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I have searched to try and find out if there is any connection between the "print page" and SEO rankings and Google's indexing of the site.

To me, it seems like the websites which have messy layouts for print page have poorer results in SEO. It may be that bad CSS for print page is just side effects of bad SEO coding in general basis. But want to hear if any of you have seen any similar?

For instance "print page" in an example website I looked at gives a mess of layout, text, titles, menus and submenus. Printing 1 page on screen is 10 pages in PDF. Could it be that Google marks this as negative?

  • Some websites use extra URL for print page. This we know is very bad. But can be blocked in robot file by: Disallow: /*&action=print – easyquestions Apr 16 '18 at 13:38
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    I've never heard of Google using how a page looks when printed as a direct ranking signal. I suppose it is possible, but I think it is unlikely. – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 16 '18 at 14:38
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    @StephenOstermiller I always ask what the payoff would be. For example, How would a printed page help a search engine provide better information on the web? It doesn't. So what would be the point of putting resources into such an effort? None. Yes it is technically possible, but not worthwhile since the results would actually be a language that is interpreted by the printer. So any SE can only scrutinize printer code through a fake driver that is likely easily predictable being created by the browser. I do not see a point. Printing is not rocket science nor highly controllable. – closetnoc Apr 16 '18 at 15:36
  • I missed the PDF angle earlier. Regarding printing to PDF is absolutely not a consideration. In fact, since printing has been standardized for decades now, the results are absolutely predictable and therefore the results can be known by simply looking at the HTML/CSS code. Again I ask How does this help search? It doesn't. Therefore not a consideration. – closetnoc Apr 16 '18 at 21:10
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Google does index PDF files. So if you have a script setup that converts your pages into PDF format and the design looks very sloppy, Google might notice this. I could potentially foresee an issue arising in which Googlebot begins to crawl many of these PDF renderings and reduces a site's design because of it.

Let's say that your website has a design score of 10/10, and your PDF renderings have a design score of 0/10. If Google crawls the same number of PDF renders as it does webpages, the average score of your domain might then be 5/10.

The Googlebot algorithm does factor in website design, UX and mobile friendliness into its scoring system. And so if it attaches the design of your PDFs into that score, it could diminish your site.

Google does seem to like PDF files, and so rendering PDFs could potentially give you a ranking boost as you're giving Googlebot extra content to digest. But it's possible that poor PDFs could hit you as well.

Also, anything on your site that reduces a user's experience could negatively impact your SEO. Let's say that your pages have a large print button on them which causes a high click through percentage. And your print PDFs are a bad format. This means that a high percentage of users are going to have a bad experience because of the bad formatting. On the other hand, if the print button is obscure and small, less people will have a bad experience. Since user experience is a ranking factor, how this is implemented can effect you.

I haven't seen any studies on PDF design affecting SEO, but there is a good chance it is correlated to the same principles of overall design and UX since it does affect the user experience.

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    While they mention PDF in the question, I think they are talking about browsers "print to PDF" feature rather than hosting PDF files. – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 16 '18 at 17:50
  • @StephenOstermiller, yes this is true. I wasn't sure if Google is treating the print to PDF crawls in the same way as it does normal PDFs so I lumped them in together. If it can crawl it and those print pages are indexable, and written in a PDF format then I think it's possible it could impact SEO. An extreme case of this might be if the print pages had spam/illegal/pornography on them then Google might not want to send users to the pages linking to the print output. – Michael d Apr 16 '18 at 17:56
  • SEs do not evaluate the design of a PDF file. It just uses a filter to convert the contents into a standard textual format for indexing. When a SE fetches a resource including HTML it uses a filter process that indexes the results. For PDFs this is a fairly simple and open filter. There is no point in grading PDFs for anything other than content since this is not the primary ontology. Most of the technologies used by Google in this regard are well known and some are open source standards. – closetnoc Apr 16 '18 at 21:03
  • Anything that leads to a poor user experience can effect SEO ranking – Michael d Apr 16 '18 at 22:36

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