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Senior staff and experts from across the organisation use this blog to talk about what's happening to the Royal Society of Chemistry's web presence. We recognise that there are changes that could make our online offering more discoverable, easier to use and quicker to navigate. While carrying out this work we hope to explain the rationale behind the enhancements to get your feedback and valued input. Thank you for your help with this work.

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Further to my last post on how to create quality content, Google recently released a video about how Google search works and we thought that it might help readers of this blog and in particular this post to understand the points about keywords, links in and authority.

Matt Cutts works for the Google search quality team and reguarly posts videos explaining complicated search concepts.  In this video he explains how Google indexes all of the content on the web, what keywords users of Google use and how Google looks at repetition and proximity of those keywords to return relevant results. 

He also talks about ranking factors such as keywords used in links to content and the reputation of sites influencing where content ranks.  Enjoy the video and as usual, please feel free to comment below.

James Stevens (RSC Web Manager)
Posted by James Stevens on Apr 24, 2012 8:51 AM BST
Posted by James Stevens on Apr 24, 2012 8:51 AM BST

This guide has been designed to help authors with the process of creating the Royal Society of Chemistry’s digital content. We hope that it will help our regular bloggers and part-time writers to produce content that is great for customers and ranks highly in a google search. It comes with an accompanying cut out and keep summary which you can get if you click on the cereal box or on the link below:

Quality content summary


What did you do on the web yesterday?

Were you browsing around without a goal or were you looking for something specific? Most people say "something specific" as they have a goal in mind, like the following:

  • Ordering a book as quickly and easily as possible
  • Posting on Facebook to share photos with friends
  • Getting a journal article to find the steps in an experiment
  • Reading a blog to be challenged, engaged and entertained by opinion
  • Looking for the latest chemistry news


What does that mean for me?

It means that your content has to be designed in such a way that it helps an online user complete a goal. Not only that, there are also millions of other content producers who you are competing with so your content has to be convincing, unique, engaging and the best!


How do I produce quality content?

Before you put together your article, blog, tweet, etc, consider the following:

  • Goal: What goal will the visitor to your content complete?
  • Audience: Is the content appropriate for your audience?
    (Think language, tone, and education level)
  • Type: What’s the best format: an image, video, webinar, article, FAQ, PDF or webpage? Could you reuse someone else’s content after checking with them? Could you ask a famous blogger to write it on your behalf? Could you ask visitors to create the content on our site?
  • Persuasion: Would the content you’re creating persuade you to complete the task?


How will visitors find my content?

After you’ve created your content you’ll need people to start using it so you have to balance your communication between push and pull techniques:

  • Push: Sending content out to customers who have to make a bit of effort to receive it.
    e.g. Email, direct mail and rss feeds
  • Pull: Persuading customers to use your content when they are actively seeking it.
    e.g. through search engines when content is in web pages, blogs, videos and pictures
  • Social (Twitter, FB, etc): This can also be used as a channel but you should think of the communication as a dialogue or conversation with a customer. Listen to what other people are saying before exposing them to your related content.


How do I get to page 1 on Google?

Unfortunately there is no simple answer, if there was everyone would be there! Google and other search engines have over a thousand ranking factors that they use to decide whose content should be on Page 1 and as such the most important thing you can do to rank is to make sure your content is quality (see question 1).

If you have fulfilled the quality criteria then you can begin to think about the following to further optimise your content for search:

  • Keywords:

Have you used words or phrases in your content that people will use to find it?

Two or three of the keywords you decide upon should appear in the following:

  1. Page Title
  2. URL
  3. Header


  • Links in:

    Did you know that the internet is essentially just lots and lots of connected pages. In 1996, a man called Larry Page realised that knowing which web pages linked to a given page would give valuable information about that page. The more links to a page there were then the more important that page was. Larry used this information to decide which site should be top of a search for a keyword and Google was born!

    As said earlier, Google now has over 1,000 different factors that affect where a site ranks but always remember that the number of links to your pages from other pages is the foundation on which Google was built.

    Equally if a site that Google thinks is important links to your pages that will also help your page to rank. Look at the top search results for a certain keyword – pages from the government, bbc, Wikipedia, and universities always rank well – if you can get a link from these pages to yours it will help your position.

    Finally Google now also check social sites like Twitter for links and if well known scientists (@jimalkhalili, @profbriancox) share links to your content then that will help your pages to climb the listings.


  • History & Authority:

    While Larry Page was dreaming up his page rank formula our own IT team were busy launching and it is worth remembering that it has been on the internet for 2 years longer than Google. Over this time lots of people have linked to our wonderful content and recommended us to friends so in Google’s eyes the RSC is great.


    As such if you want your content to be found there is no better place to put it than right here on


What happens before and after my content is launched?

As the content writer you are also the content owner so it is down to you to make sure that it is high performing.

  • Measure:

    Once your pages are launched you will need to be able to measure whether the goal you have set for visitors is being completed. If you are a regular content creator for the RSC then please get in touch to ask about how you might go about getting this data.

  • Promote:

    Remember that actually writing the content is the hardest and longest part of the content strategy process so make sure that once you’ve launched it you continue the relatively simple promotion of it. For any content that you have live use the push and pull methods described above, link to it from any new and related content you create and talk about it with scientists so they link to it. Watch as you continue to reap the rewards.

  • Review:
    Google now check to see how accurate and fresh content is so you should have an idea of the length of time your content stays on the web before it is updated or deleted.

We hope that you found this quality content guide useful, if you have any comments or suggestions for the guide then please feel free to leave a comment below.

Many thanks,
James Stevens - Web Manager

Posted by James Stevens on Apr 4, 2012 11:34 AM BST
Posted by James Stevens on Apr 4, 2012 11:33 AM BST
Introducing ‘Big Data’

The web is home to an enormous amount of information – Facebook alone sees users share 30 billion pieces information or ‘content’ every month. This content ranges from text posts to photos and videos, while in the wider online community it can include anything from scientific publications to records of online purchases and chemical structure information. We call this wealth of information ‘Big Data’.

A better name might be ‘Overwhelming Data’ as its variety, volume and velocity of growth is ever increasing. 90% of the data in the world today was created in the last two years due to the advent (and increased processing ability) of information-sensing mobile devices like smartphones, software logs, cameras, microphones, wireless sensor networks and so on.

In the year 2000 the Sloan Digital Sky Survey collected more data in its first few weeks than the entire data collection in the history of astronomy. The successor to this telescope – the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope – comes online in 2016 and will acquire that amount of information every five days.

Big Data should be about the ‘Data’ and the ability to build applications that find information efficiently, not the ‘Big’, after all it is one thing to have a huge reservoir of content and quite another to do something with it.  

Bringing the RSC’s data together

The RSC has data in the form of articles, information about authors, events at multiple locations, tweets and Facebook posts, local section producers and supplementary information. We recognise that this information isn't on the scale of Facebook or the Digital Sky Survey but for it to be usefully delivered to our visitors it needs to be properly connected through keywords and joined up in a way that the web (and the computers behind it) can understand both the content and context. This is our vision for the RSC web.

Optimising our content

Our aim is for a chemist to find our highly ranked Chemistry World article when searching for a particular keyword like ‘caffeine’ on a search engine. Once they have landed on our page we then need to ensure that they have access to all our data by automatically presenting them with not only the article, but also a selection of other relevant resources from around the RSC.

We might pull in a 3-dimension image of a caffeine structure from ChemSpider, and then discussion about the article from Twitter, analytical discussion groups or the comments from readers of Chemistry World.  We could highlight conference and event information or journals related to caffeine, and show the most commented and popular articles about it. This focus on giving a user what is relevant to them is an ambitious goal and one that is driving the changes to our online presence.

We have already made headway into this with our new Learn Chemistry site which allows users to find resources for teachers and students more easily and the Visual Elements Periodic Table that correctly tags our vast amount of element data so that it can be used in other areas. All future projects at the RSC, including the Chemistry World site redesign, will encompass the lessons learned from Big Data concepts and as we progress through the year more and more content will be joined up.

 We would be very interested to hear your thoughts and experiences of 'Big Data' so please feel free to comment below.

Many thanks,
James Stevens - Web Manager at the RSC.

Posted by James Stevens on Feb 9, 2012 12:43 PM GMT
Posted by James Stevens on Feb 9, 2012 12:42 PM GMT
2011 was 100 years after Marie Curie received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of Radium and Polonium. To celebrate this 2011 was announced as the International Year of Chemistry – the RSC has been integrally involved in this all year – but we were keen to have a legacy that would showcase the importance of chemistry for years to come.

One way to achieve this was to re-vamp the already popular Visual Elements Periodic Table website – making it more interactive and user friendly.


Our new table contains details about each element including discovery date, melting and boiling points, the group, block and period that it is in, the elements uses, where it is found naturally and what materials it is used in.

We have also introduced a new feature with input from the British Geological Society to show where the elements are sourced; they took into consideration production, distribution and other factors to work out the supply risks that could be faced.

The British Geological society provided us with a supply risk index which highlights which elements are subject to supply shortages and this is indicated on the main table by a coloured key.


This index will be reviewed on regular basis as this is not a fixed value – it changes depending on new discoveries or access to deeper sources.

The interactive part of our table highlights the groups, blocks, elements discovery and states at varying temperatures – which visitors to the site can control.

Charlotte Beard – RSC Science Team

Periodic Table – The method behind the modifications

For the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Periodic Table has always been an important consideration in our mission to ‘Advance the Chemical Sciences’. Chemistry’s foundations are built on the growing number of elements contained within it and almost every chemist will grow up with the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev’s distinctive tabular presentation firmly etched into their memories.

Therefore any work we did on the Visual Elements Periodic Table needed to be carefully considered, especially as the keywords ‘Periodic Table’ are one of the biggest traffic drivers to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s website.

The first step we took was to investigate what the visitors to the periodic table pages were using it for.  We asked everyone who arrived on the site whether they were using the information as students or teachers, if they wanted element information or if they were using it for something else.  As you can see in the image, nearly 800 people replied and we discovered that the biggest percentage of people were using the table for homework.


This data highlighted the most important group to test any future changes on and in a separate question, “What specific Periodic Table data were you looking for?” the responses showed that basic element information must be quick and easy to navigate and this was as important as being able to drill down into the element data.  

The other important consideration was the competition we faced from other periodic tables in the search engine result pages. 71% of our traffic found the site via search and we knew that our pages should be optimised appropriately or we would languish on page two.


The final precaution we took before making changes was to check the most popular keywords that visitors had used to find the website over the last six months.  As well as the words, “group 1 metals”, “hydrogen” and “nobel gases” there were several that were real surprises.  I won’t give the game away as to what they were as our competitors might be reading but safe to say that future versions of the table will have considered these carefully.

To conclude, we have done a large amount of work to ensure the changes we have made, and will continue to make, to one of our favourite areas on the RSC website have considered what our visitors wanted. We hope that this posts helps to explain our thought process and we would very much value your comments or suggestions for the future of the site below.

James Stevens – Web Manager
Posted by James Stevens on Dec 14, 2011 6:23 PM GMT
I'm James Stevens, web manager at the RSC, and I'd like to talk you through the new homepage we launched for public use and feedback last night. 
Over the last year the RSC has been intently listening to visitors of our websites. We've studied the traffic through popular pages and pondered why buttons haven't been noticed, noted when navigational devices haven't taken them to the places they were expecting and have even lost them completely. 
As you might expect we've built up a long list of improvements that we could make and quickly realised that if we tried to fix everything in one go it would take a very long time. As such, in order to improve things immediately, we have prioritised changes based on volume of feedback and started to make them. 
Over the last three months you may have noticed differences to our 404 'page not found' messages that have helped more people find what they were looking for. We've tweaked our search pages so that searchers know that they can refine their searches by website area and now the latest change we've made is to the most commonly used starting point to navigate the site - the homepage.
The page design is best explained in sections:
The Header

The new header has been created to allow visitors to easily navigate and give visibility to the most used websites of the RSC (the publishing platform, the free chemical database and our online community) and, via additional options under "More", to other important areas visitors need to find. Over the next couple of months you should start to see it appearing on the other sites you visit.
The New Tabbed Navigation System

In an online survey on our "Page Not Found" error page, 20% of 239 respondents gave navigation as a key area of our website that they would like to see improved.
The links in the navigation bar have been carefully chosen to reflect current usage and demand for content. We have purposely steered away from a departmental structure as your feedback has shown it wasn't helping you find what you wanted.
The navigation bar will initially just be displayed on our homepage but we will be rolling it out to the whole corporate site in the next phase of work. This will mean that no matter where you are you should be able to navigate to the important sections easily.
The Carousel and Join Section

The image carousel has been created as a way to showcase the myriad of work that the RSC is doing to advance the chemical sciences. It recognises that our important campaigns, events and journals sometimes need a little help being discovered by visitors on a typical journey to their favoured area.  Take a moment to have a look at what we're doing right now!
The join section has been created to make sure all our visitors remember that we are a membership organisation and by joining the RSC you can help us with our work while benefiting from our member subsidies, library services, networking opportunities and career advice.
The Top Tasks

Ask yourself what was the last thing you opened up your internet browser to do?  Was it to find out more about diamonds? I just got engaged! :) Perhaps you wanted to see whether your friends had replied to your post on facebook or maybe it was to find the location of the conference you're about to attend. Whatever it might have been I can almost guarantee you had a specific task in mind.  This area recognises that fact and has been structured to help you get to what you are looking for efficiently and easily.
The Footer
The footer is similar to the header of the page in that it will begin to be standardised across all of the RSC websites. The footer has a single privacy policy in recognition of the importance of your data protection and now across all of our sites you can be safe in the knowledge we will treat your submissions with respect and secure them to the best of our abilities. 
The footer will also allow new visitors to quickly find out about the Royal Society of Chemistry (About Us), what our vacancies are (Working for the RSC), what our position statements are and how to contact us about a story (Press Office).
Tell us what you think
As I explained earlier we have already gratefully received lots of your feedback and this blog is an opportunity to continue to help us to help you.
We are very keen to hear your thoughts so post a comment under this blog, tell us what you think on Twitter using the #rschomepage hashtag, or message me privately via myRSC.
In the coming weeks we’ll be rounding up key improvements and website changes on this blog so watch this space.  
We’ve started on the road of progressive improvements at the RSC and the new homepage represents a real step change – we’ve rebuilt it to deliver an intuitive and user friendly experience so visitors can better explore the wealth of RSC content on the web.
Posted by James Stevens on Oct 26, 2011 12:55 PM BST