Why you need HTML versions of PDF documents

Do you think that because you have a PDF document on your website, its content doesn’t need to be in a proper web page? If so, you’ve been mis-led. Google does display PDF pages in its results, but there are a number of problems with this.

Firstly, I believe they don’t rank as highly as equivalent HTML pages would; by having the content on a proper web page, you can apply normal SEO practice.

Secondly, it’s rare for PDF documents to read more easily on screen than a well-designed HTML page. In many cases, people landing on those documents won’t have the patience to try to read them. By all means include PDF documents on your website for visitors to print out on paper, but only as a secondary resource.

Finally, you don’t often know who’s looking at these documents. This is because Google Analytics or almost any other analytics application works by triggering hidden code on standard HTML web pages – they don’t record PDF documents. The normal way of measuring views of PDF documents is to count the clicks on links to them from HTML pages, and you may well have set up something like that yourself. But if website visitors arrive at a PDF document, and then leave, they’ll simply be ghosts who are never recorded in the analytics application.

I can’t offer a solution to that problem here, although I suspect it’s possible with a bit of programming. Perhaps if someone finds out the answer, they’ll kindly tell us in the comments. However, I would suggest that none of us dismiss this occurrence. Google is probably showing your PDF documents, and other sites may link to your PDF documents directly. This is probably happening more than you think, and these visitors ought to be recorded. The best way to avoid this situation is to have the visitors arriving on a web page instead.

Need an idea for some new website content in 2018? One place to start could be by making web page equivalents of any important information which is currently only presented in PDF documents.

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