PDFs — short for Portable Document Format and made famous by Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader tool — are great for distributing documents electronically in a format that simulates printed material. However, PDFs make terrible web content. It’s tempting to toss up a link to a PDF on your website because you can add content quickly, especially formatted content like newsletters. But for website visitors, accessing the content in a PDF is a huge hurdle. Here’s 5 reasons why:
1. No navigation
PDFs don’t have navigation or menus that can cross link the information 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 typically designed or formatted for reading on paper. They are also often paginated in spreads or pages that make it difficult to navigate and read in a web browser, especially if your visitors are on a mobile device.
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 from search engines and makes it difficult for users to access it.
4. Not sharable
PDFs aren’t great on social media. You can post them, but you lose a lot of the social media preview and sharing benefit you get by posting a link to a web page. 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 won’t read more than the title and alt tags 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’ve written, try this instead. Take the content you have in a PDF and put it on an actual page of your website and then link to those pages. This means a little more time reformatting the content for screen reading. But it’s also a great chance to add subheads, shorten articles and add links to other parts of your website and contact information. 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.