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Premium content deserves better than a PDF

Michael Biggerstaff headshot

Written by Michael Biggerstaff

Your job is to create and market premium content so that your customers, clients and prospects will see and consume the content that you are spending time, energy, and resources creating.
Whether you are the one creating it with your own time and energy or working with a content marketing agency, why just stick it into a PDF?

Content Creation Supports Your Sales Funnel

Let’s think this through. Most companies create lots of content and present it on their website. This content is often general in nature and just touches the surface of who they are. But as you may know, prospects want more than basic content.

According to Marcus Sheridan the author of They Ask You Answer, today, on average, 70 percent of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to the company.

As a savvy, lead generating marketer you have to be creating premium online content that helps answer questions before the prospect is ready to reach out to a salesperson.

Choosing the Right Medium for Promoting Content

So let’s say you’ve created this premium content and now you have to get it in front of an audience so people can educate themselves with what you have to say. The typical playbook involves compiling your content into an:

Next, you save your content as a static PDF, post it on your website, and promote it everywhere you can. That’s the typical playbook. But is your brand typical or is it something more than that?

What are the Potential Benefits of PDFs?

Wait, just a minute – you say, PDFs have a lot going for them. It is easy to create a PDF. Most people can save a document as a PDF. They are easy to open because current devices and browsers typically already have the software needed to view them. You create it. You save it. You publish it. And what you see is what you get.

Perfect, right?

Not so fast.

Potential Downsides of PDFs

Well, what’s the downside? Many people see the lack of ability to make changes easily without buying additional software a detriment to PDFs. However, when we are discussing premium content you don’t want the general audience to have edit access to make design and content changes.

So the locked-in nature of PDFs, really isn’t an issue from the prospect’s perspective (it can be a challenge for your internal teams though. Especially, if only one person has access to the software needed to make edits).

So what are the big issues? They come down to a few areas

Is There a Better Option Than PDFs for Your Content Marketing Strategy?

Searchable Content & PDFs

First up, content searchability. We live in an instant gratification society. Digital natives have grown up knowing that the answer to their question is only a Google away. This means digital content must be crawlable by Google’s bots and follow best SEO practice. When it comes to presenting your best effort (creating premium content), you have to create something that will allow people to search your document for the content they’re looking for.

A test of forty different PDFs from various public sources found zero were searchable.

Perhaps people don’t know how to make them searchable. Here are the instructions from Techwalla to show you how. I think whenever you make content, searchability is important. This allows your readers to be able to go back and find the information they need quickly and simply.

Responsive Digital Content & PDFs

While searchability is important, the biggest single issue is responsive content. What do I mean by that? Responsive content is interactive content that reflows and resizes to present its best form on the device you are using to read it, including desktop, tablet or mobile.

I’m sure you’ve had experiences trying to read a PDF on a mobile device. You have to zoom in to enlarge the content so you can read it and then begin to move the content back and forth, plus up and down.

View a PDF on Mobile Device
As one Creative Director put it, PDFs on mobile devices are, “not the most elegant solution.”

Indeed, it’s not the most elegant solution but it could also be hurting your digital marketing efforts. When faced with an unresponsive PDF, many readers will give up entirely. Some may wait to look at it on a larger screen. But that also assumes busy people surrounded by distractions at every turn will remember to go back to the document at all.

Displaying Premium Content Marketing Materials

The third reason PDFs aren’t typically the best choice for premium content is that when someone interacts with your brand, content is only a piece of the puzzle. Not only does the content need to be informative and valuable esthetically it also needs to represent your brand with the most engaging possible design.

You can see what I mean in the following example.

Joe Pulizzi who is a marketing expert and the founder of the Content Marketing Institute entrusted Nxtbook Media to put his latest ebook, Corona Marketing, into our PageRaft software.

You can see in the example that it is searchable, responsive, and gives readers the ability to engage with it on any device. It also showcases the fact that Joe isn’t a typical guy. He’s known for being a forward thinker. The content, the design, and the presentation all serve to reinforce that message.

Data Analytics for Premium Content

Not only does going beyond the PDF give you the opportunity to show your premium content in the best possible light (on every device), it will also give you the ability to leverage data and analytics behind the platform.

These analytics metrics can help you see how many people read your content, how long they stayed in it, and many more pieces of the puzzle you need to understand how people are reacting to what you have created.

Still not convinced? 

A recent report from user experience research and consulting firm the Nielsen Norman Group had this to say about PDFs:

Research spanning 20 years proves PDFs are problematic for online reading. Yet they’re still prevalent and users continue to get lost in them. They’re unpleasant to read and navigate and remain unfit for digital-content display.

Learn More About Creating Responsive Content

As we highlighted in the above example and as the research shows, there are powerful and meaningful reasons to consider alternatives to the PDF. Your brand may have a lot to gain from making the switch.

If you are looking to make your content responsive and better reflect the image that you want your brand to project, we’d be happy to discuss your options with you.

Contact us today!

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