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Academic SEO: optimising files for Google Scholar

19.04.2018 - by Yvonne Ansari


Google Scholar is a fantastic resource for finding articles and showcasing your academic work. Part of ensuring your articles have a good readership is doing everything you can to make sure your work ranks well in the Google Scholar listings when people search for relevant keywords.

book-books-bookshelf-159621Google Scholar works just like the regular Google search engine, but it identifies academic research and only shows those in the results. So it’s a great tool for people who want to narrow their search to only include peer reviewed academic papers.

There are, of course, a number of other search engines for academic work, which have different optimisation requirements. This article from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley provides further advice covering a number of other academic research portals.

In this blog post, we’ve identified the most important considerations to help ensure your work is visible in Google Scholar.

Abstract and meta data

Meta data completeness for PDFs and other electronic files is particularly important. It provides extra context for the search engine, indicating what your document is about and how it relates to other articles (it does this using citations, which we cover in more detail below).

Essential elements of meta data for academic work are:

  • Title
  • Author names
  • Abstract
  • Keywords (author and user related)
  • Publication name
  • Social annotations
  • Description
  • File name
  • URI (in this case, this just means the URL)

Google’s algorithm will look for keywords and phrases used in the main body of the article, as well as tables, figures and subheadings, to identify the most relevant articles for a user’s search term. But taking the time to include carefully considered meta data makes it that bit easier for Google Scholar to get your article in front of people searching on that topic.

Meta data can be edited using a PDF editor such as Adobe Acrobat or using the software the file was originally created in – for example, in Microsoft Word (under ‘Properties’) or Adobe InDesign (under ‘File info’). For more information about configuring meta data for Google Scholar, read Google’s full instructions here.

The abstract is also really important because Google Scholar uses it to form the meta description. Just as a researcher will decide whether to delve into a full academic paper based on the abstract, the meta description is your opportunity to encourage readers to click through from the search results in the first place. Google’s meta descriptions can be up to 230 characters long. This means that while the full abstract can of course be as long as needed, it’s worth considering how the first 230 characters will look in a meta description, and how effectively this description will draw in readers. We recommend putting the most important information first, summing up the contents of the work and what the user will gain from reading it.

Types of graphics

Images in articles should be vector graphics (which are made up of straight and curved lines) rather than raster (which are made up of pixels).

The reason for using vector over raster graphics is that text cannot be read by search engines if it is housed in a raster format. This means any text included in a raster graphic won’t do anything to help the article rank more prominently in the Google Scholar results. And ideally, you want every bit of your article to contribute relevance for the different search queries that might lead a person to your work.

The following formats are examples of vector graphics:

  • .svg
  • .ai
  • .eps
  • .ps

Citation details and count

As mentioned, your citations are very important for helping articles to rank well in Google Scholar. To ensure Google Scholar can understand the relation between your articles and the works cited within them, you should ensure author names and publication names are always cited in the exact same way, and that the reference list for the full article is labelled with a clear subheading.

You should also ensure the formatting of author and publication information is aligned across the article itself and in the meta data of the file. All this maximises the potential for your papers to rank prominently when people search for academic work using author and publication names.

Lastly, and most importantly, the more citations you create, the better. Cite your past and future work in your articles, to keep building the authority of your articles. Just remember to remain consistent with author and publication names across all your citations.

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