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.

Explain, share and measure – consider preparing a short summary for promotion through BMJ’s partnership with Kudos. Learn more here.


What is an Orcid ID and why is it important?

ORCID provides researchers with a unique identifier that can be kept throughout their career. It can be used in publications and grant applications. ORCID distinguishes between researchers with similar names, and helps ensure that publications are attributed and recorded correctly. It also helps researchers to comply with funders’ open access requirements.

Persistent identifiers, like an ORCID iD, are crucial as a way to find, link and navigate the vast volumes of information available. Having an ORCID iD will support the discovery of your research and publications. BMJ Journal submission systems support ORCID allowing authors to enter their unique identifier.