To PDF or Not to PDFYou have some content to publish on a website. Should you present that content within a PDF file or on a web page?

All things equal, go with the web page. Here’s why…

PDF files are bad for Search Engine Optimization

You cannot optimize a PDF file in the same way that you can optimize a web page. With a web page, you can designate a title, description, and set of keywords related to that page. Additionally, you can construct the page in such a way as to highlight the most important content. Google and the other search engines can read PDF documents, but you have less control over how the page is read.

PDF files take the visitor off of your website

When you have a link to a PDF file on your website, the user must leave your website to view the PDF file. Even if you set the target at blank so that a new tab is opened to view the file, the user is still momentarily removed from your website. PDF files do not contain navigation bars to let your users know how to continue navigating your website.

Oftentimes, PDF files must be downloaded

Unless your user is accessing your website from an updated version of a browser, the PDF file will likely download to the users computer. If the PDF file is large or the user’s internet connection is slow, this could take a while. Also, you’re having your user download something when they might not even have been aware that the link led to a PDF file.

No tracking

You cannot track a PDF file in the same way that you can track traffic to your web pages. On a web page, you can determine the links clicked on that page, how users got to that page, and where they went after visiting that page. This is not as clear cut when using a PDF file.


There is a time and place for PDF Files. They are great to use if you are putting together a large report or if the information has complex charts and graphs. Also, you should never send someone a Word Document or link to one from your website if the recipient is to print the document. In that case, you should always turn the Word Document into a PDF file before sending. That way, the file will print correctly and the recipient will not be able to make edits to the file before printing.


The content above is from a presentation given at the Metro Atlanta Chamber on Monday, June 24, 2013 by @ErikRostad

Erik Rostad

Author Erik Rostad

Erik Rostad started EPR Creations in May 2008. He works with universities, international organizations, and executives on their online presence.

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