Decalogue of good practices in institutional web positioning

The following recommendations are intended to give some advice to universities, hospitals and R&D institutions worldwide in order they have an adequate web presence. Their websites should represent correctly their resources, activities and global performance, providing visitors with a true vision of the institution. We encourage medium and long term projects that give priority to the publication of large volume of quality contents under Open Access type models.

We reject the use of abusive positioning techniques that can generate misleading indicators.

1. URL naming

Each institution should choose a unique institutional domain that can be used by all the websites of the institution.

It is very important to avoid changing the institutional domain as it can generate confusion and it has a devastating effect on the visibility values.

The alternative or mirror domains should be disregarded even when they redirection to the preferred one.

Use of well known acronyms is correct but the institution should consider including descriptive word, like the name of the city, in the domain name.

2. Contents: Create

A large web presence is made possible only with the effort of a large group of authors. The best way to do that is allowing a large proportion of staff, researchers or graduate students to be potential authors.

A distributed system of authoring can be operative at several levels:

 Central organisation can be responsible of the design guidelines and institutional information

 Libraries, documentation centres and similar services can be responsible of large databases, including bibliographic ones but also large repositories (thesis, pre-prints, and reports)

 Individual persons or teams should maintain their own websites, enriching them with self archiving practices.

Hosting external resources can be interesting for third parties and increase the visibility: Conference websites, software repositories, scientific societies and their publications, especially electronic journals.

3. Contents: Convert

Important resources are available in non electronic format that can be converted to web pages easily. Most of the Hospitals have a long record of activities that can be published in historical web sites.

Other resources are also candidate for conversion, including past activities reports or pictures collections.

4. Interlinking

The Web is a hipertextual corpus with links connecting pages. If your contents are not known (bad design, limited information, or minority language), the size is scarce or they have low quality, the site probably will receive few links from other sites.

Measuring and classifying the links from others can be insightful. You should expect links from your “natural” partners: Institutions from your locality or region, web directories from similar organisations, portals covering your topics, colleagues or partners personal pages. Your pages should make an impact in your common language community.

Check for the orphaned pages, i.e. pages not linked from another.

5. Language, especially English

The Web audience is truly global, so you should not think locally. Language versions, especially in English, are mandatory not only for the main pages, but for selected sections and specially from scientific documents.

6. Rich and media files

Although html is the standard format of web pages, sometimes it is better to use rich file formats like Adobe Acrobat pdf or MS Word doc as they allow a better distribution of documents. PostScript is a popular format in certain areas (physics, engineering, mathematics) but it can be difficult to open, so it is recommended to provide an alternative version in pdf format.

Bandwidth is growing exponentially, so it is a good investment to archive all media materials produced in web repositories. Collections of videos, interviews, presentations, animated graphs, and even digital pictures could be very useful in the long term.

7. Search engine friendly designs

Avoid cumbersome navigation menus based on Flash, Java or JavaScript that can block the robot access.
Deep nested directories or complex interlinking can block robots too.

Databases and even highly dynamic pages can be invisible for some search engines, so use directories or static pages instead or as an option.

8. Popularity and statistics

Number of visits is important, but it as much as important to monitor their origin, distribution and the causes why they reach your web sites. Most of the current log analysers offer a great diversity of tables and graphs showing relevant demographic and geographic data, but make sure there is an option to show the referrers, the web pages from which the visit arrives or the search term or phrase used if the visit came from a search engine.

Most popular pages or directories are also relevant.

9. Archiving and persistence

To maintain a copy of old or outdated material in the site should be mandatory. Sometimes relevant information is lost when the site is redesigned or simply updated and there is no way to recover easily the vanished pages.

10. Standards for enriching sites

The use of meaningful titles and descriptive metatags can increase the visibility of the pages. There are some standards like Dublin Core that can be used to add authoring info, keywords and other data about the web sites.

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