Search Engine Optimization: How to Attract More Visitors to Your Repository

What is “Search Engine Optimization”?

Generally speaking, “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) focuses on getting a website’s content to rank highly in search engines, such as Google™ and Bing™. Search engines are a major source of traffic to Digital Commons repositories, so getting your repository content listed at the top of the search results is guaranteed to have a significant impact on its visibility and circulation.

SEO & Digital Commons: Setting You Up for Success

Having a Digital Commons repository automatically puts you ahead in the SEO game:

  • Bepress works closely with specialized search engines such as Google Scholar™ to ensure widespread and accurate coverage of Digital Commons content.
  • Sitemap XML files are automatically generated, providing a road map for search engines to find all the repository content. When new content is posted, Google is automatically notified, further increasing the rate at which new content gets discovered.
  • Digital Commons page titles are structured to be unique across the repository as well as informative—using terms to help search engines and individuals better assess page relevance. (Duplicate or non-informative titles can hinder the accurate and efficient indexing of content.)
  • Digital Commons repositories are kept up and running efficiently, minimizing search engine “crawl” errors.
  • SEO is not a one-time upgrade. For every release, bepress considers enhancements to keep all Digital Commons repositories current with the evolving recommendations of major search engines.
What Can I Do to Improve Ranking?

SEO is a complex field to navigate. Bepress can steer you toward a number of best practices, highlighted in the following pages, which you can follow to influence your repository’s visibility.

Link to Repository Content

Getting more links to your repository from quality sites is probably your most powerful SEO tool.  Search engines count the number of websites that link to yours, placing more value on links deemed to be from very reputable or popular sites.

Who links to your repository now? You can explore inbound links to your site using Google Analytics™, which is implemented for each Digital Commons repository (read more in An Overview of Digital Commons Reports). As interesting as it is to see which sites link to yours, it’s also useful to discover which sites don’t link to your site but should.

What you can do:  Start a campaign to get more links!

  • Link to the repository from your institution’s homepage, the library’s website, and other relevant pages.  For example, department web pages should link to any corresponding publications (series, book galleries, etc.) in the repository.
  • Add RSS feeds from your repository to the library or a departmental website.
  • Encourage faculty to link to their articles from personal websites, blogs, related societies’ web pages, and social media sites like Facebook.
  • Link to repository content from related Wikipedia pages, as appropriate. Use the “edit” links on the Wikipedia page to suggest your repository content as a reference or further reading. And, use the Wikipedia citation templates to enter an article as a citation:
  • Web Directories: Web directories are human-edited, categorical listings of websites. Search engines consider a listing here as a positive rating factor. Consider submitting your repository to Open Directory Project (DMOZ), your journals to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), and subject-based content to relevant directories as you discover them.
Link Formatting Guidelines

The text of a link should be descriptive:

  • Use the title of an article, or include highly relevant keywords
  • Include the trailing “/” and exclude “index.html” or other extra material
    Example: <a href=””>Digital Commons</a>
  • Avoid creating links with uninformative text, such as “click here.”

Use Descriptive Page Titles

In most browsers, page titles appear at the top of the window when viewing a page. Search engines use these titles to help evaluate the page’s subject matter, and typically display the titles prominently as links on the results page.  So a well-worded page title helps potential visitors discover your content via searches, and increases the likelihood that they will select it from the list of search results.

What you can do:

  • Review the page title for the repository homepage and any publication homepages. If a title is too generic to be meaningful to search engines or potential visitors, use the Descriptive Page Title field on the Configuration screen to improve results.
  • Use relevant keywords and popular search terms, and limit titles to less than 150 characters (only the first 70 characters or so are displayed on the search results page).

Example Journal Name:   Green

Example Descriptive Page Title:  Green: The Economics of Recycling Journal

Improve Search Results Snippets

Do a search in Google and look at the results page. Below each link is a brief description of the found page, called a “snippet.” These snippets are important because readers rely on them to make decisions about which links to click.

Search engines get snippets in a number of ways:  from an Open Directory entry that stores information about each site, from a meta-description tag in the HTML source of the page, or culled from the information on the page itself.

What you can do:

  • If you are unsatisfied with snippets used for the repository, communities, or publications, suggest your own meta-description using the Search Description option on the Configuration screen. The description should accurately represent the content and “market” it via the search results page. Only the first 155 characters or so appear in the snippet, so short phrases can be more effective than full sentences in some cases. Note that the meta-description tag is just a suggestion; there is no guarantee it will be used.
  • Make sure all posted documents have an abstract because Digital Commons articles are automatically set up to use the abstract as the meta-description. Enter a short description, including file type for images and media files. Because abstracts also appear on the article’s web page, be sure to use terms from the title and full text to help articles rank higher in related queries.

If you have publications where numerous articles are missing abstracts, it’s worth the time to add abstracts to them. Refer to our batch upload and revision information if there are numerous articles to revise. Please contact bepress Consulting Services at or phone (510) 665-1200, option 2 with any questions about batch revision.

Best Practices for Repository Upkeep

Keep the Repository “Alive”!

Large, active repositories can convey more perceived authority to search engines, thereby boosting the ranking for all of the repository contents. This generates more traffic, which also continues to improve ranking.  It’s a positive cycle—so keep posting content!

Find creative ways to update your homepage and showcase repository content. For example, feature a journal of the month, an upcoming event, or a special gallery on your homepage to give the featured content a boost.

Choose Publication Names and URLs with SEO in Mind

Pages tend to rank higher when the URLs contain the search terms. Also, most people examine the URL in search results, to help decide whether to click a link. So, when creating new publications, choose descriptive terms for the URL, such as “ecology” instead of “ecol.”   

Monitor Your Efforts

Using tools like Google Analytics™ and Digital Commons reports, you can monitor your repository’s performance. See the resources below for more information. You may also schedule an annual review of these elements with your IR team.

Related Resources

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