Did you know that 93% of web traffic comes through a Google search? It isn’t surprising, considering we don’t actually search, we Google. In fact googling became an official verb in 2006 when it was added to Oxford English and Merriam Webster dictionaries.
Here’s another interesting statistic. There are over 1 billion websites in the world, making your site one in a billion. If your website isn’t coming up first on the list in a Google search, perhaps this will make you feel a little bit better. It’s pretty tough to compete with a billion.
What may give you hope is that of these billion sites, only 72% are active, reducing that number down to 200 million or so. Inactive sites lose their rank with Google, which is why it’s important to update your site on a regular basis.
The number of websites competing for attention becomes even less overwhelming when you consider language and topic, since fewer sites will be in English (or whatever language your site is based on) or will be about your area of expertise. After all, how many sites could be about Deoxyribonucleic acid or Code vulnerability with GNN models?
It’s hard to say, but it still begs the question, how can I improve my rank?
That’s where SEO comes in.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines (Google). It seems the strategies for optimizing your site are always changing, and entire books and courses are dedicated to this topic, but here, we’re going to review something that’s essential to your site’s rank: having an effective, well-written site description.
In OpenScholar, there are two places where you want to add your site description: in the SEO area on the back-end of your site and on your home page.
Your site’s meta description was what Google used to index your site. Unfortunately, so many people stuffed these descriptions with keywords that Google started viewing these as spam. It’s questionable how critical this is for being found, but It’s still important to add your meta description, because it is often what appears when your site is shared through social media. You add your meta description by going to the Control Panel>Settings>Global Settings>SEO.
The content throughout your site is what Google reviews, and the description you add to the top of your homepage is what Google displays under the site link when someone googles you or your topic.
How do you write an effective description? Consider three questions:
- What do you want to be known for?
- How do you want to be found?
- What keywords will make your site stand out from others that want to be known for and to be found for the same things?
What do you want to be known for?
Consider your audience and your goals. Is your site meant to provide information to students and other faculty at your university? Are you an expert who can be a resource for reporters doing research into your area of expertise? Do you want to attract new people to work in your lab? Are you seeking funding?
Who will be interested in your work, and who may be looking for you on-line? Who’s doing the Googling? Are they scientists? Would they understand the technical language you use? Are they reporters who may not understand the technical aspects of your research, but who want to interview an expert on a topic most laypeople understand? Consider what you want to be known for and by whom as you’re writing your web copy and especially your site description.
How do you want to be found?
Your web pages are going to provide more detailed information about you, your research, your classes, publications, etc. When describing your site, include the keywords someone may enter into the Google search bar, incorporated naturally into your sentences. How might someone phrase their question? What keywords might they string together?
What keywords will make your site stand out from other sites that want to be known for and to be found for the same things?
This can be a bit more tricky, however, one way to differentiate your site from other sites covering the same topics is to do a Google search on the keywords and phrases you think people may enter and then look at the Related Searches section. See what sites come up with the same keywords and consider how you’re different. Remember to write a description and not random keywords.
Ranking high in a Google search is the result you want, and while much of this is outside your control, taking steps to optimize your site, including having a well-written site description, increases your chances of success.