Why do we need to do marketing and outreach as editors and creators of scholarly publications? Without a profit incentive, as an open access publication, your goal is for your scholarship to have a meaningful impact, for it to be read and the promotion of the content to benefit your scholars. You want people to read your scholars’ work and, in return, raising the profile and reputation of your journal will bring more high quality submissions for your next issue. We often speak of digital publications as “living” online, in a cyclical publishing process and with the ability to make changes comment and engage with your audience, so you have to be thinking ahead to publishing the next issue or edition and maintaining the connections you have with your community of authors and readers.

So how do you get your journal in front of those eyes and what kinds of measurements and factors are scholars considering when they decide to submit to your next issue? How do you make your articles discoverable via these avenues and increase discoverability?

Increasing Discoverability

Search Engine Optimization

Social Media Marketing

Your Publication as a Marketing Tool

Impact Factor and Citation Metrics



Increasing Discoverability

Consider how you find research. Where do you go to look purposefully for new articles and resources and where have you happened across useful materials in the past. When we’re starting research, most of us will head to a catalog or to a database to search or browse for new materials. We may find additional materials in the bibliographies or texts of books or articles we’re reading. We may also be tipped off to interesting research through people in our social media communities or materials by others and shared publicly through citation and bookmarking tools.

  • Open Access: Across disciplines, open access has been demonstrated to increases impact and article citations. Open access isn’t just an ethical proposition. It has tangible benefits in readership and author exposure by removing financial and institutional barriers to your research.
  • Register for an ISSN or ISBN: Digital publications can be registered for unique identifiers, just like print publications, to establish and disambiguate their identities. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) or ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) that is included on your site and/or article pages and recorded in catalog entries for your publication will help people to find their way to you even if it shares a similar title with another journal. This unique code is also a prerequisite for many applications to indexes and databases so that they can track and verify your publication. If your publication has a print and online presence, you can register for a separate E-ISSN to help people find and cite the digital instance.
  • Register articles with DOIs: Individual articles can be registered for unique codes as well. Again, this helps to guide people to the correct piece of content, but DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) are also working links. A DOI is registered to a location – a URL – where the content or object can be found. It’s important that a DOIs location is fairly stable, so here at Columbia, we register articles for DOIs as part of our ingestion workflows for our institutional repository Academic Commons. Anyone can apply for an ISSN using the ISSN website. DOIs are created and stored by Registration Agencies (RAs) and these agencies do charge fees for registrations – most people are not individually registering their DOIs, but institutions have service agreements for bulk work, so going through your institution is probably key for getting these registrations made.
  • Have your journal indexed in research databases: Having your journal indexed in a database can greatly help with discoverability. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is one location where open access content is aggregated across disciplines, and it continues to gain popularity as a place to conduct early research because of the breadth of subjects and the assurance that all content will be freely available. Major databases related to your field and an intelligent place to have your content indexed, to get your materials directly in front of a likely interested audience. Most databases have restrictions and requirements for inclusion, such as needing to have certain number of articles publish, or adherence to certain guidelines or ethical standards, so it’s important when you are designing your journal policies and thinking about indexing to refer to these databases and their rules in advance.  
  • Getting indexed in Google Scholar: Google Scholar is a powerful aggregator of research across digital scholarly platforms and publications. It not only provides a large platform for discovery but counts citations for articles that are indexed and carry proper registered identifications, which means that it can be a tool for evaluating the success of your articles and to collect both journal and article-level metrics. Journals must meet eligibility requirements for inclusion, must include metadata tags that allow Google scholar to identify and index the content, and your site must meet content organization guidelines that allow google scholar to read and index. More information on getting your content indexed by Google Scholar is available here:


Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a practice of increasing the traffic, and relevant traffic to your website through organic search. Since many of us start of research by conducting a Google search, practicing SEO makes it easier for people to find you through search engines. There are quite a lot of tips and tricks around the web to increase SEO on your website. I’ve found some useful and easy to implement steps you can start with are:

  • Remove things that make your site slow: If your site is loading slowly, people are bailing out before the page resolves, or getting frustrated and not coming back. Getting your page load to work more speedily might be as easy as removing a high resolution image, embedded links and multimedia content that are slow to load, or unnecessary animations or widgets.
  • Add working inlinks and outlinks: Having other sites link to your journal is one way to show search engine algorithms that your site is a working and worthwhile resource, so getting coverage and links from other publications, blogs, and new sites aren’t just good for capturing immediate readership. Adding stable, resolving links out to other sites also shows search engine algorithms that your site is a real (run by humans) and useful part of the web ecosystem. A great place to add links, if your site doesn’t have a blog, for instance, can be to include DOIs or links to online publications in bibliographies on article pages.
  • Write for humans, remember machines: Your site is not a piece of content marketing, it’s scholarship. Although keywords and keyword strings do help search engines to find and filter your content, ultimately your site content should use the language to communicate your mission and the information people need to know about your journal’s news and activities. Don’t feel pressured to use embedded keywords or an overly prescriptive : In Page Titles, header tags, metadata tags.
  • Use metadata fields: Add keyword metadata tags to your site and use other metadata fields, such as keywords and descriptions for images. While you may not want to add links and language all over your site, disrupting the content, metadata is a powerful and unobtrusive way to optimize search engine crawling of your site.


Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is part of having any active online business, publication, or organization online. It’s an inexpensive or free way to share information across the internet and to directly interact with your potential readers and authors. Social media marketing and account maintenance can also be time consuming. How can you strategize your social media use to get the most out of the effort you can devote to this part of your publishing?

First, select a limited number of social media accounts, where you are willing to spend the time creating content and engaging with followers. Choose those environments based on where your community is. If there is an active facebook group in your discipline, a facebook group or page seems like a great way to capitalize on an already gathering and active community. It isn’t necessary to have a Tumblr, a twitter account, and an instagram if those aren’t the social media spaces where people are discussing and sharing scholarship like yours.

What kinds of things should you share on your accounts?

  • Announce: New issues, new articles, CFPs, symposia and other events held by the journal/publication
  • Promote: Editors attending or presenting at conferences, when articles have been picked up by news outlets or other accounts
  • Share: News and publications within your field. Make your social media feeds valuable to followers. If your followers get great information on breaking news and interesting new research, they’re more likely to be paying attention when you share information on your own calls for submissions or announce a new issue.

Social media takes time to engage with and curate. So how can you make the process less onerous?

  • Set your twitter retweet hashtags. This can also help to make you visible to a wider community.
  • Ask your authors to tweet/share about their work using those and your own journal’s hashtags. Retweet your authors.
  • Use social media management tools (Post Planner, Hootsuite) to prepare social media posts in advance when you have the time or you’re feeling creative.
  • Create a social media/outreach role on your editorial staff


Your publication as a marketing tool

Keep your website up to date! I cannot stress this enough: information does not age well on the internet. If you’ve arrived at a site that has information from two years ago on its public pages, you’re likely to assume that group or at least their website is defunct. Readers will quickly become frustrated by email contacts that do not work, by poor functionality or dead links on sites that aren’t regularly audited, or a lack of regularly posted content. Importantly, an author comes to your site and they can’t find up to date information about when, how, and where to submit, they’re going to move on.

Social media is only useful as a broadcast tool if there are people on the receiving end of your transmissions. Your readers are a ready-built community of followers, so use your publication site as a place to advertise your social media accounts. If you spend time curating a twitter or facebook feed that with news and publications that are relevant to your community, sharing that on your website may be a way to attract followers.

Having an active blog is a great way to provide current content to feature on your marketing and media channels. It will encourage people to continue returning to your site and talking about and sharing your publication regularly, even if you are only publishing one or two issues per year. But a blog is only as useful as it is active and current. A blog with no recent posts contributes to a site looking neglected and out of date, so it’s only a good investment if you have the personpower and the time to write or commission content on a regular schedule.

Your website can be another advertising space – if you have appealing statistics and facts about your journal that you can share this is the space for it. Are you indexed in major databases? Can you collect information about citations? Do you have a particularly diverse pool of authors or a high rejection rate showing the diversity and competitiveness of your submissions pool? Use your website to present a compelling story to authors right where they make their submissions to your journal.


Impact Factor and Citation Metrics

Those appealing statistics and facts mentioned above? For many journals the ones that matter are citations and impact factor – but where do those numbers come fromt? The impact factor (IF) or journal impact factor (JIF) of an academic journal is a measure reflecting the yearly average number of citations to recent articles published in that journal. It is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field; journals with higher impact factors are often deemed to be more important than those with lower ones. Since 1975, journal impact factors have been generated and published in the Journal Citation Reports. Impact factor is calculated by adding together the total number of a journal’s article citations for the last two years and dividing that number by the combined number of articles published in the journal during that same time. For example:


Journal Impact Factor equation


Impact factor is very important for some researchers who are looking for tenure and advancement when they decide where to publish. In medicine, sciences, and engineering, for example, it is one way that many authors decide whether or not to write for you. Indexing and open access, as discussed above are two ways that impact factor can be improved by expanding the reach of your content. However, some journals editors also engage in unethical actions to increase their IF. A journals may publish a larger percentage of review articles which generally are cited more than research reports. Journals may also attempt to limit the number of “citable items”—the denominator in the impact factor equation—either by declining to publish types articles that are unlikely to be cited (such as case reports in medical journals) or articles by emerging scholars and in areas of niche interest.



Altmetric citation donutJournal Impact Factors capture and aggrandize a narrow measure of success because JIF does not provide metrics for individual articles and their authors. Impact Factors also only track citations of a work in other scholarly articles, which is a limited impression of who has viewed, shared, and written about the scholarship that is published in your journal (or by you as an author).

Alternative metrics, or altmetrics, provide you with an alternative way to track the impact and use of your journal’s scholarship and give a more holistic view of digital impact than traditional metrics by including statistics such as the number of news media and Wikipedia mentions, social media shares, bookmarks, blog posts, and reviews, in addition to citations in other scholarly publications. Altmetric supplies free tools including a browser plug-in that you can use to track and tell as story about articles with DOIs in a publication, or to see the metrics of your own writing on any site. Altmetrics also allow you to see results immediately, rather than having to wait for citations to appear in other published works. This immediacy underlines one of the other intentions of Altmetrics, to provide agile and up to the minute information on publishing impact in a fast-paced digital landscape.

Embedding altmetrics on article pages has provided journals with a way to demonstrate the impact of research published in their journal to prospective authors. It can also provide insights for editors into how their work is being found and shared and can help them to find new communities and take advantage of spaces in which they should be marketing their publication. 

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