Search Engine Optimization for the
Librarian for African and Latin American
Studies, Spanish and Portuguese
What is Search Engine Optimization?
A relatively old concept and set of practices that libraries and particularly
published faculty repeatedly fail to take advantage of.
“Search Engine Optimization (SEO) … is the process of identifying factors
in a webpage which would impact search engine accessibility to it and
fine-tuning the many elements of a website so it can achieve the highest
possible visibility when a search engine responds to a relevant query.
Search engine optimization aims at achieving good search engine
accessibility for webpages, high visibility in a search engine results, and
improvement of the chances the webpages are retrieved.” Zhang and
Dimitroff, p. 666.
Has gotten a bad name because of unethical spamming practices, but
when done properly is simply a set of best practices for website metadata.
As Yahoo’s SEO guide says:
– “Good SEO copywriting makes your page more readable for both
search engines and humans”
Is SEO appropriate for academia?
• Good SEO is about the accessibility of our work and
resources. A newer subfield called Academic Search Engine
Optimization helps scholars learn how search engines like
Google Scholar include and display content in ways that are
different from regular search engines. This is of particular
utility to librarians.
• As open access gains credibility, making articles and
bibliographies easily findable on the web is essential.
• Google Scholar is very particular about how it includes
content – preparing and displaying your documents with good
SEO in mind will help webcrawlers find your work and include
Case Study: Bibliography of US Latina Lesbian
History and Culture
As in the Rushton, Kelehan and Strong pilot project at SUNY
Binghamton, goals for the optimization project included:
1) Increasing the page rank of the bibliography for a targeted
set of keywords
2) Increasing the number of search engine referrals
3) Increasing the number of page views
•Put bibliography on the web and wait for it to be indexed by Google
and hover at natural site equilibrium in rankings.
•Select target keyword search strings using keyword analysis tools.
•Measure the placement of bibliography site for each of these
•Optimize site with these target search strings in mind.
•Measure the placement of bibliography site for this series of search
strings after a period of time.
Step 1: Put Bibliography on the Web
• Bibliography put online at free NYU alumni
• No frills, text only.
• Did include machine-readable internal linking
structure for Table of Contents
Select target keyword search strings
Google Insights Keyword Tool
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Step 3: Measure Search Engine Ranking of
Site for Targeted Keywords
• 3 measurements taken: once at beginning of project,
once post-equilibrium/pre-optimization, and
• The site’s natural ranking equilibrium happens to be
very high in the rankings (on first page of Google
results) for many of the keyword searches I had
chosen for this case study.
• Therefore, no optimization was necessary for over
half of the keywords I chose!
Step 4: Adding Metadata to Site
• The following pieces of metadata were added to the site’s
html <head> section:
• <meta name="description" content="Resources for the study
of Latina lesbian history and culture. A comprehensive
bibliography of published works, archives and audio-visual
– This section is the little blurb that displays underneath a listing in a
• <meta name="keywords" content="latina lesbian history and
culture, lesbian studies, latina lesbian research resources,
latino studies, queer studies, gay studies, hispanic american
Step 5: Measure site rankings for
targeted searches postoptimization
• Results following most basic of SEO were so
good, little else turns out to be necessary.
• There are other guidelines and best practices
for different kinds of web publications that
are important for librarians and scholars to be
aware of, however, and some of these could
be incorporated in the future: include abstract
on page, attach pdf file, etc.
Best Practices for Web Publications
• Include important subject keywords in your article
title, abstract, and html metadata tags.
• Keep titles relatively short.
• Assign good metadata to any uploaded PDF files,
especially author and paper title names.
• Use machine-readable vector images.
• Format article with standard terminology:
Introduction, Literature Review, Results,
• Publish in an open access journal
Best Practices, cont.
• Upload articles to your institution’s
repository, departmental webpage or
• If putting articles on your personal website,
create a separate webpage for each article
title and abstract + PDF: Google Scholar will
index only 1 citation + abstract per page.
Things to Avoid
• Using keywords more often than necessary –
you will annoy your readers and possibly be
flagged as spam
• Use flat images with text that is unreadable by
machines (.bmp, .jpg, etc.)
• List multiple article abstracts on the same
Beel, Jran, Bela Gipp, and Erik Eilde. "Academic Search Engine Optimization (ASEO):
Optimizing Scholarly Literature for Google Scholar & Co." Journal of Scholarly Publishing 41.2
(2010): 176-90. Print.
Google. “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.”
Rushton, Erin E., Martha Daisy Kelehan, and Marcy A. Strong. "Searching for a New Way to
Reach Patrons: A Search Engine Optimization Pilot Project at Binghamton University
Libraries." Journal of Web Librarianship 2.4 (2008): 525-47. Print.
Zhang, Jin, and Alexandra Dimitroff. "The Impact of Metadata Implementation on Webpage
Visibility in Search Engine Results (Part II)." Information Processing & Management 41.3
(2005): 697-715. Print.
Yahoo! “SEO Basics.” http://styleguide.yahoo.com/resources/optimize-search-engines/seobasics
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