Search engine optimisation and technical improvements

Topic lead: Katie Foxall, Wendy Patterson, Andy Byers
Last updated: 06/07/2023

Search engine optimisation can support increased visibility, in combination with indexing in relevant databases and outreach to readers and authors. As researchers rely more and more on search engines to identify scholarly outputs, journals can derive significant benefits from the optimisation of their metadata and structured presentation of full text articles.

Many researchers begin their online investigation with search engines such as Google. Ensuring journals are well placed in organic search results through search engine optimisation will increase discoverability and opportunities for dissemination.

Search engine optimisation involves tweaking a website, content and social profiles to ensure they rank well in organic search results. This is different from paid searches, which involve placing adverts on the results page of a search engine based on the keywords entered by the user. The guidance presented here refers to organic search, and we note that further information on paid adverts is available via most search engines (see Further reading section).

Search engine optimisation

Including HTML versions of articles is desirable for search engine optimisation, as is creating accessible PDFs. The provision of text-based descriptions of images is also helpful and improves the overall accessibility of the journal website, assisting users with screen readers.

To improve ranking in search results, journals can also provide guidance to their authors on how articles themselves can be optimised. Key tips include using sharp and short titles, writing impactful abstracts and choosing keywords wisely. Linking on the web is also important for search engine optimisation, in both directions – links to journal content from other sites and vice versa. All of the references/citations in articles should include links to their source files, ideally using DOIs whenever possible.

Content recommendation engines such as TrendMD can be useful to improve readership, but there is often a fee involved.

Technical improvements

If there is a limited budget for search engine optimisation, journals can improve their position in organic search results in other ways. Key areas for journal websites to target include: good user experience (including in mobile browsers), provision of actionable and helpful information to visitors and, of course, delivering high-quality content.

Embedding tools to make it as easy as possible to share and cite journal articles is essential. Examples of social sharing solutions include AddThis and Shariff, which are available to install for free.

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