Writing for online visibility

Search engines like Google and Google Scholar, as well as indexing services like PubMed, are now the first port of call for researchers to discover articles they want to read or cite.

The way we search has also changed dramatically in the past 10 years, with users now searching for ‘key phrases’ rather than by full title or single words. Once a search is performed, articles are quickly scanned on the basis of the title and abstract, before the user decides whether to access the full text, or move on.

You can see how it is essential for your paper to be correctly set up for discoverability, right from the start. Here are a few steps you can take to make your work more visible and, as a result, more likely to be cited.


Top tips

Think as if you were searching for your article – What key phrases would you use to search for your own article? Make a list.

Pick a clear and descriptive title: include the main key phrase(s) you have identified, and remember that your title should have meaning outside of the context of the journal.

Include your key phrases in the abstract: Abstracts are one of the most important elements in the process of discovery, they provide search engines with the data they need to find your article and rank it in the search results page. Remember that search engines can detect abuse too! Avoid too much repetition and just focus on 3 main key phrases.

Use plain English and avoid jargon – keep in mind that discovery often happens by serendipity and your article might be of interest to researchers in other fields or countries. Make sure they understand it!

Keep it natural – Google will un-index your article if you go overboard on repetition of keywords. Just write naturally for your audience.

Be identifiable with an ORCID ID.