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Maximise exposure for your content guide for publishers

Please note that this guide is in the process of being updated

Searching individual online resources can be time consuming and frustrating for users

Technical standards have been developed to enable you to make descriptive data for your content, known as metadata (eg title, subject, publisher) available to other providers. This allows users to get results from your content as part of a single search through another provider’s service.

Many universities and colleges now have their own portals, which enable staff and students to simultaneously search local content and other resources.

Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH)

Note that the adjective ‘open’ in OAI harvesting does not mean that the full text article will become freely available. It is quite possible, and in fact the norm for licensed copyright material, for the metadata to be made freely available while the full text remains subject to access control.

Allowing access to your metadata means it can be included in these searches.

Other educational and commercial providers may wish to include your metadata as part of their service. This gives increased exposure for your product, raising its profile among a wider range of users. There are two different strategies for making your metadata available to other services (often referred to as exposing your metadata): distributed searching and metadata harvesting. No matter which you use, you retain control over access to your content.

Distributed searching

Sometimes called remote searching permits another service to search the metadata or full text (if permitted) of your content in ‘real time’ and return results to the user along with those retrieved from other resources searched concurrently.

Metadata harvesting

This allows your metadata to be copied (called harvesting) for use in another service. The harvested metadata is typically indexed along with other harvested metadata, often to create a resource for a specific user group (eg medics) or purpose (eg job seeking).

Which to choose?

To comply with the Jisc IE Architecture Standards your product should support either distributed searching or metadata harvesting. There are differences in the user experience that can help guide your decision about which to adopt. You may want to support both.

Distributed searching is conducted in real time using local and provider systems (and everything in between) which affects the search speed and results’ presentation. Metadata harvesting is undertaken by a machine, usually in the ‘wee small’ hours to avoid heavy network traffic. The user searches an index containing the metadata (rather than the actual resource), which means quicker searches. Results can also be presented to suit target audiences.

User benefits

There are ever-increasing expectations of what can be achieved using computers, with minimum user effort. Making your metadata available through distributed searching or metadata harvesting means that users can get results from your content through a variety of routes. Human nature being what it is, users are more likely to conduct one search of multiple resources than they are to conduct multiple searches of single resources.

Content provider benefits

Jisc community institutions may base licensing decisions on your product’s compliance with distributed searching standards, in particular Z39.50 due to its widespread use in the academic sector.

Other market sectors may also have expectations about these standards and can benefit from their use. Adopting them can add value to your products and become a selling point for other customers.

References and further information

Last updated: March 2016