Blog to PDF - Read this First
I've been reading a ton of posts and watching a number of YouTube videos on converting blog posts to PDF's. Do you want a better way? Read on.
Do you want to convert your blog post to a PDF?
Your recommendations page? Or, for that matter, anything HTML on a website?
There are a number of ways to do just that and to make it even better, I'm going to cover ways that are free and almost free. In fact, we'll convert a blog post to see some comparisons – sort of a “case study.”
First, let's explore the why?
Nothing is worse than spending time researching and crafting a blog post only to have it appear on your site and – well, that's it. It's on your site. The idea is to repurpose and get exposure from your content creations.
And your website, nice as it is, is only one channel. It's also a channel with a date stamp and sometimes age works against you. (In more ways than one 🙂 ) Admit it, when you search, do you pass over the posts dated 2014 in favor of those dated 2017? The point is, web content is time sensitive, and the sooner you can circulate, the better.
PDF's also make a great lead magnet, so you have the opportunity to build your email list. Your lead magnet content doesn't have to be “never seen before.” It can simply be a pdf version of one of your super blogs.
One important strategy is to create a call to action in the pdf which allows for the reader to opt in to your email list. Also, if your pdf is shared with others, there's the opportunity to capture their email through the build in opt in. I actually code the link in the “your profile” section of “users” in the admin panel to create an author's block with the opt in information. This feature is part of the Elementor Pro package and is really customizable without some of the problems and restrictions of other third party author block plugins. You can see this in the author block on each post, although it's really a straightforward concept of adding the HTML link into the users profile in the Admin panel.
So we have this blog post or page and it has a ton of great information that makes you look like an authority, and it even has some affiliate links. You've spent all kinds of time adding graphics and ensuring that the content is presented in just the right way. Your fonts are part of your branding and they look great.
The nice thing about PDF's is that they retain all the data in an HTML document, or they should.
So, now what.
It's time to convert
Let's look at an app that many like to recommend.
It's actually a Chrome extension – Print Friendly, and it's free.
Print Friendly actually does a decent job and you have control over deleting data blocks and even adjusting the font size. That's about it, however, and what you get is somewhat a pedestrian looking PDF. It does retain the links, which is good.
So let's look at an example. Here's the PrintFriendlyPDF on my one page post entitled “Quick Question.”
A few points of interest:
- The images are either cropped (top image) or lose their styling (as in the author's image which was a circle in the original.)
- The font from the original has been lost and is replaced with a standard font.
- The styling of the author's block is also gone.
- The link in the author's block, however, is still there.
Generally, PrintFriendly produces a quick but rather boring pdf. But, it's free and easy.
Now, let's look at another free app.
The second app can be downloaded, but it's really easy to just use it on a browser. It's Online-Convert.com and here's their direct link to HTML to PDF.
Okay, let's go to OnlineConvert and try the one-page post again. Simply enter the URL of the post and click on “convert file.”
At OnlineConvert's conversion processor, here's what the same post looks like.
Now, some observations:
- The images and fonts all retain their styling and look like the original post – sweet.
- I was able to delete the second page and white out the comments section (which did show up in the original conversion.) Just click edit on the OnlineConvert download page edit.
- Notice I didn't completely white out the left edge of the background.
- The author's block is gone, however. It did appear when I used a plugin but not when I used the Elementor feature. Drat.
One final option
It looks like some other sites are using the Online-Convert engine under different names but a new site that seems promising is PDFCrowd.
Although there is a free trial, the annual cost of the option is $9.95.
Okay, so let's look at an example of the with the PDFCrowd converter.
Okay, let's review the output:
- The pdf from PDFCrowd is probably the best of the lot – right out of the box.
- I didn't adjust or eliminate anything, I think it looks good as is and all the links work. Except…
- The author's box is again missing.
What's nice about PDFCrowd is that there are a number of other options available for customizing. For example you can select “options” and choose landscape view vs. the default portrait view.
And, here's the resulting pdf in landscape view, using the same post and processing in PDFCrowd.
And the review:
- Not only does it look nice, the author's box with the link works great.
- Finally, success.
So, there's no free cake – at least not yet. I can create the pdf I really want but, so far, to be free, I have to use plugins with the regular post feature of WordPress and without Elementor's widgets.
For your information, I have been successful in reproducing both a table of contents and an author's block on a post, converted to PDF with OnlineConvert. The problem, is I have to create in regular WordPress and use plugins to capture both the table of contents and the author's block. All the links work great though, and on some posts, it may be worth the effort. Just be sure to not publish both since it will definitely be considered duplicate content and negatively impact SEO.
Finally, however, I can use PDFCrowd and produce the desired PDF from a blog post, to include the linked author's box, but I have to process it as a landscape. Interesting quirk. I've sent a support ticket to both Elementor and PDFCrowd to see if they can enlighten some better alternatives and will update if I get any interesting responses.
But, bottom line, you can use any one of these three PDF engines. Two are free and the third is only $9.95 a year. You can experiment to see which works best with your blogs and the associated plugins and the widgets you use. One of them will probably work just fine.
Again, you want to circulate your content. Ask your email list to share your PDF's. Especially with a built-in opt in, you can increase your email list. You can offer a copy of your best existing posts as a lead magnet in exchange for an email. The possibilities are endless. But, you now have another strategy in your arsenal.
Hope you enjoyed. Let me know if you have a better solution. Thanks.