A PDF or a Web Page?

pdf

You’ve got some great content that you want to put on your website. Should you create a PDF and upload it, or build a web page?

Here are the points to consider as you make that decision:

  • Search Remember, your PDF may not be readable by search engines. This is certainly true if it’s a scanned document or an old PDF file. That doesn’t always matter. For example, you might have information you want to share only with the press, patient forms, or other documents that simply don’t matter for search. You might also have duplicate content you want to include, whether it’s a great article from another website you own or manufacturer’s specs. Making such documents unavailable to search engines is good SEO practice. However, you do need to keep in mind that PDF documents won’t enhance the value of your website from the point of view of search the way a new web page will.
  • Inbound marketing If you’re offering content in exchange for permission to add prospective customers to your mailing list, it’s not wise to make the same content readily available through search. Make your white paper or other documents into PDF files and swap access for contact information.
  • Tech issues Puerto Rico Report, one of our clients, has an absolute treasure trove of historical documents, all uploaded as PDFs. Retyping them into searchable web pages could certainly benefit researchers, but scanned historical documents are also of value — and no volunteers have stepped up to offer to do all that typing. On the other side of the coin, if you don’t have a good web designer at hand, you might be able to make your document look the way you want it to in a PDF with the software you already own, but creating a web page would be an investment.
  • Future changes Do you want to be able to use the same document in the future, and to make changes yourself or have them made quickly and economically by your web team? A web page in WordPress is your friend. Web pages can be updated quickly. PDF files have to be created anew. Equally, a PDF shows a historical document in its original form, and may be more valuable as evidence than a web page which might have been changed.
  • Analytics Just as you can create a searchable PDF, you can configure your web analytics to get some data from your PDF files. It is still true, however, that you can get more insights more easily with a web page than with a PDF download.
  • Printing Some populations will print out a document to carry to a meeting, to file, or for other uses. We make  PDF brochures for some clients because they know that their target population likes to be able to print them. We make PDF files so doctors can print them out and physically give them to patients. We make ebooks as PDFs so people have the option to print out an attractive document to keep for future study. You can make a printable web page, but PDFs are easier and typically look better.

These considerations should help you make the decision with confidence.

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