5 Reasons to Ditch Your PDF Catalog… Sorta

People often ask how using Dirxion to publish a digital catalog is different from publishing a PDF. The answer is: Dirxion is beyond a PDF. 

PDFs are useful for some things, but it’s important to understand their limitations. 

Introduced in 1993, Adobe and the PDF (Portable Document Format) revolutionized the way we view and share documents. Today, the PDF is still a widely popular format for distributing read-only documents in a way that preserves the overall layout of the page. 

But is the PDF the best format to use for publishing your catalog online?

PDF is about displaying content. HTML5 is about interacting with content. Imagine window shopping versus stepping inside and holding a product. 

In this post, we evaluate the differences between a PDF catalog and a Dirxion catalog to help you determine if it’s time to upgrade your catalog.

What PDFs do well

PDFs continue to serve as a trusted, easy-to-create file type. Anything from spreadsheets to photo albums to scanned receipts can be saved in PDF format.

Conformity and Reliability: A PDF stores every detail and piece of formatting within the file itself, including spacing, pictures and fonts. This removes one of the largest obstacles to sharing documents, as most other types of files require the document recipients to already have the proper fonts installed and may lose formatting when they are opened in a different program. PDFs appear the same on any device that reads them, including Windows, Mac OS and mobile devices.

Lock-Down: Adobe Reader, the free program created by Adobe to open PDF documents, cannot edit the file. Reader allows users to fill out forms in PDFs, but they can’t change any existing text or formatting without help from a specialized application.

Safe and Secure: PDF increases the security and confidentiality of the entire document by using applications such as watermarks, passwords or digital signatures.

Copy/Paste: Native PDFs are flexible in that you can copy information, such as text, and paste it elsewhere.

Indexable: PDF files that contain good content and are available on websites can be made visible in search engines. 

What PDFs don’t do well

PDFs make it easier for people to distribute documents without the need to print them. But it doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

File size: While it’s possible to convert just about any file into a PDF without sacrificing quality, something the size of a catalog cannot be easily sent through email without bogging down servers and filling work email inboxes.

Single URL (bad for SEO): A catalog PDF can contain hundreds of pages, but even a single lengthy yet content-rich PDF file will be equal to one URL in the eyes of the search engine. So, while a search engine result might display a PDF catalog, the user would have to start at the front page and work their way to the page where they thought that product exists. 

Dirxion’s HTML5-based catalogs are developed to be crawled and indexed, page-by-page, by search engines. An HTML5 search result would take the user to the most relevant page of an HTML5-based catalog where that product exists without forcing the user to start at the beginning of the catalog.

Absence of any Tracking Mechanism: In the general sense, tracking stats like open rate cannot be applied to PDF files. Downloads of that PDF from your website can be tracked through programs like Google Analytics. But you won’t learn anything about your reader’s interest and purchasing behavior, how they move around within your PDF once downloaded.

Enter Dirxion.

Where PDFs lag, Dirxion picks up the slack, taking the best of the PDF and making it a richer online experience.

Unlike browsable PDFs or even digital flipbooks, which lack interactive capabilities and responsiveness, Dirxion transforms your existing PDF files to an HTML5-based online publication that has the look and feel of a real, page-turning publication along with some additional features that aren’t available with a stand-alone PDF catalog.

Using HTML5 (Hyper Text Markup Language) technology, your digital catalog will work in all modern browsers and devices, regardless of screen size. 

HTML5 enables Dirxion to enhance the user and/or shopping experience. Components can be added to an HTML5 catalog to better promote the items on the page to encourage purchasing. HTML5 catalogs can house functionality like video, audio, and button rollover functionality, making the user interaction a favorable experience.

With Dirxion, you can even publish your catalog in the Google Play and Apple iTunes stores to reach a broader audience and push notifications to your customers.

If you’re still unsure why your PDF catalog is no longer getting noticed, here are five ways Dirxion improves digital catalogs beyond a PDF:

Dirxion’s Bookshelf feature
  1. Easy content navigation: Many of our clients have product catalogs that are hundreds, even thousands, of pages long each.

    Dirxion’s catalog software uses three features to improve content navigation within each catalog as well as the complete library:

    Bookshelf: Present your content marketing in a multi-publication interface equipped with advanced search features like language filters and cross-publication search.

    Tear Pages: Enable sales and marketing teams to select and create their own custom collections and presentations with your print pages.

    Product search: Use our robust search feature to search for something specific, either within the catalog or within the entire bookshelf.
Brandon Mitchener from Dirxion touches on accessibility and ADA compliance.
  1. Accessibility: Making a digital catalog that is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, is important and more visible than ever. Not all digital catalog solutions get this part right, so it’s important to evaluate this carefully to avoid a lawsuit.

    Dirxion adheres to W3C and WCAG recommendations, while many in the industry are slow to adapt, favoring complacency over compliance. In fact, many catalog solutions on the market today still do not pass ADA requirements.
  1. Search engine visibility: With a fully-digital catalog solution, your content can be easily searched by Google and found by your customers. Customize keywords, extract the text of the PDF, and adapt page titles to maximize search engine visibility.

    Dirxion’s HTML5-based catalogs are developed to be crawled and indexed, page-by-page, by search engines. An HTML5 search result would take the user to the most relevant page of an HTML5-based catalog where that product exists without forcing the user to start at the beginning of the catalog.

    Although the publication is hosted outside your website, data shows that off-site SEO-related factors likely carry more than 50% of the ranking factor weight. And the backlinks found in your Dirxion-hosted publication pointing back to your website are healthy for your site’s SEO.
  1. Easier to share: Integrate your digital catalog directly into your website, blog or email campaign or easily share your catalog on social media to boost reach.
  1. Deep analytics tracking: PDFs lack the ability to collect data about your users and you won’t be able to measure specific actions like click rates or read-time. But each Dirxion online catalog is supported with Google Analytics, and customers can provide tracking codes from their own analytics platforms to compile transparent and comprehensive results. This tells an ROI and conversion story that won’t let you down.

As you can see, your PDF catalog is the starting point to creating a digital catalog that provides an amazing experience for your customers and delivers profitable ROI.

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Search engine optimization helps e-commerce websites meet their goals

Search engine optimization (SEO) has become increasingly important for e-commerce businesses as a method of increasing organic growth and traffic to their site. SEO, as described by Search Engine Land, is “the process of getting traffic from the ‘free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘editorial’ or ‘natural’ search results on search engines.” SEO is seen as an alternative method from paid online advertising that delivers a higher return on investment.

Every search engine uses web crawlers to scan websites and determine the contents of the site. This information is used to rank websites based on user preferences. In a video produced by Search Engine Land, the process is explained within a library analogy. If search engines are a library containing all of the world’s knowledge, they need a system to determine which books (websites) are important to readers and answer all their questions. SEO is the process of a website including aspects that best meet a search engine algorithm’s requirements.

Google and other major search engines have made the SEO market more competitive over the years, in order to increase the value of achieving a high-ranking website. They sometimes make decisions as subtle as decreasing the number of organic blue links displayed from 10 to 8.5 on average in 2016,according to Searchmetrics. However, ranking highly on Google has become increasingly competitive due to their growing share of the search engine market. As of 2016, Google accounts for 76 percent of global desktop search traffic whereas Bing, Baidu and Yahoo make up for 22.5 percent of the market combined, according to NetMarketShare.

All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. — Search Engine Land

E-commerce websites benefit especially from SEO by driving organic traffic to their sites, increasing the probability that certain key performance indicators are met. The return on investment for SEO is higher than purchasing an ad campaign through Google AdWord, AdSense or online advertising space purchased on specific websites. Still, EMarketer forecasts estimated U.S. digital ad spending reached $72 billion in 2016. By prioritizing SEO, businesses are meeting the search needs of consumers and increasing the probability of higher traffic without having to overly spend on advertising.

Dirxion online catalogs offer SEO guide pages that involves a process of indexing every page of the printed catalog. This practice helps boost the overall SEO of the online catalogs site, as well as increase the likelihood of someone finding a catalog page when searching for specific products. Such is the case for Dirxion customer Aviall, whose online catalog pages can be found on search engines like Google and whose primary site (catalogs.aviall.com) shows up at the top of Google when searching for “aviall catalog” or similar terms.

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