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5 Reasons Small Businesses Still Need PDFs

12 min read

Small business owners these days need every tool at their disposal to attract new business and stave off competitors, many of which may be much larger companies.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of small business owners don’t have a lot of time to consider every single option available. Most of them have enough on their plates without yet another obligation.

The good news is that PDFs are as relevant and effective as ever. Here are five reasons to make the most of them in 2019.

1. PDFs are universally accepted

No matter what kind of operating system or device someone is using, a PDF will load exactly the way its creator intended. It doesn’t matter if you send it to someone on the other side of the cubicle, the other side of the building, or even the other side of the world: PDFs are universally accepted.

This is especially beneficial if the format a small business uses is both unique and important. Sharing word processing documents can be problematic; if the person who receives the document isn’t using the exact same program and version, the formatting can be completely thrown off.

When both parties work at the same company and are using uniform software, this obstacle may not seem especially challenging. It’s an extremely frustrating problem, though, when it creates friction between a small business and a prospect or client. Small business owners literally can’t afford for this kind of problem to get in the way of their ability to make a client happy.

For small business owners who intend to share a document across numerous companies or people, PDFs are practically required when formatting is important. They could otherwise go to a lot of trouble to create professional-looking, aesthetically pleasing documents — the kind that make their small business look like an enterprise — only to learn that the document isn’t displaying the way they intended because not everyone is using the same program.

Back when he first introduced the idea for the PDF, John Warnock said:

“What industries badly need is a universal way to communicate documents across a wide variety of machine configurations, operating systems, and communication networks. These documents should be viewable on any display and should be printable on any modern printers. If this problem can be solved, then the fundamental way people work will change.”

To this day, his solution has not been bested.

2. PDFs make for easy organization

PDFs lend themselves especially well to archival and organizational goals. As a small business grows and needs to keep more and more documents, PDFs become essential.

Obviously, small business owners can create file names that will make them easy to search for. Because PDFs are universally accepted, this also means that a small business’s archive can be shared with just about anyone.

What’s even better, though, is that you can create PDF/A files that standardize for

  • Fonts
  • Images
  • Color profiles

Basically, no matter what operating systems are adopted in 10, 20, or even 30+ years from now, a PDF/A will tell it how to open and render the file. This is why, among many others, The Library of Congress entrusts their records to the PDF/A format.

3. PDFs combine text with images

PDFs can display any number of images. Unlike JPGs, PDFs can easily display text at the same time as images. This gives small business owners a wide array of opportunities when it comes to the document they want to create.

Instead of a plain Word document, they can easily create high-quality, professional-looking

  • Contracts
  • Invoices
  • Registration forms
  • Inspection forms
  • Transaction receipts
  • Formal invitations
  • Lease agreements
  • Performance evaluations

The best part? After going to the trouble of making the perfect-looking PDF, small business owners don’t have to worry that all that effort will be wasted. The document will arrive looking exactly like it did when they sent it.

This kind of professional look is important for small businesses. Sending a client, say, an invoice that’s really just an Excel sheet or Word document doesn’t create a very inspiring impression, especially if they’re working with bigger companies that use custom forms.

4. PDFs can be very SEO friendly

It goes without saying that every company needs their own website these days — including small businesses.

However, it’s also equally as important to do everything possible to earn organic traffic by means of search engine optimization (SEO). After all, what good is a website if no one ever sees it?

SEO best practices call for good content, which often means blog posts. Generally speaking, the more posts published, the higher the likelihood of earning Google’s good favor.

This is where PDFs can play a big role in earning traffic, as well. That’s because PDFs can actually be great for SEO.

Most companies don’t know this and simply upload a PDF whenever necessary, leaving it at that. Instead, PDFs can help bring visitors to small businesses’ websites, if their owners remember to

  • Include a keyword in the PDF’s name
  • Link to their PDF from other pages on their site
  • Link from their PDF to other pages on their site
  • Make their PDF mobile-friendly
  • Whenever possible, compress their images
  • Use alt-text for their PDF’s images

Finally, as with any other aspect on their site, they should test their PDF over time to make sure it’s attracting and keeping visitors. If it isn’t, there’s room for improvement.

5. PDFs are (now) easy to edit

One drawback to PDFs that many people are quick to bring up is the difficulty in editing them.

Understandably, this is usually enough reason for small business owners to completely shun this format. Who has the time to go through a time-consuming editorial process every time they need to update a document?

Unfortunately, this misconception means that business owners who do use PDFs usually only use them for very basic tasks, preferring Word documents for those they know may need to be edited later. As a result, important documents (e.g., invoices, receipts, contracts) look amateurish, while PDFs are limited to documents that people hardly ever see (e.g., terms of service).

The good news is that, despite what most people seem to think, there are a number of ways on how to edit a PDF. It doesn’t matter if it’s being done on a Mac or in Windows, in Google Drive, or elsewhere.

PDFs are as important as ever for small business owners

2019 promises to be another exciting year for small business owners. Expect more opportunities in the way of technology and platforms.

However, as far as the PDF goes, there’s no reason to think it’s going to be replaced anytime soon. It’s been the standard for nearly 30 years now and will probably continue to be for 30 more.

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