The Value of Inbound Links to Resources
Via Smartr, the iPod Touch app I use to read articles which have been posted by Twitter followers, this morning I came across a link provided by a tweet which described an Inbound linking strategy to get to the top listing on google fast. The post described how the author, a web manager at Florida International University:
… developed a strategy I would make inbound links to the FIU President’s Council site from places I can control a few of these places include FIU News,Alumni Association, FIU A to Z index, blogs that have comments open, etc. and on all those I make links using the words FIU President’s Council that link directly to the sites homepage.
The importance of providing links to a resource in order to maximise access to the resource is well understood – particularly, it seems, by spammers. But how could such well-established techniques be used in an ethical way by researchers?
The answer, it seems to me, is quite simple. Researchers do have access to a wide range of web services which can legitimately provide links to their research publications. This is an approach I have been using for several years. A summary of the numbers of publications which are listed in the services I use is given in the following Table.
|Microsoft Academic Search||My details||39*|
|Google Scholar Citations||My details||82|
|Researcher ID||My details||10|
* The Microsoft Academic Search automatically includes papers from people with the same name. These need to be manually excluded and there is a delay before updates are validated. The service currently lists 286 papers, including many from medical researchers of the same name. However only 39 papers have been claimed as authored by me.
It should also be noted that a number of the services provide links to the research papers (which in my case and normally hosted on the University of Bath institutional repository) although other services only provide the metadata.
Evidence of Enhanced Access
There is a cost to registering for such services and uploading details of one’s papers. However in practice I have found that it does not take a significant amount of time to upload relevant information and the services can provide useful information, such as helping to visualise one’s professional network and, as illustrated (taken from Mendeley) growth in the number of citations, downloads, followers, etc.
But although individual may or may not find such information of interest or value, there remains a question as to whether there is any tangible evidence of growth in downloads due to a policy of enhancing the numbers of links to such resources.
A possible answer to that question may be found form an analysis of the download statistics for items stored on Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository.
In order to make comparisons an image is shown of the top 20 most downloaded items provided by staff at UKOLN.
From this list we can see that I am a co-author of 15 of the top 20 items.
There may be several explanations for this:
Quality of the papers: Although two of my papers are the highest ranked papers which have been published at the W4A conference series I am quite happy to say that I am convinced that my colleagues have produced papers of much greater research value.
Social media optimisation: The paper on Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends is the second most downloaded single paper from the University of Bath repository. The popularity of this paper was due to the large numbers of downloads shortly after the availability of the paper had been announced on this blog. Although I am convinced that use of social media can also enhance access to peer-reviewed papers, several of the other popular papers in the above list were published between 2004 and 2007, before Twitter and before I was making significant use of the blog.
To conclude, I believe that adding information about one’s research publications to services such as Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Microsoft Academic Search and Google Scholar citations can increase the visibility of the papers to Google, as well as to users of the services, which may then lead to increased numbers of downloads, citations and take-up of the ideas described in the papers.
Do you agree?