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3 Reasons to ditch old school static PDFs

Is your economic development organization still showing outdated static data reports to site selectors and businesses making location decisions?

Alissa Sklar
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on October 01, 2019
Alissa Sklar
Vice President of Marketing

If your economic development organization is still expecting site selectors and businesses making location decisions to rely solely on your outdated static data reports, you are losing leads without even knowing it. 


staticOld school static data reports might have been nominally effective in 2010 (and even that's questionable). Those old-fashioned, traditional reporting methods require potential investors to do all the analytical work on their own; in a crowded marketplace full of locations competing for attention, that kind of outdated thinking seriously hurts your chances.


In fact, perhaps the most compelling reason not to share static data PDFs is that it makes your region look old and outdated. But if you still use MySpace, "dial in" to the Internet and make references to the "information superhighway," then relying solely on those PDFs may be the right choice for you.


Still not convinced? Here are three compelling reasons to switch from boring static PDF documents to engaging dynamic reports so they can do their own analysis on the go. 


1) No one reads anymore. That PDF long-form data report listing endless text and number variables is no longer suited to the short attention spans of today's readers. People expect answers to their questions right away and get impatient when the process is lengthy or consumes any more time than a few seconds. Way back in 2014, Chartbeat determined from a random sample of 2 billion page views that 55% of visitors spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page.

The World Bank publishes hundreds of informative reports every year but they've acknowledged that nearly one-third of their downloadable PDF reports have never been downloaded, not even once. Data marketing experts Pricenomics conclude from this that "the lesson we all should probably be learning from the World Bank’s overly honest look at itself is that PDFs are terrible."

Moreover, Chartbeat determined in their study that people don't necessarily read the reports they share. So reports that are shared may never actually be read. And we've known for years that PDFs are a terrible way to share any content you expect people to read on a screen - they were designed to be printed. In fact, forcing users to browse PDF documents makes your website's usability about 300% worse compared to dynamic web pages. 

Compare those boring, impenetrable static data reports with the dynamic, visual data reports you can find on websites like South Carolina Power Team's ZoomProspector tool. We still give people the option to download those PDFs if they really want to but most choose the links to dynamic reports.

South Carolina Power Team education heat map


2) You can't track engagement. Once that PDF is downloaded from your website and shared, you can no longer track it. Even if people have bothered to download it (which they probably haven't) and even if they've shared it (which they likely didn't) and even if the recipient reads it (which they almost certainly won't), you wouldn't know anyway. That's why GIS Planning has built-in reverse IP lookup coded on our data tools (known as Lead Gen ID) to tell you exactly which companies are using your data tools, what criteria they are using to search and what reports they view. All our dynamic reports can be shared with a custom generated URL from the Share button, bringing new visitors directly back to your website. That way everyone's a winner: you can track their visits and searches AND they can use your dynamic tools to answer whatever questions they have about investments in your region. 

3) They don't make sense for mobile users. PDFs require you to download them before viewing. That's already a problem for desktop users, but for mobile viewers, downloading PDFs makes no sense at all. Most users are likely to abandon the content and move on to something else. Our internal research shows that upwards of 35% of visitors to our hundreds of clients' online GIS data tools are using mobile devices. Site selectors and businesses making location decisions are visiting our clients' ZoomProspector tools from airport lounges, in between meetings and while on the road. Instead of alienating these most important visitors with outdated PDF technology, give them the opportunity to use the only fully featured, mobile-friendly corporate site selection tool on the market, with dynamic reporting. 


Come see what ZoomProspector has to offer to help drive more investment to your community - including beautiful, dynamic data reports. Click below to schedule a customized needs assessment and demo today.

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business location search Place Marketing data GIS data economic development software site selection data tools corporate site selection