Are PDF Files Indexed by Google?

Yes. PDF files are indexed by Google and other search engines.

Following up on a question from a reader (Optimize PDF Files For Websites and Search Engines), as I note there, one way to see if a PDF on your website has been indexed by Google is to copy a long line of text from the PDF, and then put it into the Google search box — with double quotes on either end. You can do this to find any particular document or page available on the Web — as long as it has been indexed (scanned or “spidered” and catalogued) by Google.

For example, if you Google “Enter an estimate of your 2008 nonwage income (such as dividends or interest)” with the double quotes on either end, Google offers you a link to a PDF of IRS Form W-4 for 2008. This shows that the 2008 W-4 PDF document has been indexed. (Incidentally, Google also offers you a link to the page you are reading right now since it contains the same string of text.)

Another way to see if a PDF has been indexed by Google is to use the “site:url” query modifier. This is a handy trick when you want to narrow your search to one domain. If I Google [] – without the brackets, Google lists every page in my site that has been indexed. If I Google [ web] – without the brackets, Google lists every page in my site that contains the word “web”. And, as a helpful reader points out below, you can Google [ filetype:pdf] – without the brackets, to see if there are any PDF files on the website that have been indexed by Google. (Be sure not to put a space between “filetype:” and “pdf”.)

I don’t have any PDFs on my site. Try it with another domain to see an actual positive result. To see if a particular PDF on my website has been indexed, I can Google [ “some word or phrase in the PDF”] – without the brackets. Of course, you can also Google [ myfilename.pdf] to do the same.

Returning to the Form W-4 example, Google [ “Enter an estimate of your 2008 nonwage income (such as dividends or interest)”] and Google lists one and only one result: the PDF on the IRS website.

Something fairly amazing: Google knows every phrase in that PDF and in any other document or web page it has indexed. That’s a lot of information.

The other question in the post mentioned above was whether a PDF would be indexed if it were encrypted or had other security settings applied to it. If you have Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional, you can answer this question yourself.

Open a PDF and then open the Document Properties dialog box (File > Properties…). Click on the Security tab, and you see the various security options. There are different security options depending on which version of Acrobat Reader you want your PDF to be compatible with. The dialog box tells you if search engines will be able to read all or only some parts of the PDF (e.g. metatags or attachments) when you select the various options. If the PDF can’t be read by search engines, it won’t be indexed.

For those interested, here is more information about Google query modifiers like “site:url”.

Click here » if you would like to find out about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services offered by McBuzz.

Comments: 8


Shucks! I learn something new here all the time.


It’s always great to hear from readers. And an exclamation like ‘Shucks!’ is just icing on the cake.

From the looks of your website, you do some web marketing yourself, but if there are any questions the McBuzz crew might be able to answer, give us a shout.

Thanks for reading!

The easiest way to determine which pdfs Google has indexed is to use this search format ! filetype:pdf

It’s not too surprising they index PDF’s. My guess is that they simply convert them all to plain text/basic HTML – and then use their standard Googlebrain to index those files.

Good post! filetype:pdf in google didn’t work….Or am I missin something?

Thanks for commenting. I’m not sure what you mean here by the example “ filetype:pdf”

If you put something like “ filetype:pdf” into Google (without the quotation marks) and click the Google Search button, you get a list of all the PDF documents on the site that have been indexed by Google.

If you try the same with “ filetype:pdf” you get a page saying “Your search – filetype:pdf – did not match any documents.” – because there are no PDFs on my site.

Hi, not sure if this is the right place for this question, but here goes. I have recieved an email with a pdf of a tribute to a fallen soldier and the email ask to print it out and place it on your door. Is there a way to place this pdf on my website that readers could print it out from the website and print it out?
thanks for any help!

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