Altmetric Blog

Why good metadata matters: discoverability, tracking, marketing and more…

Guest Author, 20th September 2018

In this post Altmetric Implementation Manager, Charlotte Perry-Houts, and Senior Publisher Solutions Specialist, Tyler Ruse, examine the importance of publishers providing good metadata and describe the data Altmetric needs to provide accurate tracking.

Among the many services that publishers provide authors throughout the publication process, one has become increasingly valuable in recent years. It is not specifically the digital age or the internet that has driven the increase in importance, but it is certainly a key factor. We’re talking about metadata.

From humble beginnings rooted in the definition of the word (“data describing data”), early uses of metadata were as simple as ensuring a publication had a unique tracking number or perhaps acting as a manifest for physical items.

So why is it important?

In today’s publishing environment, metadata performs so many essential roles that authors now rely on publishers’ ability to make good metadata available in a significant way. Metadata is not only basic information, such as identifiers, contributors, and titles, rather it is now the main path for discovery; populating search engines in libraries, at retailers, even all the way to Google. It is how readers find content.

Publishers now have a fantastic opportunity to support their own business as well as help their authors by ‘being good’ at metadata. They can help drive views and subscribers, and ensure the right content is in front of those readers. Metadata is now much more than titles and authors; it is descriptions, subject classifications, rights declarations, keywords, awards, related items, pricing information, and so much more.

Metadata is how publications are found, marketed, tracked, and referenced.

Enhancing Altmetric tracking

Altmetric pulls out key metadata from your article landing pages in order to link mentions from across the web to your research. This metadata ends up in Altmetric details pages in the ‘Summary’ tab and makes it possible to search the Altmetric Explorer database for content based on author, keyword, title, publication date, and so on.

The key fields for Altmetric are:

  • Identifier
    • DOI: <citation_doi>, <dc.identifier>, or similar
    • PMID: <citation_pmid>
    • ISBN: <citation_isbn>
    • Others
  • Title: <citation_title> or <dc.title>
  • Author: <citation_author>, <dc.creator>, <bepress_citation_author>
  • Publication date (the date the publication went online): <citation_online_date>, <bepress_citation_online_date>
  • ISSN (if applicable): <citation_issn>, <bepress_citation_issn>

Where multiples exist (ex. multiple authors, multiple ISBNs, etc) each one should be listed in its own meta tag.

In the below example, the publisher has provided great, clean, clear metadata in extensive detail. Notice that they’ve provided a meta tag for author institution. Altmetric doesn’t need this to track your content, but there is no such thing as too many meta tags!

Things are often even more complicated for books and book chapters, where multiple ISBNs and sometimes a DOI co-exist and there are associations between various outputs. Here is an example of great meta tags in a book chapter landing page:

In this example, the publisher has provided the chapter DOI and all three book ISBNs, as well as the author, publication date, and title of the specific output (book chapter). This is plenty of information for Altmetric to pick up and create a details page!

Irrespective of Altmetric tracking, there are numerous reasons that maintaining good metadata should be a priority for publishers. Consistently displaying good metadata simplifies discoverability of your content through indexing sites like PubMed, which is key these days when published research is hosted in so many places across the web. Everybody benefits from this improved visibility and record-keeping: your authors, other researchers, and all of the tools and platforms that support scholarly work. On a foundation of visible, accurate metadata, the systems in the scholarly ecosystem – publishers, indexing platforms, trackers of impact, and researchers – can talk to each other, speaking the same language.

If you have any questions about your site’s metadata, feel free to get in touch with us at

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