The Art & Science of Discoverability

In our last post, we shared some of the data from our deep dive into search engine optimization (SEO) and discoverability of Digital Commons content.  Good news: SEO remains strong!  But that doesn’t mean it’s time to rest…. In this post we’ll share a little bit about what we do, and will continue to do, to support you, as well as some tips and tricks that you all can use!  If you want the full story, view the webinar here.

But first, let’s clarify the difference between SEO and discoverability – what are they and what’s the difference?  SEO has to do specifically with making sure web content can be easily found and indexed by search engines such as Google and Google Scholar.  When content achieves a high position in search results it is an indication of optimal SEO.  Discoverability includes SEO, but also much more.  Discoverability is about whether and how your content can be found all over the web, beyond just in search engine results. For example, does your content show up in relevant locations such as Wikipedia articles or departmental websites?  Both SEO and discoverability are important to think about to make sure your content reaches your intended audiences, but here we’ll focus on SEO.

Because your content’s discoverability is crucial, we work hard to ensure things that make your sites easy for search engines to crawl and index, like extremely high uptime (>99%), machine-readable metadata (“metatags”), availability of sitemaps, mobile-friendly pages, valid https certificates, and more.  And the recent migration of sites to the Cloud has further increased page load speeds, an important factor in search engines’ ability to crawl your pages.  Our product and engineering teams are also constantly monitoring key indicators of strong SEO, as well as keeping an eye out for ways to improve.  And of course, we investigate and remediate as necessary if we, or you, notice anything concerning.

In our conversations with you all around SEO, the question we are asked most often is ”What can I do as a repository administrator?”  Great question!  While we try to take most of the work out of your hands so you can focus on building your repository initiative, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Link to repository content. This is probably the most powerful thing you can do.  This gives search engines more places to find your content, but it also lets them know that your content is relevant and reliable – lots of other sites are linking to it.  Great places to put them are institutional and departmental pages as well as your library homepage.
  2. Upload early and regularly. We find that repositories that have a steady flow of new content from first launch typically have better SEO and discoverability.  One reason may be because Google crawls sites more frequently if it knows that there will be new content to crawl.
  3. Provide accurate, rich, descriptive metadata. When search engines crawl your site, they look for the placement and frequency of words to help determine how to rank the content in search results.  Have your most important words in the title, for example, but be sure to include other relevant terms in other locations such as abstract and keyword fields.
  4. Include an abstract. Adding a description of the content not only helps search engines; it also helps visitors to make decisions about the reliability and relevance of the content.
  5. Use your SEO configuration fields. These allow you to suggest page titles and descriptions for them to show in search results.  Though they don’t always end up being used, they’re valuable when they are.
  6. Talk to your bepress Consultant! They are a wealth of information and can provide additional suggestions and advice.

And if you want even more…. check out our updated reference guide!