[Image above] Credit: Geraint Rowland; Flickr CC-NC BY 2.0
[Editor’s note: This post comes to us from Jonathon Foreman, ACerS managing editor of journals. Contact Foreman at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
By Jonathon Foreman
So…You want to be cited.
How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time—but wouldn’t it be nice if you had springs in your boots to lift you higher with each step?
The path to a career in research is like that mountain. There are steps you must take. Do your research. Get published. Get your degree. Do more research. Get published. Get recognized….
Search engines such as Google Scholar account for ~50% of the “discovery” results for scientific papers.
As someone who uses search engines, you know that most people generally look at the first few results, and you want your paper to be at the top of the list.
Search engines rank results based upon criteria akin to the children’s fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The better the match of the article to the search terms, the higher the placement. Too little and you don’t get found. Too much and the search engine “unlists” your paper, relegating it to internet purgatory. In other words, you want the search terms that discover your paper to be “just right.”
You can give yourself the spring in your boots by being a “Baby Bear” in the search engine world and employing search engine optimization (SEO) techniques while writing your manuscripts. The process for SEO is simple and ethical. Briefly, you must focus on the most important keywords and place them into your manuscript strategically.
Below are recommendations from Wiley, the publisher of the ACerS journals. More information can be found here.
1. Keep titles short and to the point and include only your 1–2 most important keywords placed within the first 65 characters of the title.
Compare three versions of the title from an article1 written in the 1990s:
- Direct examination of the strength variation of alumina powder granules with binder content and relative humidity
- The strength variation of alumina powder granules with binder content and relative humidity
- Effects of binder content and humidity on granule strength of spray dried alumina
Granule strengths of spray dried alumina had been examined previously by other researchers. The key novelty of the paper is exploration of how binder content and humidity affect the strength. It should be noted that the paper actually has more good information. However, the title should be reserved for only the most important information. Title c has the three major keywords/phrases—binder content, humidity, and granule strength—in order of novelty and with little additional writing. Thus this title will help this paper appear higher in relevant searches. Title b is a reasonable second choice, but it does not emphasize the novelty of the study.
2. Place essential findings and keywords in the first two sentences of your abstract, and repeat the keywords a few more times in the abstract.
Below is an SEO optimized version of the original abstract. The reader receives all the information from the original abstract, but the flow may feel counterintuitive. Original and additional keywords are underlined. Additional keywords are added here to highlight interesting information found in this study beyond strength measurement.
The granule strength of spray dried alumina increased with increasing PVA binder content and decreased with increasing relative humidity (RH). Optical microscope observations showed non-uniform binder distribution in the granules at all binder content levels. In micro-compaction stress-strain experiments 40% relative humidity samples exhibited elastic deformation and brittle fracture. Plastic deformation and fracture were noted at 60% RH and higher. The significant effect of humidity on strength and deformation behavior is explained by the decrease of the glass transition temperature of PVA with moisture content. The significance of granule strength variation on the processing of ceramics is discussed.
3. Use keywords throughout your article including the headers, but maintain a natural flow of keywords.
Strategic placement of keywords is important. However, search engines dislike too much keyword repetition, known as keyword stuffing, and may ‘un-index’ your article, making it hard to find online. It’s an important skill to find the right balance of keyword usage.
In summary, your career depends upon you being recognized as an expert. Other experts citing your hard work is evidence of your expertise. Making it easy for the other experts to find your work by employing SEO techniques will accelerate your career path with minimal additional effort from you. Where else can you say that?
- Nyumura J, Zhang Y, Uchida N et al. Direct examination of the strength variation of alumina powder granules with binder content and relative humidity. In: Ceramic Processing Science Proceedings of Ceramic Processing ’97. Westerville, OH: The American Ceramic Society; 1998: 293-300.