Case Study – The truth about PDFs and link building

There are tons of discussions on the web about the PDF files and SEO. I had read opinions by dozens of SEO’s about making link buildings with PDF files, mainly regarding the Page Rank. Some say’s it’s working, some – the opposite. Well, with all due respect – everything on this topic is just talk. Suggestions, suggestions, suggestions… So i decided to conduct one experiment and to find out the truth about this topic. Is the PDF going to improve your link building strategy? Are the PDF links passing PR juice? Are they an effective Link Building tool? I won’t talk about the marketing side of the PDF documents – as you know one great E-Book or brochure, filled with great content, could do miracles. There are many cases about great success with just one PDF document. Anyhow, the point of this case study is to show the technical side of the PDF files, no matter if they are E-Books, catalogs or anything else. So read carefully and find out the truth… finally.

The facts – Google loves PDF files!

PDF files could get very high Page Rank in a matter of months. It’s a fact – Google loves them. With great PDF file you could achieve PR bigger than your best page. Actually one of our customers uploaded several PDF files on his website, which had PR3 on his homepage. The PDF files were uploaded in his blog, which had a PR1 at the time. 3 months later 1 of these files got PR6, 3 were PR5 and 4 get PR4. The interesting part – all of these brochures were linked from his article in the blog (PR0 for the article itself).  Great achievement without any work!

The idea is born – Get this PR juice!

In the moment i saw this huge PR on his documents i get this idea – how to use it to improve the overall Page Rank of the website (don’t judge me – they were times when everything was “Get this PR, it’s a big deal!”. I started to read dozens of articles on the web about the PDF documents and link building. There were a lot of discussions about this at the time. The only problem were – nobody knew for real if these PDF’s pass the precious Page Rank. Some said “Google don’t see the links in the PDF’s”, some – the opposite. At this point i decided to make an experiment and to see the truth.

The setup

One year ago I bought one domain for this experiment ( I created one static page with some text on it, it still stay as it is. Because the truth experiment were if the PDF files could pass PR juice i didn’t do any SEO – no link building, no social networks, nothing. I wanted this domain pure. Armed with this clean website i was ready for the next step.

The PDF Links

Because i had no PDF’s online (at least none with huge Page Rank) i needed some help. That’s why i ask 2 friends for help – the first one were, the second one were one great blog (unfortunately non-existing at the moment). I get exactly 10 PDF files from them – one PR0, two PR2, one PR3, four PR5 and two PR6 PDF documents (5 brochures, 2 product catalogs and 3 E-books) – most of them with unique great content. At the time the websites themselves were both PR3 websites. I just added links to my experimental clean domain, removing any other links. The next step, of course, were re-uploading the altered versions.

Waiting for the next PR updates

And now we wait… it was long waiting. I was checking for update every single day, just because i was anxious to see the results. And the Page Rank update came several months later. The results – none… There were some shifting in the PDF’s – now they were 3 PR3, 5PR4, one PR5 and one PR6. I didn’t lost faith – at least the PR were there for the files. Fast check on several different resources for the backlinks – they were indexed. Every single link from every single PDF file were detected by Google. So i decided to wait some more… until the next PR update.  And the next one… and the next one… Every time the results were the same – some minor shifts in the PDF’s page rank and none for my pure clean domain. Four updates and none of this juice got to my domain.

So it was clear. And eventually forgotten. Until today, when one of our customers saw PR7 on one of his E-books and asked me for advise how to use it. That’s why i decided to write this case study and to save hours of work for everybody trying this.


PDF files don’t pass Page Rank – case solved! Don’t waste your time and efforts trying to get PR juice from your PDF documents. After all – it’s not important if your website have great Page Rank. It’s important to have great content. If you want to make some E-book or any other kind of PDF documents – do it for the content, for the value and for the marketing!

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Founder at FortSEO
SEO Specialist, Web Marketer, part-time WP Design Freelancer. Otherwise regular guy who loves beer.

One Comment

  • EmPetkov

    November 20, 2014, 7:10 pm

    If you have any questions – feel free to ask :)

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