Digital publishing is never as easy as it looks. Successful online platforms require a robust program to drive usage, drawing on the expertise of editorial and operational teams, as well as partners across a network of content and service providers. Gaps or weak links in this supply chain can undermine the performance of your publications and product goals.
Publishers disseminate digital records of books, journals, and databases, crafting the best possible metadata available to them at the time. Search engines, discovery tools, and library catalogs make the most of publishers’ metadata — which is often reworked to fit the designs and strategies of those services, often beyond the influence of content providers. It can be tough to establish a productive relationship with those at the helm of search engines or to influence how publisher metadata is used by the databases and services popular with your users. And, as Apple, Google and others modify their algorithms, web quality indicators, and privacy rules, publishers must keep refreshing their approach to measuring the impact and value of digital usage.
So how do publishers get a firm handle on their metadata and its impact on usage? Optimizing for scholarly content discovery and access is a delicate balance of curating high-impact metadata and monitoring its performance with targeted metrics. Scholarly SEO adapts mainstream tools for driving web visibility and traffic to the specialized information practices of researchers and the unique formats, venues, and contexts of their published works. Here, we address three key approaches to optimizing discovery and usage of your publications, and the Scholarly SEO program Maverick has developed to help publishers increase usage and measure discoverability.
1. Usage analysis and benchmarking
It’s not always clear how to determine what “good usage” looks like. The ROI metrics that work for one provider will not fit everyone. The necessary frameworks to assess scholarly SEO performance are rooted in matching your organizational goals with the information practices of the users you serve. Your value proposition, and the experiences of your users, should inform the benchmarks used to monitor referral rates, downloads, and other impacts of highly discoverable and accessible publications. Pulling together web analytics, COUNTER reports, and other data points, Maverick’s team of experts can construct a discoverability dashboard to help you monitor your progress toward increased usage and content performance.
2. Discoverability audits
Informed by your usage goals, a variety of tests can be applied to audit both the quality of your original metadata outputs and how well they serve users in downstream systems and services. It’s important to evaluate the accuracy and timeliness of your metadata as it flows into the wider supply chain, from mainstream search engines and subject databases to reading apps and reference managers. These audits often incorporate usability testing with target users and draw on what is known about the needs and contexts of researchers, learners, practitioners, and other consumers. Maverick has developed unique diagnostic methods to measure content discoverability across multiple information channels in order to craft audits focused on specific markets.
3. Metadata and indexing audits
The mechanics of digital publishing are always evolving, so it’s important to run routine audits of metadata quality and its performance in the search engines, databases, and other channels where readers expect to find your content. Reviewing compliance against data standards, such as NISO’s Open Discovery Initiative and KBART programs, is a good place to start any metadata audit. Testing of this sort will quickly reveal gaps in content markup and/or indexing, or mismatches between your current offerings and the information practices of the communities you serve. These findings also often lead to establishing or improving publisher relations with database providers and other indexers. Maverick’s global network can accelerate your ability to identify opportunities for such partnerships and your ongoing metadata enrichment.
Metadata architecture, indexing strategies, and discoverability dashboards should flow from your product strategy and value propositions to stakeholders. Maverick’s Scholarly SEO program offers critical business intelligence for publishers and can be adapted to a variety of types of content and products. For instance, auditing discoverability of an open-access journal will require different routines than assessing the impact of metadata designed for video platforms.
In forthcoming posts, we will explore Scholarly SEO for different publishing programs, such as open access journals, e-books, multimedia, and courseware. To learn more, download Maverick’s Scholarly SEO service sheet.
By Lettie Y. Conrad,
Maverick Senior Associate, Product Research and Development
Lettie Conrad is a product R&D consultant with a passion for the research information experience and working with content providers to deliver optimum user engagement with publishing platforms. She serves as North American Editor for Learned Publishing and is a ‘chef’ with the SSP’s Scholarly Kitchen blog. Lettie has a master’s degree in Mass Communication from California State University, Northridge, and is completing an Information Science PhD in the Gateway Program from California State University, San Jose, and the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.