SEO for Research Networking: How to boost Profiles/VIVO traffic by an order of magnitude

"Redwoods" by Michael Balint (cc-by)

The UCSF Profiles team has increased site usage by over an order of magnitude since the site’s big campus-wide launch in 2010. This “growth hacking” cheat sheet distills the key lessons learned during that period, and can be applied to almost any research networking platform, including VIVO, Profiles, and home-grown solutions.

1. Measure Everything

  • Install Google Analytics
    • Set it up on every page of the site
  • Learn how to use it
  • Segment on-campus vs. off-campus use
    • Find your “service provider” name(s) at Audience > Technology > Network
    • Create an advanced segment that includes only your service provider(s), and one that excludes it/them
    • Use these two segments to analyze everything (internal and external visitors are totally different, and need to always be analyzed separately)
  • Register with Google Webmaster Tools
    • Go to
    • Follow the directions to register your site
    • See how your site’s indexed on Google, and check for issues
  • Check the Recommendations for RNS Usage Tracking

2. Ignore Your Homepage, Focus on Profile Pages

  • On a mature search-optimized RNS like UCSF Profiles, only 2.6% of visits start on the homepage
  • If you’re successful with steps 3-4, traffic directly to profile pages will skyrocket, and dominate traffic. That means you need to focus most of your attention on the care, feeding, and design of profile pages, vs. the home page.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Make sure search engines can see your pages
    • Tweak your robots.txt so search engines can see all your pages (
    • Create a dynamically-generated sitemap of all your profile pages (
    • Mention your sitemap in your robots.txt file, and then register it with Google Webmaster Tools
    • Wait a day, use Google Webmaster Tools to validate that your sitemap works
  • Improve the copy on your profile page titles and descriptions
    • Make the page <title> on profile pages short and globally unique
    • Make <meta name=”description”> on profile pages readable and descriptive
      (e.g. “Jane Doe’s profile, publications, research topics, and co-authors”)

4. Add extra professional metadata

  • Follow the directions at and to add people-oriented HTML metadata to your profile pages
  • Use to test your syntax
  • OPTIONAL: Use “pretty” URLs — and include names if possible (e.g.
    • Pretty URLs should be the “real” final URL, not just a redirect
    • All old or alternative profile URLs should do a 301 redirect to the pretty URL
  • OPTIONAL: Prevent indexing of multiple versions of your page
    • If you have multiple versions of your page getting indexed (e.g. /url/ vs. /url/?a=b), tell search engines which version is the main one by using the rel=canonical canonical link element

5. Get Inbound Links

  • Get webmasters to link to your homepage from campus resource guides, etc.
  • Get webmasters to link to individual profiles from departmental faculty profiles, news stories, campus directory, etc.
  • Encourage reuse of your data via APIs, and ask for a link back as attribution (downstream users save time and money; you get links back in return)
  • All these new links may not send traffic, but will help SEO.

Have questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment below, or contact Anirvan Chatterjee directly.

Photo credit: Michael Balint, used under Creative Commons attribution license

2013 CTSI Retreat: Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 3

A few distinct themes emerged from #CTSI2013 tweets during the two lively panel sessions at the 7th Annual CTSI Retreat:

Themes from the 2nd Panel:
(UCSF Leaders addressed how ‘Big Tent’ proposed initiatives align with/and complement UCSF strategies)
-“Speed Dating” to promote networking among research scientists
-Big Data at UCSF & beyond
-Other ‘Big Tent’ proposal topics

Find below curated tweets by themes.

See Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 1 for visualizations and retreat tweets from ‘Setting the Stage’
Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 2 for tweets during the first panel with industry and academic leaders.

2nd Panel: UCSF Leadership Perspective with Deans from all Five Schools

“Speed Dating” for Scientists – To Drive Novel Translational Research Connections

Big Data at UCSF?

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2013 CTSI Retreat: Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 2

A few distinct themes emerged from #CTSI2013 tweets during the two lively panel sessions at the 7th Annual CTSI Retreat:

Themes from the 1st Panel:
-Getting out of research and academic silos
-Community & #CitizenScience
-Industry Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Academia
-CTSA Consortium, National Issues

Find below curated tweets by themes.

See Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 1 for visualizations and retreat tweets from ‘Setting the Stage’
& Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 3 for tweets during the second panel with UCSF Leadership.

1st Panel: Leveraging CTSI, UCSF and CTSA consortium to radically transform research

Getting out of the Silo

Community & #CitizenScience

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2013 CTSI Retreat: Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 1

The 7th Annual CTSI Retreat focused on a selection of 10 open proposals among 23 offered through The Big Tent: CTSI 2016 NIH Renewal Proposal Launchpad.

Attendees and external audiences joined the conversation online via #CTSI2013. A steady flow of tweets came in throughout the day from 27 unique contributors (up from 16 last year) who shared insights, thought-provoking questions and engaged with one another (99,085 impacts!).

See Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 2 & Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 3 for themes that emerged from #CTSI2013  tweets during the two panel sessions.

Ready & Raring: #CTSI2013 Retreat

2016-2021: Opportunities & Challenges w/ CTSI Director Clay Johnston

Continue onto Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 2 & Big Twitter at The Big Tent, Part 3

Healthy Communities Data Summit

The Healthy Communities Data Summit held at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, organized by Health 2.0, the Foundation for Healthcare Innovation and sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation, attracted a mix of civic leaders, medical/health professionals, academics, hackers and communicators – all eager to gain a better understanding and share the innovative uses of open health data.

Key topics from the event included cooperation and trust building between government, community and enterprise players, along with high impact applications by making health data accessible to the public (See tweets below).

As a communicator, I took a particular interest in the “A Better Pie Chart & Beyond: The Evolution of Visualization & Analysis” panel. Wess Grubbs, founder of Pitch Interactive, emphasized the human element behind all this data, and reminded users to prioritize the narrative when communicating health data. Although data is lifted from its silos and becomes easily accessible through visualizations, it should tell a complete story – not just grab for views, or “instant gratification.”

Here’s an event summary from the California HealthCare Foundation’s California Healthline.

CTSA 2013 Annual Face to Face: The Power of Storytelling

Hosted by: University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center (HSC) in cooperation with UNM’s Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC)

This year’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) communications key function committee (CKFC) Annual Face to Face  focused on the critical role of storytelling to lift research of out its silos to a wider audience.

Richard Larson, MD, PhD, UNM HSC Vice Chancellor for Research compared communicators to ambassadors of information – after all, “research ignored is research wasted.”

Purpose/Objectives of the Annual F2F:

  • Increase understanding and support of NCATS and NIH priorities
  • Improve awareness of CTSA value, dissemination of key information, and collaboration among key stakeholders across the consortium
  • Inspire CKFC members through new connections, skill building, clear direction, and storytelling

Here’s a selection of tweets by CTSA communicators during the two-day conference:

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Interesting & cool! Sign Language Researchers Broaden Science Lexicon –

Sign Language Researchers Broaden Science Lexicon –


Imagine trying to learn biology without ever using the word “organism.” Or studying to become a botanist when the only way of referring to photosynthesis is to spell the word out, letter by painstaking letter.

For deaf students, this game of scientific Password has long been the daily classroom and laboratory experience. Words like “organism” and “photosynthesis” — to say nothing of more obscure and harder-to-spell terms — have no single widely accepted equivalent in sign language. This means that deaf students and their teachers and interpreters must improvise, making it that much harder for the students to excel in science and pursue careers in it.

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