Author: Arantxa Vizcaíno-Verdú– Translation: Erika-Lucia Gonzalez-Carrion

At the international level, scientific journals prioritize, from their internal, flexible and adaptable editorial format, the presentation of articles. In this structural dynamism of information, we repeatedly find the title, the identification of authors, the abstract and what we commonly know as keywords. Given the known multiple occupations of researchers and, especially, the ‘time factor’, we must pay fundamental attention to the keywords, since together with the abstract and the title, they are the most consulted sections of the manuscripts.

Scientific SEO: Why spend time on keyword selection?

In many cases, researchers pay minimal attention to the selection of appropriate keywords that identify the main issues of the study. This oversight can result, together with an unfortunate title and abstract in terms of writing and argumentative capacity, in the invisibility and, consequently, minimal impact of our work in the international scientific literature. In other words, no one will find our work.

A good selection of keywords allows us to identify studies through international and national databases (as well as repositories and academic networks), making it easier for other researchers to gain priority access to our findings. In fact, these specialized search engines (Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar, Dialnet…), mainly take keywords as a reference when obtaining results in a complex algorithmic process. In the same way that this selection of words must be prioritized throughout the document (as happens with their density in SEO terms for web pages), their introduction in the valuable and reserved space of the ‘keywords’ of each journal must be cultivated with logic and strategy.

Tips for selecting (appropriate) keywords

– Select keywords from official international Thesaurus and/or from the journal itself (except in cases where the incorporation of emerging words is required).

Do not repeat terms in the title with those in the ‘keywords’ section. This redundancy will not provide more information to the search engine, preventing the paper from being located by a broader set of terms.

– The selected keywords should be entered iteratively throughout the manuscript with reservation. In other words, the ‘natural’ writing should be prioritized, making use of synonyms. In fact, many search engines also crawl these synonyms, and a repetition of these words (appropriate) of up to 1% is possible.

Do not use complex keywords that make it difficult to find them. Avoid compositions without scientific recognition (e.g. erroneous: “tablet use by adolescents”), using simple terms (e.g. correct: “tablet”, “adolescents”).

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