Content Marketing

A Golden Oldie Gets A Makeover: PDF Files Transformed Into a Powerful Marketing Tool

PDF files are now so common that we barely give them a second thought. Invented by Adobe in 1993, and becoming open source in 2008, PDF files provide a seamless way to share documents across multiple platforms.

Recently though, there has been an important improvement to PDF files that every marketer should find of interest. In fact, I had the opportunity to present the details of this innovative solution at the Adobe Summit 2015, where it was showcased as one of the six most important partner innovations using the Adobe Analytics platform.

So, why is this new PDF enhancement important for marketers? We all know that it is common practice for companies to track customers’ online behavior, such as how many times they visit the site/app, from which device, and whether they download a whitepaper or webinar, etc. However, until now, we were only able to track the number of PDF downloads. After that, user actions within the PDF file were a black box.

Imagine the insights that we could gain if we knew how many times a specific PDF was actually opened, total time spent in the PDF file, how many times it was printed out, etc. Well, here at Cognizant, we have made this possible by building on top of Adobe Site Catalyst capabilities!

This new “In-PDF tracking” has multiple use cases, especially for B2B companies. For example, on medical/pharmaceutical sites, it is common to use PDF files to provide additional product information to health care professionals and patients. By adding PDF tracking to their countless PDF files, companies can now validate if these documents are being put to effective use or not, potentially saving money and/or improving the impact of their content marketing. By tracking PDF data on the number of coupons printed, types of PDF documents printed, which ones are emailed to other parties, etc., firms can better understand how patients and health care professionals are interacting with content.

Some of you might be wondering how this new tracking system works. Without getting too technical, website tracking is usually done using the HTTPGET method, while the new PDF tracking solution we developed completely flipped this over and derived the data and information from the PDF documents using the HTTPPOST method. Because we can stitch together visitor sessions using the cross device visitor identification methodology, we were able to seamlessly track visitor behavior across the browser and the PDF, irrespective of whether the PDF was opened using the browser or the desktop application.

We believe this is just the beginning for PDF tracking, with great potential across a wide range of marketing applications. So, please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how to take your PDFs to the next level!

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Jaisri Chety
With broad leadership experience in analytics and marketing, Jaisri was one of the few early adopters of digital marketing, advertising and analytics with a career spanning over 15 years. She is currently Director, Acquisition & Program Optimization at Cadient. Jaisri holds a degree in commerce from Stella Maris College, Chennai and a Post graduate Diploma in Advertising.

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