This article was first published in 2014 on the “OpenScience” blog and has since been updated by the editors. It is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.
When researchers are ready to publish their work, they take particular interest in what steps should be taken to get their work discovered by others. Applying Search Engine Optimization techniques is one of the first things recommended, but other and more basic problems surround the process of getting indexed by popular databases and search engines.
The solution is not obvious since there are a significant number of searching services that are popular among researchers. Tools designed to provide easy to find information on scientific content are usually called Abstracting and Indexing Services, or just A&I. The goal of researchers, who want to gain citations and visibility, is to get their work indexed by as many A&I services as possible. Of course, some of them are more or less important, and this differs among disciplines.
A&I Services such as PubMed and the Directory of Open Access Journals belong to a minority of services that are free for end-users. Most well-known A&I services, like EBSCO and ProQuest, however, can only be searched by their subscribers. The significant exception is Google Scholar (GS), which is probably the most popular academic search engine worldwide and free for all parties.
By Invitation Only
Google Scholar is more inclusive than DOAJ, PubMed, or any paid databases, which can be seen as both an advantage and a disadvantage. Regardless, being indexed by GS should be a priority, even for those who prefer using more selective, paid databases for searching.
As Beel, Gipp and Wilde (following Bert van Heerde) explain in their paper on Academic SEO, Google Scholar is an ‘invitation based search engine’, which means that “Only articles from trusted sources and articles that are ‘invited’ (cited) by articles already indexed are included in the database. ‘Trusted sources,’ in this case, are publishers that cooperate directly with Google Scholar, as well as publishers and Webmasters who have requested that Google Scholar crawl their databases and Web sites.”
Unfortunately, Google Scholar does not publish a list of “trusted sources”. You can send a request to ask Google to index your personal website as “trusted” (if Google decides you are a “scientist” then your personal website will be crawled).
When GS recognizes a website as being “scientific” it searches it for documents including sections such as references or bibliographies, and treats all of them as “scientific content”. This can sometimes lead to confusing results. For university websites, for instance, crawled as “trusted”, GS will index course descriptions and other materials for students, as well as blog entries if they are posted in the university’s domain. On the other hand, it seems that GS does not index Academia.edu.
However, non-scientific content cited in academic works is indexed by GS (historians, cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and other researchers in humanities often treat popular writings as research materials and cite them in their work, Google Scholar then may treat their material as scientific). This is why searching via GS may sometimes bring surprising results.
Getting the Word Out
To conclude, what should you do to get your work indexed by Google Scholar? If you are a book author, a good way is to send your book to Google Books. Google Scholar treats Google Books as a “trusted source”, so if your book contains references or a bibliography section, Google should treat it as “scientific” and display it in Scholar search results. Do not forget to include a link to the full-text pdf in your book description.
If you are about to publish a paper, you should submit it to a repository that is indexed by Google Scholar (the one provided by your institution is probably good enough, as well as the most popular repository in your field, but check it by searching its content in Google Scholar). In any case, the easiest way is for you to publish your work with a publisher that cooperates with Google Scholar directly. Information about this and other Abstracting & Indexing Services provided by the publisher should be posted on the company’s website.
Being indexed is just the beginning of your adventure with search engines, and it is much easier than improving your position on result pages. Bear in mind SEO guidelines, but remember that the crucial point is citations. That is why you should consider to go Open Access and take some time to choose well-recognized places to publish, as well as to promote your research among colleagues. After all, the quality of your work should be your primary concern.
See also Google Scholar’s Inclusion Guidelines for Webmasters.
[Title Image by Mitchell Luo via Unsplash]