SEO Research: Harnessing the Power of Google Scholar and Other Academic Databases

Make Something Compelling

At last week’s SMX Advanced, Google’s Matt Cutts advised site owners that a top priority should be to “make something compelling.”

Make something compelling, you say? Sounds familiar, especially when it comes to content. A best practice for any site owner, indeed, is to create unique content that drives traffic and engages users — or, as Matt said, is “compelling.”

You don’t want to write something that has been written one thousand times before, or even ten times before. The goal is always to create something that provides useful information, and if your topic has been “done to death,” you need to either approach it from a new and interesting angle, or add new research/information to the existing content on the subject (see our SEO Tips for Writing Content).

As Jessica Lee wrote in 2012, “Quality Content Begins with Quality Research. Period. That “quality research,” as Jessica explains, can come from interviews with subject matter experts. It can also come from simply reading.

hReading is NOT Optional

If you are creating content, you must read. And read. And read. Did you know Bruce reads about industry trends at least two hours each day? Virginia, Chelsea and I also scour the Internet daily, watching videos and reading articles on emerging SEO and SMM trends. Staying on top of current factors makes us better content creators.

If you’re a content creator, you must do the same: keep well-informed on anything that matters within your industry, whether that’s restaurant trends, fall fashion, Nascar or — like the writers at Bruce Clay, Inc. — search engine optimization.

The Internet at large is a great resource, obviously. If you search Google, you’ll most likely find many blog posts, articles and entire sites dedicated to whatever you queried. Similarly, Google News rounds up all the material coming out of news sources from around the world. But in addition to regular search and Google News, are you taking advantage of scholarly journals?

Scholarly Journals

Rife with statistics and scientific data, scholarly journals are a goldmine for content (and infographic) creators. Citing statistics, data, or studies that are relevant can help to bolster the credibility of your own content and provide a framework for your own conclusions.

Wondering where can you find leading academic research, journal articles and other scholarly materials to pull from? Here are some resources to start with:

Screenshot of Google ScholarGoogle Scholar

Google Scholar allows users to comb through multiple databases at once, pulling articles from the the following fields:

  • Business, Economics and Engineering
  • Chemical and Material Sciences
  • Engineering and Computer Science
  • Health and Medical Sciences
  • Humanities, Literature and Arts
  • Life Sciences and Earth Sciences
  • Physics and Mathematics
  • Social Sciences

Google Scholar, which debuted in 2004, also has an extensive database of legal documents and patents.

When you find what you’re looking for, however, you sometimes have to pay to read the entire article. There are workarounds, however — if you are part of a particular database’s affiliate networks (such as a college or library), you will likely be able to log in for free and read (and cite) to your heart’s content.

Screenshot of JSTORJSTOR

Founded in 1995, JSTOR (short for Journal Storage) is an extremely popular database, and an example of one of the databases Google Scholar pulls from. JSTOR offers up more than 8 million articles, boasting articles within these disciplines:

  • Area Studies
  • Arts
  • Business and Economics
  • History
  • Humanities
  • Law
  • Medicine and Allied Health
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Social Sciences

As with Google Scholar, you will find that most of these articles require a college student, alumni or library account, but JSTOR offers three free articles to “place on your shelf” every two weeks. Throughout those two weeks, you can access those three articles as much as you want, and then you can select a fresh trio after those 14 days.

Screenshot of Project GutenbergProject Gutenberg

Here, users can find more than 42,000 completely free books to download or read on their browsers. How is this possible? Since 1971, Project Gutenberg has been digitizing books that have expired copyrights. Among their virtual shelves are categories such as:

  • Education
  • Fine Arts
  • Health
  • History
  • Language and Literature
  • Law
  • Music
  • Political Science
  • Psychology and Philosophy
  • Technology

Founder Michael Hart believed that “the greatest value created by computers … would be the storage, retrieval, and searching of what [is] stored in our libraries.”


What resources do you use when creating content? If you have a favorite journal or database, share it with us in the comments!

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (3)
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3 Replies to “SEO Research: Harnessing the Power of Google Scholar and Other Academic Databases”

As a blogger it was always stressed that daily reading helps in personal development and in making better content. I was always against reading until I finally gave in thanks to great advice from the people who had the lifestyle I wanted. Now, it has changed the way I blog for the better and this article has some much needed resources I’ve never even heard of! I will definitely look into them. Thanks Kristi!

Good morning Ian!

I just checked out those resources and they’re great resources, as well. Here are the sites for our readers:

Thanks Ian :)


Great article! If you need to get really scholarly, I’d also suggest the Social Science Research Network and RePEc (Research Papers in Economics).

Project Gutenberg I had never heard of but sounds like an excellent resource.



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