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Top tips: making your article visible with SEO

Make sure your article gets the attention it deserves

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© istockphoto.com/ssuni

Is your article hiding among millions of others, difficult to find and not being read as a result? If it is, you’re not alone; great research can go relatively unnoticed if it’s not highlighted and indexed in the right way.

In a recent survey of 4,668 researchers, 95 percent said they find the information they need in journal articles, and 39 percent start their searches with a full text service like ScienceDirect. So publishing with Elsevier means your article will be among the first a researcher might come across when they are searching. But how do you get it to the top of the list? And what about climbing the search engine ranking?

All it takes is a bit of effort on your part before you submit your manuscript. Here are some top tips to help you get started.

Quick tips:

  1. Choose your keywords carefully
  2. Make your title short and relevant
  3. Repeat keywords in your abstract and throughout the article
  4. Caption everything
  5. Use subheadings
  6. Link, link and link some more

What is SEO and how does it work?

Search engines scan your article looking for keywords and phrases. They find these in a few main places:

  • Title and subtitles
  • Keywords section
  • Abstract
  • Metadata
  • Image and video descriptions

Elsevier journals ensure the right metadata gets added to your online article to make it discoverable, and ScienceDirect is a trusted domain for scientific research results. But did you know that you also can help search engines by optimizing your article for their scans? This process is called search engine optimization (SEO). Quite simply, the better your SEO, the higher the chance your article will appear in a relevant search. This means people will find what they’re looking for more easily, and you’ll get more readers.

SEO tips infographic

Choose your keywords carefully

Who do you want to read your article? Put yourself in their shoes: if they were trying to find your article, what would they search for? Try writing a long list of terms and phrases, then Google them to see what comes up. Go through the search process they might follow and adjust it until it fits your article. Delete, change and add words and phrases until you have your ideal list.

Make your title short and use keywords

Start as you mean to go on: titles are the best places to get started with SEO. Regardless of what the search engines think, a snappy, relevant title will help attract readers on any platform. What is your article about? What do you want readers to know about it? What is the most compelling or interesting finding? And what are your most important keywords? You don’t need to be cryptic or keep readers guessing with your title – get to the point and keep it relevant.

Repeat keywords in your abstract and throughout the article

Search engines are not impressed by a vast vocabulary; they want you to be consistent throughout the article. Make sure you include keywords naturally to signal that they are key topics covered in your research, increasing the likelihood of your article appearing for search queries related to each term. But watch out: avoid keyword stuffing and make sure you don’t unnecessarily repeat words out of context!

Caption everything

That beautiful illustration, striking figure or informative graph can be even more valuable if you caption it well. Keep captions clear and descriptive. Search engines scan captions and metadata separately, so remember to think about how you have tagged and named your original media files too.

Use subheadings

Subheadings can help guide the reader through complex content and they can also push your article closer to your potential readers, if used well. Like the title, keep subheadings clear, consistent and simple, and be sure to use relevant keywords.

Link, link and link some more

Links from and to an article help boost its ranking. When you submit, check the ways you can enrich your article; linking to different websites and databases is always a good idea. And once your article is published, you can continue to lift its ranking by linking to it from other sources, such as social media, blogs, news sites, or your personal or institutional website. When you’re working on getting your article noticed, keep this in mind.

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