Think Twice Before Recommending a PDF

February 16, 2016

Why this trusty, familiar format is unfit for our new mobile-first world.

The Portable Document Format, or PDF, as most everyone has come to know it, has been in existence since…wait for it…1991. The same year the World Wide Web was invented by Al Gore! That’s 25 years ago. Yet, this little Adobe-invented format has managed to stand the test of time, and remain prevalent in our day-to-day to lives. But, is that a good thing?

Here are the key points:

  • There are far more engaging ways to share content. Videos, blog posts (like this one!), a Tweet, a Slideshare, etc. are all more engaging, interactive mediums.
  • PDFs are not indexed by search engines. Meaning, all that great content cannot be discovered organically when searching on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  • PDFs make for a poor user experience, especially on mobile. Pinch, zoom and swipe features were cool when smartphones first came out. Today, users expect more and reading PDFs on a phone or tablet is a huge pain.

So, do we stop producing PDFs altogether? I don’t believe so.

There are still good use cases for PDFs, such as lead-gen incentives (so long as the content is truly worthwhile) and certain long-form content. The above points should remind us though that in some cases, resorting to a PDF can cost you…big time, and in more ways than one. If we seek to be modern marketers, then we should be considering the many other available, and far more engaging, content formats and channels before we say, “Let’s make a PDF.”

Hanley Wood Marketing
430 First Avenue North
Suite 550
Minneapolis, MN 55401


Vince Giorgi


Front Desk