Connecting with Keywords: Tapping the Interest of the Everyday “Googler”

SPOTLIGHT ON REYNOL JUNCO, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

by Courtney Quirin

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Three weeks ago Harvard Faculty Associate Reynol Junco was a hit on Academia.edu. His paper, “The Effect of Twitter on College Student Engagement and Grades,” was one of the top ten most viewed papers on the site, and since then it has been hovering high in the ranks of Academia.edu’s weekly trending papers. Not only has it been popular on Academia.edu, garnering 7,418 views (and rapidly growing) in just a year, the paper has also been cited more than any other paper he has published; Junco’s latest tally is 105 citations over the short span of a year and a half.

“It’s shocking and pleasing at the same time that people are so interested in the paper,” says Junco.

So what’s responsible for such high traffic and loads of citations? Public visibility and easy access, which Junco believes is made possible by showcasing his work on online portfolios, like his Academia.edu profile and blog. Academia.edu’s high page rank on Google is a big help too, says Junco.

Sadly, being the first research of its kind (which Junco’s Twitter paper is) isn’t always enough to draw in a crowd. At his previous institution Junco recalls an incident where despite having access to all of the research databases within a State System of Higher Education, he still couldn’t find some papers. In fact, once he couldn’t even get access to one of his own papers because his institution did not subscribe to the journal it was published in.

“When you put something behind a paywall it’s less likely to be read, it’s less likely that people will cite it, and it’s a lot harder to find,” adds Junco.

For reasons like the ones above, Junco says with confidence, “I’m pretty sure what is contributing to the citation count is that it’s available on Academia.edu.”

Though Junco’s paper is also available on his blog, it’s his Academia.edu profile that attracts the most views. Ranking next to Facebook in a Google search, Junco’s Academia.edu profile has “definitely” made his papers more publicly visible, he stresses.

Believing that Google is the best (and most common) way to find a person, Junco thinks “having a profile on Academia.edu is absolutely one of the great ways to find someone. People Google me and then they find my Academia.edu portfolio.”

So confident in the power of his online portfolios as a means to track him and his work down, Junco has been pondering the idea of making a business card with just his name in a Google search box. I suppose his unique name helps too.

However, Junco has been adding to the visibility of his work by learning the language of the everyday “Googler”.

“Between my analytics and what I see popping up in my news feed, I get a better sense of what keywords to use.  I can come up with my five keywords for any article, but that doesn’t mean those are the keywords people are going to search on.”

Noticing that lately his top keyword search has been ‘impact on social relationships due to the usage of Facebook’, Junco realized that he would never phrase a search like that since he tends to look at specific facets of relationships.“We’re so esoteric as researchers,” he jokes. Even a keyword like ‘research’ is one that he would have never thought to include. However, informed by his Academia.edu analytics, Junco now uses it as a keyword due to its popularity among the public.

“The point here is that I wouldn’t necessarily choose those keywords and I wouldn’t really be privy to them. When you look at the keywords over time, you get a better sense of what keywords are actually being used to find your work.”

Learning from his readers, Junco updates his papers with keywords that better target his audience’s queries. The result of his diligence in fine-tuning his Academia.edu profile?

“All of my papers are getting good traffic on Academia.edu. That’s fantastic! This is why I do the work that I do. I want it to be useful to people, I want to have some kind of impact.”

Academic Bio:
Reynol Junco is a Faculty Associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Junco’s primary research investigates the impact of social technologies on college students. Using a rigorous, quantitative methodology, Junco hopes to help educators, administrators, and graduate and undergraduate students make informed decisions about using technologies in education—“It’s not just about giving students technology, it’s about what you’re going to do once you give them technology.”

Junco’s work can be viewed here.

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by Courtney Quirin, Science Writer

Comments Jan 24, 2013
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