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November 28, 2020

Please Get Your PDFs off the Internet

Using PDFs as a way to share content is common but also one of the worst ways to do it.

As a marketer, you probably are most likely working with content in one form or the other. If not, you definitely should. I encourage every business to try using an inbound strategy, not only for their marketing efforts but for the whole business.

One of the things that B2B companies are doing within their content strategy is to offer gated content. But even though we know that content can be a lot of things like articles, videos, podcasts, or small chrome extensions even, most gated content comes in the form of one thing only: Whitepapers!

Now don't get me wrong. Having a stellar (and I mean stellar) whitepaper behind a form can go along way. But one major problem these days is that they are all in these stupid PDF formats. Why aren't marketers questioning this anymore? PDFs are not an ideal way to read stuff on the internet these days.

Ok, a PDF can be opened anywhere. No matter the software, device, or location. PDFs work I guess. But you know what else works everywhere. HTML and CSS or in simpler terms: A webpage.

Here some reasons why PDFs on the internet suck:

No responsiveness

Ever opened up a PDF on your phone? Very likely, you did. We shouldn't be squinting our eyes. We shouldn't be pinching, zooming, and dragging our finger across the screen to follow along the sentence.

This should be obvious when we know that every page on our websites has to work on every screen. Why can't that be also true for the kind of content for which we are asking people for their information?

No interactivity

With webpages, you can do so much more. Maybe you want to embed a video, Slideshare, or podcast episode. Or you have an animation to make a subject easier to understand. You could also use a Typeform or similar that lets people see how big of a problem they have for what you are describing. Try doing that in a static file format like a PDF.

No reporting

PDFs are not included in any reports in Google Analytics, HubSpot, or any other web analytics software. You might be able to make some conclusions based on different metrics such as email clicks. But metrics like time on page, bounce rate, or scroll depth can help understand if your audience finds value in what you're writing.

No designer required

Making changes to a webpage is easy, no matter what CMS you use. And we all know how things go when we try to grow our business fast. Mistakes are ok, and they will find their way in every piece of our work.

No work is ever finished after all. It just gets released.

The difference is, though, when you want to fix a spelling error, and you have to call up your designer who put the layout and final document together, it slows you down again.

She will change whatever needs to be changed, and you have to re-upload the whole file. Imagine how easy it would be just to hit publish in your CMS again.

Don't get attached to attachments

We all know we want to provide a good user experience for our customers, visitors, and audience. That should be especially true if you ask people for their personal information. It's very precious to people. So we as marketers need to respect it.

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