Google Using OCR To Index Scanned Documents

It used to be that, if you hoped Google would index a PDF file, you had to create a PDF that was text-based, not image-based; Googlebot couldn’t recognize the content of scanned or image-based documents. According to an announcement today, that’s no longer the case.

Google says it’s now using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to read any scanned documents that it finds in PDF format:

This Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology lets us convert a picture (of a thousand words) into a thousand words — words that can be searched and indexed, so that these valuable documents are more easily found.

Google’s announcement includes a few examples where you can see the results of OCR scanning in action. On a search for repairing aluminum wiring, the first result is a Consumer Product Safety Commission PDF that was clearly scanned as an image. You can now get the text of that image thanks to Google’s OCR scanning and the “View as HTML” link on the search results page. As with any use of OCR, results are probably not going to be perfect. But the examples Google provides do look quite accurate.

Countless new documents are now available to searchers — documents that were never available before. On the other hand, if you’ve been scanning and uploading image-based PDFs knowing that they’d never be found by searchers — and I know people who have — you may want to rethink that strategy.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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