Answers and insights

10 PDF Tips for Financial Advisors

September 29, 2017

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PDFs are incredibly exciting - offering nearly the same adrenaline rush as dry toast.

They often play the role of 'web homework' - containing information too long or boring to put in a website, but probably valuable enough to read at some point. However, as mundane as they are, there's a reason PDFs been around for a quarter century. They play an important role in business communications, and they have key advantages over alternatives like web pages, Word docs, and emails:

Financial advisors use PDFs frequently to communicate their services and insights with clients. All too often these documents are published without much thought beyond clicking 'Export to PDF'. This is an oversight, because with just a few tweaks, it's easy to give these lowly documents superpowers.

Better PDFs can mean more client satisfaction, a stronger reputation, and better Google rankings - all of which can attract and retain clients (and as we've shown, all it takes is one to make $50,000).

There are two main ways to improve PDFs - readability and searchability (aka Googleability).


Making PDFs more readable means they're more likely to be read and shared. No sense spending all that time creating documents if no one is bothering to read them. Making a few adjustments can dramatically improve your readability.

Keep it short and sweet

Even if PDFs are printed out for later reading, there are limits to attention span. And if it's being read online, you have just minutes at best. Let's face it, it's a miracle you've even read this far into this article. Shouldn't you be checking email? Go ahead - we'll be here when you get back.

Use larger fonts

Don't forget that PDFs are read on phones and tablets, devices that often shrink the font size down to fit their smaller screens. Go an extra tick or two higher to account for this. If you typically use 14pt, go to 16pt or 18pt.

Use clear font types

For the same reasons, fonts should be very easy to read. Arial is universal and modern. You could try something more modern like Din, Gotham Book or Proxima Nova. Stay away from dated fonts like Tahoma and Verdana. Serif fonts like Times New Roman are not ideal for attention-getting. They are legible (after all, books are typically shown in Times), but they look old fashioned and even boring. Not ideal.

Skip images

While there are some times images work well, and they can add visual interest, they are hard for most people to do properly (size, selection, format, etc). You'll do just fine, and save a lot of time, by skipping images altogether. Focus on clear, concise content and let the only image be your sharp logo.

Use user-friendly file names

So you've spent two hours creating the perfect PDF, and you triumphantly release it to the world, naming it "Website Doc - V2 Final~102118". Congratulations, you blew it! Don't be lazy when it counts. Give your documents a clear, user-friendly file name. We'll get more into file names in a moment when we address searchability, but first and foremost give your documents a name that readers can understand. Try something like this: "Long-Term-Strategies-For-Global-Investments_October-2017".


Perhaps more important than readability is making your PDFs Google-friendly. A few simple steps can make the difference between a PDF disappearing in the bowels of your website archives or showing up on page one for an important keyword search.

Use SEO-friendly file names

As it turns out, user-friendly names are also Google-friendly. Go a step further by ensuring that your document titles are using important keywords. For example, instead of "Investing-For-Retirement", how about "Retirement-Planning-Investment-Management-Strategies" to potentially capture searches for 'retirement planning' or 'investment management'. The point is not to inject jargon (we don't like that, read why here), but to insert key search terms together in your title where appropriate.

And you may have noticed something else: dashes. Never leave whitespaces between words, because when the file uploads to a web server, it can inject placeholders into those spaces. Ever see a document title like this: "Document%20Title%20with%20Spaces", that's because of spaces. Always separate words with dashes or underscores to prevent that.

Use SEO-friendly document titles

A PDF actually has two titles - the file name and the document title itself. The document title is found in the Properties section, and should be edited/created per the above recommendations. Dashes don't need to be used here, but why not keep it consistent?

Use your firm's name in the Author field

In this same properties menu you'll find the Author field. Put your firm's name in there. In fact, treat it like a Google entry, using a keyword string and a location: "Oakwood Advisors - Financial Planning Denver, CO". It can help.

NOTE: Although they sound powerful, there's little value in filling in the Description and Keywords fields - they don't enter into SEO and are mostly for internal searching.

Keep file sizes small

This is a big reason why we recommend not using images, and keeping content short and sweet. Google is putting more and more emphasis on speed, giving faster websites and content higher rankings. When you publish a 4-page PDF loaded with large images and content, you could be looking at a massive file that takes a long time to load and render online (and a ton of ink to print!). Keep files small by skipping images and editing the content viciously. Instead of spending 25 minutes looking for the perfect photo of "lone puzzle piece fitting into larger puzzle" or "business people smiling while pointing at chart", edit and shorten your content (and remove the jargon). Your readers, and Google, will reward you for it.

Link to web pages

Last but not least, link to your website in the PDF. When you do that, you establish a more substantial link - quite literally - between the PDF and your website and company. This can benefit both the PDF and your website in terms of rankings. It also gives readers an extra door to open and follow if they are finding your content interesting.

For example, if you've found this article helpful and sound like we know what we're doing, you could see how we really help financial advisors by visiting us here: It's just that easy.