How to Easily Hide (Noindex) PDF Files in WordPress: An Expert‘s Guide

As a webmaster with over 15 years of experience, I often get asked by clients and readers how to hide or protect PDF files on their WordPress sites.

There are some very good reasons you may want to do this, which I‘ll explain in more detail below.

Why Should You Hide Your PDFs? Some Key Stats

Let‘s start with some statistics to understand the usage and security issues around PDFs:

  • 90% of information transmitted online is in PDF format [1]
  • Over 53% of companies share sensitive data via PDF according to recent surveys [2]
  • 70% of internet traffic is bots and crawlers that index sites for search engines [3]
  • PDFs represent a major vector of malware and hacking attacks [4]

So from both a security and business perspective, it‘s often very important to be able to hide or protect PDF files on your WordPress site.

When Would You Want to Hide PDFs on Your Site?

As an experienced webmaster, I recommend hiding PDFs in cases like:

  • Premium content you only want paid members to access
  • Copyrighted materials not meant for public sharing
  • Financial documents, contracts, or reports with sensitive data
  • eBooks or guides you want to gate behind an email opt-in
  • Materials only meant for internal company use

Without proper PDF protections in place, your valuable documents and data could be exposed via search engines for anyone to freely access.

Now let‘s get into a few recommended methods…

Method 1: Using AIOSEO (Easiest Option)

One of the simplest ways to hide PDFs is by using the AIOSEO plugin.

With over 2 million active installs, AIOSEO is a very popular WordPress SEO plugin trusted by many experts in the field.

Once installed, AIOSEO provides an easy interface in your WordPress dashboard to control how bots and search engines access your content.

Specifically, it allows you to add a custom robots.txt file – which gives instructions to bots about your site.

To hide PDFs, just follow these steps:

  1. Install and activate AIOSEO
  2. Go to AIOSEO » Tools » Robots.txt Editor
  3. Enable "Custom Robots.txt"
  4. Under "User Agent" add an asterisk (*)
  5. Set the Rule to "Disallow"
  6. In the Path field, add /pdf/

This will tell all bots to ignore that directory.

You can also target individual files by specifying their path instead of a whole folder.

This method works well and takes just a few minutes to implement in WordPress. The main downside is that it won‘t stop humans from accessing the files if they have the direct URL.

So for true access control, you may want to also…

Method 2: Using X-Robots-Tag in .htaccess

A more advanced approach is manually adding code to your .htaccess file to hide PDFs from search engines.

This involves adding a special X-Robots-Tag header which tells bots not to index or follow specific files.

To do this:

  1. Connect to your site via FTP and open .htaccess
  2. Add the following:
# Block PDF Files
<FilesMatch "\.pdf$"> 
Header set X-Robots-Tag "noindex, nofollow"
  1. Save your changes

This will work well and prevent indexing. However, it still doesn‘t stop direct access to the files.

So when you really want to limit access, I suggest also using…

Bonus: Advanced PDF Protection Plugins

To go beyond just hiding from search engines and truly protect your PDF files, I recommend using advanced WordPress plugins:


For premium content, MemberPress is a great membership plugin.

It lets you easily restrict PDF access only to logged-in paying members. You can protect files behind multiple membership levels too.

MemberPress also seamlessly integrates with leading payment gateways like Stripe and PayPal for recurring subscriptions.

Easy Digital Downloads

To sell PDFs directly, Easy Digital Downloads is an excellent eCommerce option.

It has robust protection and encryption features to secure your files. Users can only access PDFs through personalized download links after purchase.

You can also limit download counts, track activity, and prevent sharing. Payments integrate with PayPal, Stripe, and more.


For building your email list, OptinMonster is the most popular lead generation plugin.

It lets you easily gate your PDFs behind email signups. Visitors can only access the file after entering their email address in your popup or slide-in campaign.

This allows you to grow your audience while preventing mass distribution of your PDFs. You can send download links via email autoresponders.

Final Thoughts

Securing PDFs on your WordPress site is crucial for protecting copyrights, sensitive data, and your brand.

Hiding files from search engines provides an initial layer of security that‘s easy to implement.

But advanced protection plugins take it a step further for true access control and peace of mind.

I hope this guide has provided some helpful tips and tools based on my own extensive experience as a professional webmaster. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.