Metadata – How to choose Keywords

In this series of blog posts we will be talking about how to make your article more discoverable by giving it rich, descriptive metadata. If you missed it, read our first post about what metadata is and how search engines use it, our post on how to write a great title, and our last post on how to write a great abstract.

The final piece of metadata we are going to discuss is keywords. Similarly to titles, it is important that keywords are not vague and that they instead use direct, descriptive terms that accurately reflect the article you have written.

Keywords do not have to be the words that appear the most times in your article, but should instead offer a reader at a glance an idea of the subject area and field of study. Keywords do not need to be only one word, which is an important point to remember. They can be two-to-four word phrases that make sense in the context of describing your article.

As is the case with other pieces of metadata, keywords are crawled and used to index your article by search engines. Having keywords that are strong indicators of the content of your article will boost your article in ranking and search results.

Some tips for writing keywords:

  • Don’t feel restricted to pick one-word keywords. They can be two-to-four word phrases.
  • Avoid broad keywords, or anything too general (e.g., “education”; “medicine”; “history”).
  • Avoid words that are too narrow or specific that are unlikely to be used by readers in searches.
  • Keywords are not restricted to the keyword section – they can (and should) be repeated in the title and abstract.

A good way to start thinking about what the keywords should be for your article is to ask yourself what you would type into a search bar to find the article you have written.


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