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SERP Update: PDFs on Mobile

As Google continues to update what appears in the SERP and how; we are beginning to see a new feature appearing amidst mobile search results. 

After arguing that PDFs aren’t mobile-friendly in 2018, attitudes at Google have begun to change as some users report seeing the first page of a PDF appearing for some mobile searches. 

Screenshot of Google Search Results for "travel pdf", with the top result showing the first page of a PDF.

While this won’t force too many changes for brands, it’s likely that we’ll begin to see producers of PDFs working to create more attractive front pages for their documents in order to draw the users’ attention. However, more data is needed to evaluate whether PDF thumbnails impact CTR, or what causes one PDF to appear rather than another.

What this does highlight is a continuing shift towards the importance of optimizing the search experience as a whole. Marketers will need to think about how they approach PDFs as a part of the SEO ecosystem; something they’ve never had to do before. The focus must now be on making the most of all of our organic and owned media – tying them all together for the benefit of the user.

As more information and trends become apparent, we’ll be sure to update with best practices for SEO.