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Online Press Release Attachments: Word Doc vs. PDF

We had a discussion recently with our sister firm, Brandon Advertising, about online press release formats.

They had a couple of questions:
  • Do Word document properties show up in PDFs anywhere that Google can index them?
  • Should they use Word documents or PDFs when we put press releases online?  This applies to both attachments on press release distribution services like PRWeb.com and to documents placed on clients' own websites.

The first question was about Word documents converted to PDFs. 

Do the 'properties' of a word document show up in the converted PDF's properties?

I tested this, and the only thing that transferred was the author name.  Check the author name in the DOC before converting it if you're worried about this.  There is a space for keywords in the PDF document properties- the word on the SEO street is that Google does check this metadata, so if you use PDF's, you should include keywords there- if it's an SEO client, you should use the most relevant in your list of the client's target keywords- you do have analytics-based target keywords, don't you?  And by you, I mean YOU, fair blog reader.  Our SEO clients already do.

Now to the best press release format question:

Should you use a Word DOC or a PDF for your press releases?

This man on a PR rant will tell you "Neither, HTML!"  And he's right if it's on a client website.  However, Google likes sites to have a variety of document types, so I would say use both HTML and a PDF version too.  That's nice for people who want to print it.

As for the SEO implications, we see PDFs come up a lot more in search results, and we did a survey to check if that was just because they were used more.  We confirmed that for whatever reasons, PDFs rank better than DOCs. 

Another tip on PDF SEO, change the doc title to take out MS Word or anything else extraneous.  You want your target keywords there.

More details about our PDF vs DOC SEO survey:

We felt pretty clever about this.  We used the google search parameter 'filetype' on about 15 keywords (some general, some long tail) to first see how many PDFs there were and how many DOCs indexed for each keyword.  Then we checked how many of the top ten of both filetypes were PDFs and DOCs.

Filetype:OR Top Ten
Keyword Doc PDF PDF:Doc Doc PDF PDF:Doc
Golf 688,000 622,000 1 0 10 n/a
beach family resorts 4,690 10,500 2 1 9 8.181818
Tourism 201,000 532,000 3 0 10 n/a
Real Estate 188,000 610,000 3 0 10 n/a
SEO 74,300 263,000 4 1 9 8.181818
search engine marketing 104,000 435,000 4 1 9 8.181818
Hotels 146,000 615,000 4 0 10 n/a
myrtle beach real estate 2,750 12,200 4 1 9 8.181818
Realty 34,100 334,000 10 0 10 n/a
Myrtle Beach 7,190 88,100 12 0 10 n/a
Condo 19,000 269,000 14 0 10 n/a
Google 141,000 2,200,000 16 0 10 n/a
chuck norris jokes 59 1,250 21 4 6 1.463415
fuel interactive myrtle beach 87 2,070 24 0 7 n/a
golf vacation packages 505 17,400 34 0 10 n/a
Marketing 443,000 17,300,000 39 1 9 8.181818

In every case, there were more DOCs than PDFs.  But in most cases, there were about 20 times as many PDFs indexed, so we wanted to be sure PDFs weren't ranking higher just out of sheer numerical predominance.  Where the numbers of PDFs and DOCs were similar (within one order of magnitude), the number of PDFs in the top ten was still 9 or 10.  Only the keyword chuck norris jokes demonstrated a situation where the DOC might be considered the winner, and then only by comparison... but of course, we always expect chuck norris to create exceptional results.

I wouldn't say this is authoritative, because we need a much larger sample, but it was good enough to be about 85% sure.  (Note my baseless use of a convincing percentile quantification of my qualitative gut decision that we were right.)

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