word file.
Your metadata should be preserved through the design process. Just test out the PDF from your designer to make sure it’s still there.
How to insert metadata using other utilities
If you’re using Windows, search the web for “how to edit PDF metadata in Windows” and take your pick of the utilities that come up.
If you have a Mac, you can’t change PDF properties using Preview. Search the web for “how to edit PDF metadata on Mac” and take your pick of the utilities that come up.
We can’t be more specific, because PDF editing tools come and go quickly.
But you’ll likely find something for free or very low cost to do the trick.
Habit #3: Check those keywords
Whatever software you use, check your keywords in the PDF 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.
Here’s how to check for metadata in a PDF.
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).
Many people worry about SEO, because no one really knows how search engines like Google will change their algorithms from one week to the next.
You need good habits, rather than magic bullets. So make sure to follow these good habits to help your ideal prospects find your white paper(s) online!
Do you have any SEO habits you always use to produce a white paper? Please share them in the Comments below.
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This is very helpful. Thank you!
Good to know, Emily! Thanks for the feedback.