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By Rhiannon Rees, University of Southampton


With the wealth of information available online, it can feel like your research article is a needle in a haystack, but there are some straightforward things you can do to help make your article more 'discoverable' online. There are some key factors that contribute to search engine rankings, and hence how likely your work is to be found by an interested audience. Optimising your article for search engines will greatly increase its chance of being viewed, read and/or cited in other publications. The following suggestions are based on the way Google works (at the time of writing), but are also applicable to other major search engines.

The crucial areas to focus on are your article’s abstract and title, as these are freely available to all online, tend to be repeated in multiple places on the page, and are tagged in metadata, and therefore more likely to be found via online searches.



Construct a clear, descriptive title. Search engines assume that the title contains terms that reflect the topic of the article and give greater importance to words in a defined heading. Think about the search terms that readers may use when looking for articles on the same topic as your article, and help them by constructing your title to include them.


Keywords and phrases

You should reiterate the keywords or phrases from the title within the abstract itself. You know the key phrases for your subject area, and the number of times that your keywords and phrases appear on the page can have an important effect. Note of caution: excessive repetition will result in the page being rejected by search engines.


Sharing your paper


  • Social Media

Sharing your paper on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon etc.) is an effective way of connecting with potential readers across disciplines who may not have otherwise come across your work. Always share the link to your paper, and using an image on the post, e.g. a screenshot of the first page, will also boost engagement.

Creating an account on an academic network e.g. ResearchGate or can help to boost your profile, and (depending on copyright permissions), you can deposit a copy of your paper on your profile to make it accessible to a wider audience.


  • Blogs

Writing a shorter piece based on your paper for a blog such as The Conversation or Geography Directions can be effective in communicating your research to a broader audience and pointing people towards your research article.


  • Seminars

Consider presenting your work at a departmental seminar, or at a seminar series within your discipline or at another institution. Again, social media can be a useful way to build these connections and maximise the exposure your research is getting.


  • Email signature

An easy way to point people to your paper is to include your recent publications in your email signature. 


Major publishers are also investing a great deal in optimising their webpages and this in turn means that your publications are more likely to be found in this way. Increasingly, readers are going directly to articles from search engines, rather than via an alternative bibliographic search facility.

You can also help readers reach your publications by ensuring that any web presence links directly to the published article, including from institutional and larger umbrella websites, which are likely to be better optimised for search engines (see Reaching audiences through blogs and social media for more on this). There are a growing number of initiatives to help potential readers navigate the internet. For example, ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) allows individual authors’ publications to be readily identified and linked online. Using these tools may help readers to find your publications quickly and accurately.


About this guide

Publishing is a crucial, but sometimes daunting and unexplained, part of academic life. All academic geographers are supposed to do it, but there are few formal guidelines about how best it should be done. Many of us discover how to publish by trial and error or through the mentoring and support of colleagues. Publishing and academic landscapes also change, presenting new challenges to established academics. The publishing and getting read guides have four main aims: to provide clear, practical and constructive advice about how to publish research in a wide range of forms; to encourage you to think strategically about your publication profile and plans; to set out some of the opportunities and responsibilities you have as an author; and to support you in getting your published research read.


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