A PDF — short for Portable Document Format and made famous by Adobe's free Acrobat Reader tool — is great for distributing documents that need to be printed or shared via email. However, PDFs are not great to use as web content. It is tempting to use a PDF on your website because it makes it easy to add content quickly, especially formatted content like newsletters. But for readers, PDFs make accessing that content difficult. Here’s why:
1. No navigation
PDFs do not have scrolling or navigation bars that can relate to the information or to the rest of your website. PDFs are a navigational dead end.
2. Formatted for print
People tend to skim more on screen than in print, so web content needs to be formatted with that in mind. PDFs are formatted for reading on paper. They also can be paginated, in spreads or pages that make it difficult to navigate and read.
3. Not searchable
If your website has a search feature, the only part of the PDF that can be found in the search is the title. So if your newsletter includes important information, users will be unable to find it unless they happen to search for words in the PDF title. This buries good content and makes it difficult for users to access it.
4. Not sharable
PDFs are hard to share on social media. You can post them, but why do that when you can post a link to the website. Once again, using the right tool for your website makes it easier for your users to find and access your information.
5. Search engines don’t like them
Like the search bar on your website, search engines can’t read more than the title of your PDF. This undermines search engine rankings and makes your content less effective in boosting your SEO.
If you want people to read what you have written, try this instead. Take your newsletter, or whatever content you have in a PDF, and put it on actual pages of your website and then link to those pages. This means a little more time reformatting the content for screen reading. This also a great chance to add subheads or shorten articles. If you want your website users to be able to find, read and share your content, banishing PDFs on your website is a great start.