SEO and science communication on University of Copenhagen

SEO and science communication

SEO and science communication is an obligation in modern, digital journalism. Academics often have a perception that science communication is something special compared to other kinds of communication.  The perception is that science communication requires special editing conditions or that science communication requires special handling in the communication context. But the truth is, when we discuss communication on the web, that science communication is not fundamentally different from the communication needed to sell a pair of shoes in a web shop.

SEO and science communication is about content, target audience, communication strategy, editing of text and images, UX (user experience), conversion and evaluation. The only difference is that there are potentially more customers to buy a pair of shoes than to read an interesting article about a particular research topic. It’s hard to get a customer to buy footwear and difficult to get students or target audience to read an entire article about science communication within a specific topic.

Google determines sensitive algorithms to the correlation between keywords and the pages the customer is presented with. It’s all about ranking and Google does not differentiate ranking between web shops that sell shoes and articles on science communication. The content will be measured by the same algorithms that either rewards or punishes the content and the organizing of the text.

Google penalizes poor communications and reward the good, whether you sell shoes or write relevant articles, for example about diabetes.

SEO and science communication

SEO and science communication from pt.slideshare.net

SEO and science communication on the Web

When it comes to communication on the web (and web only), the following general conditions are obvious whether you are the author of an article about stem cell research in diabetes or a shop selling shoes. A conversion is when someone in the target audience clicks the buy button or open the article and read more than 2 minutes. In that situation, our communication is successful.

The following conditions are an obligation:

A: The target audience must have a significant need for information.

If the target audience is not interested in communication, or experience that they are sufficiently familiar with the subject, or are not curious, the communication efforts are meaningless.

B: The target audience should be available in connection with Google’s keyword strategies

The target group must be available either in a forum where the target audience sees the information or by using specific keywords that lead to the article. Nothing on the Internet is seen by chance, everything has to be promoted.

C: The content must be relevant and competitive

You are probably not the only one interested in the stem cell research. Therefore, there will be other relevant content on the web, you are competing with.  Your content (your article) may appear with something new, an exciting new angle, in a simple grammatical language, in an appropriate length, with real headlines complemented by interesting pictures, video or podcast. All this to be seen and ranked in Google. Without high-ranking no communication.

D: UX user experience, usability

The website, which hosts your article should be well functioned both technically and when it comes to usability. If a website (or an article) for technical reasons open slower than the norm, or has a low user experience because of bad navigation, it will be ranked lower than other sites.

If the above four conditions are present, it is possible to have relevant considerations about genre and target audience.

The target audience for science communication

The target audience for science communication are distributed in the following order with consideration to motivation and number.

  1. Collegues and other researchers in the specific area of research. (few)
  2. Parallel research areas. (Few, but more)
  3. Journalists interested in research within the mentioned area and with access to large platforms (few but potentially many customers if they publish your article)
  4. Interested involved directly in the field. For example, diabetics who are interested specifically in your research, because they suffers from diabetics or perhaps are relatives to people with diabetic. (Many depending on the number directly involved)
  5. The public, which have limited knowledge but discover the sensation and the sharp angle and read the article. (A lot)

Whether it’s about shoes or articles about research the last category is the most difficult. The first category is far easier to contact because they are motivated. In the first category are the target audience informed and motivated in advance. They are ready to “conversion”. You are friends with most of them on Facebook, you meet them to conferences. You may be colleagues with them at the same department.

Many are not necessarily the goal

It is true that communication is not always about many, but the right ones. But we researchers should be prepared to admit that certain parts of our research is not suitable for other than our colleagues. And the journalists and the public cannot be motivated by just anything. In certain situation, we must be satisfied with few, if we communicate in a niche, both in terms of audience and content. And it could be an optimal situation if we communicate to a major part of the target audience with great effect, because this specific communication is very important for a small target audience.

The goal is many users big fuss and interesting communication in high quality.

Let’s get to the point, how do we do it?

If you are in the fortunate position that a journalist from a major national or international news platform have said yes to your article, you don´t need to do more. The target audience is likely to be huge and automatically a large number of customers will read your article. You do not need to worry about SEO and science communication, social media, etc. The entire audience enters the news platform via the browser. It may be www.usatoday.com, www. Aljezziria.com, www.bbc.dk, www.huffingtonpost.dk, or some other large national or international news platform.

It is very difficult to get there. But it happens every day that national and international news platforms publish articles with scientific content, often in an edited or abbreviated form. As a journalist or a reseacher there is nothing more motivational and inspirering than creating breaking news on a large national or international platform.

But less will do. It may be that you regularly browse a particular website and read specific articles with scientific content. It can be www.videnskab.dk or www.ted.com or specific forums at certain universities where specific content is shared and discussed. Or maybe a blog, where you and your colleagues are in contact with highly motivated customers. If so, simply write your content and submit the conditions at these pages. Here you don´t need to be concerned about SEO and science communication.

But in the same moment you take a step down, the target audience do not have the URL in the browser or among the favorites. Now you have to do something actively to the target audience if they should discover the exciting content. And this is where science communication really becomes interesting.

SEO is the solution

Every time you write an article, you need to SEO optimize the article. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and refers to a discipline optimizing text, images, links, video/podcast to the algorithms that Google uses when an article ranks in Google hierarchy. Google updated their ranking algorithms in 2012 and began to penalize websites that used a promotion strategy Google found manipulative or speculative. The so-called Penguin update put a stop to SEO techniques that sought fast and affordable results. Now, you need skills, you have to deliver relevant content and comply with a number of fundamental rules of SEO. If you do so, you will in turn be rewarded.

Ranking, SEO and science communication

Ranking refers to the order in which your article appears on specific keywords. The most optimal ranking is on page 1, the top (no. 1), but all positions on the first page (among the first 10 first options) is a good starting point to be seen and later receive a conversion. (Someone reading your article)

If you sell shoes, and the user types “shoes” into the Google search field, it is important to get on page 1 or one of the first choices. The same applies if you are a researcher in diabetes specializing in stem cell research. Here it is important if the user writes “insulin stem cells,” to get into the first page. We know from ourselves that it is very rare that we try page 2. If we did not find what we were looking for on the first page most will retry with new keywords in a new search. So if you seach “SEO science communication” this article should be the first choice.

The customer’s patience is very short.

The following optimize a good ranking:

  • Write the article directly into an SEO tool that organize the text according to the most significant SEO rules. When we meet in August in Copenhagen, you will be presented with a tool called Youst that is really suitable for SEO. Many offer this type of SEO tools and it is important to make it a habit to organize your text in SEO.

The article must meet the following general requirements.

  • 200-300 word. If we have an assumption that users’ patience is ultra-short, we should be brief. Google believes that articles more than 300 words belong in private forums, not something based on keywords.
  • Contents. The content must be relevant to the keywords the user has used. If the user has typed “insulin stem cells” then the two words, either separately or in combination, should occur in at least 3% of the text body. Not above, not below. If typing the keywords deliberately many times perhaps at 40 or 50% of the text, you will be punished. And the punishment is harsh. You will be moved down on page 65 and it will take you three months to regain your ranking position.
  • Link in and out. If there are links in to your article from other relevant articles, Google records it as a quality. Your article is interesting because other relevant sites link into your article. In order to expand the quality of the content you link from the article to other relevant articles. Also this will Google reward.
  • Video /podcast and photos. If you have relevant material in the article such as illustrative photos, video / podcast and maybe some of these videos are on YouTube, Google estimates that as quality.
  • Keywords in the SEO title, metadiscription and headlines. Your keywords should appear certain places because the algorithms have special attention to general phrases that characterize the article. Therefore, your keywords should be represented in the SEO title of the article’s headline and in the first paragraph and in the metadiscription.
  • Simple language, short sentences. Here, any researcher is challenged. Google does not like that the simple is performed complicated. (Conversely, it is disastrous if the complex is made simple if the basics are complicated)
  • The number of visits. Are there many visitors to your article, your ranking will be higher because Google interprets users’ interest as quality? If visitors do not seek your article, the article is not interesting and therefore the article will get a low ranking. If you write in a very narrow area with very rare keywords, Google will detect this and at the same time Google will expect less visitors to the page. You will therefore not be penalized if your research by definition is narrow with a small target audience.

All this you get to work with in August in our workshops.

Google has a monopoly

Students are often provoked by the fact that they have to organize their content on external requirements from Google. And it is also arguable that Google has a monopoly on the majority of all search in the world. But there is not much to do about it and maybe it’s not so crazy after all. Google has developed algorithm technologies based on the main objective, namely: We must find what we seek, preferably in the first search and in a high speed.

Not many years ago we met a lot of cumbersome and meaningless offers on specific keywords. It was annoying.

Google has taken the majority of all advertising in the US and Europe. It is believed that about 70% of all advertising have moved from printed media to Google. Today the Danish Commissioner Margrethe Vestager sits in the EU-commission trying to break this advertising monopoly and provide access to private advertisers on Google (She is challenged).

In the future we will experience major changes in the way you search on the Internet. But the speed and accuracy is a key factor that everyone agrees to optimize. If we demand to find what we search for in the first choice, we journalists and researchers have to adapt content to Google’s algorithms.

Jesper Koppel

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