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Making Your Documents Searchable

There are a few simple steps you can take in order to make the Word and PDF files on your website easier for users to find.


Metadata is essentially data that describes information. It is included in the files that make up websites so that the content in those sites easier to locate using search engines.

How Do I Add Metadata to My Document?

Many document types will allow you to add metadata to the document’s properties. This information is kept with the document when you save it. Commonly used document types on the University website are Word files and pdfs.

Word Files (.doc/.docx)

Open your Word document and go to File > Properties. Click on the Summary tab.

Document Properties Summary

You will see several fields, some of which may be filled in by default:

  1. Title – contains the name of the document
  2. Author – contains the name of the logged in user, computer’s owner, or the University of Adelaide.

If you were responsible for creating the document, you may like to change the Author entry to your own name.

Portable Document Files (.pdf)

There is more than one method to add metadata to a PDF, depending on the program you use. Adobe Acrobat is a commonly used program for creating PDFs throughout the University.

Firstly, Open your document in Acrobat.
Depending on the version that is installed on your computer, you can select either:

  1. File > Document Properties; or
  2. Advanced > Document Metadata.

Either method will make your PDF easier to find using a search engine. Both options will bring up a dialogue box. From the selections in the left column of the dialogue box, choose Description. A default title and author may have been automatically added. If you were responsible for creating the document, you may like to change the Author entry to your own name.

Document Properties

The person who created the source document (e.g. in Word) may have already included the subject and keywords. If not, you will need to fill these out.

Document Properties Description

Document Metadata

Instead of ‘subject’ and ‘keywords’, Document Metadata asks for description data and allows you to enter the author of the document description as well as copyright information.

Document Metadata     Document Metadata on Copyright


If you had to sum up the content in 25 words or less, how would you describe the document to a person who had never read it? You may like to use information from an executive/summary or abstract to help determine the subject and keywords.


There are several considerations when choosing keywords for metadata: audience, purpose and content.

  • Who will be looking for this document, i.e. who are the audience?
  • Why would a person be searching for this document, i.e. what is the purpose of the document?
  • What are the important words in this document, i.e. what is in the content?

Think about what keywords the persons searching for this document would use, and what the most relevant content is.

Other Tips

  • Consider including key phrases rather than keywords where applicable. People will often use a string of words to narrow their search and achieve more relevant results.
  • Use synonyms – e.g. some users will search for University of Adelaide while others will search for Adelaide University.
  • If the document has a specific code or version number, it may also be useful to add this to the metadata.

After adding this metadata, don’t forget to save your file.

Once uploaded to the development site, you should test the effectiveness of the metadata in your document by using keywords to search for it using both the University website search engine and an external search engine.

Making PDF Content More Accessible and Searchable

You can also make your PDF content more accessible and searchable by tagging your document. For more information and instructions about tagging, please read the Accessibility and PDFs page.



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