How to Edit a PDF File’s Title for Google Searches

Editing Title Tag in PDF Docuemnts

PDF files are indexed by Google, and they show up in its search engine result pages. It is possible to optimize PDF files for search engines. I didn’t know it was possible to specify the title for search engines as well as the meta description on a PDF file until a client informed me that his client’s name showed up in a PDF document in where it shouldn’t have. I asked my client for the name of his client, so I could run a Google search and see for myself. When I searched Google using a combination of  the site and filetype operators, that person’s name showed up in the title of a search result like so:

Google PDF Search Result

PDF Search Engine Result: Title and URL blurred to keep info anonymous

If you know about SEO, then you know that the title tag text of a website page determines the title of a webpage’s search engine result. These PDF files were initially Word documents. I had my assistant replace the names with “Client Name”, and I made the conversion from Word to PDF file. Did my assistant accidentally miss a mention? I did a quick find on Google Chrome to search for mentions of the person’s name, and I didn’t find any.

Although nothing showed up in the find results, I couldn’t stop there because that person’s name was still indexed by Google, so I opened Adobe Acrobat Pro on my computer. I went to File -> Properties, and there it was!

Search Metadata can be added in the PDF Document Properties

Search Metadata for a PDF document can be added in the Document Properties on Adobe Acrobat

This information must have transferred from the Word document to the PDF file during the conversion. If you look carefully, you’ll see that this PDF did indeed originate from a Word document. I edited the title, clicked OK, saved the PDF with a new file name, deleted the old PDF file from the server, and uploaded the new PDF to my client’s website server. There were four or five PDF files which had names in the title section of the Document Properties window, so I repeated this process for all of the PDF files.

You can add even more metadata (description, copyright info, etc) to a PDF file if you click the Additional Metadata button in the Document Properties window.

PDF Additional Metadata

Even though I deleted the old PDF files with the names of my clients’ clients on them, the old PDF file URLs were still being indexed by Google, so I added the deleted URLs to the robots.txt file of my client’s website. Within a couple of weeks, the old PDF URLs were removed from Google’s search index.

Do you perform SEO on your PDF documents? If so, what do you do? Let me know in the comments? If this blog post helped you, I’d appreciate it if you shared it or commented below. Thanks for reading.

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