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If you need to serve up your information in PDF form, you need to make sure that Google gives it love it deserves.

The ‘Google visibility’ of Adobe Acrobat PDF documents is dependent both on the existence of appropriate document structure, and ensuring that information about that structure is available to Googlebot (as well as accessibility technologies such as screen readers). Adobe Acrobat PDF documents make use of tags to ‘markup’ the structure of documents.

Ideally this tagging will be done at the point of conversion from the source document. The usefulness of the tags is, however, dependent upon creating well structured source documents. In the case of MS Word, for example, this implies the consistent use of styles for adding presentation and document structure; use in-built header styles (you can modify the styling), use the in-built column and tables features rather than tabs or spaces; use in-built image captioning options to give text information about images.

Preparing source documents for best results

Use simple and straightforward layouts for best results in terms of accessibility both to bots and humans. Documents will be optimized for accessibility if the following guidelines are followed:

  • Provide alternative text for all images using format > picture > web.
  • Any wrapping apart from ‘inline’ will place the image in the reading order after all other objects on the page.
  • Similarly, all Text boxes are placed in the reading order after all other objects, like paragraphs and headings on each page.
  • To create a table, use the Insert Table Command, or Draw Table tool. (Tool bar>Table) Don’t use tabs and spaces to create tables. Avoid tables if possible.
  • Avoid using multiple columns if possible. Don’t use tabs and spaces to create columns.
  • Use common fonts: Arial, Tahoma, Verdana, Georgia, Times New Roman. Avoid symbols and special fonts.
  • Avoid overlapping text and graphics.
  • Avoid watermarks and background images.
  • Avoid blank lines. Use paragraph formatting space before and after instead.
  • Use the following styles and do so properly:
    • Hyperlink
    • Lists
    • Headings
    • Chapters
    • Tables of contents
  • Add document summary information

The document summary information is particularly important. you can add this information in Word 2007 using Prepare > Properties, and providing a Title (at least) and a Subject (can’t hurt).


Saving Google-Friendly PDFs from MS Word

Word 2000 or later supports the creation of accessible Adobe Acrobat PDFs. In Word 2007, for example, simply save as ‘PDF or XPS’ (you may need to download an add-on to allow you to do this). Select the Minimum Size option – although bear in mind that this may result in a lower quality print out, so you may want to try with and without and judge for yourself – and then select the Options button.

Select Minimum Size (alt+m) and then the Options button (alt+o)

In the Options dialog window, select Page Range of All, then under Include non-printing information select Create Bookmarks Using: > Headings and Document Structure Tags for Accessibility. Under PDF options select ISO 19005-1 compliant to enable users with older versions of Acrobat Reader to access the pdf.

seo friendly pdf creation step 2

Open the resultant PDF in Acrobat and select View > Navigation Panels > Bookmarks. You should now see the structure of your document elegantly laid out as a collapsible/expandable tree.


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Filed in Blog, April 15th, 2011. Leave a comment, or trackback from your own site. Follow comments via RSS

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