By Steve Casey, Managing Partner
Have you ever seen a spider web that is only one single strand? Unlike the robust web constructs we often marvel at, a single strand web can be very hard to see. The single strand web is the perfect metaphor for following a traditional approach to publishing scientific articles in today’s environment.
Virtually all industry-sponsored scientific communications are now being published in digital form on the Internet. But scientific communicators are only now scratching the surface of how to amplify those online publications. The pandemic has shown the need to better understand how to amplify scientific communications. It is estimated (based on Google analytics), there are ~56 billion web pages on the Internet.1 That means every published scientific manuscript holds an incredibly small fraction of space on the Internet. However, thanks to modern software engineers and code writers, we have tools that can search for exactly what we want…or can they?
Unfortunately, search engines cannot do it all for us. As most of us have found out at some point or another, search engines such as Google or PubMed can’t always find what we are looking for or uncover all the information due to how the search engines look for information. Search engines use highly sophisticated algorithms, but they are all based on what the user determines is the best term to use to produce the information being sought. In scientific publishing, this becomes problematic as we want people to be able to easily find our cutting-edge science, but simple search terms don’t always match up.
In the old analogue publishing world, scientific information was published to a peer-reviewed journal which was then distributed to the subscribers. Subscription-based publishing could almost be thought of as publishing along that one strand of a web. The article strand was only accessible through purchase or borrowing of the printed journal. In today’s online-based publishing, scientific communicators are still publishing articles as “one strand” whether in a pay wall journal or an open-access journal. However, publishing online offers numerous possibilities and avenues to create access to an article that were not available in the traditional print setting. By incorporating a few new steps early into the development and submission of a manuscript, it is possible to use internet tools and expertise to develop a robust web of access for the article. This access allows researchers and readers to find the information easier and faster than ever before.
Developing access is the key objective of what we call publication search optimization (PSO), one of the three pillars of Audience Amplification. PSO is an effort that starts with the development of the manuscript. As mentioned, by taking certain steps such as keyword inclusion and proper meta tagging when published, an article can be easily identified by search engines. Although this calls for extra work during development, it is offers tremendous opportunities to increase access after publication (at Omni-HC, we include PSO steps as part of our regular manuscript effort).
When done properly, PSO will result in better search rankings for both general search engines (e.g., Google and Yahoo) and specialized search engines (e.g., PubMed). This creates a greater opportunity for expanded access to potential readers, which in turn, increases readership. Recently, Omni-HC assisted a client with an oncology review publication incorporating Audience Amplification techniques and was able to generate significant growth in the readership over other publications in the same peer-reviewed journal. At last check, the publication had garnered more readers and downloads of the article than more than half of all other publications from that journal since the journal began keeping track.
Every scientific communicator should have the option to undertake Audience Amplification after publication, if desired. However, without taking the proper PSO steps in the development stage of the manuscript, Audience Amplification opportunities are not as wide ranging nor as effective. Omni-HC experts can guide you through the process. Contact Omni-HC if you are interested in learning more about Audience Amplification.
 The size of the World Wide Web (The Internet), accessed at www.worldwidewebsize.com 3 Nov 2020
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Omni-HC Blogs are written by members of the Omni-HC team.