A currently ongoing surprising event affecting what I considered one of my least important articles (https://doi.org/10.19232/uv4pb.2016.1.92), has made me rethink how search engines and the internet affect the impact of publications.
Among web site developers “SEO” is considered a very important factor in being successful in “drawing traffic or page reads” to a site. SEO means search-engine optimisation. For web pages, it involves much more than subjectively choosing suitable words for titles. In a way it is like reverse engineering how research engines like Google work, so as to write web pages in a way such that they will appear near the top of searches as frequently as possible. There exist different types of tools and software to help in the task of achieving good “SEO” and even companies that offer for a payment SEO for websites. My thoughts are: do we need similar tools for SEO of research papers? Needed or not, a more important question is how much do the properties of the algorithms used by search engines affect the impact of the articles we write? I do not know the answers, but I think these are important questions.
What is the incident? To me it looks like a snowball effect, helped by accidental good SEO. I wrote a short review of a book in the UV4Plants Bulletin (http://bulletin.uv4plants.org) and as it is allowed, made it available through ResearchGate. It is being read and being followed and recommended… but much more than what would seem to me to be reasonable, to the point that it has already been on two weeks according to ResearchGate the most read article from a Finnish author! and more than once the most read forestry article worldwide (although neither the Bulletin, nor the reviewed book, have anything to do with forestry).