Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Academic Search Engine Optimization (ASEO)

In this blog we will take a look into Academic search engine optimization, how do Academic search engines (ASE) rank the documents (scholarly articles) and most importantly how can one optimize scholarly literature for academic search engines in general and for Google Scholar in particular.

The basic concept of keyword-based searching is the same for all of the major academic search engines such as Google Scholar, IEEE Xplore, PubMed, and SciPlore.org. Relevance of a document with respect to a query term depends on how many times the term appears in the document and where. This means that an occurrence in the title is weighed more heavily than an occurrence in the abstract, which carries more weight than an occurrence in a (sub)heading, which in turn is more than in the body, and so on.  The metadata associated with the electronic files (like in pdf format) is also important as it helps the ASE crawler to differentiate between an ordinary document and an academic article (by extracting the author and title from metadata). Apart from this other common ranking factors are: publication date, citation count, author or journal name and reputation etc.

 So how does Google scholar do it? Google Scholar is one of those search engines that combine several factors into one ranking algorithm. The most important factors are relevance, citation count, author name(s), and name of publication.
Relevance: Google scholar gives a lot of importance to the title and a short and specific title will be ranked above long and descriptive one. E.g.  For the search term ‘SEO,’ a document titled ‘SEO: An Overview’ would be ranked higher than one titled ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO): A Literature Survey of the Current State of the Art.’ The total search term count has minimal effect on ranking, synonyms and pdf metadata are also neglected.
Citation Count: As shown in the figure below higher the citation counts higher the ranking. . Google Scholar does not differentiate between self-citations and citations by third parties.

Author and Publication name: If the search query has author or publication name then the documents having the name gets a high rank. Google scholar also claim to take both author’s and publication’s “reputation” into account.

     Every researcher wants to spread his/her work to as many people as possible. But for doing that it has become almost necessary to ensure that the article must not only be indexed properly but should also be ranked higher by Academic search engines; that’s where ASEO come into the picture. As described in a recent paper by Joeran Beel, Bela Gipp, and Erik Wilde, Academic search engine optimization (ASEO) is the creation, publication, and modification of scholarly literature in a way that makes it easier for academic search engines to both crawl it and index it.
Preparation: First of all build a set of keywords(only a few) which are highly relevant to the article. The choice of keywords is very important; they should not be the most popular in their category as it may increase the competition for the article. One can take help of tools like Google trends, Google insights etc. or can use the words suggested by search engines themselves.
Writing the article: while writing the article the keywords selected above must be used in title, abstract and in the body as often as possible (but not too much that will annoy the readers). If possible include synonyms of these keywords in the text as well, so that it may be found by users unaware of the exact terminology. While writing names, take special care on spellings as it would help search engines to identify the article or citations correctly. Use the standard scientific layout and structure for the article so that ASE could easily classify the article as scientific.    
Preparing for Publication: Text in figures and tables should be machine readable so that it can be easily indexed by ASE. If the documents are converted to pdf then the metadata (author and title name) should be correct.
Publishing: while publishing choice of publication matters a lot for e.g. open-access articles usually receive more citations than articles accessible only by purchase or subscription. Journals or publishers who have friendlier policies with Google scholar and other ASEs must be preferred.

            ASEO had received mixed reviews in the scientific community as many people look this area of research just as “how to cheat the search engines to boost up your rank”. That’s why when Joeran Beel, Bela Gipp sent their paper for review it got rejected and they received following reviews:

“I’m not a big fan of this area of research […]. I know it’s in the call for papers, but I think that’s a mistake.”

“[This] paper seems to encourage scientific paper authors to learn Google scholar’s ranking method and write papers accordingly to boost ranking [which is not] acceptable to scientific communities which are supposed to advocate true technical quality/impact instead of ranking”

But it should be viewed as guidelines which will help search engines to understand the articles in a better way thus making the content more widely and easily available. Obviously there would be cases where people will take unethical steps to boost their article rank using ASEO but the same problem existed with web search and finally the web search engines manage to avoid spam, thus ASEs will too catch up and it will be beneficial for authors and users alike.   

Joeran Beel, Bela Gipp, and Erik Wilde. Academic Search Engine Optimization (ASEO): Optimizing Scholarly Literature for Google Scholar and Co. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 41 (2): 176–190, January 2010

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