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Are you and your team struggling to determine which promotion outlets to focus on for your academic journal? If so, you may be reaching in the dark trying different promotion strategies and tactics without knowing what’s working. Or, worse, you may be avoiding promotion altogether in favor of other more concrete editorial tasks. In either case, you’re not putting your journal in the best position to attract new readers and quality submissions.

If your journal has limited promotion resources (which most do!), it’s important that you focus on the promotion avenues with the most potential. There’s no better way to make informed promotion decisions than basing them off of publication data, which can be gathered from readers’ interactions with your online content. In the past, we’ve talked about why every journal should track publishing analytics, or data points around readership such as article download counts and pageviews. In this post, we outline 3 ways to use publishing analytics to home in on the most promising promotion opportunities for your journal.

Journal of Applied Bioanalysis blogs about recent articles and calls for submissions

The driving force behind all successful academic journals that keeps readers coming back is quality articles. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to promoting your journal you should start by focusing on article level data to determine how to best showcase new and past research. The main metrics you’ll want to look at in this area are article download counts and pageviews.

One of the best ways to get more readers to your journal as a whole is to see which of your articles are attracting the most pageviews on their own and take steps to promote those articles to a wider audience. This will draw new readers to your website where they can explore other articles that are relevant to them. There are many ways that you can go about showcasing trending articles. One of the easiest places to start is doing author interviews. You can present interviews in different mediums such as posting written Q&As on a journal blog, doing recorded podcast interviews, or even running live Twitter Q&As with authors. The last option, running a Twitter Q&A, can be a great way to spur engagement with interested scholars. In any of these cases, consider creating a standard interview question template to use as a starting point. This will save you time!

Another way to showcase popular articles to reach new readers in your journal’s field and even the general public is pitching related news or feature story ideas to mainstream publications. Your journal’s editorial team can do media pitches or, if you don’t have the time and resources for this, you can suggest the option to authors. Authors can share their latest research with reporters or offer to write guest articles on related topics. An easy way for your journal or authors to look for reporters in need of story material is signing up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO). HARO provides free daily alerts about reporters looking for topic experts for stories.

Of course, your journal promotion should not stop with your best-performing articles. You’ll want to use those articles as a springboard to get more readers aware of all of the articles you’re publishing. You likely won’t have the bandwidth to do blog posts or special content about all of your articles, but you should aim to promote them via social media. You can also use your journal’s social media channels and any other promotion outlets you have, such as a publication blog, to promote ways for readers to follow your latest content like signing up for an RSS feed.

Finally, you may decide to produce a special issue to publish content on a single popular theme that’s likely to gain readers’ attention. In this case, you can use your article data as a guide for choosing a special issue topic. Look at the data to spot trends in readership. If you find that the majority of your readers are visiting articles that fall under one or more topic clusters you may want to center your next special issue around a related theme.

Once you’ve done initial promotion for articles, don’t just stow them away. Find creative ways to resurface your journal’s articles online. Some ways you can do this are compiling eBooks of popular articles and scheduling creative social media posts about old articles such as doing #ThrowBackThursday posts or sharing articles at relevant times of the year or when they relate to a news story.

Scholastica Open Access Publishing readership analytics

As you’re taking steps to highlight your journal’s top performing articles and to actively promote all of your latest published research, you’ll want to turn to your publishing data to see if your efforts are paying off. The main metrics you’ll want to focus on are pageviews.

There are two categories of pageviews that you can track at your journal:

  1. General pageviews: A count of all of the times people view a page on your website within a browsing session (if a visitor comes back 10 times in a row that’s 10 pageviews)
  2. Unique pageviews: A count of the people viewing a page on your website for the first time during a browsing session (these views are only counted one time)

Pageviews will give you a window into how many new people are visiting your journal website in a given time period and which articles they are engaging with the most. Make time to check the general pageviews of articles you’re actively promoting to see if readers are engaging with them more as a result. For example, if you do a blog post interview on a new article, watch its pageviews once the post is published to see if more people visit the article.

In addition to tracking pageviews by article to see if targeted promotion efforts are paying off, you’ll also want to look at how pageviews for your journal as a whole are fluctuating to see if you’re consistently attracting more readers over time. In this case, rather than looking at general pageviews you may want to focus on unique pageviews to get a sense of growth in new readers to your journal website. As you build out your journal promotion you should see that your unique pageviews are trending upwards. You can also look for possible correlations between spikes in unique pageviews and new promotion efforts.

Focus your efforts on the channels that are bringing readers to your journal

Referral data in Scholastica Open Access Publishing

In addition to tracking readership engagement and growth to have a general sense of if your promotion efforts are working, you’ll want to drill down further to see which channels are bringing in readers so you can focus on those. You can do this via a referral report. These are available in publishing analytics tracking systems, like Scholastica Publishing Analytics. Referral reports will show the names of all the websites sending readers to your journal pages such as social media sites, news outlets, and blogs.

You’ll want to look at your referral report to see which of the promotion channels you’re using are bringing the most readers to your journal website. For example, if your current journal promotion strategy is a combination of blogging about new articles and posting updates on Facebook and Twitter and you find that you’re getting referrals from your blog and Twitter but none from Facebook, you may choose to scale back on or eliminate Facebook as a promotion channel and focus on the other two that are working. If Twitter is bringing in the most readers, you may want to post more frequent journal updates there.

You can also use referrals to see what outside sources are referring readers to your website. You may find opportunities to promote new articles to those channels. For example, if you find that a particular blog related to your journal’s field has linked to one of your articles you may want to reach out to the writers about new research that they may be interested in covering. Or, if you find that you’re getting referrals from a social media network that you’re not actively a part of you may want to create a profile for your journal or ask your editors to post journal updates from their personal accounts.

Wrapping it up: Analytics will help you know your readers better

Journal promotion outlets are only as effective as the number of potential readers that are engaging with them. Using publishing analytics data, you can gain insights into which promotion outlets are actually helping you reach readers and which aren’t to take the guesswork out of journal promotion. So you can just focus your time on promotion outlets that are working.

Ready to get started? If you don’t already have access to publishing analytics you’ll want to take a look at the analytics tracking tools available to you. If your editors have the time and know-how to configure your own analytics data you could add Google Analytics code to your website and set up an account. If you’re looking for a way to gather publishing analytics without adding more to your plate, you could also use journal-specific analytics tools. At Scholastica, we offer a publishing analytics suite with our OA publishing software that automatically tracks key journal data to give editors the insights they need without added work.

Do you use publishing analytics to inform your academic journal’s promotion strategy? How has it helped? Share your experiences in the comments section or on Twitter at @scholasticahq!