How to Get More Visitors to your Academic Website: Start with Backlinks

It will take a while for Google to understand a new academic website. Over the first few weeks it will crawl and index your pages and analyze visitor behaviour.

Until then Google search results can be a bit random; in time it will settle down so that when someone searches your name it will either return your home page or the About page, and when someone searches for your email address it will return your Contact page, etc..

Google doesn’t regard your Home page as special: it’s merely a page that (in most cases) summarises what’s on your website. Rather, Google will return whichever page it feels best answers a search query.

In deciding how to rank a page of your website in the search engine results, Google uses dozens of ranking indicators, but they mainly come down to evaluating the Expertise, Authority, and Trust (EAT) of a web page. One major indicator it uses is the number of high quality backlinks to your site. In other words, the question it poses is: do other high authority sites link to your site?

So with this in mind, to increase the Expertise, Authority, and Trust of your academic website, place clickable links to your website in the following locations:

  1. Your email signature
  2. your faculty profile
  3. your profile on websites of professional associations you belong to
  4. your websites on any academic social media sites, eg Academia etc
  5. your profiles on general social media eg Twitter, Facebook
  6. Your profiles on book publisher websites
  7. your profile on journal publishers websites (eg if you are an editor)
  8. your profile on conferences you speak at
  9. Your videos on Youtube – place a link in the description below your video.
  10. Your Facebook live videos

In general these can be links to your Home page, however, if on your university website you have several profile pages dealing with specifics, eg, your research, it would make sense to place a link on that page to the Research page on your personal website. If you have a teaching profile on your university website, link from there to the Teaching page on your personal website.

Similarly, if you have a profile on a book publisher website, it’s best to link to the Books page on your website, not the Home page, and so on.

What Google likes to do in response to a search query is serve up the most useful and relevant information possible. One way it evaluates this is by how long a visitor stays on a webpage after they click through to it. So if someone searches on Google for your book and clicks through to your Book page and stays to read it, Google will consider that it served a useful and relevant page. But if the search returns your Home page, the visitor clicks through to that, but doesn’t stay and leaves by clicking on to your Book page, Google will consider it has done a less good job. So this is why the Home page will not always be the page returned by Google (and you don’t want it to be).

As humans we like to think of the Home page as the front door to your website, but Google considers every page to be a potential door and in practice visitors will enter your website from different pages.

Once you have created the links above, ask everyone who writes about you or interviews you, conference organizers, podcast creators, and so on, to place a link to your website in the video description or webpage that they create.

Bear in mind that Youtube is also a search engine so ensure that videos you post there include a useful and relevant title and description and include a link to a relevant page on your personal website. Ask others who post videos about you or your work to include a link to your website in their video description.

To place a clickable link to your website
very often the web address (URL) will work i.e.:

https://yourdomain.com

If the link doesn’t appear active (ie you can’t click on it) try inserting this piece of html:

<a href="https://yourdomain.com">Visit yourdomain.com</a>

Or for a specific page, like your Research page:

<a href="https://yourdomain.com/research/">Visit yourdomain.com</a>

So, for example for my website, I’d put:

<a href="https://martinlea.com/research/">Visit martinlea.com</a>

If neither of these become a live link simply use:
https://yourdomaincom
or
yourdomain.com
as plain text, so people can copy and paste into their browser.

Of course there’s more to it than that, but if you follow the above you’ll soon see that your website ranks on the first page of Google when someone searches for you.

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