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I'm entirely new to SEO, and have just launched a personal website. I have a number of writing samples on the site that I put in as images. It seems obvious that a search engine won't be able to parse the words in the images, and it seems equally obvious that it should be able to parse the words in some way.

Is there a way to embed the text in the pages behind the scenes, perhaps? Or is there a common way to handle this?

  • Many browsers won't show embedded PDFs, so using them as images as suggested in your title isn't a solution with good enough browser support for most users. If they are writing samples, why don't you just put them in as HTML? – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 18 '18 at 10:58
  • @StephenOstermiller That was an option that I considered, and it seemed that it would be a better solution in pure terms. But I already had them in pdfs and in the interest of time I didn't want to fool around with all the formatting that would be required to write them from scratch. (I've spent two months building the site and I was beginning to burn out.) I could export them as HTML from the doc file, but that doesn't usually play well with WordPress in my experience. Next version, perhaps. – BobRodes Apr 19 '18 at 4:30
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If you include the actual written text in the PDF, search engines are pretty good at parsing and indexing that content. The only problem is if you have scanned your writing (as an image, without OCR) or otherwise saved the PDFs in a way that the PDF only contains images.

Typically if you really want your text indexed, on-page HTML is still best, but if you prefer PDFs for whatever reason - perhaps many of your visitors want to download printable copies - just make sure you use live text and use a decent PDF generator, such as Office's "save as PDF" or Acrobat Pro - and search engines shouldn't have any problems.

  • I tried pdfs and didn't like the scrolling characteristics, especially on mobile devices. So I set them up as png files. HTML is probably a better solution, but slower to set up (?) – BobRodes Apr 19 '18 at 4:32
  • Yes - Google will look at the alt text of your pngs, and its AI may actually be starting to "read" some text, but actual HTML text remains the most widely accessible content. Also keep in mind any users who may be using screen readers or other assistive technology to access your website - throwing text into PNGs means they won't be able to access the content at all, and depending on your industry and location, this can run you into Section 508 and ADA violations. – WebElaine Apr 19 '18 at 13:13
  • Thanks. I'll keep that in mind. Looks like changing the images to HTML is on the list for the next version. – BobRodes Apr 22 '18 at 0:24
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If the pdfs are plain text, you don't need to do anything specifically. If they are mostly, or all, images, Google will even OCR the pdf and try to index it. To be doubly confident on that front, you can add alt text to images in the pdf –– not the html alt-text, but the alt-text field that you find in Adobe Acrobat.

And straight from the horse's mouth, the horse being Matt Cutts of Google:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDzq-94lcWQ

  • They're images, though, not pdfs. – BobRodes Apr 19 '18 at 4:26

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