I can’t believe my white papers weren’t search engine optimized

I can’t believe my white papers weren’t search engine optimized


Change is inevitable – and there’s nothing worse than hanging onto an idea that’s been surpassed.

All great technology has a moment when it’s poised to take over but there are still people who need to be convinced that it’s great. That’s where we are with mobile technology.

And there’s also technology that’s had its day and should move out of the limelight and give way to something better. That’s how we at Readz feel about PDFs. It’s technology built for the desktop that doesn’t always meet the needs of a generation of mobile device users.

We’re not denying that PDFs were once great. Before they came along in the early 1990s, there was no easy way to create a document that people could read whether their computer used Windows, Mac Os, Linux or something else. And there was no easy way to take content that only existed in print and make it available to the growing numbers of computer users. But these days there are better publishing methods that are more suited to the type of audience we have now. And those methods bring major benefits to mobile content marketers, especially those concerned about SEO.

The fact is that more and more of the reading public will be using mobile devices as an accompaniment to – or even driver of – their daily routines. We’ve previously published research showing the scale of mobile device adoption and Mobile Device Usageuse. Mobile devices are used throughout the day not only for checking email, but for reading news, doing research, shopping online, reading documents, and updating social networking sites. And there will be more mobile devices than people by the start of 2014 (maybe there already are). So does it still make sense to publish all your content on PDFs?

No, it doesn’t.

In the past, PDFs have been a favorite tool for publishers producing long-form content such as white papers, research reports and digital magazines. But they are rarely properly search engine optimized, suffering from issues like:

  • being heavily image based – search engines can’t read text in images
  • having no properties, such as a title and description
  • no internal links

The large file size of image heavy PDFs is also a turn-off and could send mobile device users bouncing away from your content.

So what’s the answer?

If you’re planning to engage audiences with long form content like white papers, then web apps are your best bet for both readability and SEO.

Just as desktop publishing revolutionized the publishing industry in the 1980s, web apps is doing the same today. A web app solves many of the problems of PDFs.

  • Where PDFs are available in a fixed size and can be difficult to resize on a mobile device, a white paper published with the right web app solution will resize and reflow according to the device screen making it easy for anyone to read it wherever they are and whatever device they happen to be using.
  • A PDF white paper can be difficult to navigate using on-screen controls, but a web app solution using HTML5 and other modern web technologies makes navigation easy for mobile device users.
  • Most importantly, this type of solution offers great SEO, allowing content marketers and publishers to cater for the latest SEO requirements with semantic content markup, compelling titles and descriptions and more. Unlike a PDF white paper, this makes it easier for users to find your content.

Web app technology also offers other advantages for long form content publishers and marketers. You can easily tweak your mobile content marketing strategy based on in-depth data about how audiences interact with every long form content publishing piece of content. Imagine being able to see which part of your white paper appealed to your customers most, and which piece of data they thought was worth sharing. You can do that with a web app.

Speaking of sharing, web apps allow you to get even more SEO benefit. Google uses social signals as a ranking factor so the more your content is shared, the better it is for search rankings.

The truth is that when you’re looking for a white paper publishing solution which offers SEO benefits, PDFs have lost their competitive advantage. Stick with them and you will too. Some marketers and content producers have already caught on and have shifted to a mobile first content strategy; don’t wait until it’s too late to do the same.


Our blog highlights delivered bi-monthly to your inbox
Subscribe to email updates
Our blog highlights delivered bi-monthly to your inbox

Builder. Marketer. Technologist. CEO @Readz | The one-stop solution for brands to create interactive brand content for the web | organic foodie beerie | paleo | cyclist | Los Angeles